Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Midway’s utra-violent gameshow shooter/Robotron follow-up didn’t get a true-blue PC release until 2003 (as part of a Midway classics pack), but it was briefly a big part of my life around 1992, as a friend with an Amiga got hold of that version of it. I remember four of us, a loose collective of inbetweeners who fell apart with a year, clustered around his tiny beige screen in a state of joyous, cackling disbelief about the degree of transgression we believed we could see. The deathtoll! The enormous size of the bosses, and the gruesome way they peeled into pieces under our hail of bullets! The ludicrousness of collecting toasters and microwaves amidst all this blood!
The consumerist, TV nation satire was plucked directly from the Running Man and Robocop, and though blunt I’m sure its observations upon the sickness at the heart of the 80s middleclass went right over our heads because we loved the violence, and the collection of points and prizes, so very much.
It was the ideal co-op game for the time too – egging each other on, envying weapon drops, scolding each other for premature deaths, high-fiving when those giant, fleshy bosses were taken down. Y’know those notoriously exaggerated game ads from the 90s, where some kid with spiked hair and a gamepad in his hands is staring with slack-jawed amazement at a screen from which unearthly light pours? Smash TV, the stupid, simple, riotously compulsive thing that it is, was the closest that ever came to reality.