The first 15 waves consist of only Bounders and Hunters. In wave 16, the Shadow Lord makes his first appearance. More Shadow Lords are added each wave until there are only Shadow Lords in every wave. Surviving these waves consistently is the mark of a Joust wizard. Shadow Lords are fast, but they are very predictable. Always try to kill the Hunters before dealing with the Shadow Lords. Fortunately, Shadow Lords take a long time to energize, which gives you a chance to kill the Hunters.
Two different strategies are required after wave 15. The middle ledge is the key. When the ledge is there, stand on the energizing area right under it. When Hunters approach from the side, fly up and kill them. Shadow Lords usually drop down from the side ledges. As long as you're on the ground, they will stay on the ground. When one runs toward you, fly up just before he hits you. You will kill him and also catch his egg in the air. When the middle ledge is not there, play it like a Pterodactyl wave (see below). Stand on the bottom ledge over the first player's score. Hunters coming from the right will drop into the lava. Hunters coming from the left will be caught by the Lava Troll. After the Hunters are gone or trapped, go back to the middle. The basic idea is always the same--let the enemies kill themselves by coming to you rather than chasing after them.
Also important throughout all of the rounds area few simple guidelines to prevent unnecessary loss of life. These are simple principles that are more a matter of discipline than skill:
- Never fight the physics of the game. Your mount most easily moves in the direction it is already moving. Attempting to change direction radically in mid-air is near impossible; even on the ground, it will still take about 1-2 seconds. This is evident in the different enemies. Bounders seldom attempt to change direction in the air, Hunters will change direction and lose altitude when they do, and Shadow Lords do not abide by the same laws of physics (hence the speedy flying). Your best bet is to continue your path and switch levels to outrun the enemy before you change direction. Or you could slow down and gain altitude. Or you could use a collision with a ledge or enemy to change direction instantly (see #2).
- Any contact changes your mount's direction. If you bump a wall or opponent your mount changes direction with the same speed IF you direct your mount and continue flapping (i.e. going right fast you hit a ledge, start flapping and push LEFT to continue your momentum). If you try to resist this function you will slow down tremendously and/or momentarily stall midair. If you stall you become a still target for any other enemies nearby and you will have a very difficult time avoiding death. The only contact that doesn't change your direction is if you go fast and SKIM the top of an enemy. If you do it correctly the enemy dies, you continue with the same direction and speed and the EGG continues in the same direction as the deceased enemy with lots of speed. With the right controlling and location you can catch the egg as it wraps around the screen.
- Lives are worth much more than eggs. This is quite obvious but some novices try to fly after eggs while they're still in the air and lose sight of other enemies and exposed lava. You must remain in control of the entire screen and your mount constantly. Getting one more egg in midair will give you 500 points more than letting it drop. Even if it falls in the lava, you only lose 1,500 potential points. Lives are worth 20,000 points (the cost of an extra mount). Do the math -- lives are worth more.
- No stage is complete until all mounts, eggs and Pterodactyls are off the screen. This is very important because you can accidentally lose a life if you let your guard down at the very end of a stage. Once all eggs are gone all Pterodactyls will charge in their current direction off screen so just avoid them (or if you're good enough take them out).
- You cannot "wait" flying at the top of the screen or underneath a ledge. You will constantly bounce off the roof and the computer will allow enemies to sneak in there. (Success using this tactic is a matter of luck.) If you stay on the ground, enemies will swoop to your height and you can quickly jump with two quick flaps above their position which is determined by their momentum. One exception to this rule is you can wait under a ledge with a sloping bottom; as long as enemies are "downhill" from you, flapping your mount against the sloping portion of the ledge will cause them to automatically be underneath you as they attempt to attack.
- If you die, look everywhere before you touch any controls. Especially true in the two energizer platforms in the middle on the right and left, you can easily push a control and get killed by an enemy coming from the complete opposite side. Don't forget — the screen wraps around! Give yourself a second to make sure the coast is clear.
- Enemies are not "attracted" to you while you're energizing. Once you lose a life and you flash in the energizing pad, enemies don't know you're there and don't try to attack you. If you're on the bottom most pad, they will most likely continue to circle the middle level in their "holding pattern."
- Pterodactyls don't fly even with your lance when you stand on the bottom ledge. Some old "cheats" say this works like a charm but except for the oldest versions, the Pterodactyls fly slightly lower than you. Pterodactyls are easiest to defeat in the open air of the top of the screen. They fly erratically around all the ledges in the middle and fly too low at the bottom ledge. If you can get above the "enemy belt" in the middle of the screen, some mounts will attack you and the Pterodactyls will first line up with you then charge. Face them and maintain altitude.
- Enemies often attack in pairs. A common ruse is for the first enemy to lure you to attack it, while a second enemy then comes in from a higher altitude to finish you off. This threat can be dealt with by watching for the second enemy and attacking it first, or by timing the attack on the first enemy such that your mount's bounce carries it to a higher altitude than the second enemy.
Wave 37 is the first to consist solely of Shadow Lords. After that, only Egg waves and waves immediately after the Egg waves have Hunters. After wave 60, every wave is all Shadow Lords. All Shadow Lord waves are actually quite easy because they are so predictable. Again, strategy is determined by the middle ledge. Standing under the middle ledge is no longer advisable; it takes too long to wait for the Shadow Lords to drop down to the bottom. Instead, hover at the top of the screen, directly over the right energizing area. Most of the Lords will appear underneath you and fly straight up. The others will bounce along the top of the screen. You might have to move a little to adjust to their bounces. After they're all gone, quickly go around and collect all of the leftover eggs.
When the middle ledge is missing, hover directly above the bottom energizing area. Hover just high enough to allow the Shadow Lords to appear underneath you. Let them fly up into you and kill themselves. As soon as you see which way they are facing, move over in that direction to make sure they hit you. Always stay below the Shadow Lords on the side ledges. After all of them have come out, drop down to the bottom. When one of the remaining Shadow Lords drops down from the side, hover where the end of the middle ledge would be. He will drop right past you, then come up under you.
Wave 5 and every fifth wave after that is an Egg wave. Twelve eggs are randomly placed on the ledges. The best strategy is simply to get all of the eggs right away and advance to the next wave. Waiting for the eggs to hatch will get you more points, but you risk losing a life. The extra time required also makes the Pterodactyl come out. Eventually, the eggs will hatch so fast that it's impossible to get them all before the birds pick them up. In that case just clear off two rows of eggs and move to safe ground. Egg waves always have every ledge on the screen, so play the fast hatching egg waves like a normal wave with all the ledges.
The egg waves occur on a fixed schedule, and there is a three or four second pause in between waves while the dialogue box is up. Use this small time to fly up to the upper-most level and collect eggs from top to bottom. Any eggs you don't collect will hatch below you, and you can begin from a more advantageous position than if you start collecting at the bottom. Also, it is much easier and faster to go down than up.
On wave 8, then every fifth wave, Pterodactyls appear at the beginning. Only one Pterodactyl appears on early waves, but the maximum of three will appear in later Pterodactyl waves. Avoiding the Pterodactyl and jousting the other warriors is difficult, but it's usually unnecessary. The early Pterodactyls can be killed from one of two spots. When the middle ledge is present, stand on it before the Pterodactyls come out. The Pterodactyls will appear on the bottom and fly right up into your lance. On some waves, the warriors will come after you before you can hit the Pterodactyls. It's all right to jump up a little to avoid them. The Pterodactyls go to the same place as long as you're standing on the ledge before they come out.
When the middle ledge is missing, stand on the bottom ledge directly above the hundred-thousands digit in the first player's score. You have about an inch of space in which to kill the Pterodactyls. This time, the Pterodactyls enter from the middle and come down to you. While you're standing there, no Buzzards will enter from the bottom ledge. Any Hunters coming down from the right will buzz right over your head and sink into the lava. Once the Pterodactyls are gone, move back to the center and play the wave normally.
Two player strategy
When two play simultaneously, many different strategies are available. Usually, both players team up against the enemies. The best way is to have each player cover his own side of the screen. Use the same strategies as in a one-player game. The only difference is that you have to avoid the other player. Greed doesn't pay off in doubles. Both players going for the same bird or egg usually causes a fatal collision. Always allow the player with fewer lives to get the extra points (on Egg waves for example). This will keep both players playing as long as possible.
The Pterodactyl waves are the same as in a one-player game. Both players should stand on the middle platform. If threatened by an enemy, one can jump up to protect both players. Without the middle ledge, both player should be on the bottom, one on each side. The player on the right should be on the extreme right edge, facing to the left.
On the Hunter and Shadow Lord waves, both player should play the bottom, with one player under each edge of the middle ledge (even when it isn't there). Kill the Hunter first, then get the Shadow Lords dropping from the sides. When one player is killing a Shadow Lord, the other player should be standing on the bottom. Otherwise, the Shadow Lord may go after him and kill the first player in doing so. With only Shadow Lords, both players should hover side by side above the bottom energizing area and kill all but the ones standing on the sides and on top. When the middle ledge is there, both player should play the top. One should be directly over the right side energizing area. The other should be between the top middle and top left ledges. Or directly over the left energizer when possible.
Original Joust machines were often victimized by the infamous Pterodactyl hunters. A technique was quickly developed which allowed players with very little skill to play one game forever. You could catch the last enemy in the hand and stand on the middle ledge while the Pterodactyls would rise from the bottom and fly up to you. You could stand there all day and kill Pterodactyls as the last enemy was still stuck in the Lava Troll's grasp.
A new chip was quickly provided to correct the problem. With the new chip, mass slaughter of Pterodactyls isn't possible, but hunting a single Pterodactyl can still be done. Attacking one from the air is an excellent test of your flying prowess. The best time to go after one is when there are a lot of warriors flying around. You get a slow motion effect, which gives you a better chance to spear the Pterodactyl right in the mouth. An easier way to kill one is to take a cheap shot at the end of a wave. When the Pterodactyl leaves the screen at the end of a wave, he leaves on one of three levels. When he goes off the middle of the screen, you can kill him by standing on one of the side ledges (the lower one on the right side). Another way is to stand on the extreme right edge of the bottom ledge on a wave with the middle platform. When the Pterodactyl comes out from the middle platform let him come to you. Just before he reaches you, flap once and you'll jump up and kill him.
The ledge gap
The lower right ledge in Joust is really two ledges at different levels with a small gap in between. It is possible to fly your mount through that gap even though it looks too narrow.
Start out by flying to the left over the lower level (to the right of the gap) with the bottom of your bird just skimming the surface of the ledge. If your knees are dragging on the ledge, you'll squeeze through the gap and appear below the ledge. Note that you can not walk through the gap, because your mount is too tall when its legs are extended.
Eggs can fit through the gap also, if you throw one up from below. Either hit a buzzard just below the gap to throw an egg up through it, or bounce an egg off the center ledge into the gap. If you do this correctly, the egg will be impossible to pick up because it is under the overhang of the upper ledge; wait for the egg to hatch, and the man will stand up tall enough for you to reach him.
A note on flapping
A great deal of mount control is available if you can fine-tune your flapping. While the "never fight the physics of the game" rule generally applies, the ability to time flaps very precisely can at least mitigate the effects of breaking this rule.
For instance, it is possible to change direction midair without loss of altitude (it still takes a second or two to get moving in the other direction) by changing your mount's direction and flapping very rapidly, resulting in a quick about-face followed by hovering. This technique can be handy when you are being pursued; you can turn and face an enemy without needing to run away. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to out-flap Shadow Lords (at higher levels, this becomes nearly, if not completely, impossible, but for a good stretch it is doable). This technique is best done if your control configuration allows for two-fingered flapping (e.g, arcade button, or assign a wide key on the keyboard for MAME); use your index and middle finger alternately.
By experimenting with various flap rates and cadences, you can realize new mount placement capabilities, both for attack and evasion thereof.