Thy game is never over!

The word 'joust' conjures just one mental image to me, and it doesn't look anything like Joust. I was ready to done some plate armour and hop onto my trusty steed, before charging towards my opponent with lance in one hand, shield in the other. You know, like a joust... 

But no. That was not the case, and I'm glad it isn't.

Fun Times

You'll note that this arena looks nothing like a medieval field outside a castle, and the horses look nothing like horses, and even the knights are a little too colourful. That's because Joust tasks you with hopping onto an ostrich for some jousting above a pit of lava against other opponents on vultures, all hell bent on knocking you off your majestic mount.

And then along comes a dragon. Or something like it, I didn't see much of it before being poked off my ostrich (the Internet says it's a pterodactyl).

Joust gives you two directional buttons and one 'flap' button. The more you flap, the higher you go, and while this seems like simple movement controls, it can sometimes catch you off guard so that your ostrich moves like the ship in Asteroids expending all its fuel to slide around on some ice, played back at twice the speed.

Bop another knight on the head and he turns into some kind of orb, you get a bunch of points and his vulture scurries away. One hit is all you need, and similarly one hit is all your opponents need. You can't be bopped on the head if you're above your target, so it pays to think ahead a little and see where they're going, before deciding whether you can take them on or not. After all, you don't want to flap like a maniac to get into position, because if you've not absolutely mastered the controls those wild flaps could send you off one side of the screen to loop back from the other right into the path of someone else.

As expected, waves of enemies get harder the more you progress. If you fail to collect any downed foes' orb things they'll respawn and you'll need to defeat them again. Remember to stay above them when colliding and it's smooth sailing. If you're on the bottom, you've just lost a life, but if you happen to be at equal heights, you'll bounce off each other and fall off your mounts.

Does it sound like a fun game yet? It is.


Apart from the sound effects. They're nothing to write home about.

Final Word

You know you're onto a winning game with a simple idea at its heart. Joust has one idea and runs with it, doing nothing unnecessary and just getting on with it, so much so that it's ported everywhere and has a sequel too. You can even play it - as I did - on the Internet Archive, and you've no excuse. Even if you play for just a few minutes, you're playing the role of a knight jousting with other knights, each perched atop a bird.

You don't get gaming like that these days.

Fun Facts

To help with the animation, Eadweard Muybridge's 1899 book, 'Animals in Motion', was used for reference photographs.

Joust, developed by Williams Electronics, first published in 1982.
Version played: Arcade, 1982, via emulation.