Rock Star Games

The bastard union of rock 'n' roll and gaming.

Rock stars just can't help themselves. Having conquered the music charts, the next step is to widen their appeal (and their bloated heads) further by gatecrashing other media, such as TV, films, and yes, videogames.

In quite literal fashion our journey begins with Journey. You surely remember this US rock band? You might not have owned one of their albums, but you've no doubt heard at least one of their tunes - probably Don't Stop Believin' - on that soft rock collection you purchased from a motorway service station in a moment of weakness. Over in the States Journey were huge during the early '80s, with their 1981 Escape album going nine times platinum. So it's perhaps not surprising that they were the first band to be miniaturised, Innerspace-style, and blasted into a videogame cartridge.

The game was Journey Escape for the Atari 2600, and the guilty party behind this unholy union was Data Age. Licensed videogames were something of a new phenomenon, especially on the 2600, where carts based on The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark had done mega-business. Data Age wanted a piece of the pie and reportedly stumped up a serious sum to sign the band, before spending an equally exorbitant amount on advertising the game. However, Data Age was obviously rubbing its hands together in such glee that it completely forgot to create anything remotely resembling a game.

"You're on the road with America's hottest rock group," ran the ad. "You're the only player who can help Journey make it to their scarab escape vehicle. Only you can outsmart the promoters, avoid the photographers and fight off the love-crazed groupies..." Despite the fact that the boys were on the road, riding the wave as one of the top rock acts in the country, we're led to believe that the last thing Journey wanted to see after a sell-out gig was a sweaty throng of sex-crazed female fans. Still, a job's a job, and yours was to guide each of the five band members from the stage door to their vehicle, dodging the aforementioned 'threats' on the way. Featuring awful graphics and repetitive play, the game did at least feature a passable rendition of Don't Stop Believin', which was something of surprise considering the primitive hardware.

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I'd love to provide a witty caption for this screen from Journey Escape but I've no idea what's actually going on.

Having jizzed away so much money signing the band and promoting the game, only to see the game miserably fail, a stony-broke Data Age desperately sold the rights to Bally Midway. Having enjoyed success with its multi-part Tron game, the arcade company concocted a bizarre compendium coin-op, this time based around the band's 1983 album, Frontiers. The story goes that the band has somehow lost its instruments in the depths of space (they really were going out on a limb to avoid those love-crazed groupies), and you must venture into the unknown to get them back. Unlike the 2600 game, each band member had their own game, based on popular titles of the day like Galaxian, Scramble and Donkey Kong. The results were interesting, enjoyable even, but the most memorable thing about the game was that it actually featured the band's digitised faces stuck on tiny stick bodies. The cabinet was also fairly unique in that it housed a cassette player which pumped out real Journey music during a 'live concert' bonus round. It was almost as if the band were crammed inside the cab, playing just for you.

If that had indeed been the case they would probably still be trapped in there now, banging miserably on the plywood interior, as punters gave the game a wide birth. The Journey arcade game disappeared without a trace, and with it the prospect of future rock-videogame nuptials.

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