Atari Poop – Body Harvest
Body Harvest is an action-adventure game (similar to Adventure in a lot of ways) with some open-world elements. Now, I’m sure some of you are wondering why you’ve never heard of this game. Well, it was released back in 1988 (though I found more than one “reputable” site indicating that it came out in 1998; with those graphics, I don’t think so!), so most of you had probably moved on to the NES and Master System by then. However, despite those atrocious graphics (even by 2600 standards), this game is a truly under appreciated gem.
Developed by DMA Designs and published by Midway (both of whom were founded in 1988, making it one of their first games), Body Harvest boasts a pretty immersive world and a rather unique storyline. You are put into the shoes of one slightly amorphous-looking Adam Drake (likely one of Nathan Drake’s many illegitimate children) in the year 2016 as you escape the clutches of evil aliens attacking a space station containing Earth’s last human survivors. These aliens have been visiting Earth every 25 years to harvest humans (hence, the game’s title). You escape the aliens by using some ship that has time-travel capabilities, but instead of traveling to BEFORE the aliens came in 1916, warning everyone, and passing on your advanced knowledge of science, you go to 1916 in the exact spot the aliens showed up, just inside the shield they put up to prevent people from escaping the harvest area and coming in to provide help. Genius! Seriously, why not go to 1901 and give the world 15 years to prepare?!
Anyway, who cares about the plot?! You get to move that weird blocky frame of yours through 5 massive levels. As a bonus, you can also hop into a tonne of vehicles, ranging from cars and motorbikes to tanks and airplanes. It’s like Grand Theft Auto on the 2600 but constantly veiled in some kind of dense fog for some reason. Your goal is to stop the aliens from harvesting any humans by killing them. The aliens, that is, although killing the humans would prevent harvesting too, I suppose.
You also have a fairly varied arsenal at your disposal to carry out this task. Once you’ve eliminated them all, you get a boss battle and move on to the next level: From Greece in 1916, to Java, America, and Siberia in 1941, 1966, and 1991 respectively. The final level takes place on the alien comet.
As for the music, it’s nothing special, though it is definitely better than the typical 2600 game featuring nothing more than a few bleeps and bloops for sound effects but not real music. It’s alright, but it isn’t amazing.
And now for the graphics. Body Harvest has some pretty solid graphics… for the 2600. Sure, it looks like the entire game has some kind of vaseline-glazed filter, everything is blocky and blurry as hell, and pretty much nothing looks quite right, but you’ve got to cut the game some slack. The developers managed to do an amazing job with the console’s very limited capabilities. That being said, other games, some even several years older, boasted much better visuals. Games like Battlezone and Solaris come to mind. Just compare the above screenshot with those shown below:
Finally, we have Body Harvest’s legacy. First there’s James Cameron admitting in an interview that without Body Harvest, he never would have made the Terminator movies. In fact, he cited the weird-looking characters in the game the inspiration behind T-1000. As well, the Wachowski brothers (now the Wackowski Starship) admitted to the game inspiring many elements of The Matrix’s plot.
Oh, and before I go, I’d like to finally thank Chris. He suggested I do Deadly Duck a few weeks ago. I promised to thank him and kept forgetting. Anyway, if you’re into retro video games (which should be all of you; otherwise, what the hell are you doing still reading this article), you should give him a follow on Twitter. You won’t regret it. Trust me, I’m a librarian.