The world of video games is full of iconic heroes: Link from The Legend of Zelda, Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog, Ryu from Street Fighter, and…Steve Perry? The man who took the midnight train going anywhere? The lead singer of the rock band Journey, who was dubbed ‘The Voice’ by Jon Bon Jovi?
Yes, long before Aerosmith starred in Revolution X, Steve Perry and his bandmates in Journey starred in the Atari 2600’s 1983 video game Journey Escape. The game was based on the band’s 1982 album Escape, which gave the world songs like Don’t Stop Believin’ and Open Arms. Data Age developed and published the game.
Here’s the description the company provided in the game’s manual, “You’re on the road with Journey, one of the world’s hottest rock groups. A spectacular performance has just ended. Now it’s up to you to guide each Journey Band Member past hordes of Love-Crazed Groupies, Sneaky Photographers, and Shifty-Eyed Promoters to the safety of the Journey Escape Vehicle in time to make the next concert. Your mighty manager and loyal roadies are there to help, but the escape is up to you!”
The ‘escape vehicle’ in question was a spaceship shaped like a scarab beetle, as seen on the cover of the album Escape. Your journey to the interstellar insect took place on a vertically scrolling screen that appeared to be covered in stars. You moved your character left to right to avoid the various obstacles that came toward you as the screen scrolled. In addition to the groupies, photographers, and promoters, you had to avoid stage barriers which would slow your character down.
You began the game with $50,000, which steadily decreased when you failed to avoid an obstacle. Groupies cost you $300. Promoters cost you $2000, and photographers cost you $600 (the cost of purchasing the negatives in their camera). They also robbed you of time, slowing the journey to the spaceship down. Each member of the band had 60 seconds to reach the vehicle or they would miss the next gig (ending the game).
Fortunately, you were not without friends. As you ran the gauntlet of rock and roll perils, you could be aided by loyal roadies and your manager. The roadies looked a bit like blue aliens with brown antennae, and your manager was The Kool-Aid Man. Why was your manager a giant pitcher of red punch with a smiling face? Not sure, and the game provides no explanation. Coming into contact with a roadie made you temporarily invulnerable. Hooking up with the Mighty Manager allowed you to run through the crowd to the escape beetle without being stopped and earned you an additional $9900. Once you got all members of the band to the escape pod and the game would start again, adding an additional $50,000 to your score.
That was it. The game had an unbelievably simple (if somewhat absurd) premise. The graphics were bizarre and the gameplay was fairly repetitive, but still…you were helping Journey spread the gift of rock to a universe in need.