Electronic Games Sunday: Lost and Gone Forever?

What’s exciting about looking at these issues of Electronic Games is seeing the first arrival of what would end up being classic games, still beloved to this day. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong were already superstars, but Sinistar, Dragon’s Lair, and M.U.L.E. (in fact, Electronic Arts itself — more on this later) were all born during the magazine’s era, and it’s exciting to see them develop from nothing into the icons they would come to be. And of course, there’s the meteoric rise of this guy, who I think needs no introduction!

With the hindsight of thir– wait, you don’t know who that is? Really? Come on, it’s Bounty Bob, star of the smash mega-hit game Miner 2049er*!

You know, Miner…2049…er?

Huh. Okay, so maybe Bounty Bob isn’t in the Mascot Hall of Fame with Mario, Sonic, and Q*bert, but the editors at Electronic Games sure thought he was going to be. He appears on the cover for August 1983, November, 1983, and March 1984, and that August issue is largely devoted to Miner 2049er. There’s an article about how the game came to be, which starts out describing the game thusly:

Miner 2049er isn’t:

  • A home version of an existing coin-op
  • Based on a popular, existing licensed character
  • Published by a company with a big rep in the computer gaming field

So for EG, Miner 2049er was something of an anomaly, being possibly the first breakout indie videogame hit. It was created by Bill Hogue, who was a prolific creator of games for Radio Shack’s TRS-80 computers. Miner 2049er was originally for the Atari 800 computer, but before long it was ported to the huge variety of different platforms competing at the time: Apple II, Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, ColecoVision, and even VIC-20. It had more levels than most games at the time and must have been a pretty great game, since it had nothing else propelling it to stardom. That same EG issue has a three-page strategy guide on how to get through the game’s ten levels, and it sounds pretty tricky (I don’t think I ever played it, honestly, but keep reading).

That’s the first screen of the game. Electronic Games suggests that although it’s tempting to try to take out the mutant at the bottom of the screen, it will probably cost you more points (in time bonus) than you’ll get for doing so.

Sadly, even with Electronic Games voting Miner 2049er “Electronic Game of the Year” for 1983, it and Bounty Bob didn’t become the enduring legend they thought. That third cover I mention above, March 84, asks the question, “Can Electronic Gaming Survive the Big Shake-Out?” and even though Bounty Bob is shown winning the shake-out race (ahead of Q*bert, Donkey Kong, the Pink Panther(?) and, notoriously, E.T.) the clock was ticking for the entire industry. A 1985 sequel, Bounty Bob Strikes Back!, was probably too late and didn’t enjoy much success.

However, here and now, only 36 years before Bounty Bob makes his journey, you can enjoy Miner 2049er again, on a machine that would have those editors at Electronic Games back in 1983 building an altar to you if you showed them one. Yep, Miner 2049er is available for the iPad:

After all these years, Bounty Bob lives again, and I think I’ll see what all that fuss three decades ago was about.

* — The interesting thing is that the game is called “Miner 2049er” and that prospector guy is referred to as Bounty Bob, but the in-game avatar is clearly a Canadian Mountie, not a guy with a beard and a mule.

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