Archive for the ‘Atari 2600’ Category

Berzerk – Atari 2600   Leave a comment

2600BerzerkStern Electronics was one of the biggest pinball manufacturers of the late 1970’s to the early 1980’s.  In fact they made my favourite pinball game of the era called “Cheetah.”  I’m not sure if it is popular enough to ever get released on The Pinball Arcade on the PlayStation 4, but anyways I digress.  Stern didn’t develop many video games, but one game that they did develop was their 1980 classic called Berzerk.  It was popular enough that Atari released it’s own version on the Atari 2600 in 1981.

Berzerk is a run and gun style game where you are in a room with electrified walls, and inhabited by robots that want to kill you.  The objective is to shoot as many robots for points as you can, avoid the robots lasers, and escape the room.  After that you’ll enter a different room, and the robots move faster, and their lasers are faster.  If you clear the entire room, you’ll be rewarded with bonus points.  You’ll have to be quick about though, because Evil Otto will be out to get you if you hang around a room for too long.  Unlike the often times dumb robots, Evil Otto makes a beeline straight to you, and he’s also invincible.  He’ll really get pissed off if you defeat all of the robots in a room.  The fun part of Berzerk is that you’re constantly trying to weigh the risks and rewards of getting points.  This adds a lot of suspense to an otherwise simple 1980’s game.  I also love tricking the dumb robots to walk into the electrified walls, or to walk in the path of their fellow robots laser fire.

The Atari 2600 version of Berzerk looks great even when compared to the arcade game.  The arcade game has more complex mazes than the Atari 2600 version, but overall Atari did a great job in porting over the arcade game.  A couple of things didn’t make it over however.  The first, and obvious thing is that the funny speech of the arcade game didn’t make it to the Atari 2600.  This isn’t surprising since I don’t know of any Atari 2600 games that had any speech.  The rest of the sound effects are great though.  The second thing is that the robots aren’t able to fire diagonal shots.  That’s a strange omission, but you can make the game enough that you won’t even notice.  You are able to shoot diagonal however, and everything about the controls is great.  The whole game is a lot of fun, and you can make it as difficult or as easy as you desire.  Berzerk is an easy recommendation for all old school arcade action fans.

Rating – 9 / 10


Posted June 3, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Atari 2600

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Space Jockey – Atari 2600   Leave a comment

2600SpaceJockeyI played a lot of different Atari 2600 games when I was a kid, but I’m discovering now that there are a lot of games that I didn’t play.  One of those games is Space Jockey released in 1981 by U.S. Games, or was it Vidtec?  Space Jockey is a very early example of the horizontal shoot-em-up.  The game is alright, but it’s kind of lacking that special “it” factor that makes a game a classic.

I don’t know anything about the storyline, but it seems that you are piloting a flying saucer, and you’re invading Earth.  I always love when games throw you into uncommon roles like this.  Like I said previously, this is a horizontally side-scrolling game, and your flying saucer is able to shoot straight ahead at incoming planes, helicopters, and hot air balloons.  The ground targets are tanks, houses, and trees.  Everything except for the balloons, houses, and trees will shoot back.  I wish you were able to bomb the ground targets like you can in Scramble, but the only way you can destroy them here is to fly very low to the ground, and then shoot.  I also wish that the ground targets would shot up at you, but they only side straight on, so they will never be a threat to you unless you fly into their path.

Space Jockey is a decent looking game for the Atari 2600.  The objects are a good size, multi-coloured, and there is no flicker.  The sound effects are a bit on the annoying side.  It does control nicely though.  There are several difficulty options to choose from.  You can make the game super easy, or impossibly hard.  As far as I can tell there are no additional stages, the background never changes, the enemies never change, and either the difficulty never changes, or the change is so subtle that I’ve never noticed.  Space Jockey is not a bad game to get for your Atari 2600, but it’s not a must have either.

Rating – 6 / 10


Posted June 1, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Atari 2600

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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


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


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


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


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


Posted May 19, 2014 by thebandit2006 in Atari 2600

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