If you grew up PC gaming in the ’90s, chances are you stumbled across Champ Games at least once or twice while delving into the MS-DOS shareware market; they put out some of the very best unofficial arcade conversions for the platform.
More recently, the brand has resurrected itself with an altogether more ambitious proposition: porting classic arcade and home computer games to the Atari 2600 — particularly those titles that never got a release on the platform back in the day.
Many of these games didn’t get a 2600 version back in the ’80s because the hardware wasn’t quite up to the challenge; thankfully, using today’s technology, it’s a simple matter to bung additional hardware such as coprocessors or memory in the cartridge to help with the heavy lifting, so that’s exactly what a lot of Champ Games’ releases do. Hey, if it’s good enough for Pitfall II…
To date, the company has released 2600 versions of Conquest of Mars (Caverns of Mars), Lady Bug, Scramble, Mappy, Super Cobra, Wizard of Wor, Galagon (Galaga), Zoo Keeper and Avalanche. You can download demo versions of the games from Champ Games’ website, and most of them are available on cartridge via AtariAge.
Earlier this month, Champ Games revealed its new project for 2021: a port of the 1981 Sega arcade game Turbo. For the unfamiliar, Turbo was one of the earliest “vanishing point” racers to feature three-dimensional colour graphics, and boasted what was considered realistic gameplay for the time.
In Turbo, it’s your job to drive your Formula 1-style race car through a variety of different environments in an attempt to pass a sufficient number of opponents before time expires. The game got ColecoVision and Intellivision ports in 1983, and Coleco planned to release an Atari 2600 version too; sadly the project was shelved due to programmer Michael Green being seriously injured in a traffic accident.
The game didn’t see any other official ports, though there are a few obvious clones out there — Atlantis Software’s Death Race for Atari 8-bit computers is a good example. Green’s 2600 prototype was apparently about 80% complete and was rediscovered by a former colleague in 2006.
Champ Games’ version does not appear to be based on the old prototype — which actually looked surprisingly impressive — but is instead another original creation. At the time of writing, there’s no demo available for the new project, but we’re promised one “soon”; keep an eye on Champ Games’ demo download page in the meantime.