They’d mount their buzzards, and joust each other, inside a live volcano
This might just be the weirdest premise for an arcade game that I’ve played yet. Not only do you joust a series of buzzard-riding knights, but each foe that you dismount, which is done simply by bumping into them while higher in the air, turns into an egg, which if not collected will eventually hatch into a more dangerous opponent. And on top of that, there are lava trolls and pterodactyls to contend with!
Controlling your feathered steed is intuitive but challenging. Your only inputs are a two-way joystick and a single button for flapping your wings, and you can expect this button to give your finger a good workout. Maintaining stability and control is really important, as you can easily accelerate to speeds that you can’t quickly reverse from without landing, which puts you at a height disadvantage.
The true appeal of Joust, I think, comes from its co-op mode. The phrase “co-op” must come with an asterisk here; you not only score points by defeating your partner, but occasionally the game will declare a “gladiator” round where the first player to do so gains a 3,000 point bounty. It’s not worth it, I think, as you can score far more than 3,000 points on a single life.
I played some rounds with “B.”
Some observations we made:
- Opponents seem to have an ever so slight height advantage over you – I got killed more than once when I was certain my lance was a pixel above theirs.
- Allowing each player control over their own arena territory prevents accidental team kills, and also makes egg retrieval easier, especially during egg waves.
- The edges of the screen are dangerous, because opponents can wrap around and surprise-kill you if you aren’t paying very close attention to the opposite edge.
- Like Robotron, eggs are worth more the more you collect in a single life, up to a maximum of 1000 points. There is also a 500 point bonus for catching them in the air.
- “Team waves” award 3,000 points to each player if neither one killed the other.
- Landing instantly kills your downward momentum. If you want to ascend, it can be faster to do this by landing and then flapping than to try to reverse your fall by flapping in mid-air.
GAB rating: Good. The last video game by Williams Electronics that I intend to cover for a while, Joust continues a so-far perfect batting average for the company, who would soon after go on a hiatus from video games to focus on pinball. Played solo, Joust is perhaps a bit too difficult for its own good. Played co-op, it becomes an engaging test of skill and teamwork to overcome your adversaries without bumping into each other, with a little bit of incentivized skullduggery for good measure.