In the early eighties, the band Journey was enjoying its success in music as was Atari in gaming. So when developer, Data Age, snagged the license to make a game based on the band for the Atari 2600, it seemed like a perfect match.
The result was Journey Escape in 1982, a game which also shared the same name for their album “Escape” which came out the year before. Here, players’ were asked to guide all five members of the band through a vertically scrolling wasteland of dangerous obstacles such as “Love-crazed Groupies”, “Shifty Eyed Promoters”, and fence-like Stage Barriers.
Good guys were “Loyal Roadies” which acted as temporary invincibility power-ups and the Mighty Manager who looked like the Kool-Aid Man taking you safely through crowds and throwing in $9,900 bucks while he was at it. In this game, much like in real life for a band going from gig to gig, money kept things moving. In the game, it kept you alive. The game even featured a snippet of the song “Don’t Stop Believin'” as best as the 8-bit Atari could render out using its two channels of 1-bit monoaural sound.
The band starts with $50,000 in cash which is their “health”. Every time they ran into a Shifty Eyed Promoter, for example, they’d lose a bit of that cash. When it’s all the way down to zero, that was it. Players were also timed to get to the Journey scarab at the end which was their “Escape Vehicle” to the next gig. And with five band members, players needed to get through this five times while doing their best to keep their stash of paper safe.
This was Journey’s first video-game adaptation with the second one being a stand-up arcade production the year after in ’83. Yet this really didn’t need the Journey license as much as it implied with the musical snippets and the box art. The gameplay and the visuals were generic enough that it could have been sold as “Pixel Boy and the Race of Doom” without changing a thing.
Yet Journey fans probably didn’t care which the ad below was likely hoping for. Journey Escape might not have been one of the better games on the Atari 2600, but for for those that had to own everything Journey, their Atari 2600 collection might not have been complete without being able to barrel through weaving rows of vampiric promoters and bulb-headed photographers.