TI reminiscence for America’s birthday

It being July 4 today, and that being Independence Day, I thought I would look back into the nation’s history to explore an old TI-99/4A favorite: Chisholm Trail. I remember playing it and enjoying it back in elementary school, though perhaps not as much as Parsec. In truth, I played and liked it nowhere near as much as Parsec; when I sat down to research the game I discovered I had a wildly incorrect image of it in my head. I was actually thinking of Tombstone City, a two-player cowboy shootout duel. Chisholm Trail, on the other hand, is a deeply bizarre shooter which casts players as a head of cattle — literally, you play as a cow head — cruising around a battlefield firing bullets at abstract-looking enemies.

Looking at videos of the game in action, though, I do remember Chisholm Trail. Mainly I remember being deeply confused by it. I never really understood the point, or why I was a bullet-slinging cow head, or what the weird enemies I was fighting were. A little research online failed to reveal the truth behind any of these mysteries to me. I was on the verge of surrender when I stumbled across the box art, which weirdly enough offered the only concrete explanation of the game I’ve ever seen:

I’m not sure I understand how driving cattle along the Chisholm Trail translates into an abstract, non-linear maze shooter. But at least the whole cow skull thing makes a little sense now. Another mystery of my childhood has been solved… even if I didn’t actually remember the mystery in question until about an hour ago.

8 thoughts on “TI reminiscence for America’s birthday

  1. Tomm and I must’ve had the same TI-99 library; I too have no memory of Chisholm , but definitely played a lot of Tombstone.

  2. Hmmm…..I never made the connection to the cow head. I guess I just assumed most video game protagonists were spaceships. I remember this game being crazy hard. I think the enemies form obstacles when you shoot them? It did teach me to have a fear of irrational numbers.

  3. Kirin – my neighbor’s, actually. Played a ton of Parsec, Munchman, and Tombstone City. (My house was the Atari 7800 in those pre-NES days). I don’t recall any of the other games but I’m sure he had a library – what other ones do you remember?

  4. Clearly, it’s a secret spin-off of Katamari Damacy. That’s totally the prince and his cousins you’re shooting at. Clearly they’re on one of those challenge levels where they need something, anything, vaguely cow-like.

  5. Tomm – Munchman, Tombstone, Alpiner, and TI Invaders were my mainstays. I also had “Video Games 1” which was a compilation of pinball, pot-shot (kind of a Duck Hunt clone), and doodle (some kind of Snakes thing).

    vaterite – you might actually be thinking of Tombstone City, where the enemies turn into cactuses when shot, which produce *more* enemies if they’re touching other cacti.

  6. Kirin-I guess i was: we probably had both games, because looking at screenshots, there’s things I remember about both of them (besides the fact that I died all the time). Tombstone also seems to feature a cow-head shaped spaceship. I guess this was the cool thing to do! The memories are pretty darn foggy. I sure played a lot of that pinball game from Video Games 1.

  7. Yeah, some of those original TI games were just plain strange. I would have gotten excited about Chisholm Trail if the objectives were more clear and it had made a bit more sense. The Attack was another one of those games that was full of potential but poorly executed… you were a tiny spaceship trapped in a room full of containers. The containers would burst, revealing spores, which would bond to form relentless aliens. The cosmic creeps would make a beeline straight for your ship and devour it if they weren’t blasted first.

    The Attack had a survival horror vibe in that the music was creepily low-key, until one of the aliens appeared, announcing its arrival with a startling sound effect. It would have been really cool if your ship didn’t move so stiffly and sluggishly… I could see the concept working really well as an arcade game or on a more powerful system, but it just fell flat on the humble TI 99/4A.

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