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My youth was not entirely misspent, but I was addicted to one particular arcade game: Atari Tempest. To the extent that I purchased a game console at auction and installed it in my apartment in Hillbrow, Johannesburg and played it to perfection.

On the rare occasion I popped into a dingy gaming arcade to play Tempest I very quickly attracted a crowd. The game wasn’t popular, and few people could get a high score — but it came easy to me and I could play for a long time on a single coin. After achieving the highest levels and scores I passed my game console along to fellow members of Tac2* where it did the rounds until it failed.

Years later Tempest became available on the Apple Mac in a game emulator called MAME — but the legitimacy of sourcing, downloading using Atari’s ROMS was suspect and keyboard controlling the game was challenging — this game really needs a spinner and a couple of buttons. Most other games centered on a joystick or trackball. I consoled myself on the licensing issue by knowing that I had purchased a ROM version of the game in my original console but I could not overcome the keyboard problems, so I didn’t spend much time on it.

I was interested to hear that Atari had released a free app in the iTunes store called Atari’s Greatest Hits wherein you can make in app purchases of all 99 of their classic arcade games for just under $15 or a selection of games at 99c per package. The original Pong game comes free with the console app. My Tempest package included an unreleased prototype of the game, Atari Video Cube and Outlaw.

Unfortunately, while other games benefit from a virtual trackball, this version of Tempest has a vertical spinner — it cries out for an iPod like track wheel instead. So instead of following the natural contours of the game, mostly circular, you’re left with what feels like one axis of a broken joystick. They’ve also inverted the controls from left to right hand. Instead of the spinner being under the precise control of your right hand, it’s now clumsily under your left thumb.

“Yay” for the lefties! “Grrr” for the rest of us …

*Tac2=Transvaal Amateur Computer Club

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