Venture, Arcade

Venture is an early fantasy maze shooter developed and distributed into arcades by Exidy in 1981. In some respects it is similar to Stern ElectronicsBerzerk (and its sequel, Frenzy), with simple bitmap graphics, an overhead viewpoint, and extremely challenging gameplay.

In Venture you control “Winky“, a smiley-faced adventurer armed with just a bow and some arrows, who is on a quest to “recover lost treasures”.

The game has three different dungeon levels, each with a series of four rooms that must be explored, and the monsters within them destroyed, and any treasure inside them collected. Which is easier said than done.

When the game starts you are represented as a small, red dot on a screen with four rooms. Each room has two entrances and you must enter these before any “Hallmonsters” (the game hilarious trademarks this term with a TM symbol) can touch you. If they do touch you, you instantly lose one of your three lives. You cannot shoot the Hallmonsters and must avoid them at all costs.

When you enter a room you’re usually confronted by a number of moving enemies that you must shoot. Doing so is not easy as they they jink around and dodge your arrows with deft proficiency. If any of the monsters touch you, you’ll immediately lose a life. When you do manage to shoot a monster its corpse will stay on screen for a set period of time and will block your movement – until the corpse has decayed and disappeared. Shooting a corpse will make it re-set back to its initial freshly-killed status, so is not recommended. You don’t have to shoot all the monsters – you simply have to get the treasure and leave to complete that room. Occasionally you’ll find a room that doesn’t have monsters inside it, but has moving traps that you need to avoid, or monsters that appear after a short while, which at least adds some variety.

After a certain amount of time inside one of these rooms a Hallmonster will appear and start to chase you, and if it touches you you’ll lose a life. You cannot shoot them (they’re indestructible), and you cannot out-run them if they’re close, so it’s wise to not stick around if they do appear.

If you do manage to collect any treasure inside a room you’ll then be awarded with a certain number of points, and must then leave the room via any of the available doors. You’ll then be back in the main hall and the Hallmonsters here will have gotten faster. They do in fact speed up with every room you complete, so by the time you only have one room remaining they’ll be moving at a scarily fast rate. Which means that you’ll need to hurry to that last room as quickly as possible, if you want to complete the level.

While Venture is an interesting and influential early fantasy shooter, it’s also hugely difficult – maybe unfairly so – and is quite frustrating to play. Surviving for even a few minutes is an achievement, because the game heaps pressure on you to kill you off as quickly as possible. Venture is an early arcade game that wanted just one thing: your money. And it was good at taking it and rubbing your face in the dirt as it did so…

I doubt many players of the original arcade game actually played Venture for long, as it’s an embryonic – arguably even cynical – game that doesn’t offer much in terms of fun or excitement. Sure: it’s a super-challenging game that will appeal to masochists, lovers of super-hard arcade games, and gaming historians, but I doubt it’ll appeal to anyone else.

A much better (and fairer) port was released as a launch title for the ColecoVision in 1982. Home versions of Venture were also released for the Atari 2600 and Mattel Intellivision. The ColecoVision port is the one to play, though.

More: Venture on Wikipedia

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