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Video Game / Joust

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Prepare to joust, buzzard bait!

Joust is an arcade game produced by Williams Electronics in 1982, created by John Newcomer with art by Python Anghelo. The player controls a knight armed with a lance, mounted on either an ostrich (player 1) or a stork (player 2), who battles waves of computer-controlled enemy knights mounted on giant buzzards. These knights have three different speed and agility levels. The game screen is static; its only features are five platforms hanging in mid-air (some wrapping around the screen), the ground, and a pit of lava beneath.

The simplicity of its controls are a factor in the game's wide appeal. A joystick moves the mount left and right, and a "Flap" button flaps the mount's wings once. Pressing "Flap" in rapid succession will produce a gain in altitude until simulated gravity drags the mount downward.


Each wave begins with enemy knights appearing on the screen at one of four "spawn points". The three types of knights, from weakest to toughest, are: Bounder (red, 500 points), Hunter (gray, 750 points), and Shadow Lord (blue, 1,000 points). To destroy a knight and collect its point value, the player must collide with the knight while the player's lance is vertically higher than that of the knight. If the player's lance is vertically lower, he or she loses a life and is awarded 50 points.

After a knight is destroyed, an egg will fall to the ground. The player must touch the egg to destroy it before the egg hatches to produce another, more powerful knight. This hatchling is harmless and may also be destroyed by touch before the knight mounts a new buzzard. The award for destroying eggs and hatchlings progresses with each one collected, from 250 to 1,000 points in 250-point increments. This progression starts anew upon the death of the player or the beginning of another wave. Players are further rewarded with 500 bonus points for each egg caught before it touches the ground.


A wave is cleared when the player destroys all enemy knights and eggs. Survival Waves reward a player who avoids death during the round with 3,000 bonus points. If too much time has elapsed during a wave, a pterodactyl will appear from one side of the screen and fly around until it collides with and kills the player, the player clears the wave, or the player destroys it by hitting the pterodactyl directly in the beak with his lance, earning 1,000 points. If the player takes too much time, more pterodactyls appear. There can be up to three pterodactyls in a wave.

Two players can play Joust simultaneously, and each player earns points for destroying enemy knights as well as his human opponent. Cooperative play is possible by agreement, but accidental kills through collision remain possible. Completion of Team Waves award 3,000 bonus points each to players who successfully avoid killing one another. Gladiator Waves encourage players to kill each other by similarly offering 3,000 bonus points to the first player to do so.

During the first two waves, flooring at the bottom of the screen covers a lava pit, which is uncovered on the third wave as the floor burns away. On the fourth and subsequent waves, a troll inhabits the lava pit; if any player or enemy knight flies too close to the lava, the troll's hand will emerge and tug the mount down toward the lava. Players can escape the troll's grip by repeatedly pressing the "Flap" button.

A little-known sequel was produced, with the new ability to transform your mount into a flying unicorn (very heavy and difficult to keep in the air, but easier to kill enemies with) but it saw very limited distribution. The game also received a pinball adaptation, which was unique in that it was a two-sided machine in keeping with the "joust" motif; two players could go head-to-head for the high score.

In 2007, it was announced that CP Productions of Hollywood was actually going to try to adapt this game as a movie (something creator John Newcomer had wanted to do for some time). Sadly or mercifully, the idea appears to have been scrapped.

Joust has examples of:

  • Air Jousting: Through use of flapping.
  • Attract Mode: It provides a demonstration of the game's controls, mechanics, and enemies.
  • Bonus Boss: The "invincible" pterodactyl. It's worth a lot of points but requires excellent finesse to kill, and isn't mandatory - you can avoid it by killing the other jousters.
  • The Determinator: Pterodactyls and Shadow Lords.
  • Death from Above: When two characters collide, the lower one is killed. You don't have to actually hit the enemy head-on in the process; dive-bombing them from above works just as well.
  • The '80s
  • Every 10,000 Points: By default, you get an extra life for every 20,000 points in the Arcade Version.
  • Game Over: Your game will be over if you lose with no lives remaining; but you will get the "Nice Jousting!" notice if you have landed a high enough score.
  • Giant Flyer: Enemies ride buzzards, while the player(s) ride an ostrich and stork.
  • Flying Flightless Bird: The ostrich that player one rides can fly just as well as the other birds.
  • Lava Pit: As noted, the arena floor is one of these.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Whenever you respawn after a death, you're invincible until you start moving (or up to about five seconds).
  • Palette Swap: The Bounders, Hunters and Shadow Lords are the same sprite. Note that in some ports (particularly the Atari 2600 version) everyone used the same sprite, just different colors.
  • Player Versus Player: Two players can either cooperate to defeat enemies or compete against each other (called "cutthroat Joust" back in the day). In some stages, you get bonus points for killing the other player; in others, you lose the chance to get bonus points should either of you die.
  • Pinball Spin-Off: Here.
  • Rule of Cool: The whole game runs on this. Jousting with avian mounts, over Lethal Lava Land, and there's a pterodactyl thrown in for good measure!
  • Shout-Out:
    • A quest in World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion lets you play a three-dimensional version of the game, and even starts you off with the title quote above.
    • Pocket God: Journey to Uranus has a minigame that is this exact game IN SPACE! WITH DRAGONS!
    • The Simpsons Game has this as one of the mini-games you play at the end of the NeverQuest section.
  • Video Game Flight
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The game's lesser-known sequel allows the player to transform their bird at will into a larger pegasus. The pegasus doesn't fly as well as the bird, but it wins all ties (collisions at equal level), making it easy to dispatch opponents on the ground.
  • Wrap Around: Left/right only.

Thy Game Is Over

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