Dateline : 18th November 2011


You either love clowns or are scared of them. So in both ways by playing this game you are actually satisfied. Laugh as you send the clowns to pop the balloons or laugh as you condemn them to death after a fall from a great height. Either way RetroBear isn’t wearing those big silly trousers and red nose for a laugh. Or is he….?


You can't get more circusy than that, even if some of the pictures on there are slightly misleading as to what features in the game

The very first sniff I ever got of gaming was an Atari 2600. This was back in the day when you happy to watch wobbly looking graphics, mind numbing sound and games that ran into infinity coming out of your TV set. Of course there was some total rubbish that came out for the system, but not all the games were bad. As we have previously discussed games do not need to look great if at the heart of it there is a good game inside and the game has the playability to bring that to the forefront.


I suppose this entry is more to do with the delights my late mum got from playing games. The 2600 was a family purchase but as expected me and my sister got more out of it. My dad seemed to be obsessed with Yars Revenge and spent a lot of time playing that. My sister was addicted to Smurf, which must have had the worst in-game music I have ever heard. My game was Frostbite, as previously covered, though I was partial to a bit of Space Invaders. My dear old mum though, well her favourite was Circus Atari.


As you can see I was right....never believe the artwork on a box, always check the back


Anyone who has ever played that game will see the instant appeal. By bouncing your two men off a see saw you gain height and at the top of the screen are a few levels of balloons. All you have to do is bounce your men up so the hit them and repeat until the screen is cleared. If you fail to have your man land on the see saw then you lose a life and your man is splatted on the floor. Add in springy sound effects and you get the idea.


It was the instant death on the floor that made my mum laugh so hard. If it wasn’t difficult enough to control the game with the paddles and her waving them about in a most unladylike fashion, she just broke up every time one of them hit the floor. In fact she laughed so hard there were tears. When she and her friend Carol were playing it it was almost impossible to get them off the VCS so we could have a go.


This is Circus Linux. It isn't very good because like all retro updates its turned out crap.


It’s gaming at its most basic, but then fun factor and the fact you want to keep playing far outweigh any graphics and sound limitations. I played a newer version of this recently (see above photo) and it wasn’t as good – it was slower and had gone to the trouble of putting a proper circus in the background. That proves a point because it was nowhere near as much fun to play.


Its worth a repeated go-back-and-play, but for the sheer fact my mum loved it, it didn’t seem right not to include it. Here’s to you mum, we miss you each and every day but the Circus Atari memories will still be with us.


VERDICT : Good fun if you like watching men popping balloons and falling to their death. If you are just over 40 it also helps.


NOTES : Loose copies can be found on Amazon from £2.50, whilst you can get a complete version with box and instructions on eBay for £3.99


UP NEXT : Tense, thrilling and a gaming classic – Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64