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Box Art IX: The Furnace of Affliction

I have been away, my RetroFriends, and I apologize for the gap in content. I've been getting involved with some stuff that's kept me pretty busy, and life is good. However, I am never too busy to bring you more of the gaming world's most

I have been away, my RetroFriends, and I apologize for the gap in content. I’ve been getting involved with some stuff that’s kept me pretty busy, and life is good. However, I am never too busy to bring you more of the gaming world’s most questionable (often on many levels) box art. There may come a day when there are no more of these covers to mock, no more masterpieces of outsider art to sting my imagination like a pissed-off scorpion. I enjoy doing these, and I hope, despite this being the ninth of them, you get a kick out of it too.

Now put on some gloves. This isn’t light work. No, the thick rubber ones. Yeah, trust me.


Pac-Man (Atari 400/800/XE/XL Version)

Atari, 1982

Runnin' down a dream.

No wonder those ghosts want to kill him. Look at him. He looks like Gerbert if Gerbert hit puberty and became, I don’t know, Dobie Gillis. What other lame references can I sneak in here? His face is horrible. He never had or needed teeth before, and now he has – that’s right – JUST INCISORS. Pac-Man doesn’t chew things. That’s fanciful bullshit for children. He just consumes them. I posit that Pac-Man is not the protagonist in this tale. The ghosts are sick of him chomping through their giant Spree candy and this time they’re not calling the cops. I like how the red ghost (I know they have names but I refuse to give them the dignity) is licking its lips. Its eerily humanlike hands put Pac’s rubbery-ass Gumby mittens to shame. Ditch the teeth and get some fingers, dude. Pac-Man is at his worst here, blindly swimming in his violent addiction even as he flees those who would destroy him for it.

This wouldn’t be so unsettling without the eyes. He sleeps in little snatches, 2 or 3 hours at a time. It’s all he can manage since he signed up for those LSD experiments to get time off his sentence.


Dr. Pimple’s Dog

Euro-Byte, 1983

I can almost smell this picture.

Dr. Pimple collects two things. One of them is aerosol canisters full of pressurized horse blood. The other is gullible dogs. The monocle is an affectation that seems out of place with a green Nehru jacket and a face that looks like Boris Karloff knocked up Edward James Olmos. Doc Pimple doesn’t care. You’ll be wondering about more than his monocle when you’re covered in rarefied horse blood and running at full speed from a cheerful suicide dog.

“16 maidens to rescue” is more of a sarcastic taunt than a call to action; Pimple’s already atomized their fluids and fed the jerky-like husks to “Spot.” Spot loves this whole thing, because as noble as we make dogs out to be, every single one of them is a depraved Epicurean hedonist capable of appalling acts of violence. Wait, hold up… my bad, that’s cats.

Dr. Pimple could have done a lot with his life, but he’s chosen his path… he aims to be the H.H. Holmes of the Commodore 64 world. All it takes is a good dog, a fresh can of horsey juice, and a dream.



Mastertronic, 1987

♪ I need no one to tell me / What's wrong or right / I drink the blood of children / Stalk my prey at night ♪

THIS IS HOW YOU SELL A VIDEO GAME. This could be the cover of a truly “wicked” metal album, or in the pages of an RPG book, or just a motivational poster to remind us what matters… suiting up and riding out on your slobbering human-eyed horse to split wigs and mete out justice.

Peep this fucking horse though. Those eyes look like a human’s and they’re scowling. It’s looking right at the viewer, as if to assure you that yes, you are next, and that your agony will make hell seem like a utopia. The knight and his steed work as one, but they do not kill serpents out of nobility or virtue. These two are full-time on this shit for its own sake, carrying the last of their savings in cash and waiting for their blood to mingle with yours and the snake’s as it soaks into the graying earth. Until then, they kill simply to exult in the act, and besides, no one misses the giant fucking snakes.


Panic 64

Interceptor Software, 1983

Just beyond the boundaries of the causal realm lies a seething chaos, and it smells like hot playground equipment and sour milk.

The cover of Panic 64 was drawn by the sister of Interceptor Micro’s programmer Andrew Challis. I don’t know if she ever did any other professional artwork, but I’d love to see it if she has. Here we have another slice of life from an abstract hellscape: clouds of methane gas fill the yawning voids between pieces of crumbling Chuck E Cheeze architecture, a backdrop for one voyager’s final stand against some very flamboyant CHUDs. Kneeling from fatigue, his eyes wide with the fury of patience finally lost, he shoves back the stubby mob of child-sized mutants as he places and arms the last device. Thirty seconds to detonation, and the extraction point is somewhere down that ladder.

Fuck it,” he mumbles to himself as he kicks an infant sized ghoul into the gasoline-puddle abyss. “Might as well just jump.”


Super Breakout (2600)

Atari, 1979

"War never changes."

In the cold and fathomless black ocean of deep space, dancing on the edge of a 200-billion-light-year-wide supervoid containing only emptiness, a lonely astronaut waits to die. The colors surround him. They mock and sing. His aim is off and he lets another projectile slip into the starless black, past him and on into infinity. It easily leaves this non-place where he is trapped. He stares blankly as it fades into the dark and he fights the urge to weep. No, he will not lose his mind here, despite all. The cruelest joke is that he already has.

He has not played catch with his son or made love to his wife in æons. He does not even know how old he is now, or how long he has been imprisoned. Time has left this place, a brittle totem of man’s meaningless structures. Long ago his oxygen supply should have dwindled. When he first blundered into this absurd game of catch, a veritable rainbow-wall of bright light bore down on him like a sniper on a dim rooftop. In a spectacle of idiot monotony, he has worn down the walls of this lurid Jericho, but he lacks the faith of Joshua. In this immeasurable span of silent hours, the minimal progress is totally meaningless. He narrows his eyes as he turns back to the rusted console, and for the first time since he lost contact with Earth, he speaks.

I wish I had another game. This one sucks.”


See You Soon, and Stay Retro!


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