Kids today are mega spoiled. Their movies feature special effects that MUST be up to par or the audiences leave the cinema and slam the studios online for incompetence and video games are subjected to criticism so intense that it reaches back in time. Reviews of retro games are lots of fun to watch but they also hammer home a reminder that criticiques are only really valid in the time they were written.
A review of the 1979 Superman videogame released for the Atari 2600 says more about the way we look at video games now that it does about the short-comings in the game itself. Even so, is the negative criticism valid?
Eh… It was 1979… we didn’t know better.
The game is really an excercise in weird sounds and moving images, isn’t it? It makes little sense and has the flow of a fever dream bolstered by an overdose of cherry Nyquil (not that I’d know). After much analysis, I have discovered that the game actually has a plot. Clark Kent witnesses a bridge explosion and must put the pieces back together. Along the way he places Lois Lane back in her Daily Planet office and crooks in jail (I’ve seen my 8 month old son place his toys where they belong with the same logic).
Looking at the footage above none of this is really made clear. The game makers also inserted several super powers into the game such as ‘X-Ray Vision’ which is what is happening when the screen strobes between two sets of images. Superman is somehow looking into other screens for clues… or something… which might actually work if the screens looked different in any way.
Check out this cool and informative video about the unreleased Superman III game from 1983 to see the evolution of a bad idea.
Superman III has many problems, one of which is that audience members were not given any of the prescription medicines that Richard Pryor was apparently on during filming. I’m not dissing the guy, but look at any scene that he is in and it appears that he is the only one having a laugh. Even the camera feel awkward being near him.
This movie also is the only instance I can think of where Superman aggressively hits on a single mom and then drinks himself into a stupor mid-way through.
What makes all of thid even weirder is that Superman III enjoyed some of the most lavish attention a movie can get including a private screening for President Ronald Regan at the White House. What must that have been like?
However, the movie did give kids something they always want a super-powered villain… kinda This translated into the bizarre moment when the villain’s super computer merges with a human (think Brainiac).
It also featured real videogame graphics that touted the same game seen above… or so they said.
Superman III may count as the first video-game/movie tie-in that went to such lengths to obtain an audience.
With Warner Bros. looking to completely restart and ‘darken’ the image of Superman in their next movie effort, I can only ask that they too revisit the past… and play the 1979 Atarai game. It may give them ideas for some whacked-out action sequence filled with computerized blips and squeaks.
The kids today would love it.