Previously, I mentioned at the very end of this post:
(My 2600) boots to a black screen unless my AtariVox is plugged into the right joystick port. For some reason.
That's not the only problem anymore. You see, I've been testing the Trak-Ball™ hacks on it.
Why have I been testing them?
Well I wouldn't have wanted to go to the trouble of designing labels for hacks that didn't work now, would I?
The problem is... some of them just won't work on my six-switch 2600.
What's weird is - some of them do work.
On my four-switch, all of the hacks work fine. Both of my CX-22 Trak-Balls™ work with all hacks on that system.
But on my six-switch, only these hacks work:
- Missile Command
- Colony 7
- Marble Craze
- Missile Control
- Plaque Attack
So those are all good. But these don't work on my six-switch:
- Centipede - controller only moves left and up/down. You can not go right, and you'll get stuck along left edge of screen.
- Millipede - Y axis is fine, but the X axis responds far too fast and makes moving/aiming impossible.
- SpaceMaster - same as Millipede.
- Star Wars - same as Millipede.
And yes - I'm using the correct versions where applicable, and those that auto-detect are doing so correctly:
So between that, and the problem with needing to have an AtariVox continually plugged in, I'm a-guessin' something is amiss with my 2600.
I'm observant like that.
So that means... I have to pull my 2600 apart. Again.
I'm assuming this is a RIOT problem again. But I'm not sure. So I'll have to do some chip swapping to find out. Ugh. But it won't happen anytime soon. I just got this thing put back together and I'm not inclined to go tearing it all apart right now.
But while I'm here, I do have some observations on the Trak-Ball™ hacks.
These aren't reviews, as such. Since for one thing, I only review games that I have on actual, released carts. Not fake renders. Plus, I have a gazillion other reviews to write before I get to these.
So consider this a warm-up.
For these first six games - playing them with a Trak-Ball™ is transformative, and these are "must-buys" when they're available:
- Missile Command - I already reviewed Missile Command, so check my comments there.
- Reactor - This is one of my favorite unsung 2600 titles, and this hack really lets it shine the way it always should have. It brings a lot of the arcade feel back to this title, and the controls are superb.
- Centipede; Millipede - Both are dramatically more playable (and fun!). If I had any complaint, the controls may be just a touch too fast. However, I'm perfectly willing to accept that perception is due to how bad I am at both games.
- The Challenge of Nexar; Colony 7 - Both feel like they should have always been Trak-Ball™ games. They almost play like entirely different games - the hacks are really that good.
Less successful are:
- Marble Craze - Just to be clear, the Trak-Ball™ is a noticeable improvement over using paddles. That said, I wish braking was more forgiving. I keep meaning to just slow down, and end up going over the edge. A lot. I'm not sure how to fix that. Some of it is due to the nature of a Trak-Ball™ being a free-form analog control, and some of the maze layouts being designed for you to go dead-straight vertically or horizontally to get through them. Rolling a Trak-Ball™ in a dead-straight line is next-to-impossible. Stopping on a dime to change direction in a dead-straight line is even closer-to-impossible. But again, the Trak-Ball™ is a significant improvement, and makes the game much more playable. I think for it to truly work to its fullest potential, some of the mazes would need to be redesigned with the Trak-Ball™ in mind, rather than paddles. Or there would have to be some sort of AI that would dampen X or Y axis input, depending on the predominant direction you were heading. Or something.
One lingering frustration that became more apparent the further I got into the game, is that it's not always clear what constitutes a path leading offscreen, since instead of having the path's color extend to the edge of the frame, there's a band of "falling to your death" color at the edge, such as the blue on the right side of the Berzerk robot:
To me, that says "don't go here". So I'm always second-guessing that. This is especially obnoxious on the Adventure maze level, which looks like it's full of dead-ends, but isn't.
Finally, on the hack, there's a graphic glitch on the title screen (it shows up on real hardware, too):
- Missile Control - This is a pretty obscure game, and while the Trak-Ball™ moves your aiming cursor around just fine, the game's control scheme is wonky to begin with. Firing directly at the enemy works well, but then you're expected to ricochet shots off of huge rockets flying up either side of the screen. As the game progresses, this is the only way to hit enemies, and it's more guesswork than anything. It doesn't help that your range of motion is limited so you can't always aim where you want to. This is part of the original game, and the Trak-Ball™ can only help so much.
- Plaque Attack - Another game with wonky controls in the original. Again, the Trak-Ball™ works fine for moving you around, but Activision blew it with this one, in that you can only aim up or down. They should've made aiming four-way. That would've vastly improved this game. Plus not making it about teeth would've helped it be less weird. But hey... dental hygiene education. I guess.
- SpaceMaster X-7 - I haven't played this enough to determine if the Trak-Ball™ really helps or not. I tend to find myself wanting to stay in one spot, fire for awhile, move, fire, move, and repeat. The Track-Ball™ doesn't lend itself to that, but when you do need to move around, it works well.
- Star Wars: The Arcade Game - The 2600 version of Star Wars has one of the worst control schemes of any 2600 game. I hated it so much when it first came out, I returned it to Toys 'R' Us and exchanged it for something else. Gyruss, I think. By using the same objects for the crosshairs and lasers, aiming and firing becomes a sluggish, inaccurate chore. Having a limited range of motion doesn't help. The Trak-Ball™ does improve it marginally, but it can't save what was a bad design to begin with.
Anyway... if any of you hardware-inclined types have any suggestions on what's ailing my 2600 this time, let me know in the comments. I'd really like to get this thing back to 100%. Finally.