Atari Cloak & Dagger


A while back there was an amazingly informative post to about the movie Cloak and Dagger and its related video
games. Interestingly, around the time the movie was made Atari Corp., the home game division of Atari, was sold by Warner to the Tramiels.
There's some juicy information here about unreleased video games, cancelled when the Tramiels decided to instead focus on their computer
line. Anyway, read on to learn all about it.

(By the way, I should note a few inaccuracies in the below article - Ms. Pac Man WAS released for the 5200; Atari's coin op division Atari
Games wasn't sold to Namco. It remained Atari Games until recently becoming Time Warner Interactive.)

Cloak and Dagger is now in MAME!
From: (Shane D Shaffer)
Subject: 5200 Cloak and Dagger cartridge
Date: Sun Sep 11 1994

I came across this interesting bit during the summer. Many of you will recognize Cloak and Dagger not only as an Atari coin-op game, but
also as the movie in which a box for the elusive 5200 Tempest appears on a store shelf. During the summer I found a book called "The Films
of the Eighties" or something to that effect. It was a beautiful book with tons of great photos, including one from "Cloak and Dagger".
Unfortunately it was not a picture of Tempest. It was however a very large and clear picture of the kid from ET holding a very clearly labled
5200 Cloak and Dagger cartridge.

Does anyone know of this game existing in any form? I've never seen it listed among the prototypes in any list. It is of course very possible that
the cartridge was just a mock-up, but knowing how Atari was in those days, it very well could have been the only copy of Cloak and Dagger.
Discuss amongst yourselves.

- Shane Shaffer

From: (Ralph Barbagallo)
Re: 5200 Cloak and Dagger cartridge
Date: Sun Sep 11 1994

I'm under the impression that the cartridge was a mock-up. (In the film they had tons of Cloak and Dagger boxes lying around etc.) The
arcade game is real though. It's a pretty good Robotron clone from what I hear. I've never seen it myself.

I love how in the movie (C&D) they access the secret chip and this rotation all-singing-all-dancing vector display comes up with speech etc.
Geez, if the 5200 could do all that, it would be on the cutting edge today. :)

Ralph A. Barbagallo III --- --- Only AMIGA makes it
URL:                   Possible...
R.I.P. Jay Miner: June 20th 1994  Father of the 2600, Atari 8bit, Amiga
-=-VAPS Member=-=-Classic Game Collector=-=-Broke Freelance Journalist=-

From: (Alex Rosenberg)
Re: 5200 Cloak and Dagger cartridge
Date: Mon Sep 12 1994

I can give the definitive answer here. I used to work with the author of the 5200 version of Cloak and Dagger. I've previously asked him
about it, and he had sent me the following message:

--- CUT HERE ---
Yes, I can answer your question about the Atari 5200 version of Cloak & Dagger.

When Warner Communications sold the consumer side of Atari to Jack Tramiel (who founded Commodore) in mid-1984, I was working on
the Atari 400/800/1200 version of Cloak & Dagger. Since the Atari 5200 was basically just an Atari 400 with a different controller, when I
completed the home computer version, I was supposed to modify the game to use the "360-degree" 5200 controller (as opposed to the
9-position home computer joystick).

By the way here's a little known fact about Cloak & Dagger: someone at Atari actually explored doing an Atari 2600 version of Cloak &
Dagger, but very quickly decided that it couldn't be done, even with major simplifications...

If you've ever seen the Cloak & Dagger movie, you'll know that the cartridge shown in the movie was a 5200 cartridge. Actually, the 5200
cartridge didn't even exist: it was a 5200 cartridge of another game with a "Cloak & Dagger" label slapped on it. Also, in the game store
scenes, there were Atari 5200 Cloak & Dagger boxes shown. Those were also just mockups made for the movie.

But wait a second! Wasn't the Atari 5200 Cloak & Dagger game actually PLAYED in the movie (and didn't it look damn good)? Hollywood
movie magic! They took the output of the coin-operated game, converted the signal, and piped it to a TV set. So if you thought it looked a lot
like the coin-op game, you were right. Another interesting fact: Henry Thomas wasn't really playing the game; instead, Atari sent down the
game's software developer, Rusty Dawe, to play the coin-op game for the movie! So they showed Henry Thomas furiously working the 5200
controller, cut to the television showing Rusty's progress in the game (sometimes even with Henry's reflection in the screen), and back again.
Rusty -- er, make that Russell B. Dawe -- got his own full-screen credit at the end of the movie for the game design.

Although the rest of the game shown in the movie was taken from the real coin-op game, the spectacular 3D "secret plans" finale of the game
was pure Holywood animation: the real game ends somewhat anti-climactically with one of several static, crudely-drawn blueprints. I don't
recall whether Rusty ran short of ROM space or time, but the secret plans weren't up to the quality of the rest of the game, much less the
movie game's ending.

Oh, and another piece of trivia: the original name of the Cloak & Dagger coin-operated game was actually...Agent X (hence the name of the
protagonist in the game and the off-hand comment by Dabney Coleman in the movie that he "used to be known as Agent X"). The game had
been under development at Atari as "Agent X" for quite a while, and was nearly completed. The movie studio (can't remember which one
off-hand, but I have the Laserdisc) had the movie under development as Cloak & Dagger. The game cartridge that was in the original
screenplay was...Donkey Kong (at the time, the most popular home videogame)! Someone at either the movie studio or Atari found out about
the other, "the secret agent recovers secret plans from bad guys" plots sounded like they were made for each other, the deal was signed, and
the Agent X game was renamed Cloak & Dagger.

Anyway, back to the layoff. My half of Atari (the half that just released the Jaguar videogame system; it's still known as "Atari, Inc.") got sold,
and they laid off almost all the game developers who didn't have experience writing operating systems, myself included. When the layoffs
happened, I was close to halfway done with the game. The basic structure of all the levels was done (conveyor belts, boxes, bubbling acid
pits, box manufacturers, minefields) and you could move Agent X around, pick up boxes, and die from touching red boxes, being crushed by
the box manufacturing thingies (what the hell were they called?), stepping in an acid pit, or touching a landmine (although the death animation
wasn't in yet, so you just turned pitch black).

But none of the enemies were done, you couldn't shoot yet (although, without enemies, you would only be able to shoot the boxes anyway),
and the bomb in the center didn't explode (the animation of the bomb exploding in the coin-op game is fast, but it's actually pretty crude). No
elevator scenes yet, either, although since the cartridge was supposed to be the first Atari home computer cartridge to reach a whopping 32K
(all previous cartridges had been 16K or less!), there was enough room for many -- if not all -- of the elevator animations. (If you look
closely, you'll notice that very little of Agent X actually moves in the elevator scenes: an arm, a facial expression, smoke, an arm and a yo-yo,

In 1983, at one of Atari's periodic auctions of prototype and no longer needed coin-operated machines (including games like DigDug and
Berzerk whose translations to Atari home computers and/or videogame systems had already been completed), I bought one of the original 25
(I believe) Agent X machines. These prototypes, which had been sent to arcades for test-marketing, had stereo sound (Atari went with mono
sound for the final hardware) and the pre-Cloak & Dagger faceplates. The ROMs were upgraded to reflect the name change, however, so,
on the inside, my machine is a real Cloak & Dagger!

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the history and stories. I'd always wanted to finish the home computer version of Cloak & Dagger, but over the
years, my free time has almost completed vanished. The Atari 5200 version of Cloak & Dagger, as well versions of many other classic Atari
games -- Crystal Castles (which was nearly finished when the layoff happened), Major Havoc (one of my favorite coin-op games, but the
home computer conversion was barely started at the time of the layoffs), and Ms. PacMan (completed, but not released), to name just a few
-- were all casualties of the sale of Atari's consumer business to Tramiel and the resulting layoffs. Everyone who was left immediately switched
from developing games (new as well as conversions of coin-operated games) to working on the operating system for the Atari 520ST and

By the way, the coin-operated half of Atari remained with Warner Communications for several months before it was sold to Namco, the
Japanese company that became famous with PacMan. The coin-operated company is known as "Atari Games Corporation", as opposed to
Tramiel's "Atari, Incorporated".

Sorry to dash your hopes about the Atari 5200 Cloak & Dagger...

Dave Comstock

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