Company: Atari. Self-Published
Year: Developed in 1978, unpublished. Published in 2002
Platform: Atari 2600
Controller: One-Button Joystick.
Late 70s. Videogame industry was doing its first steps, if not being a toddler. Console and videogaming companies were still toying with ideas of what, and what not, should be in a videogame. This also included how to merchandise them. A common practice is to giveaway prodcuts as promotions, and the company owner of Atari, which also owned Ralph Lauren Polo, thought of giving promotional Atari 2600 carts to big purchasers.
With the mission to program the videogame to giveaway was, the understimated but great programmer, Carol Shaw (who years later, would develop the classic River Raid), and it delivers a quite good videogame.
Polo was an olympic sport with on and off apparitions between 1900 and 1936, the decreasing popularity of the sport after World War II looked like it sealed the fate of the sport in the Olympic program.
If you are not familiar with polo, think of it as similar to football, but with riders using mallets to move the ball, with the goal to pass the ball through a small section called goal. If this action is successfull is called scoring a goal. The team which can score more goals is declared winner.
In this videogame, just like early sports titles for the Atari 2600, it’s about a rider against other. When the videoplayer manages to put besides the ball, it automatically shoots it to the rival goal. It’s one of the few games for this console, at least of the ones I played, which the fire button is not used. Depending the angle which the rider approach the ball is how travels the ball. Experimenting with this situation is a good advise to learn the effects at throwing.
Of course, who scores the most win. When the score at the top of the screen starts flashing is sign that the match is about to end. So if you’re losing, I suggest to hurry up scoring.
The videogame offers interesting variations, which goes from making the ball travel faster, the goal size, and even if the ball bounces at the edge of the field. When bouncing, think of this game like Ice Hockey from Activision, where it’s possible scoring using ricochet shoots. Be careful, as sometimes you can score on your own goal. When it’s not bouncing, be prepared with quick reflexes, because the ball will appear at the other side of the field.
The last variation is that there can be two riders per team at the field. Only available for one human videogamer only. With two ridres per team, it’s possible to pass, or sometimes getting in the rival’s way.
Two human videogamers can compete against each other, but only in one rider setting.
I really have no idea why this game was not published in 1978. In my opinion is quite complete, and has good pace to play quick matches. I complain about the color palette used, because the player 1 controlled rider is yellow (or orange) and it’s frequent to not finding it in the field due to the technique used to display graphics.
Fortunately, Carol Shaw managed to self-published the tile in 2002, including box and manual with style reminiscent of the styles used to publish videogames in 1978.
Highly recommended to use the default settings (medium size of goals, slow speed of the ball, ricocheting shots and one rider) to getting used to the game. Also reading the history of the prototype. Polo is a nice good videogame.
Console Icon created by Ciro Alfredo Consentino for the program EmuLoader.
Information about the history of this prototype found taken from Atari Protos.