Stunt Cycle

By Atari

In 1976, due to the recent pop culture stardom of motorcycle stunt jumper Evel Knievel, Atari released an arcade video game with the same theme - using a motorcycle to jump buses.

Video games were still early, only found in black and white with very simplistic graphics and sounds. That didn't stop them from putting together a game that was actually rather fun.

On the screen were three levels, denoted by simple horizontal lines. The glass over the screen had a pair of "pipes" on the sides, one on the right side leading from the first level to the second, and one on the left leading from the second to the third. In the upper left corner, on the first line, sat your motorcycle, and on the bottom left was a ramp, with some number of objects (meant to be buses, looked at from the front), then on the other side of the objects, a ramp leading back down.

To play, a person would hold onto the motorcycle handles on the front of the machine, and use them to give gas and apply brake just as with the real thing - by turning the handle or squeezing the brake. As you revved up the cycle, the sound would go along with it, and the motorcycle would speed up. You could even pop a wheelie (or flip the bike if not careful) on your way down. The object was simple, to have just the right amount of gas to jump the buses, and land on the ramp on the other side.

Each time you cleared the buses, the game would add another, and another, until you were unable to make the jump.

In 1977, Atari released a home console version of Stunt Cycle. (Codename "Stunt Debbie", Model SC-450) It was a simple black console, with a hump in the middle where the motorcycle handles attached, with a speaker inside the hump for the sounds - yes, it generated its own sound instead of running it through the television. It hooked up to the TV like all other consoles of the day - the standard manually-switched RF modulator box. There were also a few switches and buttons along the top front of the unit.

The home version played almost exactly the same, the differences being the fact that the cycle traversed each level from left to right, instead of reversing direction on the center level, and that there was no brake. It used a custom microcontroller, and unlike the arcade machine, actually had minimal color - though it had a switch to set it to black and white. There were also a couple other game modes. (I cannot seem to find information about them, anyone?)

There are even prototypes in existence of a cartridge version of the game for the Atari 2600. It used paddles, and the graphics were somewhat more advanced than the console version. Some have suggested that after it was cancelled, it eventually morphed into the Dukes of Hazzard game.

Sources:
Stunt Cycle - Yesterdayland Arcade Games, www.yesterdayland.com/popopedia/shows/arcade/ag1143.php
Atari Video Pinball, http://www.classicgaming.com/gamingmuseum/scycle.html
The Atari Stunt Cycle, http://www.atari-history.com/stuntcycle.html

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