Back in ye olden days of my using a TI/99-4A — we’re talking, like, 1983 here — the one game I always clamored to play was Parsec. It had spaceships and lasers, you know. Throw in some dinosaurs or the A-Team and it would have been the greatest thing ever to scroll its way across a TV screen for me, back then.
I have fond memories of Parsec, despite those memories being awfully fuzzy and the strong likelihood that I never survived more than about 90 seconds in any given game. But hey, at least the controls made sense and pressing up made me go down. That was more than I could say for Zaxxon! My thoughts toward Parsec have mutated over the time, approximately thus:
- 1982-85: Oh my gosh this is like the coolest thing ever! I need to kill everyone else in the room so I don’t have to take turns playing it.
- 1985-1995: [totally forgot about the existence of the TI-99/4A]
- 1996-2010: Huh, Parsec. That game was pretty much a Defender rip-off, right?
- 2010: Whoa, I can’t believe this game actually existed on TI-99/4A. Th, that’s nuts.
The 99/4A was not precisely a graphical powerhouse. Like a lot of other systems at the time, it featured a character-based display, so the concept of scrolling graphics were almost completely antithetical to its basic technology. There were quite a few systems released years later that couldn’t scroll. Important systems, like the MSX! Systems from companies that are still alive, like the Sega SG-1000! And here was Parsec, doing a pretty darned good job of presenting gamers with a scrolling shooter.
It wasn’t a great shooter, I’ll give you that. But it also wasn’t a total rip-off of Defender, either. Honestly, about the only thing it had in common with Defender was a spaceship that could fire a screen-length laser beam. Nah, this was a total knock-off of Scramble, except without the bombing and the different elevations of scenery. It kept the refueling feature, though! The trick here was that instead of bombing fuel depots to top up your gas (which, lets be honest, doesn’t make much sense), you performed something more akin to a pitstop by flying through refueling caverns. These were really tricky, since they were extremely narrow and had uneven edges, and the game featured pixel-perfect collision. Scrape against a tiny outcropping in the depots and you were as dead as if you’d run out of fuel. To counterbalance this, you could adjust your ship’s responsiveness — it could move quickly to evade enemies, or slowly to allow fine control in tight situations.
Not exactly a masterpiece, then, but a thoughtfully consider shooter regardless with a few clever ideas to back up its fancy tech. Makes me proud to have cut my teeth on the TI, it does.