Box Art Special
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
by The Video Game Critic
During the late 1970's and early 1980's Atari perfected the art of using of lavishly-drawn box illustrations to embellish their games. By the time the Lynx came out in 1989 however the company had lost their marketing prowess. As a result the box covers and cartridge labels for Lynx games were a mixed bag. For this special I've scanned a series of boxes from my collection and arranged them into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Enjoy.
I'm starting off with Checkered Flag for a reason, and that's because it harkens back to Atari's arcade heydey. Those shiny cars convey an air of simplicity to go along with the sense of unbridled speed and excitement! Checkered Flag may have been no Pole Position (Atari, 1982) but at least this box makes me want to play, well, umm... Pole Position.
Read my full review for Checkered Flag
This feels like another homage to Atari's past, nicely capturing the spirit of the sport in an action-packed image. You may recall Homerun (Atari 2600, 1978) barely qualified as a baseball game yet its elaborate artwork let your imagination run wild. Likewise this cover puts you behind the plate of a packed stadium and you can almost hear that satisfying crack of a bat.
Read my full review for Baseball Heroes
For me this illustration conjures memories of Warlords (Atari 2600, 1977) but takes the concept a step further by incorporating an awesome pirate ship. Whenever cannonballs begin flying between castles and ships, you know it's going to be epic. The parchment background solidifies the game's medieval street cred.
Read my full review for Rampart
This ninja clearly means business but it's the backdrop that puts this one over the top. I can always enjoy a good skyline and this one looks impressive. Add in a blood red sunset and you know you're about to indulge in some quality ninja violence.
Read my full review for Ninja Gaiden III
Could this box art be any more action-packed? It brilliantly exemplifies the whole "man versus world" concept. This dude is carving through the water spraying bullets every which way while being converged upon by ships, mines, helicopters, and even soldiers with rocket launchers on the shore. Explosions in the water nearby indicate this guy could be obliterated at any moment. Good times!
Read my full review for Hydra
What is it with me and water? I think I may have an unhealthy aquatic obsession. I find the deep blue sea soothing to the eye, whether on a box cover, screen, or heck even in real life! Turbo Sub's turquoise hues seem reassuring until you realize your sub is surrounded by sharks, piranha, and a robo-octopus firing missiles out of its snout! Speaking from experience this type of situation typically does not end well.
Read my full review for Turbo Sub
I'm a big fan of this mischievous monkey and he looks pretty fed up in this artist rendering. You can bet he's about to take out his aggression on those cute, colorful creatures surrounding him. Note how the title is rendered in stone blocks, suggesting some jungle hijinx in ancient ruins is about to occur. You don't have to ask me twice.
Read my full review for Toki
This dude is positively badass. He's stepping out of a burning inferno to blast a Terminator at point-blank range. It's obvious he's already sent a few dozen other robots to the scrap heap, if the one twisted below him is any indication. You can tell this guy is in the process of tossing out some cheesy one-liner ("Eat THIS, chrome dome!").
Read my full review for Xybots
In stark contrast to the actual game, which is rendered in bland brown hues, this artwork comes across as fresh and exciting. There's a stately manor looming in the background and heaving bosoms in the foreground. Notice the box says "interactive role-playing thriller". Aren't all video games interactive?
Read my full review for Dracula: The Undead
I briefly considered placing this in the "good" category, believe it or not. There's just something fanciful about this artwork that calls to mind the classic arcade cabinets of Centipede and Millipede. Maybe it's the mushrooms. Anyway the dragon looks menacing enough and I'd love to get my hands on that sparkling gold. What irks me is the kid. Whose idea was it to make the hero look like an ugly, sniveling brat?
This is what the Xybots artwork would have looked like had it sucked. As if the title Power Factor wasn't lame enough, this "art" depicts some Louis C.K.-looking space soldier decked out in skin-tight orange combat gear. He can barely lift that big-ass gun! Why is there a picture of a missile over his shoulder? Why is there an octopus in space? This is madness.
Read my full review for Power Factor
This cover could have been more convincing. There's some cocky white guy with an "extreme" haircut slamming down a basketball with a bunch of dudes hanging off of him. I would just love to see this chump get his ass kicked.
Read my full review for Basketbrawl
So let me get this straight. A guy was assigned to photograph this hot bikini chick and his one shot is from the waist up?! Where's the California Games photographer when you need him?
Read my full review for Malibu Bikini Volleyball
I can only assume Atari was running up against a tight deadline with this one. I'd be embarrassed to be seen buying this! Rygar appears to be suspended in thin air, with the only scenery being a baby dinosaur hanging off a tree. Our hero is using a flaming shield to defend himself from a puny little bat. Especially considering how awesome the game is, this one has "half-assed" written all over it.
Read my full review for Rygar
When I was in seventh grade I sat next to a kid who would draw stuff like this in the margins of his spiral notebooks every single day. Little did I know his marginal talents would lead to such an illustrious career as an artist working for Atari.
Read my full review for Switchblade II
You have to have a certain sympathy for the artist asked to come up with a compelling graphic for a game with no distinguishing qualities. But you'd think he could have made an effort at least. This has all the charm and imagination of a doodle scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin.
Read my full review for Robo Squash
When you consider Kung Food was one of the more bizarre titles for the Lynx, I suppose this artwork is appropriately ridiculous. You have a green dude in Speedos facing off against a bunch of animated... vegetables? What the hell is that brown thing supposed to be?! I can't imagine anyone buying this game. Oh that's right they didn't!
Read my full review for Kung Food
A monkey running amuck in a laboratory is an entertaining premise but there's something repulsive about this image. Wearing that red trucker cap makes Gordo look like the result a rogue experiment splicing the genes of a monkey with a redneck. Is Gordo holding an apple or a human heart?! I wouldn't rule anything out with this creepy cover.
Read my full review for Gordo 106
A title like Chip's Challenge suggests a bland puzzle game, and this artwork does a wonderful job of hammering that message home! You have a really unlikeable-looking nerd running through a maze while being chased by chattering teeth. This image doesn't make me want to play the game, but it does make me want to run in the opposite direction. Call it gamer repellent!
Read my full review for Chip's Challenge
You can find many, many more pages like this one in The Critic's Archive.