Things I’ve loved

Things I’ve Loved is a celebration of things from the near or distant past, either overlooked or forgotten by the unforgiving eye of popular culture. It is a venue to both reminisce and profess about this one thing that you’ve loved and think others may love too.

I’ll admit, by the time I was old enough to play video games as a functional human being the ColecoVision had already been on the market for a good number of years. In my family, though, these systems seemed to have a longer shelf life; they would last quite a while before the next one came around.

While other kids were eagerly anticipating their Nintendo Entertainment System or their Sega Master System I was still playing my ColecoVision, each time plugging away with the same unbridled enthusiasm as if it were only the first time. Some of you may be able to relate to this phenomenon. You see, I grew up with three older siblings, and when you grow up with brothers and sisters, especially if you’re the youngest, you have to fight for your time playing with a fancy new toy like a video game system. For this reason I would cherish the opportunity to play Coleco, not just because it was fun but because it was my turn.

I still can’t quite determine whether or not some of the games I was playing were any good, but really, it didn’t matter. I remember spending hours with the simplest games — in retrospect I also realize these were among the hardest games I’ve ever played. Q*bert, Popeye, BurgerTime, Frenzy, Mr. Do!, these were all difficult games, especially for kids. Of course, it didn’t help matters the ColecoVision came packaged with a controller that had to have been spawned in a fever-induced dream.

Imagine if a touch dial cell phone from the ’80s had a mutant baby with a TV remote control, then throw in one button on each side lengthwise and an impossibly obtuse tuner nob at the top of it all. I feel confident in saying there is no game on Earth in which this controller is optimal, or even adequate, but somehow I still loved it.

It’s a funny thing, love; it can make you believe all sorts of crazy stuff. The Coleco game Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle, for example, may well be the worst game ever made, at the very least a strong contender. This is, I think, the ultimate example of positive emotions outweighing obvious, glaring flaws.

The Smurf game for Coleco doesn’t really have a proper story; it barely has a title screen, actually. The whole mess begins with a fairly recognizable set-up: there’s a Smurf on the left side of the screen and a pathway that leads to the far right. Like many Mario games have since taught us, a character on the left side of the screen always needs to move to the right. It’s like a crack cocaine addiction — nothing will stop them from storming their way endlessly toward the right side of the screen as if sweet salvation is just around the corner.

Smurf is a unique game in that the objective is not so much to overcome hoards of foes or navigate mesmerizing landscapes in order to reach the level’s end, but rather to make certain your Smurf character doesn’t kill himself of his own incompetence. You, as the player, have gained control of a Smurf so inept at the most basic of motor skills that you must struggle to even venture past your own front door. In fact, you play as such a witless shit in the Smurf game that it’s not uncommon to meet your untimely demise at the hands of a white picket fence, a slightly inclined hill or even a tall patch of grass.

And yet, I loved the ColecoVision and so too did I love the Smurf game. Once.