JoustJoust is a classic arcade game by Williams Electronics that was produced in 1982.
The player takes the role of a knight with a lance, mounted on either an ostrich (player 1) or an emu (player 2), battling waves of computer-controlled enemy knights. The enemy knights have three different speed and agility levels and are mounted on giant buzzards. The game screen is static; its only features are five platforms hanging in mid-air (some wrapping around the screen), the ground, and a pit of lava below.
The game's incredibly simple controls are a factor in its wide appeal. A joystick moves left and right, and a Flap button flaps the mount's wings once. Pressing Flap in rapid succession will cause a gain in altitude until gravity drags the player downward.
Each wave begins with enemy knights appearing on the screen at one of four 'spawn points.' To destroy an enemy knight, the player has to collide with the knight while his lance is vertically higher than the enemy knight's lance. After destroying an enemy knight, a giant egg will appear and fall, bouncing on the ground. The player has to go touch (and thus destroy) the egg, gaining additional points; if this act takes too long, the egg will hatch and another, more powerful enemy knight will appear and continue the fight against the player. The three types of enemy knights, from weakest to toughest, are Bounder (red knight), Hunter (white knight) and Shadow Lord (blue knight).
A wave is cleared when the player destroys all enemy knights and eggs. If too much time elapses on a particular wave before this occurs, the dreaded pterodactyl will appear from one side of the screen and fly around until it collides with the player, destroying him; until the player finishes the wave; or until the player destroys the pterodactyl by hitting it directly in the mouth with his lance, a difficult task, due to its incredible speed when attacking.
Two players can play Joust, and each player will get points for destroying the enemy knights, and also for destroying his human opponent. This definitely wasn't your grandma's bingo or bridge game. Cooperative play is possible by agreement between the players, but they can still kill each other accidentally if they are to collide. Some rounds award bonus points if the two players successfully avoid killing one another, other rounds encourage the players to kill each other by offering a bonus to the first player to do so.
A lava troll inhabits the lava pit at the bottom of the screen; if any player or enemy knight flies too close to the lava, the troll's hand will emerge and tug the mount downward toward the lava. Players can get out of the troll's grip by hammering on the Flap button.
One 'bug' in the program's design became a strategic advantage to players in the know, later touted by producers as a hidden feature. On the right side of the screen there are two platforms situated so that one is above and slightly overhangs another. If a player moves across the lower of the two platforms, the player will hit the upper one and be halted. However, if a player flies their bird so that its belly skims the lower platform low enough that its legs do not extend, the bird will "belly flop" across the width of the platform, and, illogically, 'squeeze' through the meeting point of the two platforms, shooting out below the upper platform. Skilled players took advantage of this flaw as a gaming strategy: a player could suddenly pop out below the platform and land on an enemy knight below (or a competing player), catching him by surprise. Game creator John Newcomer stated in interviews that this flaw in the game's design was so popular, they decided to intentionally leave it in and it became a permanent part of the game.
Early ROM revisions of the game contained a situation which a skilled player could exploit to accumulate an infinite number of points on certain waves, with low risk. The player would attempt to maneuver one of the enemy knights too close to the lava, such that the lava troll would grip it - not low enough to the lava so the troll would succeed in pulling it in, and not high enough so the enemy knight could escape the troll's grip. By doing so, the knight could never attack the player and distract him from performing the trick, and the wave would also never end. Then the player would stand in the middle of the platform in the center of the screen. The pterodactyl would appear from one side below the player and charge right at him; if the player simply stood in the middle of the platform, facing the pterodactyl, the player's lance would strike the pterodactyl in the mouth, killing it. A new pterodactyl would immediately appear from the other side of the screen, and could be killed in the same manner. This could be repeated indefinitely.