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Area 51

Arcade Video game published 29 years ago by Atari Games Corp.

Listed in MAME

Area 51 screenshot

Area 51 © 1995 Atari Games Corp.

This game takes the player through several sections of the facility, including a warehouse and underground tunnels. The player is tasked, along with fellow STAAR members, to penetrate Area 51 and activate the nuclear self-destruct sequence. The player must kill all of the genetically altered soldiers and aliens without harming any allied STAAR team members (at the cost of one life point), however if nothing but three STAAR team members are shot, the Kronn Hunter will be started, taking the role of a Hunter, sent by the Kronn to eliminate the rebels. None of the actual aliens will appear until the office level.

There are five types of different weaponry available to the player during the course of the game. While the player is only given a semi-automatic pistol in the beginning, weapon upgrades are available as targets throughout the game. The pistol can be upgraded to an automatic machine gun, a pump shotgun, and finally an automatic shotgun. The shotgun weaponry allows a greater field of error for targeting an enemy in able to kill it. Both the machine gun and automatic shotgun allow the player to keep the trigger pressed down to unleash rounds. If the player is hit by the enemy at any time, the weapon is downgraded back to the pistol. The player will also find grenades in crates and bonus rooms which, when used, destroys most on screen enemies at once. The player can hold a max of 9 grenades. In addition, yellow boxes and barrels marked with flammable warning symbols can be shot to cause fires or explosions that can harm enemies.

The game is notable for its use of digitized video stored on an on-board hard disk, and the bizarrely-contrasting, unrealistic gibs into which every enemy blows apart when shot, in exactly the same way. While enemies, innocents, and explosions are 2-D digitized video sprites, the levels and vehicles are pre-rendered in 3-D.

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Upright cabinet dimensions : 72'' (182cm) high x 29,25'' (75cm) wide x 34'' (86cm) deep.
Upright cabinet weight : 350 lbs (159 kg).

Atari Cojag hardware
Game ID : 136105

Main CPU : Motorola 68EC020 (@ 25 Mhz), Jaguar (@ 26 Mhz)
Sound CPU : Jaguar (@ 26 Mhz)
Sound Chips : (2x) DAC

Players : 2
Control : lightgun
Buttons : 1


Area 51 was released in October 1995.

Developed by Mesa Logic for Atari (although also licensed as a Time Warner product in certain territories), Area 51 was the first game for the Cojag hardware. The 'Cojag' represents Coin-Operated Jaguar, as in the Atari console. The Jaguar hardware was adapted for use in an arcade setting, with a slightly modified board to bring it in line with the standard Atari arcade system. Since the hardware could process very large amounts of data, it was considered far cheaper to store this on an IDE hard drive, connected to the main board. The hard drive was the key to the game play's movie capability. There's about 23 minutes of video on the 1 GB hard drive. The Cojag system can support 16Bit video streams. The original Area 51 uses 1 15 Bit stream for the main video, and an additional 1 Bit stream for the Kronn Hunter palette corruption. Apparently Atari wanted the sprites in Kronn Hunter mode to change colour as the chance of them killing you increased, but this idea was abandoned. It did, however, resurface in some of the home versions.

Another interesting fact is that the software designer had the option of using either a 68010 or a MIPS R3000 as the primary CPU - making the Cojag the first 2 in 1 hardware option, although it was more of a hotswappable system than two processors in one. Indeed, later production runs of Area 51 used the R3000, for greater compatibility with "Maximum Force", the followup game.

Note : Often associated with UFO lore, Area 51 is originally the former designation by Department of Energy of a plot of land in Nevada. Sometimes referred to as Groom Lake or Dreamland, the United States government is believed to operate some sort of research and development center there (Some claim that the facility is now closed).

The music was done by Michael Stein and NOT by Jeanne Parson (even if officially credited on the credits roll). She was pissed that Rob Rowe hired an outside guy. She was on staff, but Rob didn't like her music.

Rick Haynes holds the official record for this game with 2,188,400 points on April 10, 1999.

Goodies for Area 51
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* Software version : 2.03CJ
* Build date : OS : Oct 25 1995 10 :19 :38 / MAIN : Oct 25 1995 11 :08 :10

* Software version : 2.03CJ
* Build date : OS : Nov 15 1995 13 :32 :32 / MAIN : Nov 27 1995 15 :51 :56

* Software version : 2.06CJ
* Build date : OS : Nov 11 1996 11 :46 :43 / MAIN : Oct 24 1996 12 :02 :23


* Kronn Hunter Mode : At the beginning of the game, shoot the first three STAAR team members you see with the first three bullets (don't reload or miss). If you did this right you'll enter Kronn Hunter mode. In this mode, you are a mercenary from the Kronn hierarchy sent to sterilize Area 51 of the Kronn rebels. You will notice that the grenades, bullets, shotgun shells and machine gun bullets have all taken on a Kronn form.

* Egg Cellent : On the forklift ride shoot all the barrels before and after the ride. There will be a partially hidden barrel you will have to shoot to the left of the forklift. This will lead you to 'egg cellent' where you shoot eggs and baby aliens.

* Chow Palace : After your first progress report in Area 51, where it tells you your percentage and things like that, you will see a wall lined with windows. Shoot all the windows across the entire wall and you will be in the power up room, where you can see aliens attacking women and power-ups all over the screen.

* Secret Area Before Final Boss : Right before you fight the Final Boss when you are outside, you will go to an area with zombies throwing barrels. Shoot all the barrels that are not thrown and you will go to a secret area filled with power ups.

* Head Quarters : To see the alien restroom, you must shoot three blue lights that appear in the corners of the screen. At the beginning of the game, when you enter the building, shoot the first blue light in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. At the conclusion of level 1, while the screen is spinning, shoot the remaining two blue lights in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

* Secret Level : In the office building, you will go into a series of 2 or 3 doors with nameplates on all of them, shoot them all and then you will go into a secret room with power ups and an alien girl at the bottom.

* X Marks The Spot : On the helicopter ride, shoot all of the boxes with flames on them. If done correctly, you will be sent into 'X Marks The Spot', which is a room where you keep breaking the glass on a wall with your guns to reveal a picture of a female police-person lying there in a very inviting position.

* Spider Splat : In the level Computer Room Lockdown (where you can shoot the 13 computer terminal screens at the beginning of the level to get to the secret room). When the camera pans to the third scene, with the fire extinguishers and the staircase is in front of you, I'm not sure exactly what must be done, but if you shoot enough stuff you'll get access to a secret room called 'Spider Splat' where you have to shoot spiders that drop from the ceiling and save a woman.


1. Area 51 (1995)
2. Area 51 - Site 4 (1998)


Producer : Rob Rowe
Programmer : Charlie Grisafi

* Mesa logic Team :
Concept & Game design : Robert Weatherby
3-D Animator : James Mestemaker, Guy Fumagalli, Hector Silva, James Webb

* Atari Team :
Game design : Mike Hally
Art & Design : Steve Caterson
Video production specialist : Brent Englund
Lead technician : Darrell Robinson
Stop-Motion animator : Jody Burgess
Product manager : Derryl DePriest
Audio & Music : Michael Stein (Jeanne Parson wrongly credited)
Hardware engineer : Brian McKee
Sr. Engineering Tech. : Patrick Hubbell


Sega Saturn (1996)
Sony PlayStation (1996)

PC [CD-ROM] (1996)

LCD handheld game (1996) released by Tiger Electronics : Has a little gun that you shoot with.


Game's ROM.
Machine's picture.