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Joust - The Atari Times


Prepare to joust, buzzard bait!
by Darryl Brundage

July 26, 2004
"Dear mom:

I have been having a lot of fun here at camp. I have learned how to successfully ride my ostrich and carry my lance at the same time. Today we took the day off to drink and pour beer over each other, but the *real* work starts tomorrow, since I'll be learning how to joust opponents. I'll also have to scoop up the eggs their ostriches lay afterwards, or else they will hatch into an even more dangerous adversary; BOY those hatchlings grow up fast! Oh, and speaking of fast, if I don't defeat all the other riders quick enough, a pterodactyl will appear and give me a lot of grief...eeyew, I hate that bird! You can't kill it either...I don't THINK (?). Oh, and no matter what you do, you must stay away from the Lava Troll at the Lava Lake below: if you can break away from him, you're fine, but if he pulls you under...well, not one single warrior has EVER returned. Well I gotta go, they're sounding the horn for some pillaging, so this will be my last fun day before intensive training starts.

Love, your son in shining armor"

Living in Ye Olde Times must have been interesting, to say the least. Heck, you could say the same about Even More Recent Times, especially in regards to whatever the fine people at Williams were smoking when they came up with the idea for Joust; I mean, come on, OSTRICHES DON'T FLY! However, this is one of THE finest, most fun two player games ever created, bar none.

Like junior said in his letter to mom, you must fly around with your ostrich (uh huh, and the bird droppings must be pretty gnarly) around a bunch of ledges and joust with other warriors, which the higher joust will unseat the other birdbrained commuter; if the lances hit each other head on, it's a "tie", and the birds just bounce off each other, extending their lives for a while longer. Once an enemy jouster is defeated, his bird lays an egg, but it must be pretty hard-boiled, since it won't crack open when it bounces around the playfield (just like mom used to make, mmmmm!), and scooping it up will net you points. However, if left too long, a new warrior will pop up (I wonder if they taste like chicken when scrambled?), and he's faster and more powerful than the previous one you just destroyed.

This game, even with it's simple concept, was really well designed, as the difficulty level is bumped up a notch with every few waves: as far as jousting opponents goes at it's most basic, if you take too long, a pterodactyl will come after you, and he's reeeal hard to kill: you have to joust him right in the beak (there's also a spot in his tail that will kill him too, but I don't know if that was included in this 7800 version or not, I just avoid him whenever possible). The sides of the bottom ledges will also get burned off, exposing a lake of lava, and a Lava Troll, a giant hand, will grab any warrior dumb enough to fly right overhead, which actually can help you if it grabs an enemy, since you can just drop down on the warrior's bird and kill it (just don't go after the egg! By the way, doesn't anyone ever FEED this guy? I guess he's tired of eggs, and wants a different kind of meat or something...).

Then the ledges that usually give you the luxury of sitting on and pouncing on an enemy ostrich when it flies underneath crumble away, making you more vulnerable to attack, and then late in the game pterodactyls will even appear from the BEGINNING of a wave; awk! Polly want a smart bomb! However, you also get reward waves, like Egg Waves, which will net you a lot of points, and even two player waves will reward players who unseat their opponent, and more.

Since the game was a huge hit, Atari naturally ported it around to pretty much every computer and game console possible, including the 7800. The graphics and sounds are a little rougher than the arcade counterpart, but you're not really going to notice when the action gets going. The eggs also fly a little weird once you defeat a warrior, but that's no biggie either, since it looks, sounds, and most importantly, plays pretty much like it's arcade cousin, and you can't really mess up the controls of move left, move right and flap, as they work well.

I remember taking my 7800 to a friend's and having a blast with this on the weekend after a hard week's work (he was a "blue collar" worker at a radiator shop, while I worked in the almost as ugly legal field; ain't it GREAT how games can bring people of all kinds of different backgrounds together and all?!), along with Galaga, among others. It's nice to have the arcade experience at home.

This game is so classic that I adopted it's greeting at the beginning of every game of "prepare to joust, buzzard bait!" to making it into my signature for a video game forum. :)

Very excellent, especially for something that was a really birdbrained idea in the first place. I mean, could you imagine it trying to be pitched at Williams?

Programmer: "You've got this ostrich, see, and you use it to dive bomb warriors, which, once you defeat another ostrich, it lays an egg, which, if you let it sit idle for too long, another warrior will hatch, which--"

Manager (pressing button on phone): "Security!"

One word says it all.
Love that Lava Troll.
Look out for Pterry!
System: 7800
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 85%
Sound & Music Score: 83%
Gameplay Score: 100%
Control Score: 100%

Final Score: 95%

Reader Comments for Joust

By far my favorite version by Greg George on 2014-02-15 11:55:15
Anyone play the NES version? It's horrible. The 7800 version is definitely the best around!
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