Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Retrospective: Armor Alley for PC and Macintosh

Part of what makes retro games so great is their history of battling simplicity. Relying on pretty graphics could only get you so far back when graphics were restricted to a few colors in slow-moving 2D. Bogging a game down with useless features for the bullet-points on the back of the box was harder when memory size and processor speeds were greatly limited. Instead, you needed a good solid game built on a basic fun concept, no smoke and mirrors allowed! Well, there are no mirrors but in today's retrospective there'll be plenty of smoke on the battlefield of Armor Alley for the PC and Macintosh!...

Armor Alley

Armor Alley is an action/real-time strategy game that is actually the sequel to an Apple II game called Rescue Raiders. Armor Alley takes gameplay very similar to Choplifter and changes it drastically into a 1 on 1 RTS. I remember playing this game a ton a few years ago on a primitive monochrome laptop PC (a Toshiba Satellite, I believe) running Windows 3.11. This game supports video modes from CGA 320x200 to EGA 640x350, which makes it easy to run on primitive computers as well as modern systems!

The game has aged fairly well. It's still challenging, fast-paced and a whole lot of fun. The gameplay is built around 2 opposing bases facing off on a side-scrolling 2D battlefield. The player takes the role of a sole helicopter pilot also acting as battlefield commander. The enemy, whether controlled by a human opponent (multiplayer is supported) or the formidable AI in the single player campaign has an agile helicopter as well. The opposing sides must pilot their helicopters deep behind enemy lines, taking out as much of the enemy's front line while earning funds to purchase units.

Once sufficient funds have been raised, the player can purchase infantry, tanks, missile launchers, vans and even more helicopters (though only one can be flown at a time). The only way to defeat the enemy is to get a van all the way into their base. Vans are basically defenseless except for their radar scrambling equipment, so your best bet is to scatter them in convoys containing plenty of firepower. Convoys are the heart and soul of strategy in Armor Alley. Launching an effective convoy and protecting it with your helicopter will get you very far when done right. In addition, various battlefields in the game are covered in bunkers, AA guns, barrage balloons, etc., all of which can be captured using infantry.

Armor Alley

Graphically, at the highest settings, the game is on-par with an early Genesis (aka Mega Drive) game and the visuals hold up rather well. The game has some nice but primitive physics with momentum effecting your helicopter and gravity causing bombs to accelerate as they fall. Things like that weren't necessary to the gameplay, but it's little touches like these that can make a good game into a great game. The game's only real shortcoming is its rather sparse sound effects and total lack of music, but both PC speaker and Sound Blaster sound are supported, adding to the game's generous range of compatibility.

While this game was doomed to obscurity, the concepts have not been forgotten. The relatively recent Super Army War for Game Boy Advance and the more recent Glory Days 2 for the DS effectively act as great spiritual sequels. Fans of strategy games and arcade shmups alike have something great to discover in Armor Alley.

For more information, see Wikipedia and MobyGames.

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