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Circus Atari

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Released: 1980

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: Atari 2600

Publisher: Atari

Developer: Mike Lorenzen

Submitted by: Stephen Westwood

Breakout has received many a clone and many an update which can range from the incredibly dull 'Thru the Wall' on the ZX Spectrum Horizons user tape… (first Speccy game I ever played!)  to the pretty snazzy like Arkanoid.    But the idea is there and if you can make it work then it is a concept that is usually worth ten minutes of free time to test your reflexes. 

As it happens, a concept coined by arcade makers Exidy in 1977 was a variation on the theme that was ported to this kinda half licensed game by Atari.

It’s about as simple as they come- needing you to only move left and right – preferably using the paddle device.  What you are moving is a kind of see-saw named a teeter-totter with a little man on one end.  This little stick man is, apparently, a clown and those square things in three rows above you are, apparently, balloons.  All you need now is for your fellow clown to jump off the trampoline (black square) onto the other end of your see-saw and therefore fling you up in the air to burst the balloons!

What transpires is strangely good fun.  The physics of it mean that you need your fellow clown to land right on the end of the teeter-totter for maximum propulsion and once a few balloons are popped your man will come down and will need catching… so quick….  move towards him…  turn the see-saw round if you need to using the fire button….  nearly there…. whoops….  Yep.  The best thing about this game is watching clowns splat on the ground and their little heads squish!  Though I don’t think many people will be coming back to my circus now that their children are traumatized.  The animation of the stick men jumping about is fun to watch and the game is fast and hard to master.  Clear line after line of balloons for high scores and extra lives.

The 8 variations aren’t much different, but one does add little barriers at the bottom which makes it even harder, as if you need it to be. There is also a two player mode.  Nothing majorly technical, nothing highly original, but certainly good fun…    for ten minutes.