Arcade game maker Exidy sent in the clowns for a very different kind of Breakout game in 1977. The name of the quarter-munching machine was Circus, and true to its title, it gave players control of a high-flying big top act, live and without a net.

At the top of the screen ran three rows of colored balloons-yellow, green and blue-moving sideways in different directions. Your job was to pop them…with your clowns’ heads. At the bottom of the screen was a seesaw, with one clown holding down his end. The second clown dove from one of the platforms at the side of the screen, forcing you to guide the seesaw underneath the airborne clown. Correct placement sent the other clown soaring up toward the balloons, popping until he could pop no longer. Poor placement, naturally, made for a very unhappy (and considerably flatter) clown.

Circus went on until the last clown splatted, offering no breaks other than the temporary interludes when an entire row of balloons was popped. That respite was all-too-brief, however, and soon the bouncing began anew. The action got faster as more balloons were popped, making this one of the most dangerous stunts since Evel Knievel‘s Snake Canyon jump.

Released at the start of the golden age of video arcades, Circus was an addictive hit in its day, with the concept revived to great success in Circus Atari for the 2600 home console. Many clowns were unfortunately sacrificed but, as they say, the show must go on.

If you remember dropping a few quarters into a Circus game back in the day, we welcome all of your memories in our comments section below.

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