Alpha Beam With Ernie
When Atari decided to create a children's series they needed several popular characters to slip into the games, naturally Sesame Street was one of the first places they looked. Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Ernie, Big Bird, and Grover were all given their own games in the Children's Workshop Series (CCW). A sixth CCW title called Count's Castle was also planned but never finished.
Being a children's game, the gameplay in Alpha Beam is quite simple. You must help Ernie capture letters (these are actually fuel tanks according to the story in the manual) with his "Alpha Beam" and guide them into the appropriate slots on his ship. If you do a good job and completely refuel Ernie's ship, you're rewarded with a cute little animation of Ernie waving at you. Alpha Beam has twelve different difficulty levels to suit children from ages 3-7. Variations range to simply having to match letters to having to having to pick the correct letters out of several wrong choices. There's even a spelling variation where you must try and form four letter words (which we all know are the best ones).
Alpha Beam also has a two player mode where one player controls the top ship and one player controls the bottom ship. As this is a children's game the two player games are really meant more for parents to play with their children in a cooperative manner, but feel free to show your child who the real spelling champion in the house is by crushing them in a one on one Alpha Beam battle.
According to Atari the magical formula for its children's games is:
Strangely there's no mention of Bert anywhere in this game. Perhaps Atari felt Bert's unibrow was just too creepy to put into a children's game? Whatever the reason, Alpha Beam was ahead of its time with its mix of learning and entertaining gameplay. This isn't a surprise since the creators of Sesame Street, Electric Company, and 3-2-1 Contact were involved with its creation (although how much input they really had is unknown). Alpha Beam is the perfect game to introduce young children to the 2600.