Atari to Release Physical Cartridge for Prototype Game Save Mary – Already Sold Out!

By Todd Russell Oct7,2023

Source: Atari

Maybe I’m in a tiny minority that thinks this is pretty cool, but Atari, the current Atari, is unearthing and publishing real physical cartridges for the Atari 2600. The newext one is a prototype game called, Save Mary, described via Destructoid:

Save Mary was apparently in development for a very long time and eventually canceled when Atari discontinued the 2600 in 1990. Atari founder Nolan Bushnell was quoted in Atarian saying that he was eagerly anticipating the title. Years later, eight of the prototype cartridges were unearthed and dumped onto the internet. Homebrew cartridges would later be sold using the prototype ROM. However, this will be the first time it has been officially released

Save Mary gameplay is described in the same article:

Your goal is to use a crane to drop bricks on a platform that is slowly being submerged in water. Mary is stuck on this platform and is relying on you to stack these bricks so she can escape. Also, don’t drop them on her because she’ll die a lot quicker from that than she would from drowning.

Interestingly, another article from Atari Age by Russ Perry Jr who actually played Save Mary, paints a more sobering look at the game:

It is a bit difficult to line bricks up directly side by side, having to drop them from so far up, and often they will break, but there is also a fair amount of leeway, so you can leave gaps and still build Mary’s way out. Eventually the pile is high enough that you can grab Mary with the crane, and once you’ve deposited her on the river bank, that round is over.

Best, in their auction notice, said that there are three levels, and I’ve only played two to be honest. On the first level, the bricks are basically rectangular, and you can fit four of them across the river bed. The next level complicates things greatly, as the bricks are now three squares in a triangle (or upside-down triangle) formation, and so they need to be interleaved somewhat. This requires more bricks and more precise placement to build high enough to save Mary.

The problem is, it just isn’t very fun. I guess I don’t get what Nolan was so excited about, unless it really was just the idea that did it for him. The gameplay is pretty tedious, though the control is OK and the water level rises at a fast enough pace that the boredom won’t go on too long if you don’t actually try to meet the game’s goal. I suspect that there are three brick shapes, after which they would repeat with faster rising water, but the truth is, I don’t plan on playing the game enough to find out for sure.

Now, most reading this are probably thinking, “meh” but visiting the preorder page from Atari (https://atari.com/products/save-mary-limited-edition) reveals the Save Mary physical cartridge is already sold out!

Again, this isn’t the release of the next Call of Duty or a new Fortnite game, but for those of us that loved the old Atari, it’s cool to see them digging up and officially releasing unreleased games. Yes, the counter argument to this is “who cares” in 2023, or that maybe these games weren’t released back in the day for a good reason, but for fans of these original systems, and not only diehard fans and collectors, new official releases are fun and exciting.

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