Kaboom! (video game)

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Designer(s)Larry Kaplan
Platform(s)Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit
July 1981
  • Atari 2600
  • July 1981
  • Atari 8-bit family
  • October 1983
  • Atari 5200
  • November 1983
Mode(s)Single-player, two players

Kaboom! is an action video game published in 1981 by Activision for the Atari 2600.[a] The gameplay was based on the Atari arcade game Avalanche (1978), with the game now involving a Mad Bomber who drops bombs instead of falling rocks. Kaboom! was programmed by Larry Kaplan with David Crane coding the graphics for the buckets and Mad Bomber. It was the last game designed by Kaplan for Activision, who left the company shortly after the release of the game. The game was later ported by Paul Wilson for the Atari 5200 system.

General critical reception of the game praised its graphics, particularly the Mad Bomber whose expression changed depending on how well the player player performed in the game. Reception was mixed towards the simplicity of the game, with some critics praising it as a change of pace from games like Asteroids or Space Invaders, while others found the game lacking in variety and complexity. Retrospective were more generally positive with it being praised for its simple and addictive action qualities and being among the best games released by Activision during its early era.

The game sold over one million cartridges and was one of the best-selling Atari 2600 games. Following the games release, cartridges with similar gameplay to Kaboom! were released for the Atari 2600 such as Lost Luggage (1982) and Eggomania (1983). A follow-up to Kaboom!, tentatively titled Kaboom!: The Return of the Mad Bomber was shown at the 1991 Summer Consumer Electronics Show for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, but was never officially released.


Kaboom! made use of the Atari 2600 paddle controller, which was nearly out of regular use at the time of the game's release.[3]

In Kaboom!, a "Mad Bomber" is dropping bombs to watch them explode.[4] The player starts with three buckets and must control water-filled buckets to capture the bombs to diffuse them and gain points.[5][4]

The game uses the paddle controller, moving the buckets of water left and right by moving the dial clockwise and counter-clockwise.[5] The more bombs collected leads to the bombs being dropped faster.[4] When the player misses a bomb, all other bombs on the screen explode and the player loses one of their buckets. If at least one bucket is missing, the player will receive a new bucket every 1,000 points.[5]

The switches on the Atari 2600 console can alter the game. Difficulty switches on the console make it so buckets only appear half their width, making grabbing bombs more difficult. A two-player option is available, where the players take turns controlling their buckets and have their own individuals score on display.[5]


David Crane (pictured in 2013) created code for the design of the Mad Bomber for Kaplan.

Larry Kaplan designed of Kaboom! for Activision.[1] Kaplan, Alan Miller and David Crane had all previously worked at Atari.[6] They believed Atari undervalued its programmers, leading Crane and Miller to leave Atari in August 1979 to make their own company called Activision. Kaplan followed soon after.[7][8] Prior to the release of Kaboom!, Kaplan developed Bridge for the Atari 2600, a game based on Contract bridge, which released in December 1980.[9][10]

Kaboom! was inspired by the Atari arcade game Avalanche (1978) that was designed by Dennis Koble.[11][1] Kaplan was open about the influence in later interviews, saying "I just ripped off Avalanche."[1] Kaplan felt he was limited with the games graphics, and being unable to reuse the falling rocks from the arcade game, he changed it to being a single figure dropping bombs. Kaplan credited fellow Activision founder David Crane for designing the mad bomber and buckets .[1] Crane said that in 1979, he was working on creating a realistic animation of a man running. The character would eventually be used for Pitfall! (1982), but Crane initially tried to use the character in a "Cops and Robbers"-themed game which was never published. The character in this game had a black and white colored horizontal stripe shirt, which was later used in Kaboom! for the Mad Bomber.[12]

Paul Wilson adapted Kaboom! to the Atari 5200 and Atari home computer line.[13][14] These two ports were identical to each other.[15] Wilson's version featured a "Pitch and Catch" mode, which allowed two players to take turns controlling both the buckets and the Mad Bomber.[13]


Along with Freeway, Kaboom! was shipped in July 1981.[16] Wilson's port of Kaboom! was released for Atari computers in October 1983 and the Atari 5200 in November 1983.[17][18]

The Atari 2600 version of Kaboom! was re-released in several compilation releases, including Activision Classics (1998) for the PlayStation, Activision Anthology for the PlayStation 2 (2002) and Game Boy Advance in 2003, and iPad, iPhone and Android devices in 2012.[13] The game is available hidden feature wither other Activision titles in Call of Duty: World War 2 (2017).[19]


Kaboom! on the Atari 2600. Contemporary reception noted small details in the graphics such as the bomber's reactions and the flickering of bombs.

Kaboom! was one of the best-selling games for the Atari 2600.[20] James Levy of Activision stated the game had sold over one-million copies by 1984.[21] Perry Greenberg of Video Games reflected on the success of Kaboom! in 1982, writing that it was "not much of a game" and "was a hit solely because of the dearth of TV-game competition when it came out. Back then [...] you didn't expect much and you got even less."[22]

Discussing the gameplay Bill Kunkel and Frank Laney Jr. in Electronic Games complimented the unique gameplay, writing that once you are tired of blasting asteroids or invading aliens, Kaboom! felt "refreshing".[23] Richard A. Edwards also noted the unique gameplay in The Space Gamer, saying that it felt different than shooting games, but found it lacked variety and was a game of "reflexes, not thought" recommending players to try it before purchasing.[24] Other reviewers complimented the graphics, with a review from TV Gamer calling it "graphically exciting" noting small touches like the flames exploding at the top of the bombs.[25] Kunkel and Laney Jr. addressed the similarities to the game Avalanche, but found Kaboom! "infinitely more enjoyable" due to superior graphics.[26] Other publications praised the game's addictive gameplay, such as JoyStik How to Win at Video Games, Creative Computing, and Computer & Video Games, with the latter publication declaring it "an extremely compulsive reaction game".[27][28][29]

In his book Video Games (1982), Daniel Cohen said Kaboom! was among the best video games, specifically praising the engaging character of the Mad Bomber. Cohen compared the character to Pac-Man noting the personality of the character changing such as his smile when the player misses a bomb and his frown when the player scores over 10,000 points.[30] Rick Vogt in The Miami Herald also enjoyed the graphical small touches on the Mad Bomber's reactions, while ultimately finding that the game would only predominantly appeal to children who were "easily frustrated with the space games saturating the market."[31]

In the 1982 Arcade Awards, the game was awarded Best Audio-Visual Effects. The write-up of the game stated that Activision games were known for "beautiful simplicity of its graphics" and had "hit the mark dead-center again with Kaboom!.[32]

Ports and retrospective reviews[edit]

Reviewing the later ports, for the Atari home computer line, A review Computer Entertainer found the game superior to the Atari 2600 adaptation, noting better graphics and the added "Pitch and Catch" variation.[33] Other reviewers commented on the gameplay, such as David Duberman of Antic who found the game cute and the acknowledged the gameplay as simple "but not by any means easy".[34] A reviewer in Softline dismissed the gameplay, stating that there was "no real game here, just a test of paddle controls." The reviewer suggested that Atari computer games had "passed the stage of evolution of Kaboom! is in-they want more sophistication."[35]

William Cassidy of GameSpy commented on the simplicity of Kaboom! in 2003, stating that it involved twitch gameplay, a style that was popular in arcades and consoles around the time of the games release. The style involved acquiring quick reflexes and began grow less popular when more complicated games were released that involved more intricate puzzle solving.[36] Cassidy stated that Kaboom! was "one of the most addictive and entrancing twitch games ever made" that "manages to walk the line, perfectly balanced between challenge and cheapness."[36] Kaboom! The game received further praise noting the games simplicity and addictiveness from Scott Alan Marriott of AllGame and Flux magazine who ranked the Atari 2600 version at 85th on their Top 100 Video Games list in 1995.[37][38] Mat Allen of Retro Gamer referred to the Kaboom!, along with River Raid (1982), Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (1984), Ghostbusters (1984), Little Computer People (1985) and Alter Ego (1986), as one of the best games from Activision's classic period.[39]


Following the release of Kaboom!, other companies developed similar games, such as Lost Luggage (1982) by Apollo and Eggomania (1983) by U.S. Games.[22][40] TV Gamer described these games as "Catch 'N Score" where players must catch falling or moving objects coming at you to score points.[41] In 1983, Jim Clark reviewed Crackpots (1983) in Videogaming and Computer Gaming Illustrated lamenting that Activison has reached a point of saturation with the Kaboom!-themed games of catching or tossing objects with games like Spider Fighter (1982) and Oink! (1983).[42] No sequels to Kaboom! were released. Three follow-ups to older Activison properties were shown at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show in 1991 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, including one titled Kaboom!: The Return of the Mad Bomber that never received an official release.[13][43]

Kaplan left Activision shortly after completing Kaboom!.[44] He stated he wanted to work on hardware and that he was not enjoying his time at the company. Kaplan said that he felt Jim Levy of Activision was "pushing the superstar approach, the media loves it [...] it's taking things out of context and it's lying."[45] Kaplan briefly attempted to start his own hardware and software company funded by Jay Miner which fell through leading Kaplan to return to work at Atari.[45] He would later work for companies such as Amiga and Silicon Graphics.[44]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The system became known as the Atari 2600 only after the release of the Atari 5200 in 1982.[2]


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External links[edit]

  • Kaboom! for the Atari 2600 at Atari Mania
  • Kaboom! for the Atari 8-bit family at Atari Mania