We Bought And Played ‘Journey: Escape’ On Atari 2600, For Some Reason

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So, I’ve developed an either bad or maybe great habit, depending on how you look at these things. My habit is, after a few pints at local pubs around my Manhattan neighborhood, I will go on eBay and buy random things. And then I will forget about these said random things until they show up at my apartment. I once did this with an Atari 2600. I decided, one night, after a few pints, that I needed to own an Atari 2600. (I found out it is not an easy thing to hook up to a modern television.) Well, now that I own an Atari 2600, I sometimes buy old Atari games that look either fun or weird or stupid. And then sometimes a game fits all three categories, like it did when Journey: Escape showed up at my door.

First of all, I didn’t even realize Journey: Escape existed for the Atari 2600. I am aware of the arcade game, but I had no idea there was a home version. Then again, in 1982, Journey wasn’t a band that was really on my radar. At least as much as I can’t imagine my 7-year-old self wanting to own a game based on the band’s fictional and somewhat supernatural experiences. But, today, in 2018, I am totally interested.

The game I ordered came with the original instructions, which are… something else.

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The premise is that the player has to get all five members of Journey, one by one, to their awaiting spaceship so that they can leave the concert venue – all while making sure nobody steals their money. Now, while trying to get each member of Journey to the spaceship, each band member has to avoid “Love-Crazed Groupies,” “Shifty-Eyed Promoters,” “Sneaky Photographers,” and “Stage Barriers.” All of these obstacles, except the stage barriers, still steal money away from the members of Journey.

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Now the good news is “Loyal Roadies” and the “Mighty Manager” can help the band out. Also, it should be noted, “Mighty Manager” looks like the Kool-Aid Man. I would have loved to be in the room when a designer asked, “So what does a rock band’s manager look like?” Then someone chimed in, “I’m pretty sure they look like this?” And everyone agreed and this is what the manager looks like in Journey: Escape.

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When you first start Journey: Escape, you will be greeted with a primitive sounding MIDI version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” It’s inspiring, because I don’t want to stop believing I can get all five members of the band to their spaceship. So, yes, Journey: Escape is unbelievably difficult at first. It’s kind of like a Galaga game where your band member (you start off as drummer Steve Smith) is at the bottom of the screen while Love-Crazed Groupies and Shifty-Eyed Promoters and Sneaky Photographers all dive-bomb at poor Steve Smith, trying to take his money and preventing him from getting to the spaceship. Then I realized Steve Smith isn’t there to just dodge, he’s there to run up the screen. And once he starts running, it’s impossible to avoid all these people trying to steal his money. It took me five tries to finally get Steve Smith safely to his spaceship. But then there are still four more members of Journey left.

So, the secret to Journey: Escape is pretty disappointing. On the second round, while I was trying to get keyboardist Jonathan Cain to the spaceship (and an awaiting Steve Smith), I accidentally ran into the Mighty Manager. Well, this is the key to the entire game. Once you touch the Mighty Manager, your Journey band member becomes invincible and can just run unabated to the spaceship. No Love-Crazed Groupie can even touch Jonathan Cain. So I followed suit with Ross Valory and Neal Schon.

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The last up was lead singer Steve Perry. I was having some trouble finding the Mighty Manager and it would have been very disappointing to get this far into the game and fail to get Steve Perry to the spaceship while the other four members of Journey are there waiting for him. (Then again, considering the tension between Perry and the rest of the band today, I was also worried that Journey might just take off in the spaceship without him.) But, the Mighty Manager showed up, making Steve Perry invincible as he runs straight through all the Loved-Crazed Groupies and Sneaky Photographers. Steve Perry made it to the spaceship safe and sound. Then the spaceship takes off. It was here I thought that I’d get to shoot at things with the spaceship, but I was wrong. The game was over. It didn’t even restart so that I could try to get a better score. I had solved Journey: Escape.

From the first time I started up the cartridge until I beat the game took about 12 minutes. And, once I again, I was rewarded with a primitive sounding MIDI version of “Don’t Stop Believing.” And I can rest easy now knowing that, somewhere, out there in an Atari 2600 universe: Steve Smith, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, Neal Schon, and Steve Perry are all safe and sound on that spaceship.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.