Atari Poop – X-Man
X-Man by Universal Gamex (what I’m assuming was Universal Studios’ gaming division at the time) was one of the first comic book licenses, after Superman and Spider-Man, to get a video game treatment. Now, I’m far from being a comic book nerd (considering I’ve probably read less than 10 super hero comics in my life), so I never read the X-Men comics, but I did watch the cartoon, so I totally remember X-Man, the X-Men’s mascot. I also remember that he didn’t have any super powers, which makes him a strange choice for a video game. Nonetheless, I honestly believe that this might be the best super hero-based video game made until the last console generation or two, thanks mostly to the way the people behind the game chose to handle it in light of the hardware limitations of the time.
After the colossal failures that were the Spider-Man and Superman games, the developers thought, “What if we made a superhero game starring someone who isn’t a superhero?” The idea was just stupid enough to work. The 2600 just didn’t have the ability to let Superman fly or Spider-Man sling his webs and swing from buildings in a manner that looked anything other than completely stupid and lame. What it could do convincingly was show a person walking, or running, through a maze. So, it was decided that the game would be about X-Man, who was on site cheering on the various X-Men at their ultra secret training facility, suddenly needing to go to the bathroom (as you can see from the box art above, he clearly has to pee as soon as possible. As for the lady there, sex sells?).
Unfortunately for him, he has to make it through the training maze and its various enemies, like scissors, policemen (represented by handcuffs), and teeth (I can’t explain that one… the 80s were a weird time). Even more unfortunate is the fact that since he isn’t a superhero, he doesn’t have super powers. As a result, he can’t fight any of the enemies. He has to avoid them at all costs. When you consider that the randomly generated mazes have maybe one or two spots where it is possible to avoid them, you realize just how difficult this game is. I have never even been able to make it to the end of a maze and get X-Man to the bathroom on time.
In the end, though the game is simple design-wise, the nearly impossible mazes make for a game that can easily kill hours of your time. Something about it just makes you want to keep trying to get him there. I wish I could’ve been able to, just once. I feel like the payoff must’ve been incredible, like an amazing cut-scene granting you this wondeful releases of all your pent-up “juices.” Alas, much like Battletoads, I guess this is a game for those poor lonely souls unable to form real relationships with those of the opposite sex (or same sex, or both sexes… damn, maybe I just should’ve said “with those they’d like to have sex with,” but it just seemed so wordy).