We get the whole ‘blowing up aliens’ thing. And even destroying asteroids seems like a somewhat worthy pursuit. But why on Earth would you ever want to intentionally try to fly your biplane through a barn?
And yet there we were in 1982, piloting our yellow biplane over windmills, around geese, and through barns, thanks to Activision’s ‘Barnstorming’ for the Atari 2600.
When the game first arrived on the scene, of course, it was the best thing since sliced bread thanks to three nifty little innovations:
(1) Activision’s graphics were light years ahead of the standard Atari fare to that point. Let’s give a hearty BoTE shout-out to developer Steve Cartwright for designing that gorgeous sunset and taking the extra step of having our pilot’s scarf flap in the wind!
(2) Barnstorming was one of the first games to actually have a time limit. Unlike Space Invaders, Asteroids, and the like, you were racing the clock. If nothing else, we got a real sense of immediacy.
(3) How cool was the whole ‘Flying Aces’ program? Activision provided a list of ‘times to beat’, and if you did, and you took a picture of you TV, you could send away for this nifty patch.
Gameplay-wise, Barnstorming couldn’t have been simpler. All you had to do was move up and down. No shooting, no speeding up or slowing down, nothing. Just up over the windmills and down through the barns. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.
We’re not sure why exactly Mr. Cartwright thought flying through barns would be fun (seriously, it’s not even what the term ‘barnstorming’ means!) but we’re sure glad he did.
We ♥ Barnstorming.