Retro Redux: Kaboom!

I had so much fun with Laser Blast last week that I decided to stick with the 2600 library for another Retro Redux.  Kaboom! was released by Activision in 1981.  Like all other Activision carts, Kaboom! featured the designers front and center on the label.  Just like last week, Kaboom! was created by another of the founding members of Activision, Larry Kaplan.  Larry, like many others, was a well known designer for Atari in the 70s.  Upset with the lack of recognition he received at the corporation, he wanted a place where designers would get better treatment for their hard work. 

As with most games of the time, the story wasn’t so much an epic tale as it was a few sentences.  The back of the box explains the story as follows. 

Our charming “Mad Bomber” really doesn’t mean any harm.  It’s just the he loves nothing better than to drop his bombs and watch them explode. 
Only you can stop him.  As he tosses his bombs, you race to douse their fuses with your buckets of water.  The more bombs that splash in your buckets, the more you score.  But, the more points you score, the faster the bombs drop.  Miss a bomb, and you’ll learn how Kaboom! got its name. 
Here’s a true test of stamina, reflexes and concentration – Kaboom! by Activision.  Simple spellbinding!

I just love reading those old descriptions.  Anyway, as the “story” suggests, there is a crazy guy at the top of the screen dropping lit bombs.  You, being the hero you are, have to catch the burning bombs in buckets of water to douse the fuses. 

The game play of Kaboom! is simple.  Catch the falling bombs in the buckets of water.  It’s kind of like Breakout except the bombs don’t bounce off your paddle.  You control your buckets with the 2600 paddle controller.  Turning the knob makes the buckets travel across the screen horizontally and pushing the button will start the next round of bomb dropping.  The bombs don’t have to be caught in the top of the bucket and you can use the controller to “sweep” your buckets across the screen catching bombs through the side of your buckets.  Each progressive round sees the Mad Bomber dropping more bombs at faster rates and even more sporadically.  Likewise, you gain more points for every bomb caught.  When you drop a bomb, you lose one of your buckets and when you lose all three buckets the game ends.  If you are skillful enough, you will gain an extra bucket (maximum of three) at every 1000 points earned.  The game features a single player and a two player mode.  If you switch the system from Novice to Expert the buckets become much narrower, obviously making it harder to catch the bombs. 

The game may feature a simple concept but that doesn’t make it easy to play.  My highest score is around 850.  A game of Kaboom! will typically only last a few minutes.  I guess that means you will get to practice more.  Unfortunately, Kaboom! is one game that is starting to be lost to the clutches of time.  It was only released on a few systems back in its day; Atari 2600, Atari 5200 and the Atari 8-bit family of computers.  It has been rereleased for the PS2 in the collection Activision Anthology, which was also ported to the PSP and Windows/Mac as Activision Hits: Remixed and Activision Anthology Remix, respectively.  Kaboom! was also released for Game Room recently.  Due to the lack of paddle controllers for some of these modern systems, the game becomes quite difficult to play.    

Kaboom!  is a classic title that might not look like much when compared to games of today but it provides a window of where games got their start.  I was really hoping that Game Room would be able to bring classic games like these into the modern era.  I wish Microsoft would release a set of retro controllers that were compatible with games like Kaboom! but as Game Room slowly dies, so do my hopes of preserving gaming history.  If you have one of the mentioned systems, I suggest you try to find a version of Kaboom! to play.  It won’t take but a few minutes and you will hate the Mad Bomber as much as I do.  Kaboom!  More games need to have exclamation points in their name. 

 Final Verdict: Find it!

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