Released in 1982 by Williams Electronics, Joust is a two-player game in which you take control of a giant flying ostrich or stork, launch into the air, and defeat enemy knights flying vultures. It plays a notable role in the novel version of Ready Player One, as it forms one of the tests that Parzival must complete on his quest to find Halliday’s Easter Egg.
I couldn’t help but grin as I read the name on the game’s backlit marquee: JOUST. Williams Electronics, 1982. — Ready Player One p. 80
The controls are basic – you press a button to flap your wings (allowing you to fly up and down) while the joystick controls your left/right movement. Particularly compelling is its cooperative, two-player nature, which was just the thing for the days when fending off endless Space Invaders and Centipedes lost its appeal.
Like Defender, Joust was a game I wanted to be good at. Like Defender … I never got good at it.
It’s a blast to play in a slightly ridiculous, hanging-out-with-your-friends-and-drinking-way-too-much-Pepsi sort of way, but my bird-wrangling skills were never quite up to the task. I consistently get knocked off my avian mount, while simultaneously failing to perfectly line up my lance on my own attack runs. That said, Joust is a fun game, and one I still fire up from time to time (thinking hey, maybe this time I’ll do better) but it’s more out of nostalgia than anything else.
- My High Score: 5,570
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A screenshot from the NES version of Joust.