Archive for May 2014

Missile Command – Atari 2600   Leave a comment

2600MissileCommandMissile Command is one of my favourite old school games.  It was first released in the arcades by Atari in 1980, but I’ve never seen it in the arcades.  The version I grew up playing was 1981’s Missile Command on the Atari 2600.  Replaying it again today after all those years is still a lot of fun.

The goal of Missile Command is to defend six cities from incoming missiles.  The enemy missiles come from the top of the screen, and at the bottom of the screen are the six cities you are defending.  Your offense is your own supply of missiles that are fire from a base at the center bottom of the screen.  You can aim your missiles by moving the flashing cursor around the screen.  Since your missile will take a second or two to reach it’s target, you’ll be aiming to where the enemy missiles are headed rather than where they currently are.  Once your missile reaches it’s destination, it’ll exploded, and any enemy missiles in the blast radius will be destroyed.  Defeating a wave of enemies will send you to the next level, and eventually the enemies will move faster, and you’ll score more points for destroying them.  If all six of your cities are destroyed, then it’s game over.  You can earn an additional city, if needed, for every 10,000 points you score.  Also you have a limited supply of ammo per wave.  Usually you’ll have enough ammo for each wave, but if enemies hit your base, then you’ll lose ammo very quickly, and then you’re screwed.

The original arcade version of Missile Command had a trackball instead of a joystick, and it also had three bases that could fire independently.  Atari did a great job in converting the game to control with a joystick on the Atari 2600, and for the longest time I never even knew the arcade machine had a trackball.  The game starts off pretty slow, but it’ll quickly increase to a frantic pace.  The graphics in Missile Command are pretty plain, but the colours look great.  Whenever the colour scheme changes, that is your cue to watch out, because that means the difficulty has increased.  The explosions also sound pretty good, and you’ll be hearing a lot of them.  Missile Command is one of the best Atari 2600 games that you can get.  The difficulty curve is perfect, the game play is exciting, and it never ever gets boring.  Missile Command is one of the reasons that I still play my Atari 2600.

Rating – 9 / 10

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Posted May 31, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Atari 2600

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Circus – Atari 2600   Leave a comment

20140528_160706When collecting Atari 2600 games you will sometimes see games with a “Sears Tele-Games” label.  The reason for that is that Sears and Atari had a deal where the Atari 2600, and it’s games would be sold in Sears stores under Sears own “Tele-Games” brand.  It’s kind of like how other companies manufacturer Sears Kenmore appliances.  Zellers was once the most popular department store in all of Canada, and is similar to Walmart or K-Mart.  Zellers had it’s own in-house brands too, and they also released Atari games under their own label.  The difference between Sears and Zellers is that Zellers did not have an agreement with Atari, and of course copying other companies products, and selling them as your own is quite illegal.  It’s quite strange for Zellers to do a sketchy thing such as this seeing as they were a subsidiary of North America’s oldest corporation The Hudson Bay Company.

A game called Circus was one of their games, and it is a clone of Circus Atari.  I won’t get into much about the game, because it is pretty much the same as Circus Atari, and you can see my review of that game here.  I had this game for a while before I discovered the one major difference between Circus and Circus Atari.  Circus Atari uses the excellent Atari paddle controllers, where as Circus uses the Atari joystick.  This is a big deal for a lot of us, because Atari paddle controllers are sometimes difficult to find in working condition.  Circus was designed, and meant to be played with the analog paddle controllers, so control with the joystick isn’t quite as precise, or as fun as using the paddle controllers.  Still though if you are new to the Atari 2600, and don’t have the paddle controllers, or just can’t grasp the concept behind them, then you do have an alternative option to play Circus Atari.

Rating – 8 / 10

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Posted May 30, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Atari 2600

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Laser Blast – Atari 2600   Leave a comment

2600LaserBlastAs I mentioned in my Ice Hockey review, Activision were among the best at creating good Atari 2600 games.  Even the best have their bad days, and 1981’s Laser Blast is one of them.  Back then games were simple enough to usually have one guy designing them, and this one was designed by David Crane, who was responsible for the excellent Pitfall series, along with Grand Prix, Freeway, and Kaboom on the Atari 2600.  Whatever happened here I don’t know.

Laser Blast starts off promising enough as it is YOU who are piloting a flying saucer, and are attacking targets on the ground.  This is quite a switch from Space Invaders, and other shooters of it’s day.  Your flying saucer is equipped with a laser, and you can shoot straight, or on a slight angle.  Your targets are three anti-aircraft units that shoot lasers back.  If you defeat these three enemies, then you’ll face another three.  The lasers on both sides of the war are very quick, and unlike other shooting games of it’s day, you or your enemies cannot avoid being hit once a laser is fired.  There is a slight delay on both sides in firing the lasers, and you will be able to see where the laser is aiming before it’s fired, and you’ll have time to move out of the way.  One neat thing is that if you are shot down by the enemy, you can steer your spaceship while you are falling to the ground in order to take out the enemy.

The problem with this game is that it is way too easy, and way too repetitive.  Since you are always facing the same three enemies in the same three locations again and again, you are able to quickly wipe them all out before they even get a chance to fire.  Even on the hardest difficulty the only times I ever died is when I got bored, and stopped paying attention.  Even if I did lose lives from time to time, I could have still played forever, because you are awarded an extra life every 1000 points, and that happens ever 30 seconds or so.  If your video game playing skills aren’t the greatest, then maybe, just maybe you would want to try this game, but the vast majority of us can pass on this one.

Rating – 3 / 10

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Posted May 29, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Atari 2600

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Ice Hockey – Atari 2600   1 comment

2600IceHockeyEarly hockey video games were merely small tweaks on the game Pong, and sometimes they would add a blue or white background to simulate the ice surface.  Activision though, they really had talent when it came to getting the most out of the Atari 2600.  Therefore you would expect nothing less than a great hockey game, and that is what 1981’s Ice Hockey is.

Ice Hockey on the Atari 2600 is not a simulation of NHL hockey, but it’s more of a cross between air hockey, and road hockey.  It’s a two on two hockey game, with one player being the forward, and the other player being the defensemen/goaltender.  This reminds me of when I would play road hockey as a kid, and we could only find a few people to play.  The games in Ice Hockey are three minutes long, and naturally the team with the most goals wins.  The Atari 2600 controller’s button makes your player shoot the puck when you are on offense, or attempts to trip the opposing player when you are playing defense.  When the puck is on your stick it moves back and forth.  Where it is on your stick determines which direction your shot will go.  This system works well as it rewards you for taking your time to shoot.  While on defense you can steal the puck by simply placing your stick on it.  Pressing the button to trip your opponent will stun them for a few seconds, but there are no penalties.  The game will automatically switch control between your two players based on who’s closer to the puck.  If nobody has the puck, the puck tends to bounce around as if it were on an air hockey table.

As with a lot of Activision games, Ice Hockey looks great.  The players are large, multicoloured, and animated well.  I love the sounds that the stick makes during a shot, and the sound of players falling.  The sounds may not be realistic, but it adds to the fun of the game.  There are settings to make the game play faster or slower, and you can handicap a team’s speed in order to make the game fair between two players of different skill levels.  Ice Hockey is definitely a game worth picking up, and especially if you have someone to play against.

Rating – 8 / 10

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Posted May 28, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Atari 2600

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Super Breakout – Atari 2600   2 comments

SuperBreakoutCartBefore Nintendo started putting “Super” in front of their sequels, it was Atari doing the same with the sequel to Breakout called Super Breakout.  It was first released in the arcades, and then on the Atari 2600.  I’m not sure of the release year since my cartridge has a copyright of 1978, but the box has a copyright of 1981.  Either way it was a very long time ago, but this game has aged well like fine wine, and is a worthy sequel to the original Breakout.

Super Breakout plays the same as the original Breakout in that you use your paddle controllers to control the paddle on the bottom of the screen, and you use it to deflect the ball into the blocks above.  Clear all of the blocks, and more appear.  The game plays until you let 5 balls pass by your paddle.  Super Breakout adds a few more modes to the Breakout game.   The first addition is double paddles.  Having that additional paddle above your paddle makes the game much more forgivable, because if you miss the ball with the top paddle, you can always try to hit it with the bottom one.  The next addition is the cavity game mode.  In this mode there are two extra balls trapped amongst the blocks.  If you are able to free them, you can have up to three balls on screen at once.  It’s like multiball in pinball, and it’s very chaotic, and a lot of fun.  The third addition is the progressive game mode.  In this mode the blocks you are trying to hit will descend to the bottom of the screen over time.  The longer your game lasts, the quicker the blocks descend.  On the negative side, they eliminated the breakthru mode that I liked in the first game.  They also got rid of the invisible blocks, steerable ball, and catchable ball modes.  I guess that’s just a good reason to keep your copy of the original Breakout.

The rainbow coloured blocks of the first Breakout are back again, and look as cool as ever.  The sound has really improved.  Instead of boring beep sound effects you get several different sound effect themes.  These themes vary in pitch, and tone.  It’s a neat addition, and you’ll find yourself hitting the reset button until the Atari randomly selects your favourite sound theme.  All in all I would say that I like Super Breakout a bit more than the original Breakout.  Both are classic games, and reason enough to get an Atari 2600, or one of those Atari plug’n’play paddle systems which I’ll be reviewing soon.

Rating – 9 / 10

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Posted May 19, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Atari 2600

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Golf – NES   Leave a comment

NESGolfAt the NES launch in 1985, Nintendo released three games in their sports series.  I’ve reviewed Tennis, and Baseball, and the final one is called Golf.  It’s a simple name, for a simple game by today’s standards.  Back in 1985 though, this must have really been something special.

There is only one golf course in Golf, so your only options are one or two player stroke play in which you try to finish the course in the least amount of strokes overall.  There is also two player match play in which you earn a point for every hole you complete in the fewest shots.  Golf is play from a top down perspective, but has a little window showing your golfer (who looks like an even chubbier Mario), and shows the landscape that lies in front of you.  Before you shoot you can aim your shot, and choose your club.  This is the earliest game that I have played that uses the standard power and accuracy meter, and 3 button press.  This is where you use timing, and reflexes to determine your shot power, and shot accuracy.  This system will be familiar to those who have played any games in the Hot Shots Golf series of games.  Unlike modern golf games that choose your club, aim you towards the hole, and tell you how far away the hole is, Golf for the NES doesn’t tell you any of that.  It’ll tell you how far away the tee is from the hole, but once you’re off the tee, then you’re on your own.  You’ll have to judge how far away you are from the hole, and then figure out which club to use.  This is pretty tough, and you’ll need some practice to get good at this game.  This is actually how real life golf is played if you think about it.  What makes it even more difficult though, and is a flaw in my opinion, is aiming your shots.  You can only move the aiming arrow in 45 degree increments.  This means that if the hole is 20 degrees from your golfer, then you’ll have to purposely hook or slice your shot.  This makes it challenging, but I wish you could aim your shots more normally.  Putting is much easier though.  The screen switches to a top down close up view of the green once you reach it.  Arrows on the green will tell you the direction of the slope, and the putting overall works really well.

Golf for the NES is a no frills launch title, but graphically the courses all look very nice on the NES.  There is no music while you are playing, and the sound effects are very minimal.  Overall Golf is a great game to have for your NES if you like golf.  Since it only has one course you won’t be playing it over and over.  However it plays a really quick game of golf.  It’s probably the quickest game of golf I’ve ever played.  The challenging game play will also have you coming back to try to beat your best score for many years.

Rating – 6 / 10

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Posted May 18, 2014 by thebandit2006 in NES

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Baseball – NES   Leave a comment

NESBaseballIf this game was released by Nintendo today, it would probably be called Super Mario Baseball WiiU.  Back in 1985 though we get plain old Baseball for the NES.  It was a launch title for the NES, and I remember being really impressed by it at the time, but then it quickly got surpassed by RBI Baseball, Bases Loaded, Baseball Stars, and on and on and on.

It’s about as bare bones as a baseball game can get.  There are no team names, just team letters.  There are also no player names, and no player stats.  When playing Baseball, you start at the batter/infield screen.  This screen shows just the infield, and you do your pitching, and hitting from this screen.  Like other baseball games, you press a button to pitch, and you can throw a fastball, changeup, or curveball using the dpad.  While hitting you can position your batter in the hitting box, and press a button to swing.  If a batted ball makes it beyond the infield, then it switches to a camera angle showing the entire field.  Fielding the ball is done automatically by the computer.  Your only duty while fielding is choosing which base to throw the ball.  This is a good thing for beginners, or anyone else who ever has trouble fielding while playing NES baseball games.  For everyone else though, it’s a little boring.

That is the problem with this game.  It’s just a bit boring.  Before you can pitch the ball, you have to wait for the pitcher to accept a sign from the catcher, then assume his pitching stance, check for baserunners if there is any, and then finally pitch.  The catcher then leisurely throws the ball back to the pitcher where there is another delay while he catches it.  If you are playing the CPU, the CPU will attempt to pick off your baserunners way too often.  Then he’ll go through the whole pitching routine again.  I literally fell asleep one day while playing it, and when I woke up I had the same batter up, although he had two strikes against him.  There is no music while playing, and the sound effects are mostly beeps.  The graphics are pretty good for the infield view, but it’s a bit hard to make out any details when the screen switches to the view of the whole field.  Overall though, Baseball for the NES is certainly a playable game, and plays a decent game of baseball.  The scores were a bit on the high side, but that happens with most NES baseball games.  I just would have liked it more if the pace was a bit quicker.

Rating – 5 / 10

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Posted May 17, 2014 by thebandit2006 in NES

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