Joust is an arcade game developed by Williams Electronics and released in 1982. It is a platform game that features two-dimensional (2D) graphics.
The player uses a button and joystick to control a knight riding a flying ostrich. The object is to progress through levels by defeating groups of enemy knights riding buzzards.
John Newcomer led the development team, which included Bill Pfutzenrueter, Jan Hendricks, Python Anghelo, Tim Murphy, and John Kotlarik. Newcomer aimed to create a flying game with co-operative two-player gameplay, but wanted to avoid a space theme, which was popular at the time. Staff worked within the technical limitations of the hardware (originally developed two years earlier for Williams' first game, Defender), excluding concepts and optimizing the visuals.
The game was well received in arcades and by critics, who praised the gameplay. The gameplay mechanics influenced titles by other developers. Joust was followed by a sequel three years later, and was ported to numerous home and portable platforms.
Joust is a platforming game where the player controls a yellow knight riding a flying ostrich or stork, from a third-person perspective. Using the 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 maneuvering 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.
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 will begin. 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 game features three types of enemy knights—Bounder, Hunter, and Shadow Lord—that are worth different amounts of points. A pterodactyl will appear after a predetermined time frame to hunt the hero. 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. Home console versions use game controllers with directional pads and analog sticks. PC versions used keyboard controls.