The Dukes of Hazzard
By Scott Stilphen
Dukes of Hazzard is based on the early 80s popular TV show of the same name. The game was first mentioned in Atari Age (Nov/Dec 1982 issue). I should note that this wasn’t the first time Atari tried to make a game based on DoH – Bob Polaro gave his unreleased Stunt Cycle game a DoH “makeover”, but that game was unreleased as well:
RIGHT: Stunt Cycle. LEFT: Dukes of Hazzard version of Stunt Cycle
However, Mark Hahn's version was done 3 years later (developed at Atari’s then-new NY office), and was specifically designed with the show in mind. According to him, the original design called for 256 different levels. This justified the need for 16K (though we suspect the title screen used up most of that) and this was the 1st 16K VCS game done (some of the pcb design was later used for games using the SARA chip). Although only available in prototype form, a few promotional boxes have even been found, indicating just how close this was to being released. How close? Well, unlike most of the other prototypes/pre-production games, this was actually produced using the new COB (Chip-On-Board) technology (see this article for more information), and in large quantities... which is odd since Hahn states the game wasn't finished! Atari apparently was just about to slap the labels on thousands of Dukes cartridges – finished or not – before deciding against releasing it at the last minute; the reason Atari gave Hahn for canceling it was the game's graphics weren't on part with other releases at that time. Notice of its cancellation was announced in the Sept/Oct 1983 issue of Atari Age.
The game starts by default on level 0, but you can choose to start on any level from 0 to 10. The object of the game is pretty straightforward: you must traverse up through Hazzard county (a layout of nearly 11 screens) and reach the jail before Boss Hog catches up with Daisy, as shown at the top of the screen. Pushing UP applies the gas and LEFT/RIGHT controls the steering. Rosco (in his police car) chases you throughout the
county in an effort to stop you (you’ll hear his police siren when he’s near); if caught, you’ll lose one of your 4 cars, and start over at the bottom of the course. Nails can be found along the way and used to temporarily disable Rosco’s cruiser. However, they can damage your car’s tires just as easily, so you must drive very slowly over them to safely pick them up. Pressing the FIRE button drops the nails. You have another advantage in that your car can move
diagonally (Rosco’s can’t). A good tip for the higher levels is to keep his car in sight behind you while moving up. If he scrolls off the screen, he’ll possibly reappear right in front of you!
The first few levels have some variations in the layout that are worth mentioning. In the middle of the county (on level 1) is a water hole that you can only drive left or right through it – any other direction and you’ll lose a car:
Level 2 has an oil slick (instead of the water hole) that can be driven through in any direction, although you’ll move slower over it (and the police car won’t):
On level 3 there’s some type of obstacle - a red pit in the middle and a flashing square on the left side:
If Rosco is following you when you run over this square, he’ll turn back. Jumping over obstacles was one of the original design requirements, so possibly the idea here was driving over the block enabled you to jump the pit (thereby leaving the police car behind). Perhaps a programmer could look and see if there’s any evidence to confirm or deny that. If anyone can make sense of this pit’s purpose, please let us know! At level 4 and up, the layout is identical to level 0.
As mentioned, the game remains unfinished. The difficulty ramps up so fast that there’s no way to complete level 13 without exploiting a glitch in the game (see the
Easter egg entry for information about this and others), and even with that, the highest level you’ll see is 19 (the game will reset once you complete that level). Rosco can drive through thin barriers to get you (if you’re both close enough), so watch out! It's also possible to get the car inside of barriers. To do this, first approach any barrier from the left with
the car facing right. For an example, at the start go up and right until your car is along the right border and under the large barrier. Position the car until the hood touches the border (but doesn’t crash). Push DOWN (and hold it). The car will start moving up, crashing along the border, and eventually going inside the barrier. Once inside it, holding the joystick in one direction moves it in the opposite direction. If you go right (holding left) the
car will really be messed up! If you try the lower-right corner (and go down) the car will disappear. You can then scroll the playfield up or down, and if you go all the way up to the jail you can even get the car inside it! Try getting inside some of the large “blocks” under the jail, or the red pit (on level 3) for a challenge.
Scoring is very low – I’ve yet to see if extra cars can be earned. After reaching the jail, there’s an excellent hi-res animation showing the General Lee jumping over a creek (same as the title screen). This game would have been a good candidate for the Driving controllers, especially if the 2nd player was to control the police car, but unfortunately the 2-player feature was never implemented. With a larger layout, better controls, and a little more on-screen action (something like Rally-X perhaps), it could have been a real winner, but even with these flaws it’s still a worthy addition to your collection.
Read my interview with Dukes of Hazzard programmer Mark Hahn.
See the entire layout for level 0 HERE
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