Laurie Strode is wearing our Christmas ensemble. With white knee-high boots, a red retro-style hoopskirt, and an eye-catching neon green top, this is one outfit that's sure to get you under that mistletoe.

Mmmmmm... headless chickens

    The early '80s. Atari is becoming a true power in the video game industry. Halloween is becoming a force of note as a horror franchise. Against all reasonable logic, someone decided to combine the two.

    You're a babysitter (presumably, Laurie Strode) out to protect yourself and a houseful of kids from Michael Myers, who is once more on the loose. The problem? You have, in your charge, an infinite number of children. It seems that somewhere, off-screen, the masters of the house are boinking like horny jackrabbits, constantly birthing more and more mentally disabled tykes. These wee ones are capable of only two things - pacing aimlessly, and flailing their arms.

    You have three lives (denoted by jack-o-lanterns) in which to rescue as many kids as possible. The house has two floors, both of them painted in hideous colors like spinach green and "It's a girl!" pink. You, dressed in equally ugly clothing, must find a child and then lead him/her (only one at a time) to one of the rooms on either far end of the house. For some reason, these are the "safe rooms," which Michael never enters because he's apparently just too god damn polite. These rooms also contain the stairs that take you between floors.

    In some rooms, you'll find a door. That door can send you through a back hallway that puts you on the other end of that same floor. You can't take kids through these, but Michael sure can use 'em, and he does so with extreme prejudice.
Purple paint: $30. Hacksaw used to cut perfectly square windows: $25. Being chased by an unstoppable serial killer: Priceless.
Watch as he pops out from the left side of the screen, or the right side of the screen, or one of those doors, or, uh, that's it. He charges in, brandishing his knife, the Halloween theme plays, and you have to book it. Otherwise you risk getting your head cut off (which leads Laurie to race off-screen like a crazed chicken, flapping her arms while her neck spurts blood) or having one of your kids cut up into a puddle of mush. Why, it's the original survival horror!

    It's just plain not right how much fun this cheesy, low-tech escapade can be. At first, you'll be running away from Michael every time. He shows up on one side of the screen, you automatically run off the other - until eventually you get gutsy. Then you'll learn that you can run right at him, and, with one character length between you, dodge to the side, with him swiping the knife right by you as you rush off to the next room. It's dangerous, it's a rush, it's Atari!

    This is all well and good, since, as anyone who's seen the movies knows, Michael tends to plod along like a sloth wearing a diaper full of hammers. However, with each child you save, Michael gradually speeds up. And as he gets faster, dodging gets harder - and more intense. Each successful dive past him gives you more joy. For a while he'll seem to level off, but if you reach 50,000 points, suddenly he'll be striding at YOUR speed. Dodging will no longer be possible. Reacting fast and running like hell will be your only defense.

    But what about offense? How many people wanna kick some ass? Eventually, you're going to stumble across a knife. Actually, on the Atari it looks more like a sword, or maybe one of those sai things that Raphael of the Ninja Turtles used to lug around. Much more hardcore than a knife - no complaints here.
"Oh, god! You cut my head off! That REALLY hurts! Sweet lordy! Gonna feel that one tomorrow!"

Sure, once you've picked the knife up, you can't pick up any kids until you've used it, but who cares about those little buggers right now? It's clobberin' time! You lie waiting for Michael... waiting... and then, as he's about to kill you, you strike. You'll see Laurie swing out what appears to be nothing more than her own arm (Atari heaven!). Then, Michael runs off the screen, crying for mommy, and, hey, where the fuck'd my freaking knife go?! That's right, wake the kids and call the neighbors, 'cause you can only use it once! It drives Michael away from that room until you leave and go to the next one. That's it. If you so much as swing it before Michael even gets to you, you lose it. I guess Laurie just drops the damn thing, or something.

    But wait, there's more. Upstairs, adjacent to the "safe rooms" are two rooms with faulty lighting. As you run through, the lights will blink on and off randomly, making dodging Michael impossible, grabbing kids difficult, and frustration mandatory. Does it "add tension?" Well, yes, but for the sake of that little bonus you get to risk life and limb while you stumble around in the dark like a drunk hooker. Whenever possible, stay downstairs for best results.

    Make no mistake, Halloween is more fun than it has any right to be. It calls to mind the classic "Superman" game on the 2600, only without the ability to actually win. Endless games can be frustrating, but it's really a question of "How long can you last?"
My name is Laurie Strode. You killed my children. Prepare to die.

    And indeed, it's a surprisingly tense atmosphere for such an old-school game. The actually-quite-good rendition of the classic theme music really helps. When you find yourself staring at the downed corpse of one of the kids, screaming "My babies! My babies!", you'll start to realize you've found something a little bit special. By the time Michael is moving at your pace, you'll be directing an unholy load of profanities as his poorly-formed sprite. It's once, twice, three lives a good time.