Activision’s bomb-dropping Kaboom! plays a minor role in the Ready Player One novel, appearing on a single line with classic Atari 2600 games like Combat, Space Invaders, and Yar’s Revenge. In the real world, it was released in 1982 and sold over a million cartridges by 1983.
Me? Despite its documented fame, I didn’t play Kaboom until I started the Ready Player One Replay.
Beside the Atari was a shoebox containing nine game cartridges: Combat, Space Invaders, Pitfall, Kaboom!, Star Raiders, The Empire Strikes Back, Starmaster, Yars’ Revenge, and E.T. — Ready Player One p. 102
Kaboom! is a back-and-forth sweeping game in which a bomber, at the top of the screen, releases explosives, which fall downward. You’ve got a stack of three buckets of water with which to catch and neutralize the bombs.
Catch a bomb, score a point. Miss a bomb, all the bombs explode, and you lose a bucket. Lose 3 buckets, and you lose the game. The game is designed to be played with the paddle controller, a controller with a rotating dial (see also Breakout, Night Driver, and Warlords)
I’m coming to this game a few decades too late. I can see, having played some of its peers, how this game could have been hugely addictive back in the 1980s. And I can also see how it would have worked well with the Atari paddle controller, which let you quickly flit back and forth across the screen.
But I am a few decades too late, and I didn’t play it using a paddle or an Atari. Instead, I used a gamepad with an emulator and the experience did not live up to the reputation implied by having sold a million cartridges. The gameplay’s just too difficult without the right hardware, and while it was amusing to try, it hasn’t aged well as a result.
Furthermore, the game’s not exactly easy to find on a modern platform. Published by Activision, it’s not released as any of the Atari Flashback or legacy releases for PC or Switch. The Atari 2600 Action Pack came out in 1995 for Mac and Windows, which is positively ancient. Activision Anthology came out in 2002 for Mac, Windows, Game Boy, and PlayStation Portable, but near as I can tell, there’s nothing more current. That’s a disappointment because Activision made some great games for the Atari 2600; it’s sad to see them relegated to mere online emulator status.
The Ready Player One Replay is an ongoing exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Love it or hate it, there’s value in revisiting our geeky roots.
- My High Score: 90