The names of early arcade games left little doubt as to what the player’s responsibilities would entail. Lunar Lander meant sheer frustration as you tried to set down on the moon’s surface. Asteroids put you in deep space, shooting madly at the rocky obstacles bent on destroying you. And with a name like Canyon Bomber, your mission was crystal clear – you were going to bomb some canyons. Let’s take a look back at this 1978 offering from Atari.
Now, what might a canyon contain that was in desperate need of bombing? A rogue roadrunner? A missile defense system? A terrorist training camp? Nope, these ideas would surface later in the evolution of gaming. In the early days, your bombing was limited to a bunch of little balls with numbers on them. How they got into the canyon in the first place is one of those unsolved mysteries to perplex the ages. But an explanation was hardly necessary at the time – there were things to bomb, so you bombed em’. No need to over-complicate things.
Your aircraft might be a sluggish blimp, or it might be a swift biplane and you therefore had to adjust your timing accordingly. Luckily, since the name of the game wasn’t “Canyon Pilot,” you didn’t need to worry about steering your aircraft. No, this was all about that blasted ball-filled canyon and you were given only a single control to carry out your mission, a bomb-release button. Two players could also play simultaneously, each with their own aircraft and each with their own bomb button. The only thing two players couldn’t do (tragically) is bomb each other, but again, this wasn’t “Buddy Bomber,” it was Canyon Bomber. The adversary was clear – a lonely stretch of canyon just brimming with little spheres – taunting you, teasing you. And bomb them, you must.
Of course, some of you might better remember the Atari 2600 version, which was released the same year and allowed you to drop projectiles from the comforts of home:
One mere button, dozens of balls to aim for – this game hardly needed an owner’s manual or a walkthrough for a player to get quickly up to speed. And that is something that is often misunderstood about these early arcade offerings – with their simplistic approach, anyone could learn them in mere seconds and yet, they could entertain for hours on end – bombing with reckless abandon like an old pro and keeping the world safe from the dreaded numbered ball. And, if that wasn’t worth spending your allowance on, what was?
If you have memories of filling your local Canyon Bomber machine with quarters, we welcome any thoughts and recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this classic arcade game from Atari.