Surround (video game)

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Cover art
Developer(s) Atari, Inc.
Publisher(s) Atari, Inc.
Designer(s) Alan Miller
Platform(s) Atari 2600
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer

Surround is an early video game programmed by Alan Miller and published by Atari, Inc. for the Atari 2600, then known as the VCS (Video Computer System). It was one of the nine Atari 2600 launch titles released in September 1977.


Surround was an unofficial port of the arcade game Blockade, released the previous year by Gremlin. As such, it was the first home console version of the game that would become widely known on other platforms as Snake. As with other early Atari games, it was licensed to Sears, which released it under the name Chase.[1]

Surround was made available on Microsoft's Game Room service for its Xbox 360 console and for Windows-based PCs on December 22, 2010.


The cartridge was subdivided into 14 different games.[2]:33 The first 12 of these were variations on the Blockade theme. Like its predecessor Blockade and successor Snake, the object of Surround was to maneuver a sprite across the screen, leaving a trail behind. A player wins by forcing the other player to crash into one of the trails.[3] Various options allowed for speed-up, diagonal movement, wrap-around and "erase" (the choice to not draw at a given moment); in addition, the sprites could be set to operate at a beginning "slow" speed, or progressively speed up through five speeds.[4]

In addition, the last two games on the cartridge provided a "Video Graffiti" game mode, in which the player(s) could use the joystick(s) to draw pictures on the screen.[5]


The cartridge and its individual games were reviewed twice in Video magazine. In the Winter 1979 issue of Video, the cartridge was reviewed as part of a general review of the Atari VCS. Collectively games 1-12 were given a review score of 9 out of 10 and described as "complex and challenging" whereas games 13-14 were collectively scored a 5 out of 10 and were described as "fine as a substitute for Soletaire [sic] but basically pretty dull".[2]:33 A more thorough review appeared in Video's "Arcade Alley" column in the Summer 1979 issue where variations #4 and #6 were singled out individually for specific praise. Variation #4 was described as the best solo-play version, though the reviewers noted that the computer employed a particularly conservative (non-aggressive) strategy. Variation #6 (which allows diagonal movements) was identified as the best tournament game, and was praised for "an elegance of design that promotes frequent replay".[6]:42-43


Main article: Snake (video game)

The essential gameplay of Surround was present in many subsequent variations of the Blockade/Snake concept. Among the most prominent appearances of the gameplay elements was in the film Tron, in which characters battled on a two-dimensional grid using "light cycles." The Tron video game based on the film included a "light cycle" battle as well.

Surround-like games have become widespread on many platforms, including mobile phones and Adobe Flash applications. Among the recent platforms for new implementations of the Surround concept is the Atari 2600 itself, for which homebrew games such as Warring Worms have been created.[7]


  1. ^ Yarusso, Albert. "Atari 2600 - Sears — Picture Label Variation". Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Kaplan, Deeny, ed. (Winter 1979). "VideoTest Report Number 18: Atari Video Computer". Video (Reese Communications) 1 (5): 30-34. ISSN 0147-8907. 
  3. ^ Surround manual, "1. Introduction (Game Play Objective)", Atari, Inc., 1977
  4. ^ Surround manual, "Game Program", Atari, Inc., 1977
  5. ^ Surround manual, "4. Game Variations/Features", Atari, Inc., 1977
  6. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Laney, Frank T. II (Summer 1979). "Arcade Alley: Atari Video Computer System". Video (Reese Communications) 2 (3): 42, 43, and 66. ISSN 0147-8907. 
  7. ^ "Warring Worms (Baroque Gaming)". Retrieved August 12, 2010.