The Games of Taito America Corporation

While Taito's Japanese division was busy making titles like Front Line and, er, Marine Date, their American offices were developing some very strange games indeed, many of which didn't get home conversions at the time. Let's have an overview of them, then!

Amongst Taito's early 80s output- including the likes of Jungle King, Wild Western and Chack'n Pop, there's a handful of titles, released between 1981 and 1984, that seem to stick out a little bit. These games mostly run on the same hardware, are attributed to Taito America Corporation, and almost all of them have a visual style far closer to that of games like those being produced by Bally Midway and Williams. While Taito America Corp. mostly brought over games developed by their Japanese counterparts (and distributed games by other developers, like Toaplan and Technos later on down the line), this selection of games were almost all developed in-house at their headquarters in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. They're very distinct from Taito's normal fare, and it's a shame that beyond their most famous title, Qix, those that received home conversions at all were mostly limited to inclusion in the Taito Legends set for the PS2, Xbox and PC... And even then, they were never included in the Japanese equivalent, the Taito Memories sets for PS2. So, for a bit of gaming lore, let's have a look at these American-made titles and see how they stack up.

Qix

Released in 1981,  concept by Sandy Pfeiffer, designed and programmed by Randy Pfeiffer

This is where we start, then, Taito America's most famous game. If you haven't played the real Qix, then I'm sure you've played a rip-off somewhere along the line. Taking control of a little diamond, at the start of each round you can only move around the edges of the screen. By holding either the Fast or Slow Draw button (the Slow button's worth far more points, but is riskier), you can enter the playfield, leaving a line behind you- claim sections of the screen as your own by completely surrounding an area with your line! That's basically all you need to do, but in your way are several obstacles, the most imposing being the menacing, unknowable Qix. Moving seemingly at random, this impossible fiend constructed of nothing but lines can move in any areas you haven;t claimed as your own, and if it touches either your marker as you're drawing, or the line you're making, you lose a life. As you claim more and more of the board, the Qix has less room to move around in, increasing the danger. Additionally, two ever-present Sparkz will move across the stage border and follow paths made by your claimed sections, and one touch means death- the best way to avoid them is to draw. Finally, take too long to draw and another Sparkz will appear at the tail of your drawing, killing you should it reach you. Lots of ways for a poor marker to die! Later rounds introduce a second Qix to the playing field, and if you somehow manage to split the two of them, you'll earn a points multiplier.

Qix is, well, Qix. Although followed by an inordinate amount of sequels, updates and shameless rip-offs, there's something unique about the original. A lot of it lies in its presentation- while most later variations are full of vibrant colours and bizarre designs for the Qix nemesis, this first version is quite stark, which makes the game a bit more tense as a result. It's just you, the soon-to-be-filed playfield, and this contorting, rapidly-moving series of lines that wants to destroy you! A little dramatic, perhaps, but even the strange sound effects when you claim an area of the board gives the game a weirdly serious feel to it. It also helps that it's pretty tough- the Qix has no easily dsicernible pattern, so you really have to play it safe (but not safe to the extent that the Sparkz catch up with you) and wait for the moment to strike! It may lack some of the additions of later iterations, but the original Qix can still kick it (pun intended. Sorry.)

There's two variations of Qix- one (T.T. Qix) was just a cocktail cabinet version of the game for the Japanese market, and the other (Qix II - Tournament) was released a year later and adds a 'free game' feature as well as changing the game's colour palette.

Also, it's by far the most well-known of the Taito America games, having been ported to several home computers, the NES and the Game Boy, as well as being included in Taito Legends 2, Taito Memories Gekan and both Taito Legends: Power-Up and Taito Memories Pocket for the PSP. There's also been several variants of the game made by Taito, like Volfied and the location-test prototype Twin Qix, while others were developed by other companies for Taito, like Success who worked on Battle Qix. Other companies ripped it off too, often including nude pictures behind the board- oh my!

Space Dungeon

Released in 1981, desgined and programmed by Rex Battenburg

Don't believe everything you see about old arcade games... Even if the source is the company who made it! As reader astrp3/Kevin Smith pointed out in the comments, several sources at the time confirm Space Dungeon came out in 1982, despite a few other sources, like MAME's history.dat and Taito themselves (in Taito Legends: Power-Up for the PSP) saying it came out in 1981. In any case, Space Dungeon has you exploring, well, a dungeon. In space. One with multiple floors, all made up of 36 rooms brimming with valuable treasures to seek out, like iron crosses, silver stars and even the golden fleece. Grab the treasures and dump 'em in the Collect Bonus room- marked on your radar- to move to the next floor. They're also filled with enemies with colourful names like the Executioner, the Piker Ship, and the Enforcer (the most annoying enemy as they make a beeline for you the second you enter a room). From the second dungeon onwards, you'll constantly be pestered by a Thief who'll steal your loot. To aid your plundering, you don't just have a piddly shot attack like in Robotron: 2084- your standard weapon is more like a laser, a single beam that reaches across the entire screen, stopped only by walls and enemies. That's pretty much it, really- explore each dungeon floor room-by-room and get to the Collect Bonus bin with fabulous riches in one piece!

Space Dungeon is pretty tough... If you're greedy. You may think that your laser weapon makes things easier as there's less chance you'll miss, but the two things that are going to kill you in this merciless dungeon (in space) are greed and haste. The first is obviously down to the player- there's a hefty bonus for exploring every single room in a dungeon before cashing your treasure in, and checking every room gives you more treasure to grab, but with that comes more time for you to, well, die. If the multi-hit Piker Ships don't get you, the laser-trap rooms probably will. The second, on the other hand, is both down to players (you should never move straight on into a room when you first enter it, but assess your surroundings first) and a little unfair play on the game's part (Enforcers head straight for you and the warning sound is usually too late to help, and the laser traps are also devilishly quick). At the very least, you get a second chance as you drop all your treasure upon death and can recollect it on your next life. Certainly one of the more interesting twinstick games out there, if you think you're ready for it!

Space Dungeon was ported to a home console, as far back as 1983- it made it to the Atari 5200, and as well as flipping the play field to display it horizontally, this version required players to use two joysticks, for that proper twinstick experience. Unlike most of the other Taito America Corp. games though, it wasn't included in the first Taito Legends, but was instead lumped onto Taito Legends: Power-Up, the PSP collection. Annoyingly, it's the only vertical-screen game on the set that won't let you rotate the PSP, so your view is quite cramped.

Colony 7

Released in 1981, designed by Randy Pfeiffer with help from Sandy Pfeiffer, Doug Hughes, and John & Christie Liljestran

This is the first of two games we originally missed off this list. Initially I missed it off as it was on totally different hardware and couldn't confirm it actually was Taito of America's work, but astrp3/Kevin Smith in the comments set me right, confirming, in his words: "Colony 7 was designed in-house.... At the time, Taito needed a game quickly so Jack Mittel turned to Randy Pfeiffer, who he knew as a pinball programmer from when the two of them had worked at Williams (Randy worked on Flash, among other titles)." Another vertical-screen game, Colony 7 is a bit like Missile Command- with two cannons fixed in-place, you must defend Colony 7 and its buildings from constant alien attack, including standard Fighters, Scouts that call more enemies in, and Bombers that aim specifically for your gun positions. As far as the colony's defences go, there's you (a pair of cannons on each side of the colony- they create small explosions like the missiles in Missile Command, but your ammo is unlimited! Lose one and you're weakened, lose two and you're out), a barrier that gets chipped away by cannon fire, and two special weapons- the Megablaster (a huge soreadshot, 3 uses per life) and the Eradicator (You only get one, but it wipes the screen clean). Probably the most curious function is the 'expanded weaponry' mode, where paying 2 credits increases the blast radius of your cannons. An early example of the sort of thing you see in Free-to-Play games, I suppose!

Comparing their opening stages at least, Colony 7 just about outpaces Missle Command- it's a very fast-paced game, with a nice flow to it. Even though it uses a joystick instead of the trackball you'd expect for a game like this, the controls are just right- they never feel like they're too sluggish, and the decent blast radius of your shots- expanded if you coin up twice- make hitting targets a little easier. Strangely, the most off-putting thing is the fact that you've got multiple lives- the bare minimum is two per credit (with extends available) but it feels a little odd that you can just about scrape through rounds with just one building and cannon left, then get destroyed and you come back with a fully-stocked colony and all your armaments ready. Makes a change from the very doomed feeling of Missile Command, at least, but it does make things feel a little hollow. Aside from that, though, this is a nicely-paced defend-em-up with a constant barrage of enemy attacks to keep you on your toes

Like many of the others, Colony 7 got its first port in the Taito Legends collection .. Or did it? Actually, no! It first reappeared on the rather strange Space Invaders TV Plug & Play controller by Jakks Pacific, alongside Space Invaders, Qix, Lunar Rescue and Phoenix. This version isn't too bad, but it stretches the picture, and the emulation of the rest of the games on the set is suspect at best (Space Invaders seems to be some kind of weird port of the NES version!), so buyer beware.

The Electric Yo-Yo

Released in 1982, designed and programmed by Sandy and Randy Pfeiffer

The Electric Yo-Yo was the next game by the husband-and-wife duo behind Qix, and it's an unorthodox take on the standard maze-em-up like Pac-Man... Just without the maze. As the Electric Yo-Yo of the title, you have to gobble up all the cubes on a stage to clear it. The stages have no walls aside from the corners of the screen, though- the only difference between each stage is the layout of the cubes. As you're a yo-yo, you've got a string, so if there's a gap between you and a cube, you'll extend your string and lasso your way over to it, and the greater the distance, the more points it's worth. In your way are two foes- the Trions that look a little bit like the Qix but with comedy googly eyes, and the Bions who are little green dudes, also with visible eyes. Ramping up the cuteness, then. Bions can only move on cubes but can hop from one set to another, while Trions bounce around the arena and, if they hit a cube, they'll energise it for a brief moment. Grab an energised cube and you can safely pass through Bions and points for collected cubes will increase. Clear every stage and don't get blown up!

The Electric Yo-Yo is an interesting spin (pun intended) on the maze game, but its unique hook- being able to grab cubes from across the screen- also serves as its biggest obstacle, and it will take some getting used to. If you're trained in the art of Pac-Man and other games like this, you're going to get killed very easily here, as one errant flick of the joystick will send your yo-yo hurtling towards a cube in that direction, whether you're ready for it or not. This can lead to a lot of clumsy deaths where you'll nudge a direction and fling yourself into a Trion or Bion. You don't have much defence from enemies either, as you have very little time to grab a cube while it's energised. On the other hand, this is sort-of a neat technique, as when not grabbing cubes, your yo-yo is a sitting duck- it moves very slowly, so grabbing a cube from far away is a good way to get away from the Trion in a hurry. The fact that you can't choose when to lasso cubes from far away does hurt the game a bit and make it slightly frustrating- perhaps holding a button for this would've been a better idea- but it's certainly a unique idea, so with concerted practice, you'll get some fun out of it.

The Electric Yo-Yo first game on this list to have only appeared on Taito Legends! There are no other home ports for this one. Poor game.

Kram

Released in 1982, designed and programmed by Mark Blazczyk

It's a good thing commenter Stiletto pointed out  this entry on KLOV that identifies the designer/programmer of Kram as Mark Blazczyk, because until then I didn't know who'd made it! Kram is a bit of an odd one, as it's one of only two on our list that received no kind of home port at all, Taito Legends or otherwise. It's a bit similar to The Electric Yo-Yo in a few ways, in that it's a maze game without the maze. However, in this one, you make the maze yourself. As the doe-eyed little monster Kram, you have to grab eight coins on each level that spawn from the sides- they'll move around erratically, so you have to chase after them. In your way are the Skulls and the Rippers, who chase you constantly and will kill you with a touch. As the only walls are the edges of the screen, and a handful of pre-set blocks that can be destroyed, your only defence is to create walls- holding one of the buttons down lets Kram create a trail of blocks behind him that neither he nor his enemies can get past... Except the Rippers, who can slowly destroy them. If you get blocked in by your own walls, you can destroy them with the second button. Grab those coins and don't die!

Kram is probably the weakest title of Taito America Corp's output, which is a bit of a shame, really. The idea of making your own walls is an interesting one, but the stages themselves are very cramped- unlike other games on the hardware like Qix and The Electric Yo-Yo, the sprites in Kram are fairly large- so it's often difficult to block off enemies effectively. This isn't helped by the fact that the controls feel very slippery unless you come to a complete halt when changing direction- not a good idea when you need to block Skulls off ASAP- and this means when making walls, you're more prone to leaving gaps. Skulls and Rippers can slip by your walls if there's a gap available diagonally, and you'll probably leave these unintentionally due to the controls. It's a nice idea, just not executed as well as it could be.

As mentioned, Kram was never converted to a home console of any kind, not even Taito Legends. Can't imagine why.

Zoo Keeper

Released in 1983. designed by John Morgan & Keith Egging, programmed by John Morgan, Rex Battenberg & Mark Blazczyk, music and sound effects by Tom Fosha

If I wrote this article just as an excuse to cover one game, it's this one. Zoo Keeper is one of the craziest video games ever made and I love every second of it. As Zeke, the Zoo Keeper of the title, you've got to get the animals of the zoo- including snakes, lions and camels- back under control, as they're running amok and have even kidnapped Zelda, his girlfriend. Each normal round has an animal pen in the centre of the screen, and this is where the animals spawn from. Zeke runs around the enclosure in a rectangle shape, leaving bricks below his feet, which is how you keep the animals in the centre of the screen... However, they can smash through the bricks, and if they get clear of the centre, they'll start chasing Zeke around. Your only options are to plug holes in the bricks with your feet to prevent other animals escaping, jump over the rampaging animals (which offer more points depending on how many you jump over at once- sail over 11 for a million points!), and wait for the net (which amusingly looks like a frying pan) to appear, as hitting animals with it sends them back to the centre. Once time's up, any animals still in the enclosure give you bonus points, and you move on to the next round. These standard levels are mixed in with platform stages (Zeke has to dodge coconuts and jump across moving platforms to save Zelda- later variations make the platforms invisible- not a bug, it's a feature!) and conveyor belt 'bonus stages' (Jump over the animals and make it to the end for an extra life... But lives lost here are lost for real! Some bonus round, eh?).

You can probably tell Zoo Keeper's a pretty unique game just from that description- I'm genuinely struggling to think of anything quite like it- but the main reason you should play Zoo Keeper is because it is completely bonkers. For a start, the animal enclosure stages go at a tremendous pace, only ever slowing down due to hardware limitations when the screen's crawling with animals. Zeke moves so fast it's almost hard to keep up! This gives the game a very frantic feel to it, perfect for an arcade title. The other thing it does amazingly well is its sound effects. From the sounds the animals make (imagine the cries from Pokémon but somehow even weirder) to the marching beat given off by Zeke laying down bricks, these are the kinds of sound effects you can only get from ancient hardware, and they sound fantastic. Probably the only bad thing I can say about the game is the fact that the 'bonus stage' has its difficulty pitched a wee bit too high, so you'll probably end up with less lives than you started... But if you want a frantic, completely loopy arcade-style game to do some high-score runs on, I can't recommend Zoo Keeper enough.

John Morgan, designer and programmer for the game, provided lots of behind-the-scenes info on the game's development, including how those sound effects were made, and you can see his thoughts here. As he says, it was released just before the Video Game Crash of 1983, so no home ports were made. You'll have to settle with the version included in Taito Legends.

Change Lanes

Released in 1983, designed by David Needle

This is the second game that wasn't originally in this article, so we again have astrp3/Kevin Smith to thank for spotting our mistake, and providing info on who made it: "[it was] designed by an outside team that included Dave Needle (the same team did Space Encounters for Midway)" So, this is the real outsider on this list (sorry, Kram) and also the most visually complex, with early 80s-style scaling and fast-paced driving action. Imagine it as an older cousin of Outrun- a behind-the-car view racing game where you have to race against the clock (in this case an ever-emptying fuel gauge) to get to checkpoints and top up your time, with a pedal, steering wheel and gear stick (used for switching between forward and reverse here)- but with several quirks of its own. The main one is that there's multiple routes, of sorts- as the title suggests, you can move between lanes at your discretion (after the first checkpoint), including the road, high-speed lanes, and the river (amphibious car, y'see). You'll reach a fuel refill regardless of the route taken, but some routes are quicker than others, only the numbered checkpoints give points bonuses, and the game gives you a hint before for which route you should use. Other elements include hazards like pylons, mines (!) and sudden ice conditions, a blimp that drops bonus items for you to catch, and the odd police car on your tail.

Change Lanes is one of the more interesting racing games of the time- the various hazards in particular are quite a change (seriously, mines! In the river, of all places!) and the fact that there are multiple routes- well, sort-of- encourage practice. There may be one 'correct' route to each checkpoint to get the proper bonus, but it's good to have a bit of choice... Also, it's pretty funny to just jump in the river and keep driving. Even if it is full of mines. Change Lanes is also tough- very tough! You really don't have much time to mess around, as just one or two crashes will end any chance of you reaching the next checkpoint on time, unless you get a score extend (where you'll get your fuel refilled once it runs out). If you end up having to reverse out of a dead end, at any point, then you can forget the chequered flag! Aain, practice is really essential. The final talking point for this one is the scaling- it looks really impressive! However, crashing into anything and ending up really close to static object does get a bit... Weird. As our screenshot shows.

Sadly, Change Lanes joins Kram and Complex X in the unported club.

Complex X

Released in 1985, developed by Scott Boden

The last game on our list, Complex X is... Certainly something. The history for this one gets a bit weird- according to Before the Crash: Early Video Game History, Scott Boden of Cinematronics fame left that company to work for Taito America, and Complex X appears to be the only game he made for them. However, a different source says that it's a third-party game developed as a conversion kit for the other Qix hardware games. In the comments, astrp3/Kevin Smith fills in some of the gaps- "After leaving Cinematronics, [Boden] formed a company called Enerdyne Technologies in San Diego and I think it was while he was there that he did Complex X under contract from Taito America... Taito America closed down its manufacturing plant in September, 1984... The game was released around March or April 1985 by a company called P.G.D. (Progressive Game Distributors)...  My guess is that when Taito America stopped developing games, Complex X was either left unfinished or they just didn't release it (though maybe they did) and when PGD needed a new game, Boden suggested Complex X. PGD almost surely would have removed the Taito America refs, however, so the version in MAME is probably an earlier one". There's further details in the comments, so we have to give a big thanks to astrp3/Kevin Smith for his expertise on the subject,

Maybe I should talk about the game now. It's another twinstick game, but this time it's a platformer. If anything, it's almost like an expanded version of Donkey Kong, as all you have to do is get to the top of a single screen, mostly using the jump button and ladders strewn about while not getting killed by the enemies. The twinsticks are used for defending yourself- your character has a gun with limited ammo, and the enemies are very agile and hard to hit, so keeping your ammo count healthy is strongly advised. It adds a few ideas of its own, mostly trickier moving platforms, a timer in the form of steadily rising water (you can only stay underwater for so long until) and arenas that are generally a bit more open with multiple routes compared to Donkey Kong.

Complex X is weird. Not weird in the charming, lovable way that Zoo Keeper is, though- it's frustratingly weird. It's a good thing our hero in this game doesn't die when falling too far, because you'll be doing that a lot- the moving platforms have very difficult timing, and it doesn't help that the controls are a bit awkward. Jumping is done in the style of Donkey Kong and Ghouls n' Ghosts, i.e. you have to commit to jumping in a direction in advance, and there's no altering your trajectory mid-air. Fine for those slower-paced games, that's fine, but Complex X has things happening a lot faster, so whiffing jumps is a lot more common here. The enemies pose a bit of a problem too, as they're a lot more agile than you and move unpredictably. If you can put these frustrating elements aside, though, Complex X is pretty fascinating- for a relatively early game in the platform genre, it's got some neat ideas (like the alternately-ascending platforms in the 5th level) so it's worth giving a try to see how platforming was done back then. Just, you know, be ready to die a lot.

Like Kram and Change Lanes, Complex X never even made it to the Taito Legends collections, and remains unported. Not really a surprise, given its history!

Black Widow

Unreleased, designed by Mark Blaszczyk 

Finally, we have a game that basically doesn't exist. Apparently scheduled for 1981, Black Widow would've run on the Qix hardware, but at the time, Atari were also developing a game called Black Widow too- a vector-based twinstick arena shooter. When they found out Taito were making a game of the same name, Atari bought the rights to the name and prevented Taito from making any more progress with the game. Some sources say only 50 machines were made, and what little information there is on the game is on System 16's Qix Hardware page, including the finest control panel I've ever seen (how many games can you think of with FANGS and NEW WEB buttons?). astrp3/Kevin Smith notes in the comments that "Mark Blaszczyk... remembers that a small number of [Black Widow] ]units were produced.". So, there's your answer to that one.

Additionally, astrp3/Kevin Smith names two other unfinished Taito of America games- Upshot ("not sure if it was finished") and Clones ("never made it into production").

Other Games

Commenter btribble (maintner of the excellent UnMAMED Arcade Games page) shared a link to a news report from ABC News Channel LA in 1982 that went behind-the-scenes at Taito of America, including brief snippers from Jack Mittle, then-president of the company. Interestingly, the video also shows a marquee for an unreleased game, Toasters & Chainsaws, although no in-game footage is shown (instead it shows Wild Western). Commenter Stiletto then added that, sadly, Toasters and Chainsaws never existed, possibly made-up just for the TV programme to cover up any actual games Taito America were working on. I'm as disappointed as you are that a game with that kind of name doesn't exist!

Finally, there's one more game that uses Qix's hardware, but it wasn't made by Taito- instead it's the work of a company called Century II and was distributed by GDI. It's Slither, and it's a bit like Centipede except with snakes. No, really, that's all it is. On the plus side, the game's flyer advertises that "It's for Southpaws too!" indicating that left-handed players can play as well. That's nice. If you're desperate to play it, there was a Colecovision port for some reason.

The Taito Moneymakers

Well, that seems to be your lot when it comes to Taito arcade games specifically developed in America. No other games seem to have been made any of these specific hardware types, and while not all of them are stone-cold classics, they certainly have some interesting ideas and spins on other genres. At the very least, it's a nice thought that half of them were given a new lease of life thanks to their inclusion in Taito Legends, Why not fire up that collection sometime and give some of these games another look? You might be surprised!

Please note: A huge thanks goes to commentors Stiletto (who's been working on the Undumped Wiki's page on Toasters and Chainsawsbtribble (who runs the UnMAMED Arcade Games page) and astrp3/Kevin Smith (who maintains an arcade-themed blog here) for contributing various corrections and extras to this article. Other game staff names and additional research done via arcade-history and System 16. If there's any errneous information, or maybe a game we forgot to add to this list, get in contact with us!


Last Updated ( 10 February 2014 )  

Tepid Snake

Wait, what do I put in this box again? Oh, it's about me. I like playing weird and unusual games- the sort you're likely to forget about- and I hope you like reading about them because they're what I write about. And game trivia too. Please look forward to it!

Other recent articles:

Comments 

(Link to this comment) ewjim 2013-08-26 12:21
Interesting stuff! Been playing through the Taito arcade collections on PS2 recently, they really did a mis match of awesome, weird and just plain awful in their time.
(Link to this comment) DemonicNinja 2013-08-30 08:04
Really great article ,I loved zoo keeper and still play it :D
(Link to this comment) ninjaalex 2013-09-01 20:53
I've played Qix on the gameboy. Fun to play difficult to master. A version of it was on my old Erricson phone, it had a different though, I'm guessing to avoid copyright.
(Link to this comment) btribble 2013-09-17 07:48
Fun video at YouTube:
http://youtu.be/P3sqUrX83Yg

It includes a few words from the then president of Taito America, Jack Mittle, who looks like a shady character. They also mention (and show the marquee of) a prototype game Toasters and Chainsaws, which I had never heard of before this. Strangely enough there is a slot machine titled Chainsaws and Toasters. I can't imagine they're related, but the title seems like a strange coincidence.
(Link to this comment) Tepid Snake 2013-09-18 15:46
Excellent find, thanks for sharing!

And hey, are you the btribble of the unMAMEd Arcade Games page? Nice to have you here if you are!
(Link to this comment) btribble 2013-09-20 11:49
Yup, that's me (and I know, it needs an update - this game will be part of it :) )
(Link to this comment) Stiletto 2014-01-09 10:21
According to www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?game_id=8355 aka KLOV (yeah yeah I know), Kram was designed and programmed by Mark Blazczyk, and indeed that "Kram" is "Mark" spelled backwards. I'll see if anyone else was involved.

btribble - Toasters and Chainsaws is verified fictional. Below is mostly my independent research. I still need to clarify the reasons why, but it is verified fictional.
mamedev.emulab.it/undumped/index.php?title=Toasters_and_Chainsaws
(Link to this comment) Tepid Snake 2014-01-17 20:18
Hello, Stileto, thanks for that! I have to admit, I didn't think to check Kram on KLOV (mostly because I remember it being filled with games that didn't exist at one point) so I missed that. Thank you, I've edited it into the article and credited you.

Also, you don't know how disappointed I am that Toasters and Chainsaaws isn't real. Good work, though! I've worked that in as well.
(Link to this comment) btribble 2014-01-17 08:58
I guess you can't believe everything you see on the 6:00 news! It seems like such an elaborate way to keep the competition guessing. Thanks for the info, I'll include it in the next update.
(Link to this comment) Stiletto 2014-01-17 21:11
Hi guys.

The latest from Keith Egging is (paraphrased) "I created the name Toasters & Chainsaws as a test for artwork creators to see if they could create decent artwork simply based on a name, it was nothing more. I would give them the name and see what they came up with creatively. If they asked for many more details about the game, that would lower the possibility of their obtaining the contract. If the created artwork turned out lousy regardless of only having the name, that would also of course lower the possibility of their obtaining the contract. So that's why there was artwork for Toasters & Chainsaws."

There's more, I'll be adding it to the unofficial MAME Undumped wiki I linked to in my last reply.

I talked to Egging via phone Monday night 01/13/2014 - my wishing to publish my Toasters & Chainsaws research and correct the Internet had apparently built up to that. It was fun. :)
(Link to this comment) btribble 2014-01-17 23:26
Thanks for the note in the article, though someone else originally brought the video to my attention (in fact, it may have been Stiletto). I love it when stuff like this gets figured out. :D Of course hats off to Mr. Hertz for getting the video up on YouTube!
(Link to this comment) astrp3 2014-01-22 17:51
Colony 7 was designed in-house. It was mostly designed by Randy Pfeiffer with help from Sandy Pfeiffer, Doug Hughes, and John and Christie Liljestrand. At the time, Taito needed a game quickly so Jack Mittel turned to Randy Pfeiffer, who he knew as a pinball programmer from when the two of them had worked at Williams (Randy worked on Flash, among other titles).

Keith Smith
http://allincolorforaquarter.blogspot.com/
(Link to this comment) astrp3 2014-01-22 17:54
Mark Blaszczyk (designer of Kram, which is Mark spelled backwards) also designed Black Widow (his first game) who remembers that a small number of units were produced.

Another TA game that I don't think you mentioned was Change Lanes, which was actually designed by an outside team that included Dave Needle (the same team did Space Encounters for Midway).
Two other unreleased TA games were Upshot (not sure if it was finished) and Clones (never made it into production).

I've talked to several people from Taito America, including Randy and Sandy Pfeiffer, Rex Battenberg, Keith Egging, Mark Blaszczyk, Dave Poole, Dave Needle, and Scott Boden.

Keith Smith
http://allincolorforaquarter.blogspot.com/
(Link to this comment) astrp3 2014-01-25 03:46
Oh, and one other note. Despite what Wikipedia and MAME say, Space Dungeon wasn't released until July of 1982, several months after Robotron (as confirmed by RePlay, Play Meter, Cash Box, and Vending Times magazine and the DRA Price guide)
(Link to this comment) Tepid Snake 2014-01-25 11:13
Thank you very much for all that extra information, astrp3. I especially appreciate confirming Colony 7 as one of their games. I'll get to editing your info in, and looks at Colony 7 and Change Lanes, in the next few days.

Fantastic blog, by the way! As you've spoken with a lot of the staff members from the company, I hope you don't mind if I ask a question- have they mentioned anything about Complex X? Scott Boden especially, obviously. I'm curious if it really was a limited release or not.

As for Space Dungeon's release date, thanks for the correction. Even Taito gets it wrong, as Taito Legends: Power-Up lists it as 1981 too. D'oh!
(Link to this comment) astrp3 2014-01-25 17:08
Unfortunately, when I talked to Scott Boden several years back, I didn't know about Complex X and haven't been able to contact him again.

Fortunately, however, I do have some information about the game's release. I don't think it was ever released by Taito America . Taito America closed down its manufacturing plant in September, 1984 and concentrated on licensing games made by Taito Japan. I'm guessing that Complex X was done around this same time.

The game was released around March or April 1985 by a company called P.G.D. (Progressive Game Distributors). The company was formed by former Cinematronics exec David Stroud after he ran into Scott Boden and hired him to design a trivia game (Boden brought in Skelly to help out).
P.G.D. released Complex X as a conversion kit in two forms: as a pc board kit for any game or as an E-Prom kit for Qix, Zoo Keeper, Space Dungeon, or Electric Yo-Yo.
(Link to this comment) astrp3 2014-01-26 17:22
Quick clarification. I do think that Boden worked on Complex X (and Upshot) for Taito America but don't know if they released them.
After leaving Cinematronics, he formed a company called Enerdyne Technologies in San Diego and I think it was while he was there that he did Complex X under contract from Taito America.

PGD was formed in 1982 by David Stroud, originally strictly as a distributor. In 1984, Stroud decided he wanted to get into manufacturing. When he ran into Boden (who he knew from his days at Cinematronics), he hired him to create a trivia game called Trivia Master, which Boden designed in collaboration with Tim Skelly.
My guess is that when Taito America stopped developing games, Complex X was either left unfinished or they just didn't release it (though maybe they did) and when PGD needed a new game, Boden suggested Complex X. PGD almost surely would have removed the Taito America refs, however, so the version in MAME is probably an earlier one.
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