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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:

  • 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.
  • 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 with a Goomba Stomp works just as well.
  • Every 10,000 Points: By default in the arcade version, you start with 5 lives; and you get an extra life for every 20,000 points.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: In increasing order of difficulty and points earned, the three classes of buzzard riders are Bounders (red), Hunters (gray), and Shadow Lords (blue).
  • Mercy Invincibility: Whenever you respawn after a death, you're invincible until you start moving (or up to about five seconds).
  • Mighty Glacier: The Pegasus morph in Joust 2 is larger and taller than the enemy buzzard knights, making them easier to dispatch, but it is very heavy, has weaker flaps, and has slower horizontal speed.
  • Mook Maker: Joust 2 adds a large red mechanical buzzard named Deceptus. It swoops in from the shadows and spawns both regular eggs and Crystal Bats.
  • One-Winged Angel: In Joust 2, if an egg falls into the lava (or water), it rises and hatches into a "mutant", upgrading the knight that was riding it (Bounders become Hunters, Hunters become Shadow Lords) and significantly powering up the buzzard, turning it into a faster and more aggressive flyer. Thankfully, eggs spawned from mutants cannot be mutated further and the egg will simply incinerate/sink.
  • 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 or be directly responsible for the other player's death.
  • 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!
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Joust 2 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.

Thy Game Is Over