Joust was an arcade game developed by Williams Electronics and released on July 16th 1982. The development of the game was led by John Newcomer who aimed to create a flying game with cooperative two-player gameplay, but wanted to avoid a space theme, which was popular at the time. Newcomer’s team included Bill Pfutzenreuter, Jan Hendricks, Python Anghelo, Tim Murphy, and John Kotlarik.
Joust is viewed by many as the game that made two-player cooperative games popular. In the game a player uses a button and joystick to control The Yellow Knight who rides a flying ostrich. The object is to progress through levels by defeating groups of enemy knights riding buzzards.
As far as controls go players use a two-way directional joystick and the button for flapping the ostrich’s wings, the player flies the knight amidst the floating rock platforms and above pools of lava; when manoeuvring off the screen to either side, the player will continue its path reappearing from the opposite side. The rate at which the player repeatedly presses the button causes the ostrich to fly upward, hover, or slowly descend.
Players navigate the knight to collide with enemies. The elevation of an enemy in relation to the player’s knight determines the outcome of the collision. If the protagonist is higher than the enemy, the villain is defeated and vice versa. A collision of equal elevations results in the two knights bouncing off each other. A defeated enemy will turn into an egg that falls toward the bottom of the screen, which a player can collect for points. An egg that sits on a platform long enough will hatch into a new knight; if the player does not pick him up, he will gain a new mount and must be defeated again.
The objective is to defeat groups of enemy knights riding buzzards that populate each level, referred to as a “wave”. Upon completing a wave, a subsequent, more challenging wave begins. The game features three types of enemy knights—Bounder, Hunter, and Shadow Lord—that are worth different quantities of points. A pterodactyl appears after a predetermined time frame to hunt the heroes.
A second player, controlling a blue knight on a stork, can join the game. The two players can either cooperatively complete the waves or attack each other while competitively defeating enemies.
Joust was well received in arcades and by critics, who praised the gameplay, the mechanics of which influenced titles by other developers. Joust was followed by a sequel four years later, and was ported to numerous home and portable platforms.