A-VCS-tec Challenge
My 2nd Game Development for the Atari 2600.



The Story of A-VCS-tec Challenge

After finishing Mental Kombat I decided to continue 2600 development and thought of a nice game with use of moving and animated sprites. As Mental Kombat was a two-player game, the next title was intended to be a single player game. I somehow remembered the game "Aztec Challenge" from 1983 on the Commodore 64 and as I always liked the first level (called "The Gauntlet") and the game-music I thought that a similar game for the VCS would be cool.

The original game consisted of seven levels, but most of the people I spoke to never played the game beyond level one. As "The Gauntlet" was the most known level I decided to create a more arcade-like version of only that first level for the VCS which would contain different graphic-sets and increasing difficulty.

Beneath the gameplay I wanted to enhance the technical side of the game. I thought that for example the zooming-effect of the pyramid should be smoother and the game should use the larger color-palette of the VCS (128 colors compared to the C64's 16 colors). I also wanted to include a scroll-text in the introduction sequence as I hadn't seen this effect on the VCS before.

During the development of the game I had some memory left and decided to include the second level "The Stairs", too. You can choose to play only "Gauntlet" levels or "Gauntlet" and "Stairs" levels alternating now.

Another must have was a cover of the game-music for the VCS. I asked Paul Slocum as he did a great job on different musics in the past and he instantly agreed and created a cover of the main-music aswell as an exclusive new game-over tune.

The Introduction Sequence

The cartridge starts up with playing the music and fading in the mask in the middle of the screen. Afterwards the game title appears and a scrolltext at the bottom of the screen shows the credits for the development and the copyright.

Pressing the fire-button of your joystick starts the quest.

The Game

You find yourself located on a plain field and can barely see a small pyramid on the horizon. The sun is burning and before long the first spear is thrown by one of the spear-throwers along the sides of your path.

As the game progresses, the pyramid is zooming and you're getting closer to your goal: the safety of the pyramid's inside.

You should try not to collide with the spears, because otherwise a screen like this will inform you that your quest is over. Your final score is shown until you use the fire-button to return to the game's introduction sequence.

If you managed to reach the pyramid you'll have to climb its stairs to reach the entrance. The evil priests drop huge stones at you and you have to avoid getting hit by them, so be careful.

After you climbed the pyramid successfully you can take a deep breath, but then the next pyramid is already waiting to be reached and climbed. :)

And if you manage to survive all the different levels, you will be presented with an endsequence to celebrate your victory.

General Game Controls

"Gauntlet" Controls

"Stairs" Controls

Download the Trailer

We produced a 43 seconds video (file size 3 MB) to show some aspects of the game along with some technical facts and offer you to download it here.


Technical Details

The game consists of 8 KB (8192 Bytes) of coding, graphics, musics and sounds. As the 2600 can only handle 4 KB of ROM at the same time, bankswitching is used to toggle between the two ROM-banks as if they were one. The intro and the musics are located in bank 2 while the main game is located in bank 1.

Due to differences between PAL- and NTSC-consoles, the game is programmed and released in two versions to fit both TV-standards.

The development was performed on a Pentium-PC using a normal Text-Pad as editor and DASM V2.12 as compiler. Testing was done using the emulator z26 V1.52 and V1.58 and on the real console of course.

Download of the Game

You can download the PAL version of the game file here and the NTSC version here. Use a VCS emulator to play the game. Please notice that you use the emulator and my game at your own risk, I don't take any responsibilty for problems occuring to your computer when using an emulator.

Production of Original Cartridges

The game is released as a limited edition of 55 boxed, numbered and signed copies first. After the limited edition was sold out the unlimited run (cartridge and manual only) is supplying as many copies as requested.

Another surprise: A preview cartridge of A-VCS-tec Challenge was shown at the Packrat Video Games booth at the Classic Gaming Expo 2003 in Las Vegas. This demonstration cartridge was spotted by Paul Norman, the author of the original Aztec Challenge for the C=64. We got in touch and Paul told me that he likes my project. He also showed me his new game release "Azteca" for the PC. I asked him about releasing Azteca-CDs along with the 55 copies of the limited edition of my game and he agreed.

The soundtrack of the limited edition is released on a small CD (185 MB, 21 minutes) and contains these tracks:

# Title Composer
1 Aztec Challenge (Original) Paul Norman
2 A-VCS-tec Challenge Paul Slocum
3 Aztec Challenge Press Play On Tape
4 Aztec Challenge Peter Connelly
5 Aztec Challenge Reyn Ouwehand
6 Aztec Challenge (live) Press Play On Tape
All songs are used with kind permission of the authors.

Sale of the Unlimited Edition

Please order your copy of the unlimited edition game cartridge (PAL or NTSC) with manual directly from this retailer:


Pictures of the Limited Edition


A complete copy of the limited edition.


All 55 boxes.

Owners of the Limited Edition

# Name Country
01 Simon Quernhorst Germany
02 Walter Lauer Germany
03 Marc Oberhäuser Germany
04 Mat Allen England
05 Jeff Rothkopf USA
06 Ed Mann USA
07 Rick Weis USA
08 Kai Darius Kohl USA
09 Carl E. Howard USA
10 Jens Klöpfel Germany
11 Cyril Denis France
12 Jose Artiles USA
13 Gregor Houghton England
14 Lee Krueger USA
15 Jay Wehner USA
16 Richard Lecce USA
17 Kevin Gatland USA
18 Russ Perry Jr USA
19 Martin Jobst-Tremel Austria
20 Chris Walton Scotland
21 r_type2600 Austria
22 Reinhard Traunmüller Austria
23 Karl Illetschko Austria
24 Leonard Herman USA
25 Daryl Scott USA
26 Matthias David Germany
27 Jeff O'Connell USA
28 Robert Rothkopf USA
29 Ingo Boyens Germany
30 Luke Sandel USA
31 Jose Garcia USA
32 Marcus Janssen Germany
33 Dieter Kosancic Germany
34 Sean Noonan USA
35 Sandy Huner The Netherlands
36 Stephen Lafleur USA
37 Syd Bolton Canada
38 Philip Rubin USA
39 Paul Palse The Netherlands
40 Jörg Konzan Germany
41 Fabian Grossekemper Switzerland
42 Sean O'Neill Ireland
43 Ben McGraw USA
44 Marco Kerstens The Netherlands
45 Spyke Alexander USA
46 Michael Scheuermann USA
47 Christopher Kice USA
48 Mr. Atari The Netherlands
49 Steve Juon USA
50 Curtis Buchanan USA
51 Frank McBride USA
52 Jason Plant England
53 Allen Paschel USA
54 Michael Weiß Germany
55 Marco Wollstädt Germany

Look who's playing A-VCS-tec Challenge...


Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, after playing a round of my game.


Ralph H. Baer, inventor of home videogames, running towards the pyramids.




I thank the following people for their help, testing and support:

Paul Slocum
Manuel Rotschkar
Ansgar Quernhorst

This game for the Atari 2600 was written in 2002-2006 and is (C) by Simon Quernhorst.
The URL www.quernhorst.de is owned by my brother, who is not to be connected
with the development of this Atari 2600 game, so don't bother him with mails.
Atari is a registered trademark, 2600 and VCS are trademarks of Atari Corporation.


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