Publisher: 20th Century Fox (1983)
Oddly enough, this game has practically nothing
to do with the 1970's TV series it's based on. In M*A*S*H, one or two players pilot a helicopter and attempt to rescue as many soldiers as possible without being destroyed by enemy fire. Scattered trees serve as obstacles, and touching one will cause you to lose control momentarily. To its credit, M*A*S*H also features a cool bonus stage that lets you perform surgery on a patient. The object here is to remove as many pieces of shrapnel as you can in a limited time, and it plays a lot like the old board game Operation. Although its label is marked "one-player", this is clearly designed as a two-player game. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: US Games (1982)
M.A.D. (Missile Attack and Defense) looks a lot like Missile Command, as you control a cannon situated between six cities at the bottom of the screen. Actually, the cities look more like random pixels. In any event, the object is to shoot down approaching kamikaze aircraft using a turret that can be positioned at seven degrees of precision. M.A.D. isn't very exciting to play alone, and as a result my initial review was rather harsh. But after a perceptive reader pointed out the two-player mode, I gave it a shot with my friend Scott, and we actually had a pretty good time with it. One player guides the enemy aircraft while the other shoots them down, and players take turns trying to destroy each other's cities. It's actually possible for the loser to get a higher score, which doesn't seem right. Anyway, it's the two-player mode that elevates this game above the mediocre mark. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Answer Software (1983)
This oddball title tries to take the Pac-Man formula in a new direction, but fails to strike gold. I should point out that Malagai is not
to be confused with Malachai
- that evil kid from the Children of the Corn film (hey, it's an honest mistake). This game lets you guide a dude in a jet pack through a maze with three lurking "Malagai" aliens of slightly differing body shapes. With their single eyes and tentacles, they resemble pixelated versions of those green aliens on the Simpsons. It's hard to believe this game came out long before the Simpsons were even invented!
The top of the screen shows the order in which you need to "catch" the aliens. After touching the correct one, you race to the "airlock" at the top of the screen before a timer runs out. The game cycles through three different mazes. Malagai's graphics are clean but blocky, and its sound effects are mainly limited to random beeps. Three skill levels are available, but the advanced ones require you to memorize which aliens you catch, which negates much of the fun. Who wants to think
when they play Atari?
Malagai is a playable, but its mediocre graphics and derivative gameplay expose it as another unremarkable third-party title on a system already loaded with them. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 1B
Our high score: 4,700
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Spectravision (1983)
This ultra-rare game is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen on an Atari 2600. The word "mangia" (pronounced mon' ja) is an Italian word meaning "to eat". Before learning this tidbit of information, I had been pronouncing it "man-gia" (what a dumb ass I was). This unusual game is set in a kitchen, where a mother is serving pasta to her kid. The characters are huge and detailed, but somewhat creepy-looking. Each time the mom returns to the table, she heaps more food on the kid's plate. Playing the role of the kid, your job is to dispose of the food any way you can! Sure, you can eat it, but if you eat too much your stomach will expand and eventually explode
. That's right - the game actually depicts the poor kid's stomach bursting into a pixilated mess! Can you believe it? I'm telling you, Mortal Kombat has nothing
on Mangia! Anyhow, to prevent this gruesome tragedy, you periodically toss some of the food to the cat in the window or the dog under the table. The problem is, these pets only appear intermittently, and you can only toss the food when mom's back is turned. If caught, she'll bring THREE helpings of food at a time, and too much food will break the table legs, costing you a life. Does this game sound like a twisted nightmare or what? The movie Seven comes to mind. The controls utilize the joystick only (no fire button), and Street Fighter-like joystick "sweeps" are used to sling food. Sound effects include an irritating ring that blares whenever the cat appears. A nice Italian song is played between levels, but you'll soon get sick of it. Mangia's novelty value held my attention a while, but once you get the hang of it, it gets really long and repetitive. Still, I'll give the game credit for being original (and somewhat disturbing). © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tigervision (1982)
Tigervision is responsible for a few decent 2600 games, but Marauder is just awful. The game looks a lot like Berzerk, except the characters are viewed from an overhead perspective. There are six interconnected maze screens. One always has a diamond-shaped "power cell" in its center, and your primary mission is to destroy it over and over again. Robots pursue you, but they aren't very aggressive, and if you keep moving you can run right by them. Still, they are fun to shoot because of the way they fall flat on their backs. The problem with Marauder is its paltry difficulty level. Sometimes you even begin
on the screen with
the power cell, and all you need to do is run to the center and shoot it. Where's the challenge in that? You almost feel guilty racking up all of those points! You're never more than two or three screens away from your target, and there's never much standing in your way. One truly unnecessary feature is the random occurrence of "magic armor" that makes you invincible. Marauder is already a cakewalk, so what's the point? © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Xype (2002)
This new 2600 title offers some refreshingly original gameplay and a unique control scheme. It's based upon the old board game where you tilt a board on two axis in order to guide a marble through a maze. Marble Craze requires you to use two paddle controllers at the same time, and that's a first as far as I know. The controls feel pretty comfortable once you get accustomed to them, and bars on the edge of the screen help keep you orientated. In each of the 18 stages, you guide a large white ball around contiguous screens, trying to reach the end of the maze before a timer runs out. The first few mazes have walls, but the more advanced, wide-open stages require a great deal of skill. Scattered "power bars" provide bonuses such as extra time or bonus points. Marble Craze delivers some fine split-screen competitive action, but what's really charming is how it pays homage to classic Atari games. Some mazes are taken from old 2600 games (the blue maze in Adventure for example), and you'll even find mazes in the shape of classic characters like Pac-Man, Space Invader, and ET. My single complaint is that it can be hard to determine which direction you need to go. But overall, Marble Craze's inspired gameplay is both fun and addicting. There's even a nice title screen. Xype continues its winning streak. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (1983)
Marine Wars takes the tired formula of Atari's "Air-Sea Battle" and spices it up with all kinds of nifty features. Looking out over the sea, you'll see three rows of ships, and the ones further out look smaller, conveying a pseudo-3D look. A sophisticated control scheme allows you to line up your targets and even guide your missiles to a certain degree. An island in the distance helps you gauge your position. You can unleash three shots at a time, and the explosions are nicely rendered. Konami added a few additional features that push this game above the average mark. There are night stages where you can't see distant ships. Other stages challenge you to shoot down pairs of planes on bombing runs. Your shots sometimes even collide with incoming missiles. Marine Wars is a tough game, mainly because your ship is such a large target. But since it takes three hits to destroy your ship, you effectively have nine lives. A pleasant surprise, Marine Wars is a demanding shooter that requires more finesse than most. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1983)
This likeable platform game is the first to feature Mario by name, and it even co-stars his brother Luigi! Although played on a single screen, Mario Bros. still contains many of the elements that would be associated with Nintendo's Super Mario series. Turtles, crabs, and other creatures emerge from pipes on top on the screen. As they slowly make their way down, you can flip them over by bumping them from below. Once on their back, you can kick them off the screen for points. When a second player assumes the role of Luigi, it becomes a head-to-head competition for points. It's a shame you can't "bump" the other player (as you can in the arcade), because this reduces the strategy. Mario Bros. on the Atari 2600 looks about as good as Mario Bros. can look on the 2600. Our heroes are rendered in multiple colors and the creatures only flicker slightly. The number of objects on the screen at a given time does seem limited however, which reduces the challenge considerably. I also don't like the animation of turtles trying to upright themselves - what are they doing?
Mario Bros. provides some amusing head-to-head action, but this scaled down version lost a bit of fun in the translation process. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 5
1 or 2 players
Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man
Publisher: M-Network (1982)
He-Man was a hugely popular Saturday morning cartoon character in the early 80's. You may recall that his arch-nemesis, Skeletor, had a face that resembled a skull. The video game adaptation of the cartoon series made a splash on the Intellivision, but this 2600 version is not as good. Oddly enough, although game's graphics are generally bad, the game's intro and ending screens are fantastic. When you first turn on Masters of the Universe, you witness a blonde, bare-chested dude transform into the muscular He-Man. Whoa! The first stage places He Man is some kind of rocket ship flying across a stretch of barren land en route to Skeletor's castle. Henchman fire at you from the ground, and you can shoot down their missiles and drop bombs on these thugs. Once you arrive at the castle (which looks pathetic compared to the Intellivision version) you participate in which appears to be one of those bad Swordquest mini-games. The object is to reach Skeletor on the right side of the screen while avoiding two moving walls. Skeletor fires missiles at you, but you can block his shots with your shield by pressing the fire button. Should you reach Skeletor, the game displays a nice ending screen, featuring a full-screen He-Man triumphantly raising his sword. Wow! Then it's back to the beginning, although at least M-Network was considerate enough to change the background color for each stage. In the end, Masters of the Universe remains an interesting title despite its weak gameplay. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1978)
This oldie-but-goodie uses a maze generation algorithm to quickly create a brand new maze each time you play. Maze Craze is meant for two players, but it offers more than just racing through a maze. Some variations force you to avoid or catch robbers (who look like colored boxes). Some let you set up blockades to create phony dead-ends to trick your opponent. There are a plethora of maze invisibility modes to add to the challenge. With an astonishing 256 variations in all, this is one of the better two-player games for the system. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: AtariAge (2007)
Everybody knows I'm a huge Warlords fan, so this game was pretty much a slam-dunk
to grade. Medieval Mayhem elevates the art of fireball-hurling to the next level while incorporating a butt-load of options. Just like Warlords, there is a king protected by a wall in each corner of the screen. Using a paddle controller, each player moves a shield around the perimeter of their wall, deflecting (or catching and throwing) a fireball at other players. The graphics are a big step up from Warlords. The bricks now have texture, and the king symbols actually look
like king symbols! Each round is introduced by a colorful "launch dragon". Rendered with personality and animated with loving care, this dragon may be the best looking thing you'll ever see on your Atari 2600. He does however tend to linger on the screen a bit too long at times. Although Medieval Mayhem borrows heavily from Warlords, the game still has its own distinctive flavor. When you "throw" the fireball, it often leaves your shield at an unpredictable angle, and holding the fireball for too long causes it to "eat away" at your castle. As each round progresses, the castle walls slowly degrade, causing the tension and excitement to grow accordingly. Additional fireballs gradually enter the fray, and eventually the onslaught becomes overwhelming. At the conclusion of each round, a comical little knight marches onto the screen, holding the lone survivor's flag as an amazing funky tune plays. Every time I play Medieval Mayhem, it turns into a crazy, raucous affair. My friend Jonathan commented that it was one of the best multiplayer games ever
! And that was after a bunch of us had been playing Halo 3 for hours on end! Heck, this game is even fun with one
player, as I learned when I faced three CPU opponents and got my ass handed to me. A plethora of options are available on an impressive scrolling menu with ornate text. If you're a classic gamer, do whatever it takes to get Medieval Mayhem into your collection. It is outstanding. You can purchase this game from AtariAge.com
. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 20th Century Fox (1982)
Was this really a movie? I've never even heard of it. Anyway, in this fast side-scrolling shooter you blast UFOs in the air and bomb enemy bases on the ground. The graphics look pretty sharp, particularly the exotic looking structures on the ground below. Unfortunately, Mega Force simply moves too fast for any strategy to unfold, and it amounts to little more than another mindless shoot-em-up. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Activision (1982)
I could never quite figure out why this generic shooter was so popular. I suppose it has something to do with those wild and wacky targets: hamburgers, cookies, tires, irons, and bow ties to name a few. The thing is, the graphics aren't that good, so you'll need to read the manual just to figure out what you're shooting at. The weird color schemes don't help matters. Pink hamburgers? Purple tires? Green diamonds? Whatever. Each formation of targets moves in its own distinct pattern. The action isn't bad, but there's not a whole lot of substance. You can choose between straight and guided missiles. Megamania is mildly amusing but somewhat overrated in my opinion. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 1/2
Our high score: VGC 76,230
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Ebivision (1999)
First the good news: Merlin's Walls has an awesome title screen! The lettering looks totally wild, and the music is hands-down the best I've ever heard on the 2600! That song rocks!! Now for the bad news - this game sucks! It's a 3D maze game spawned from the depths of hell. The initial alarms went off when I first examined the well-written instruction manual. In order to "achieve the desired 3D effect" while playing the game, you must either tilt your head or your television
by 90 degrees. The manual has some imaginative and unintentionally hilarious illustrated suggestions for accomplishing this. You can turn your TV on its side, or set it on its back like a tabletop! It even suggests a sophisticated set-up involving a series of tilted mirrors. All this for one Atari 2600 game - and a bad one at that! I finally settled for the easiest option - lying on the floor on my right ear. And you know what? It works - kind of. The corridors are painfully blocky, but I was able to make out halls and doorways (with some difficulty!). Sadly, I was never able to make it all the way through a single maze - even with the first one that's mapped out
in the manual! Every hallway looks the same and it's a hopelessly confusing situation. In the final analysis, Merlin's Walls is more of a conversation piece than it is a game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1988)
This is probably the best pinball game you're going to find for the 2600. Midnight Magic's table is small but colorful and finely detailed. There are bumpers, rollovers, drop targets, and two sets of flippers. Although the table looks sparse by modern pinball standards, there are enough targets to keep things interesting. It's a challenging game, especially on the "A" difficulty level. While I found Midnight Magic's gameplay to be somewhat fun and addicting, I was less impressed with the control. There's no nudge, and the flippers could be more responsive. Still, pinball fans will be satisfied with the overall quality. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1984)
This worthy sequel to Centipede retains the same tried-and-true gameplay, but throws a lot
more bugs into the mix, including periodic swarms of dragonflies. One cool new feature is the presence of DDT boxes scattered among the mushrooms. When shot, these emit poisonous clouds which engulf approaching insects. It's a brilliant concept and it really does add additional strategy. Millipede is difficult, but fun enough to keep you reaching for that reset switch. The graphics are slightly improved over Centipede, with less flicker and better-looking spiders. Unfortunately, the animation of the spiders and other creepy-crawlies is surprisingly choppy, and it adversely affects the gameplay. In a fast action game such as this, you must be able to tell what's going on at all times. Still, for frantic arcade fun, Millipede is tough to beat. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tigervision (1982)
As a Miner 2049er veteran who has played it on a number of systems, I speak with confidence when I say that this one sucks
! For those not familiar with this oldie, Miner 2049er is a Donkey Kong-inspired game where you walk over a series of platforms while avoiding wandering alien blobs. Connecting the platforms are ladders, slides, and transporters. This version contains three fairly elaborate screens, and the graphics are not half bad. Nonetheless, the gameplay is atrocious, and it actually pissed me off. First of all, your miner moves at a snail's pace. You actually cover more ground when you jump, so I found myself hopping all over the place! Then there's the animation, which is unforgivably choppy. It's nearly impossible to jump over the aliens, and when you lose a life, all of the progress you've made on the current screen is negated, forcing you to restart your painful journey. Audio-wise, the game contains a putrid rendition of the song "Clementine" that'll have you running to the latrine to induce vomiting. If you want to experience Miner 2049er, do yourself a favor and track down the superior Atari 5200 or Colecovision versions. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1979)
There aren't many copies of Miniature Golf floating around, and that may be indicative of just how bad
the game is. I imagine most copies have long since been retired to the garbage bin. The sorry graphics, gameplay, and sound effects can all share the blame. Each of the nine holes are uninteresting, blocky monstrosities. The ball is a small block, and your putter is a big block. The occasional moving obstacle is - you guessed it - another
big block. The poorly designed screens provide limited room to maneuver, so you often have to depend on ricochets, even when a shot is straight on. Miniature Golf's horrid graphics are complimented by practically non-existent sound effects. The physics used in this game is not of this universe, so the ball tends to move unpredictably. Even for a 1979 game, this is just an embarrassment. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1981)
When I was a kid, Missile Command was the most popular video game in my neighborhood. I clearly remember purchasing my copy at the local 7-11 for $22. It was a hot summer morning during my summer vacation, and I called the store beforehand to ensure they had a copy before embarking on the treacherous one-mile trek. Life was good. To this day, I find the whole concept of shooting down incoming missiles to protect the helpless cities below simply brilliant. Missile Command for the 2600 is a respectable, scaled-down version of the arcade game, but a few basic elements were compromised to squeeze it onto the system. There's only one missile base instead of three, and although this reduces the strategy, it doesn't really detract from the fun. A more serious constraint is how you can only unleash three anti-ballistic missiles at a time. When you attempt to shoot a fourth missile, the game makes an annoying "squeak" sound. The joystick control is reasonably good, but surpringly, the game doesn't work very well with Atari's own trackball. This version of Missile Command lacks the planes and UFOs of the arcade, but it does have those elusive satellites. The sound effects are nearly arcade-perfect, including the warning alarms and random high-pitched tones that signal a free city. I love how the backgrounds change colors as the waves progress, although that "pea soup" green screen looks pretty nasty. An all-time favorite, Missile Command deserves a place in every 2600 game collection. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 8B
Our high score: VGC 34,420
1 or 2 players
Missile Command Trak-Ball
Publisher: Thomas Jentzsch (2002)
It's somewhat ironic that the 2600 trackball controller doesn't support Atari's ultimate trackball game: Missile Command. Anybody who grew up playing this classic at the local arcade knows that it was NOT designed with a joystick in mind. Thankfully, Thomas Jentzsch has addressed this long-standing problem with his new "hack" of the game, and you'll be surprised how big a difference it makes. You can whip that cursor clear across the screen in a flash, yet position it with perfect precision. Not only is this version faster and more arcade-like than the original, but you can look forward to shattering your previous high scores with ease. It will be very difficult to go back to using the joystick after playing this. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 8B
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
This slick adventure game is absolutely superb in every respect. Its graphics are colorful and detailed, with no flicker to speak of. The control is best described as "crisp", and the gameplay is madly addicting. An an Indiana Jones-type explorer, you must traverse over 60 rooms of treasures, traps, and creatures. Be prepared to encounter snakes, spiders, and rolling skulls. You'll need keys to open doors, a sword to slay creatures, and a torch to light your way. Each room presents a unique challenge, and there are plenty of areas to explore and secrets to uncover. If you're looking for adventure on the 2600, it doesn't get much better than this. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Here's yet another high-quality arcade conversion from Atari. All the elements of the arcade game are here, including the intense challenge. Moon Patrol is unique because it forces you to concentrate on two things at once. As you blast rocks and hop over holes on the surface, you also exchange fire with saucers floating overhead. The worst aspect of this version has got to be its graphics. The enemy UFOs look decent, but your moon-rover resembles a red blob, and the background is just a bunch of boring, blocky mountains. Still, this game is a lot of fun and the high difficulty will keep you coming back for more. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Moonsweeper isn't the most addictive game in the world, but there's more to it than your average space shooter. It reminds me of a simplified version of Solaris (Atari, 1988). You begin the game in outer space, with your ship positioned on the bottom of the screen and a sun in the center. Orbiting bodies curl around the edge of the screen, putting you in danger of being rammed. You'll want to avoid comets and pixels called "space bullets" (pretty cheesy!
), but touching a planet transports you to its surface via a slick (albeit brief) animation. As you skim along the planet, your goal is to pick up six miners and then fly through "acceleration rings" to lift them to safety (and cash in some sweet bonus points too). There are also colorful towers you'll need to shoot or avoid. Be careful, because from a distance the men look an awful lot like towers! You'll also contend with large "launcher" ships and satellites that float across the top of the screen. Although you fire forward by default, pulling back lets you launch missiles straight up at these lucrative targets. It looks cool when the launchers deploy "surface destroyers", but man, those little bastards are mean
! If they can't shoot you, they'll try to ram you instead. You can fire diagonally in addition to forward, but that looks as awkward as it controls. There are four different colored planets to land on, with the more challenging ones awarding larger bonuses. Moonsweeper has crisp, clean graphics, and offers four levels of difficulty. It won't dominate your 2600, but it's certainly worthy of a spot in your collection. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 3
Our high score: 3,080
Publisher: Atari (1990)
The super-rare Motorodeo lets players roll monster trucks through an obstacle course of ramps, cars, walls, and mud. Played on a split screen, it kind of reminds me of Excitebike (NES 1984). For a 1990 title, the graphics are pretty plain, with small trucks, single-colored obstacles, and no background scenery. At least your tires are round (small victory there), and the vehicles you crush actually model damage. Turbo powerups let you catch big air which is terrific fun, but plowing through mud by moving the joystick back and forth is just arduous. Motorodeo lets you race for time or points, and the computer opponent is definitely a worthy competitor. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: CBS (1983)
In this surprisingly good platform adventure, you traverse a scrolling "mountain" several screens wide. Within the mountain are numerous platforms connected by ladders. The object is to locate a key, steal a crown from the temple, and carry it to the top of the mountain. You'll also contend with treasure-stealing bats and a giant spider. Did I mention that each phase of the game is timed? Mountain King is tough, and even the easy level is fairly suspenseful. Mountain King's graphics are average at best, but the music is exceptional. The worse aspect is the awkward jumping controls which require a lot of practice. Although it borrows ideas from many other games, Mountain King also incorporates some original elements such as a flashlight and music that changes in intensity depending on your proximity to an item. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: VGC 32,890
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
As a "thinking man's Pac-Man", Mouse Trap requires more skill and strategy than your garden-variety maze game. You guide a mouse (a mouse head
actually) around the board while gobbling up "cheese" blocks and avoiding three aggressive felines. Bones serve as power pills you can stockpile, letting you transform into a cat-eating bulldog at the touch of a button. Mouse Trap's graphics are simple but exceptionally clean and polished. The flicker-free animals move smoothly and the maze is rendered with bold, green lines. The only things that don't look so hot are the bones, represented by blocky X's. Some walls in the maze flicker, and these can be moved by holding down
the fire button. This lets you change the maze configuration on the fly, sometimes trapping a pursuing cat in the process! Mouse Trap's controls take some getting used to, but are pretty good once you get the hang of them. One thing that kind of freaks me out is how the mouse head is constantly moving his mouth. At first I thought he was just chewing on cheese, but now I'm convinced he's trying to tell me something!
The game only has one notable sound effect, and that's a screech
that's heard as your dog snags a cat. Hey, that sounds like a real cat!
I just wish they didn't reuse the same sound when a cat catches you
. If you're in the process of transforming from dog to mouse when you touch a cat, it's hard to tell who caught who!
Mouse Trap is tough, so don't leave any bones "on the table" when working on that final life. Four difficulty levels are available via difficulty switch combinations. Competently programmed and fun, Mouse Trap is a nice addition to the collection. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): AA
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
At first glance, Mr. Do comes across as a blatant Dig Dug rip-off. However, closer scrutiny reveals a faster-paced game with a few ingenious twists. You control a clown who burrows through dirt and drops apples on his adversaries, but instead of a pump, you destroy enemies with your magic balls. Once you unleash a ball, it continues bouncing through the maze until it strikes something. Besides eliminating your enemies, you can also clear a screen by collecting all of its buried fruit. And oh yeah, if you can kill enough letter-shaped monsters to spell out "EXTRA", you get a free man. Mr. Do is hectic and fun, but less strategic than Dig Dug. The graphics and sound are above average, and the control is quite responsive. Mr. Do has four skill levels. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Wow - this is an outstanding version of the popular arcade game. In fact, this puts the original Atari 2600 Pac-Man to shame. The graphics are surprisingly faithful to the arcade, and the control is dead-on. All of the mazes from the arcade are present, so the only thing missing is the intermissions. My only complaint is that the game is a bit on the easy side. An expert variation with smarter ghosts would have been nice. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Mystery Science Theater 2600
Publisher: Hozer (1999)
Here's an innovative hack that combines a classic game with a funny TV show. The game is Activision's Megamania, and the show is Mystery Science Theater. You'll recall this show as the one that makes fun of really bad old "B" horror flicks like "The Crawling Hand" and "Robot Monster". Now, instead of shooting household appliances Megamania-style, you'll fire on bizarre creatures inspired from these old movies. Unfortunately, like the original Megamania, it's often difficult to discern what most of these things are supposed to be, although the humorous instruction manual will help you out. MST2600 is well conceived, injecting new life into a classic shooter. All it really needs is some of that cheesy old horror movie music. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: US Games (1982)
This bizarre cartridge was released around the time of the video game crash of '83, and it gives some insight into just how disposable
video games were considered at the time. The full name of this cartridge is "Name This Game and Win $10,000". This goes beyond tacky. This is "guess your age" carnival stuff. It's the freakshow
of video games, and a permanent scar on US Games. How many people even remember the game itself? You play a diver swimming above the ocean floor with a huge black octopus and menacing sharks preventing you from returning to your boat. Dude, you are in a world
of hurt! Your buddy on the surface occasionally drops down an oxygen line, but most of the time he's too busy goofing off! Just look at him clowning around in your boat! The pixelated octopus has tentacles that "grow" towards you and these must be shot off. Chomping sharks move side-to-side down the screen (one at a time), and they are rendered nicely. You can fire rapidly at the sea creatures above, and I'd strongly advise holding down the fire button. This game may not sound bad, but there's minimal strategy and the gameplay is monotonous to say the least! Name This Game is just plain lousy, and all the gimmicks in the world couldn't help it. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 5A
Our high score: VGC 8,220
Publisher: Spectravision (1982)
Here's a fast-paced space shooter that's fun at first but wears thin in a hurry. Horizontal lines in the background cycle through colors, producing the hypnotic illusion of forward motion. Enemies that resemble Tie fighters emerge from the center of the screen and fly towards the outer edge. Nexar's unique control scheme allows you to use a cursor to direct your shots. Should your cursor collide with an enemy (or an enemy explosion), you lose a life. Clearing the stage requires destroying a certain number of boxes within 90 seconds. Nexar is entertaining for a while, but as the stages progress, the action gets out of hand and your slow-ass cursor simply can't keep up. You end up shooting wildly and just hoping for the best. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1980)
Night Driver the first racing game to really put you
into the drivers seat, and in 1980, the concept was nothing short of revolutionary. Two sets of moving posts are surprisingly effective at conveying the illusion of speeding down a winding country road at night. Unlike the original black and white arcade game, this full-color Atari 2600 version features oncoming cars and roadside scenery in the form of houses and trees. There are three 90-second courses of increasing difficulty, along with a "random" track. The advanced tracks offer a nice sense of risk/reward, since you have to periodically slow down in anticipation of hairpin turns. Crashing into a post causes the screen to flash, accompanied by a resonating explosion sound. As one of my first Atari 2600 games, Night Driver brings back a lot of childhood memories. I remember my dad playing this and laughing himself to tears whenever he crashed repeatedly. I also recall my sister and I taking the paddle controllers in the car with us during trips so we could steer from the back seat. My main beef with Night Driver has to do with its lousy graphics. Whoever programmed this was no artist - that's for sure. I'd like to think that he never intended to have that dumb-looking "car" on the bottom of the screen for the final cut, but just never got around to fixing it. The round, oncoming blue cars look a heck of a lot like Grover from Sesame Street, and that's disturbing. I also noticed a minor glitch that causes the screen to jump on occasion, but it's not a big deal. Although graphically challenged, the sheer playability of this game impresses the hell out of me to this day. Night Driver also contains some "no time limit" variations, which I recommend to drug-addicted players who just want to zone out to this game all night long. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 4AA
Our high score: VGC 72
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
If nothing else, No Escape gets credit for sheer originality. Its gameplay is unlike anything you've ever seen in the past, or future for that matter. You control Jason the Argonaut, moving across the floor of a Greek temple while attempting to destroy mythical "fury" monsters flying overhead. You can hurl stones upward (and guide them to a degree), but there's a catch - you can't strike the furies directly
. No, that causes them to regenerate, and that's no good at all. Instead, the idea is to knock loose the colorful bricks that make up the roof of the temple, causing them to fall onto the furies below. It's an interesting twist - a "reverse shooter" of sorts. It doesn't provide for much precision, but I like how you can knock out two or three blocks at a time and make it rain like Pac-Man Jones baby (aww yeeah!)
Don't get careless though - the blocks can also crush your
Greek ass. No Escape incorporates wave after wave of imaginative, high-resolution creatures rendered in an array of bright colors. For the life of me, I couldn't tell you what most of those things are supposed to be, but it's always interesting to see what the next wave has in store. One thing that annoys me about No Escape is the cheap hits. The furies tend to hover about one millimeter above your head, dispensing fireballs at point-blank range. When they begin moving erratically in later waves, skill rapidly gives way to luck. One astute reader explained that you can
exert some degree of influence on the fury movements by holding in the fire button. He's right, but this is a very limited, funky sort of control that only advanced players will be able to use to their benefit. Still, No Escape provides a nice break from the typical shooters and maze games. It also gets credit for its nifty little ending depicting Jason flying off on his Pegasus. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 1A
1 or 2 players
Ocean City Defender
Publisher: Zellers (1983)
Ocean City Defender is nothing but a rip-off of Atlantis (Imagic) with slightly modified graphics. The new saucer-like designs of the ships and underwater buildings look really cheesy - a big step down from the original game. The one interesting aspect of Ocean City Defender is the cartridge label. It features a 1950s-era robot shooting lightning from its hands, and a metallic Lock Ness monster being ridden by a skinny robot. Weird! To be honest, the only reason I picked this up this piece of crap is because the title reminded me of my favorite vacation spot, Ocean City, Maryland. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1989)
As one of the last games created for the 2600, most gamers are unaware of Off The Wall, but it's probably just as well. It was Atari's attempt to modernize the classic game Breakout by updating the graphics with an Asian theme and loading it with power-ups. Using a joystick (no paddles - rats!) you move a guy across the bottom of the screen, deflecting a ball towards a colorful wall. A black bird flies in front of the wall, and he can block your shots as well as deflect the ball back towards the wall. The bird also drops some useful power-ups, like the "bomb" that lets you blow out a large chunk of the wall. Another handy power-up allows you to "steer" the ball, making it easier to clear those last few bricks. There are also power-ups make your life harder, such as the one that makes the ball travel faster. A "red dragon" dances on top of the wall, but it looks more like a big red caterpillar and only serves as an easy way to score bonus points. Off The Wall is less tedious than Breakout, but it's also too easy. Another problem is the annoying 10-second pause before each new ball is released. What's that all about? Off the Wall is respectable as a one-player game, but the two-player mode is lousy. Both players have to share the same wall, and the scoring system is totally unfair. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Activision (1983)
In this rare misstep from Activision, you control three little pigs trying to protect their houses from a wolf. Controlling one pig at a time, you move him around the interior of his house, grabbing bricks and placing them in holes made by the wolf below. Should a hole become too large, you're bacon. Each pig introduces a new style of house (straw, wood, brick) but they all play the same. Oink's graphics are actually quite good, with large, detailed characters. But the game suffers from a serious lack of fun. Going back and forth carrying bricks to the biggest hole is mind-numbing and hard on the wrist. With little variety or strategy, you may find yourself rooting for the wolf. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: CBS (1983)
Unlike so many other Atari 2600 arcade translations, this one isn't a cupcake version. Omega Race's single game variation provides a degree of challenge that will have you hitting that reset button over and over again. Gameplay involves thrusting a triangular ship around an enclosed, rectangular "track" littered with missile-firing, mine-laying enemies. What's cool about the game is how your ship caroms off the walls, letting you finely adjusting your line of fire while remaining a moving target. It's fun to be reckless, but easy to collide with stationary objects scattered around the screen. Omega Race isn't the prettiest game in the world, but then again the arcade original (rendered in single-colored vector graphics) was no beauty either. Here, the objects are rendered in dull colors, and the flicker is pretty bad. Omega Race does have one interesting gimmick, and that is the inclusion of a special hardware attachment to add two extra buttons (thrust and fire) to the standard Atari joystick. Why CBS felt the need for this device is beyond me. The same functionality could have been achieved using Asteroids-style controls, where you simply push forward to thrust. It's not a big deal, but be aware that this device is required
to play the game. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1981)
Unlike Atari's Chess, this classic board game (often called Reversi) provides an enjoyable and thought-provoking diversion. It's played by laying black and white squares on a checker board, trying to capture as much of the board as you can. Othello is simple to learn but tough to master. The secret to winning seems to lie in controlling the edges and corners, something the computer player tends to be quite proficient at. Three skill levels are provided along with a two-player variation. Each contest is quick, which encourages you to hit the reset switch for "just one more game". Othello's graphics and sound may be minimal, but they do the job. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1978)
It's hard to be critical of Outlaw, considering it's such an old favorite. This simple shoot-out game features large, slow, blocky cowboys. You can shoot at three different angles, with ricochets adding to the strategy. But what really makes Outlaw interesting are variations with cactus, covered wagons, and moving walls. There are even a few one-player target-shooting variations that are harder than they look! For an early Atari cartridge this isn't bad. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hozer (1998)
What a surprise this game was. When I first played it, I was like, "what the heck is going on"? After an hour, I was still playing and my thumb was getting sore. Despite its goofy name, Oystron is no joke. While it may look like a simple shoot-em-up, there is subtle strategy involved. You control a ship on the left side of the screen that can fire both left and right. Objects approach from the right, including "space oysters" which you can blast open to reveal pearls. Collecting eight pearls earns you a bomb. After a certain period of time, a boss emerges, which can only be destroyed by one of those bombs. After you take him out (not too tough), you're thrust into a fast-paced "warp phase". Oystron provides fast, non-stop shooting action, and it's very challenging. My main beef is that the stages tend to run a bit too long. But overall, this is a real gem. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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