2600 Rumor Mill

 

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- A -
 

Adventures of Max

Little is known about this title other than it was part of the game development deal Atari made with Axlon during the late 80's.  According the former Atari programmer Steve DeFrisco

"This was one of the “Designed by Nolan” games, which was never finished. It was to be set in Medieval times, the player is a knight with a sword. That’s pretty much all we had. John moved on to another company and the game was never finished. The opening sequence of the character running and jumping into the hole, and falling to the bottom worked, but that’s it."

 
- B -

Bagman

This port of the 1982 Stern coin-op was programmed by Steve Hostetler for Atari.  According to Steve he was almost finished with the game when they laid him off.  Steve sent all his materials back to Atari after he was laid off, and it is unknown what happened to them.

 

Ballblazer

Previously thought to be only a rumor, programmer Tod Frye recently confirmed that this game was indeed once in development.  Although the technically challenged 2600 was woefully underpowered to produce the split screen scrolling required by Ballblazer, Tod apparently had a demo up and running (various reports put it somewhere between 30% and 60% complete).  The whereabouts of this demo are currently unknown.

 

Battle of the Sexes

Developed by Michael Case for Multivision.  Multivision president Eugene Finkei talked about this game in the October 1983 issue of Videogaming and Computergaming Illustrated:

"Battle of the Sexes is played simultaneously by 2 players.  It's very innocent.  Each player has surrogate partners scrolling across the screen.  Each player must score with as many surrogates as possible while trying to knock out the surrogates of the other partner.  There are different skill levels & variations: it can be played by 2 guys with girls scrolling across the screen or by women with men scrolling across the screen.  To score, the player directs the figure to bounce together with the surrogate for a fraction of a second.  No genitalia.  And you don't shoot the other's surrogates, you merely get them out of the way."

This title was long thought not to have even been started, but the programmer recently confirmed in a 2007 interview with Digital Press that the game was actually completely finished:

"Battle of the Sexes involved male and female figures coming together from the top and bottom of the screen, to either shoot each other or screw each other. The owners kept the only copy.  It wasn't as good (as Harem). It was basically like Pong.  I knocked it out in a few weeks so we could say we had two games when we approached distributors."

The whereabouts of the one and only prototype are currently unknown.

 
 Bird

Programmed by David Lamkins, after he departed Parker Brothers for Activision.  David worked in Activision's short-lived Boston office.  During that time, he worked on a 'bird game' which was never published.  He discussed the game in a 2002 article that appeared in issue #74 of the Atari 2600 Connection:

"I spent my time at Activision working on a 2600 game I called Bird.  I’ve heard that Rex (Bradford) later described it as “a pterodactyl on a bombing run”, which is pretty good as a brief description.  My inspiration for Bird came party from the Heavy Metal movie (the scenes with the girl riding the bird into battle), and partly from Activision’s Battlezone clone, Robot Tank (the point-of-view perspective of the playing field).  The player piloted a bird which had a limited endurance that was affected partly by the intensity of the player’s maneuvers and partly by damage incurred from missiles fired by ground-based hostiles somewhat reminiscent of Dr. Who’s Daleks.

The Bird game was really based around subtlety and survival. The player had to be sparing in his moves in order to make it to the next round.  It was a shooter game, but not so much an aggressive game.  It had kind of a Zen quality to it – probably way too cerebral for the market.

I was recently contacted by Activision’s Ken Love, who is in the process of putting together a definitive collection of Activision games, including all the unreleased and prototype games.  Ken wanted to acquire a copy of Bird.  If any such copies exist, it’s either on a 20-year-old hard drive in some Activision storage locker, or in a dusty prototype cartridge in someone’s closet.  That’s kind of a shame. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it one more time…"
 

Blow Out

Developed by Mattel, Blow Out was a party game that had "Two roller-skating dancers drop darts from a scaffold onto rising balloons. An easy enough task, except these rude guys keep bumping into each other and knocking each other off the scaffold.  When the music stops, that's the signal for the next players to take the controllers."  

According to the Blue Sky Rangers website "David Akers only worked on the game briefly in June 1983 before being pulled off to work on higher priority projects."  It is unknown how far along this game got before being cancelled.

 
- C -

Candyland Surfing

According to former 20th Century Fox programmer John Marvin "There was a surfing game where you surfed a rainbow. That was taking advantages of something you could do cheaply with the VCS, each scan line you could change the color and you got this great rolling rainbow on the screen. It was more a screensaver than a game, the problem was there wasn't a lot of gameplay in it."

 

Circus Charlie

A port of the 1983 Konami/Centuri coin-op. Parker Brothers announced Atari 2600 VCS, ColecoVision, and Commodore 64 versions of this title, and prototype boxes were shown in a CES press kit. According to a Parker Brothers internal marketing release schedule, this game was scheduled for a September 1984 release.

The C64 version was actually completed but never released by Parker Brothers (it was eventually released by Konami in 1987). According to Phil Orbanes, former Senior VP of Research & Development at Parker Brothers, the VCS version received "some coding" at the very least, and may have been completely finished. The programmer is unfortunately unknown, and as yet no prototypes of this game have surfaced.

 

Computer Corridor

Developed by Mattel.  According to the Blue Sky Rangers website "This game started out as an original concept by Ron Surratt and Jane Terjung called Computer Revenge.  At the same time, Spring 1983, Russ Ludwick was working on an Intellivision game called Moon Corridors, inspired by the arcade game Battlezone. In mid-1983, Marketing began an agressive campaign to release titles on as many different game platforms as possible.  Noting similarities between Computer Revenge and Moon Corridors (mainly a 3-D grid effect), they decreed that the two games should be mooshed into one - Computer Corridor - and released on both Intellivision and Atari.  By the time they tested and approved the idea, though, Russ was no longer working at Mattel Electronics and no one else was available to pick up the Intellivision version. A couple of months later Jane also left Mattel, killing the project altogether."

It is not known how far along this title got before being cancelled.

 

Count's Castle

Also known as the missing CCW title, this would have a been a math title based on the Sesame Street Count character.  An internal Atari memo puts the game at 80% complete, but the game was never finished.  Apparently the original programmer left and there was no one available to finish the game.

 

Cumulus

According to the Blue Sky Rangers Website "Cumulus was an original Atari 2600 idea by Jeff Ratcliff.  His idea was to take a relatively simple game but use the extra memory available on a Super Cartridge to create spectacular visual effects not seen before on Atari - mainly really cool explosions.  He worked on the game briefly in August 1983, programming a demonstration screen showing a high-resolution cloud with an enemy ship above it.  While the game was listed on the weekly in-house status reports, it never received the four-digit product number that made a project official."

 
- D -

Dual Scrolling

Based on a programming effect developed by David Akers in which the screen was split in two with each half scrolling a background independently of the other.  Although there was no game designed to use this technique marketing apparently loved it and decided that a game could be designed around it.

According to the Blue Sky Rangers website "After determining the same effect could be created on Intellivision, Marketing put the still-to-be-determined game - temporarily called Dual Scrolling - onto the official release schedule. That was December 19, 1983. Exactly one month later, Mattel Electronics closed. Although no game concept had yet been thought of, Dual Scrolling was one of the few games officially still in development for the Atari 2600 when the doors were shut."

 
- F -

Flapper

Developed by Mattel.  Flapper was to be a unique game where "You control the Flapper to rescue baby Flappers from an underground maze.  The maze is filled with snakes, bats and ghosts.  Cave-ins and landslides keep opening and closing the tunnels.  Luckily, the Flapper is a unique fellow: he has three types of beanies - chopper for flying, gun for shooting, umbrella for protection - and four interchangeable types of legs: flying, jumping, running and walking.  You have to find and change the appropriate beanie and legs for him to overcome the obstacles and rescue the babies!"

According to the Blue Sky Rangers website Flapper was never finished, although some coding did take place.  "While the game was listed on the weekly in-house status reports, it never received the four-digit product number that made a project "official." Steve worked on Flapper briefly in August 1983 before being pulled off to work on higher priority projects."

 

Flashlight

Not really a game, but another 'cool programming technique' for the 2600 that Mattel thought they could design a game around.  Programmer Stephen Roney had developed an interesting programming effect on the Intellivision where a moving circle of light could illuminate the background and any objects within the circle.  Another Mattel programmer, Ron Surratt, was asked to duplicate this effect on the 2600.  Once it was shown that it was indeed possible Mattel tried to come up with a game to fit the effect, but closed their doors two months later.

 

Flesh Gordon

This was to be Wizards final game entry, but was never released.  Based on the 1974 soft-porn movie of the same name, Flesh Gordon was long thought to have never been even started until the programmer of the game kindly set the record straight.

"Flesh gordon was finished.  It sucked, sometimes literally if you know what I mean.  It was a horrible game with a lot of sex and the payoff was the ability to hump using the joystick.  There was nothing cool or interesting but then wizard video wanted what they wanted.  There came a time when they stole a copy of the final or near final version which was sent for their approval.  They refused to pay and they went to publish the game using the rom we sent them to approve.  It was just about finished but it needed some finishing touches.  We never did them.  They never officially released it as I understand and that was no loss."

What happened to the prototype that was sent to Wizard is unknown.  Rumors over the years have surfaced that some collectors have access to the rom, but this has never been verified and is highly suspect.

 
- I -

The Impossible Game

Developed by Telesys, but never released.  The Impossible Game was shown at the January 1983 CES show, and mentioned in an interview with Alex Leavens in the Aug/Sept. '83 issue of Video Games Player magazine.  According to Alex "It's a puzzle game, sort of like Rubik's Cube. You don't blow anything up and nobody gets hurt--it's strictly a mental challenge."

Other than this short interview, the only other information we have on this game comes from Leonard Herman, who actually played the game.  According to Leonard, the object of the game was to "successfully navigate through six levels of 36 squares that are randomly chosen by the computer."  On the first level the player only had to pick one square at a time, but on each new level the amount of squares the player ahd to pick increased (2 on the second level, 3 on the third, etc.).

For more information on The Impossible Game, check out to Leonard's personal write up of the game.

 
- J -

James Bond: As Seen in Octopussy

Before Parker Brothers decided to turn it into a crappy version of Moon Patrol, the James Bond game went through two different iterations.  Originally starting out as James Bond in Octopussy, this version would have taken place on a train and be based on only one movie (rather than a series of movies like the final game).  In this game James would have to shoot at and dodge bullets from two armed men as they ran around on a train cart.  This version of the game was seen by more than one person at various game shows and was advertised in at least one PB catalog.  It is highly likely that this game was completed, but dropped in favor of the 'Moon Patrol' version.

 

James Bond: Moonraker Demo

According to programmer Charlie Heath, he did a one screen demo of a James Bond game based on the movie Moonraker.  Sadly it appears that the demo has probably been lost forever.

"I'd prototyped a "James Bond" scene during my first first few weeks, to see what I could do with a VCS: you're in space orbiting earth in the space shuttle, chasing bio-terrorist pods to shoot them down before they break up in the atmosphere, while your shuttle and the pod are being buffeted about by reentry.  You see something that looks a bit like a spinning earth bobbing about at the bottom of the screen.  If you watch the movie Moonraker, it's one of the climactic scenes, but Parker wasn't interested in it for the Bond license because they wanted to do something that was more along the lines of Pitfall - little guy running around with various spy gadgets."

"It wasn't much beyond a concept, but it was a pretty functional single screen 1st person perspective shooter. Not up to the level of Star Raiders gameplay, but I thought the pseudo-orbiting-world view was pretty cool and unique at that time. I didn't keep a copy of the code when I left Parker Brothers. It might be buried on a backup tape somewhere at Parker Brothers, but more likely the tape was reused for cereal inventory or something like that."

 
- K -

Kickman

Port of the 1981 Midway Coin-op.  Kickman was originally supposed to be released by Midway, but when they decided not to enter the home gaming market themselves, they sold the rights to CBS Electronics whom ultimately never released the game either.

Kickman was mentioned in an interview with Alex Leavens in the Aug/Sept. '83 issue of Video Games Player magazine.  According to Alex "I designed Kickman for Midway a few years ago when they were thinking of entering the home game market."

 
- M -
 

M*A*S*H II

Programmed by David Lubar for Sirius Software. This alternate version of M*A*S*H developed at Sirius was ultimately scrapped in favor of another version developed internally at Fox by Doug Neubauer. Programmer David Lubar describes what he remembers of the game:

"I know I had Klinger at the top of the screen, on guard duty. Once in a while, he'd try to run off, and the player had to stop him. Beyond that, I think the game involved taking supplies to different surgery tents."

20th Century Fox had announced a M*A*S*H II game and it is believed that this version may have been planned for release as a sequel. A prototype of this game is rumored to exist in the hands of a private collector, but nothing has been released to the public as yet.

 

Mission Omega

Mission Omega was a space shooter developed by Commavid.  According to an interview with some ex-Commavid employees, this game was finished but sent back to the programmer for some 'fine tuning'.  The game was never re-finished in time to be released.

 

Mission X

Port of the 1982 Data East Coin-Op of the same name.  Although released for the Intellivision, the 2600 version was never finished before being cancelled for 'unknown reasons'.  It is not known how far along the game was before being cancelled.

 

Monkey Business

Designed by Mattel, Monkey Business was to be one of the few unique 2600 games designed by Mattel (all others were ports of existing Intellivision games).  Although not completed, Monkey Business was fairly far along before being cancelled.

A description of the game found on the Blue Sky Rangers website reads as follows "In the zoo, things have gone awry.  Billy the Chimp has escaped and is up to no good.  As any curious monkey would, he has managed to free the elephants!  It's up to you, as Mike the Zookeeper, to return the elephants to their cages.

Once you have restored order in the elephant section, you must quickly run to the next section of cages.  Perhaps you'll have to capture the loose Koalas.  Maybe you'll have to avoid soaring hawks, battle fierce tigers or try to grab the slippery penguins.  Along the way, you'll find items which will be of help to you, such as a bag of peanuts or a net.  So grab your hat and stop this monkey business!"

 

Motorcycle Game (real name unknown)

David Crane mentioned working on an unreleased game for Activision that involved riding a Motorcycle.  According to David it was finished but wasn't good enough to meet his standards and therefore was never published.

 
- P -

Penetrator

Programmed by Bill Heineman for Avalon Hill. This game is not believed to have been advertised or even announced.  According to the programmer:

"The game itself was a lot like Activision's Megamania.  It was a simple drop from the sky shooter.  It was unfinished because I left Avalon Hill to work for Time/HBO on a playcable system for the 2600.  The game was probably 50% complete.

My source to Penetrator was lost many years ago when the 5 1/4 floppy it was stored on simply went bad.  The only EPROMS made were almost certainly erased to make way for Death Trap, etc, because we only had a few dozen and they kept dying on us because we burned EPROMS so many times.  Only three dev cards were made, so all the other programmers had to write code, and test on an EPROM."

Avalon Hill's stay in the market was short-lived and it's unknown if any further work was done on this title, or if it was simply erased.

 

Pepper II

Port of the 1982 Exidy arcade game that was released on the Colecovison.   It has recently been confirmed that the same programming team that was responsible for the Atari 2600 version of Turbo was indeed working on this game, but it was never completed (or even reached a playable state) due to the collapsing game market.  A prototype case was found for this game, but it was empty as it was just a mock-up used for advertisements.  Artwork sheets for the game graphics also exist.

Incidentally, there is no Pepper I.  The II in the title referred to the fact that the character had two personalities (angel and devil) and not that it was a sequel.

 

Porkys

Not the same game that was released by 20th Century Fox, but rather a game based on the cartoon pigs that were seen on the electric sign in the movie.   Former TCF programmer John Marvin remembers seeing this game while he worked at the company.  According to John "The game made no sense at all." It is unknown what happened to this prototype after it was rejected.

 
 
- R -

The Rescue of Emmanuelle

Alan Roberts (designer of X-Man) talked about this game in the October 1983 issue of Videogaming and Computergaming Illustrated:

"We are currently working on The Rescue of Emmanuelle, based on the famous Emmanuelle character.  It is a male-oriented action game where one has to rescue Emmanuelle, the rewards being that, if you are skillful enough to save her, she is going to thank you, bestow her kindness on you.  It's a climbing game.  It takes place on the Eiffel Tower.  The hardest part in designing the game is that the tower doesn't fit well on the TV screen.  We're working on a scrolling system."

It is not known how far this game made it into development before being cancelled.

 

Robotron: 2084

A Proposed title for the ill-fated Atari Graduate add-on computer.  A WIP version of this game was shown at at least one show before being cancelled (along with the Graduate).  According to one eye witness, it was "The most flickery thing I'd ever seen".  This isn't surprising considering the amount of objects that would be needed to be shown on the screen at one time was well beyond the poor 2600's capabilities.  It is unknown if the prototype that was shown was running on a stock 2600, or on the Graduate system (which added 2K of extra memory).

 
- S -

Sharp Shot

Port of the Intellivision game developed by APh Technologies.  Mattel decided not to release the 2600 version of this game after it was widely criticized on the Intellvision as being "too easy".

 

Sky Blazer

Sky Blazer was a multi-level air combat simulation game by Broderbund, similar to CBS's Wings.  Although shown at the 1983 Summer CES show, the game was never released.

 

Snark

Programmed by John Dunn for Atari, but ultimately unreleased. John would later go on to do Superman before leaving Atari.  Snark was a combination Maze solver and shooter.  Each game generated a new maze, and you were set upon by critters that you had to shoot in order to negotiate the maze.

According to John, Snark "was my first game for Atari. It was not published while I was at Atari, and perhaps never was - I didn't track it. It had a video spin mode that caused the screen to color cycle really fast, and release was held up because there was some worry this would cause people to have seizures (I know, it's bogus - but this was the early days of video games, and that kind of intense color cycling was unknown territory)."

 
Snowplow

Developed by VSS, Inc. for Sunrise Software. According to Leonard Herman, this game was shown at the 1984 Winter CES (along with Glacier Patrol, another Sunrise title that went unreleased). Leonard described the gameplay in his book 'ABC to the VCS':

"You operate a snowplow which must clear the eight horizontal rows of snow. Snow is cleared by merely moving your plow through it. Somewhere in each row you'll uncover a car which will then move across the row that it is in and must be avoided at the risk of losing a turn. When all the snow has been cleared, one of the six cars will flash on and off and you must get to it before time runs out while still avoiding the other cars. When the car has been reached, another car will begin to flash. After all six cars have been retrieved, you'll move on to a harder screen where you must again clear the snow."

After Sunrise Software folded, the rights to their 2600 catalog were apparently acquired by Telegames, who eventually released Glacier Patrol and reissued Quest for Quintana Roo in 1989. Yet for some reason, Snowplow was never released. What happened to the prototype that was shown at CES is not known, and thus far the game has never turned up in any form.
 

Solo

Solo was a 3-D flight simulation game by Broderbund.  Although shown at the 1983 Summer CES show, the game was never released.

 

Super Pac-Man

According to an internal Atari memo preliminary coding was started on the 2600 version of Super Pac-Man.  The memo lists the game as only being 5% complete, so it is doubtful a playable version of the game exists.

 
- T -

Tarzan

Port of the Colecovision game of the same name.  Tarzan was developed by Wickstead Design (the same team behind the unreleased 2600 Pink Panther game).  The game finished, but was unreleased due to it requiring a special chip for extra memory.  A prototype of the game may exist with one of the programmers.

 

Tank Blitz

Was to be the third and final game in the Milton Bradley Power Arcade series.  Tank Blitz was shown at the 1984 Toy Fair along with its Armored Commander controller.  

A picture of the cartridge with its controller can be seen here (thanks to Rom Hunter)

 
- U -

Underworld

Was to be a D&D type game by Commavid.  A tape labeled Underworld is known to exist, and is believed to contain development source code.  The current whereabouts of the tape are unknown.

 
- Z -

Zookeeper

Perhaps one of the most famous missing prototypes, Zookeeper was a port of the 1982 Taito arcade game.  Zookeeper was finished enough to have have been playable, and may have even been completed.  The music/sound effects code for this game (by Robert Vieira) has been found, and is nearly arcade perfect.  A video showing the graphics for this game has also surfaced.

 

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