Years before Extreme Sports hit the mainstream, there was Atari’s Toobin’, one of the oddest and most dangerous sports to hit the video arcade.
The game was billed as an inner tube race down a series of waterways, but these rivers were anything but lazy, and only the strong would survive.
Starting on the Colorado River, tube dudes BIF and JET (or their computer-controlled counterparts) floated downstream with only their hands and feet to control their progress.
A unique four-button set controlled your character’s paddling – back-left, back-right, forward-left and forward-right.
It took a bit of practice to learn how to make BIF and JET spin, backpaddle and race downstream, but the visual rewards were well worth it.
Toobin’ took players on a wacky, cartoony trip, running down courses in many places and times: the Amazon, the Black Forest in the Middle Ages, a Jurassic river, a polar freeze-fest and even a trip down the red river to Hades.
Each course came complete with its own hazards, from dragons and haunted trees to alligators and spear-hurling Amazons to dinosaurs, polar bears, snakes, fishermen, stream-crossing cows and shotgun-blasting hillbillies. Any contact with these baddies, or with one of the many branches and twigs that littered the waterway, and your tube would pop a gaping hole, leaving you one less repair patch and one snag closer to “Game Over.”
Any contact with these baddies, or with one of the many branches and twigs that littered the waterway, and your tube would pop a gaping hole, leaving you one less repair patch and one snag closer to Game Over.
Most obstacles had to be avoided with swift paddling, but for a little counter-attack, players could pick up floating cans along the trek, handy for use as projectile weapons.
Bonus points could also be earned by sliding through course gates or snatching floating treasure chests, and for even quicker rewards (but much greater risks), players could take whirlpool shortcuts to higher levels.
It’s safe to say that Toobin’ was unlike anything else in the arcade at the time. That was both good and bad for Atari. The unique look and play caught players’ interest, but the very specific control system and vertically-oriented monitor limited the game’s adaptability for home systems.
An NES version was released, but not very widely. For most, Toobin’ remains purely an arcade experience, a memorable jaunt down some of the most unfriendly waters on Earth.