Atari 2600 Game
Produced by: Atari
Year of Release: 1983
Programmer: Michael Callahan
and Preston Stuart
Are the kids driving you bonkers? Tired of explaining sub-atomic theory to your pre-schooler? Well you don't have to take it anymore! Grab the Atari, tie the kids to a chair, and shove a big blue numeric keypad in their hands. It is time for them young'ns to get educated. It's Alpha Beam with Ernie, an "educational" game for the Atari 2600.
Alpha Beam with Ernie is your standard letter matching childrens game. Use your keypad to move letters into your big blue spaceship. This game was a commercial failure, having the dreaded combination of being a children's game and requiring a nonstandard controller. It was barely worth licensing Ernie for this title as he is only shown on a single screen.
This game is emulated by all the popular Atari 2600 emulators (Z26, Stella, etc).
From the instruction manual
"Space is terrific," said Ernie the astronaut as he flew his rocket ship
past the beautiful ringed-planet Saturn. "But I'm really getting homesick
and I miss my old buddy Bert. I think I'll turn around and start for home.
I'd better take a look at my trusty space map first so I won't get lost."
But as Ernie unfolded the map, his glance fell upon the fuel gauge of his
"Uh oh! I'm almost out of fuel!" Ernie began to worry. "I hope I can make
it to the next refueling station in time."
Just as his ship coasted to a stop, Ernie spotted the Alpha Beam Fuel
Station. He put on his space suit and got into his space shuttle to go
collect the fuel for his rocket.
"Boy am I lucky," he said. "I just made it!"
First, Ernie flew his shuttle over his rocket fuel bays to see what kind of
fuel he needed. Then, he flew to the fuel station and carefully selected
the right tank for each fuel bay on his ship.
"The `A' fuel tank goes in the `A' docking bay, the `B' fuel tank goes in
the `B' docking bay, and so on," said Ernie. "If you're planning to fly
a rocket ship through outer space, you've got to know your ABC's!"
Ernie knew he had to fill up the fuel bays as quickly as possible because,
according to his automatic countdown clock, his ship was set to blast off
in a few seconds.
"Nine...eight..." ticked the clock. (Ernie loaded the first fuel tank.)
"Seven...six...five...four..." (The `B' and `C' tanks were loaded.)
"Am I loading the fuel correctly?" Ernie wondered. "Will my ship make it
all the way back to earth?"
"Three...two..." (Ernie loaded the last tank and jumped aboard his rocket
just as the fuel bays closed.) "One! Blast off!" The great rocket ship
headed towards Earth.
"I sure hope I make it," said Ernie. "I really miss my old buddy Bert!"
"Ernie began to feel better as he passed Saturn again and saw Jupiter
"If I can just get to Mars," he thought. "Earth is only one stop away."
But Ernie's ship started to slow down. He looked at the control panel and
saw that his fuel indicator was nearing the empty mark again.
"Oh no!" he groaned. "I'm running out of fuel. Now I'll never make it all
the way home. I'll never see my buddy Bert again!"
"What do you mean, Ernie?" asked Bert. "Of course you'll see me again.
I'm just going to the kitchen to make oatmeal for breakfast."
Ernie opened his eyes and realized that he was safe in his own room. His
toy rocket had fallen off his bed and was lying on the floor.
"Boy did I ever have a crazy dream, Bert!" laughed Ernie with relief.
"You'll never believe it, not in a million light-years!"
This game required an Atari Kid's Controller, which was a big blue numeric keypad. It also included an overlay for said keypad. I would only recommend this game for completists, as no one is ever going to play it.
Unopened copies of this title sometimes surface in the back rooms of toy stores. This is common with educational games. When I worked at Service Merchandise we still had a smattering of unsold educational games for the NES when the store closed in 1999, 8 years after we stopped carrying them.
This game is valued at about $5 USD for the cartridge alone. Games with boxes and manuals are worth more.