I’m a big sucker for early video game consoles. The Atari 2600, of course, but also more obscure systems such as the Bally Astrocade. Even less well-known than the Bally is this, the APF M1000, released in 1978 and designed to be part of a larger, expandable computer called the APF Imagination Machine. The computer was apparently a pretty advanced beast for the time, but I don’t have one nor have I ever played one. All I’ve got is this core system. This was an Ebay impulse buy from about a year ago, albeit an impulse buy I mulled over for several days prior to the auction’s end. As soon as it was over, I sort of had second thoughts. But, as it stands, I’m glad I bought this thing. It’s kinda neat, it’s obscure, and, and…well, I don’t really have any other reasons, but it’s mine, okay?
This thing reminds me of a cross between an Atari 2600 and an Intellivision. The black-and-woodgrain finish recalls the 2600, while the fairly awful numeric controllers and hardwired cords are similar to the Intellivision (even though the Intellivision hadn’t been released yet when the APF hit the market). Yes, the controllers and the RF cable cannot be disconnected from the system, which is always a double-edged sword. On one hand, you never have to worry about losing a controller. But on the other hand, if something breaks, you’re in trouble, especially nowadays. And, like any good system with hardwired cords, no matter how careful you are, things become a tangled mess in a matter of seconds. The APF is especially susceptible to this because the RF cable is approximately 1000 feet long, and even if you avoid tangling it with the controller cords, you still have to contend with other unrelated cables that may happen to be in the vicinity. I’m not joking, the cords on this thing are a pain in the ass.
The controller looks like a cross between the Intellivison and Colecovision controllers, and that’s not really a good thing (keep in mind those systems weren’t released when the APF first came out, so no cries of “Copycat!” can be lobbied). Neither system was known for having especially comfortable control pads, but I’d give the Colecovision the edge, dubious honor that may be. Luckily, the APF has a joystick ‘nub’, somewhat comparable to Coleco’s, which I prefer to the Intellivision’s directional disc. Actually, since it’s fairly small and the fire button is located on the top of the controller, I’d say the APF’s controller may actually be a bit better than either of those other two, though that’s not saying much.
As for games, only a few were released for the console, and guess what? I don’t have any of them. Mine didn’t come with any carts, and while there’s usually one or two on Ebay, they tend to either be too much for the ones I want or games I would never spend good money on in the first place. I do want Bowling and Baseball, and there’s a Sea Monster game that sounds interesting, but as it stands, I don’t have any carts and thus have no idea if the cartridge port on my system even works.
Luckily, there’s a built-in game, so I can tell if my APF M1000 powers up at all or not…
The game is Rocket Patrol, and frankly, it’s pretty awful. I know early video games weren’t the most sophisticated things in the world, but there were some madly addictive and fun ones. Rocket Patrol isn’t one of them. In two player mode, one player shoots a maddeningly slow missile while the other controls the speed of the rockets. One player mode lets you control only the rockets. There’s really no strategy or twitch gameplay to speak of, but at least you get a look at the graphics. The APF was able to present words that look halfway not-blocky, as opposed to the 2600, and the graphics are simple but not too bad given their age; they probably fall somewhere in between the 2600 and Intellivision (again). I have no idea if the actual cartridges live up to that declaration or not.
The APF M1000 is definitely a curiosity piece for those interested in early console gaming, and while it’s not really fair for me to pass judgement until I’ve got some actual carts, I think the best I can say is that it showed promise. It’s an interesting console, to say the least, but I think I’m safe in stating that It’s doubtful anyone would pass up the 2600 for it. Not today, anyway.