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Homebreviews - part 21

Posted by Nathan Strum, 17 August 2008 · 2,207 views

Video Game Reviews
Well, it's time to start catching up on some of my reviews again. And since last week's theme seems to have been the 7800, we'll start off with four games for that system.

Beef Drop VE

Beef Drop VE is an exceptional port of the classic arcade game Burgertime. You take control of a chef tasked with assembling giant hamburgers, while avoiding enemy frankfurters, pickles and fried eggs (apparently they're trying to avoid becoming your next culinary creations). Your only weapon is a pepper shaker, which you can use to temporarily stun them, and you can also drop ingredients at strategic times to take them out.

The graphics in Beef Drop VE are excellent and the game play is spot-on. The previous non-VE edition used an additional chip to improve the audio, but I can't say that I missed it any - the sounds in this version are already well done. Besides the usual assortment of difficultly levels (nicely laid out in the manual) there are also several extra modes available including "Atkins", "Vegetarian", "Mirror" and "More". These are pretty-much what you would expect, with "More" adding four new boards after the standard ones.

If you liked the arcade version of Burgertime and you own a 7800, order up a serving of Beef Drop VE.


b*nQ is an excellent port of the arcade classic Q*bert. You hop the familiar orange character around a stack of cubes, changing their colors, while avoiding various bad guys. Change all of the cubes to the correct colors, and you move onto the next round. Floating near the cubes are several spinning disks, which you can jump on to float to safety, or use to lure enemies into jumping to their doom. But be careful - if you fall off the edge, you'll plummet to your doom, too.

The graphics in b*nQ are first-rate. All of the arcade game's characters are there, as are the instruction screen, high score list, and between-level demos that show you how to change the colors. The sounds are decent, although the 7800 just can't mimic those distinct Gottlieb sound effects very well, and I really miss having some sort of "clunk" sound whenever something falls off of the cubes. (While the arcade game used a solenoid from a pinball machine to achieve that, at least some sound effect there would have been welcomed.) Also missing are the arcade game's weird-sounding voices - perhaps AtariVox support could have remedied that.

Still, those are relatively minor gripes. All of the gameplay is intact, with varying difficulty levels (although there is no description of what the differences are), and a particularly nice option where you can choose which direction you want to orient the joystick - normal or at 45į. If you're a fan of Q*bert, b*nQ is a must-have.

Asteroids Deluxe

Asteroids Deluxe is an extensive hack of the Atari 7800 version of Asteroids, re-creating the sequel to the original arcade classic. As in the original Asteroids, you control a space ship armed with an unlimited supply of ammunition, and must blast away at drifting asteroids and enemy flying saucers. Asteroids Deluxe ups the ante by adding another enemy - a killer satellite which will split into six smaller ships that try to ram your ship and destroy it. Also, you have a shield (instead of Asteroids' hyperspace) which will let your ship harmlessly bounce off objects and protect you from enemy fire - but only for a short time.

Asteroids Deluxe is a great translation of the arcade game. Gone are the 7800's round and rendered, brightly-colored spheroids, and in their place are finely detailed, sharp-edged, pseudo-vector graphics. While the limitations of the 7800 don't allow for the kind of resolution necessary to really pull off a true vector "look", the graphics are still very faithful to the original game, except the vectors are green instead of the arcade game's light blue (which was achieved with a colored overlay). The audio is decent, but lacks the punch of the arcade game. There are some nice options available, including a couple of two-player simultaneous modes, and a "hidden" version of the original arcade Asteroids. There are some minor quibbles, like a lack of exhaust flame on the player's ship in Asteroids, no "arcade" difficulty setting (and no explanation in the manual as to what the different difficulty settings mean), and somewhat inconsistent collision detection at times; but these are fairly minor points. The bottom line is - Asteroids Deluxe has all the fun and frenetic gameplay of two original arcade classics.

The big question is - if you already have Atari's 7800 version of Asteroids, is there any reason to get this one? The answer is yes, if you're after a more arcade-like experience. Asteroids Deluxe is two classic games in one, and if you have a 7800, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy.

Space Duel

Space Duel is another extensive hack of the Atari 7800 version of Asteroids, re-creating the not-really-a-sequel third arcade game in the Asteroids series. Space Duel's gameplay is basically the same as Asteroids - fly around space, shooting apart various objects and the occasional flying saucer. But now the graphics are in full color, there are more different types of objects to shoot, and bonus rounds have been added. Space Duel's biggest change though, was the addition of several two-player simultaneous game play modes.

In the arcade version, you could opt to play either as separate ships, or as two ships tethered together. You could also choose to play as a single player, using both ships tethered together. Unfortunately, the tethered modes have been completely left out of the 7800 version of Space Duel, which really diminishes the uniqueness of it. All that distinguishes it from the Asteroids Deluxe hack is the variety of objects to blast and the bonus rounds. All of the objects are rendered very well however, nicely capturing the "pinwheels and polygons" look of the arcade game. It's a little disappointing though that both player ships use the same "ketchup bottle" shape, rather than each looking unique, as in the arcade version.

Space Duel retains all of the great game play of Asteroids-style games, but unless you're a die-hard Space Duel fan, you can get your space-rock blasting kicks with Asteroids Deluxe just as well. Even if you are a die-hard Space Duel fan, the odds are that you'll miss the tethered modes. Without all of the features that made Space Duel unique, and with the two-player modes available in Asteroids Deluxe, there's little reason to buy both. Perhaps combining Space Duel and Asteroids Deluxe on the same cart would have made for a better value.

Up next: Multi multi-carts.

Thanks for the reviews.

In Beef Drop "more" mode gives you access to 4 new boards after you clear the existing ones.

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In Beef Drop "more" mode gives you access to 4 new boards after you clear the existing ones.

Thanks! I'll update the review accordingly.

I was never good enough to clear the existing ones. ;)
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Thanks for the kind words :)FWIW, I actually tried to get the tethering on Space Duel. The game suffers from slowdown when there are many 'rocks' on the screen, so trying to add the table lookup for tethering would have made it that much worse. So I dropped it.Actually, at the time I was programming this, I was in contact with Owen Rubin, who was giving me a few pointers from when he programmed the arcade game. He was trying to find the source code to handle the tethering, but he couldn't. He eventually ended up giving me a small list of things that weren't exactly like the arcade, once I sent him a 7800 and a Space Duel cart for helping me. :)BTW, thanks for the props on Asteroids Deluxe as well. The Killer Satellite was a pain to program! BTW, I didn't include the thrust in the original Asteroids 'hidden' game because I ran out of sprites. :)
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That's very cool about getting help from Owen Rubin. I've read some of his website and he seems like a pretty decent guy.

It's always interesting reading about the reasons behind why features were or weren't added to homebrews. I suspected there was some technical reason behind it, but didn't know the specifics.
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