Personal Computer Museum, Canada's Videogame Museum

Synapse Software

Synapse Software
Synapse Software
5327 Jacuzzi Street Suite I
Richmond, CA 94804
USA
Year Founded:
Year Defunct:
1981
1984
View all items from this company in our collection...

Synapse Software Corporation (also known as SynSoft) was an American computer game development and publishing company active during the early-1980s. They developed primarily for the Atari 400 and 800 computers, and (later on) the Commodore 64 and IBM PCjr. They released many highly-regarded arcade games including Fort Apocalypse, Blue Max, Alley Cat and Shamus. The company was purchased by Brøderbund Software in late 1984.

Synapse's first releases were for the Atari 8-bit computers, starting in 1981, shortly after the Atari's became widely available. Some of their early games were based on well-known games or "pseudo-action" conversions of current arcade games. For example, Chicken had the same basic concept as Kaboom! for the Atari 2600 (which itself was similar to the arcade game Avalanche), while Protector used elements of Defender to produce a pseudo-action side-scroller.

Another notable early release was Nautilus, which featured a "split screen" to allow two players to play at once. In one-player mode the user controlled a submarine, the Nautilus, in the lower screen while the computer took control of a destroyer, the Colossus, in the upper screen. In two player mode another player took control of the destroyer. By most accounts Nautilus is the first game to feature a split-screen multi-player mode.[citation needed] The same basic system was later re-used in other games, including Shadow World. Survivor was the first home computer game to support up to four players, a side-effect of the first generation Atari machines including four joystick ports.

A second wave of games followed from an expanded group of developers. Popular releases included Shamus, Rainbow Walker, Blue Max, Fort Apocalypse and an official port of the arcade game Zaxxon (for the Commodore 64 only; the Atari port was from DataSoft). It was during this period that the company branched out and started supporting other platforms en masse, especially the Commodore 64, which became a major platform. Many of Synapse's games made their way to the UK as part of the initial wave of U.S. Gold-distributed imports; some were also converted to run on the more popular UK home computers, such as the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.