Hype, I don’t get it, all it usually does is raise expectations to a ludicrously high degree. Usually the expectations get so high that the final product could never fulfill those wild expectations. What if then, you have a game that flew under the radar for so long that nobody but a small few even noticed it, add onto that the fact that it was only released in any quantity on a console that almost nobody owned. Food Fight falls perfectly into that oddly specific category of game. Originally it was a modest hit in arcades in ’84 and was officially released on the Atari 7800 three years later in 1987 and later still on Atari’s XE line of computers in ’89, but we don’t talk about that one. Call me crazy but I think this was supposed to be the 7800’s “Killer App” the game you couldn’t get from Nintendo or Sega, only Atari could give you Food Fight. Unfortunately, even though it sold well among 7800 owners it couldn’t save the 7800 from the juggernauts Nintendo or Sega and their (i.e. Nintendo’s) highly restrictive licensing practices, which strangled and killed the 7800 more than Atari ever could. The hype for Food Fight is real though, and I’m inclined to believe it as it seems to have grown after the game was released, not before. So, is this something that neither Nintendo nor Sega could give us? Let’s get this party started with Food Fight for the Atari 7800!
First impressions aren’t all that good, if you ask me this game looks right at home with games from the 5200, not the cutting edge 7800. Believe me though this game impresses in different ways, perhaps the graphics aren’t all that impressive looking, but remember this is a port of a 1984 arcade game and if you ask me this looks pretty darn close. There are several highly impressive graphical effects used in the game but they are tied in with the gameplay so I’ll explain them in the gameplay section, but just as a note: there is absolutely zero flicker anywhere in the game. Just remember that when I explain those effects later.
The sounds are a selection of highly satisfying arcade-y beeps and trills, with a smattering of music here and there. I suppose that would be the perfect word to describe the sounds, satisfying. Everything feels right, from running around the screen, throwing food, beating the stage, and even collecting the bonus. I feel that this might be the first time an Atari game that claims to have ‘arcade quality sounds’ actually delivers on that lofty claim. Now, if the sounds are satisfying then the gameplay is ten times as satisfying.
You have a simple goal, get to the ice cream and eat it. As you journey across the screen you will be harassed by a load of chefs, they will take a life if they touch you. To protect yourself you must throw food at them to scare them away but watch out, more chefs will appear from holes in the floor, don’t fall in! That’s the basic gist of it, it seems very simple but the execution is fantastic. The controls are responsive, throwing food is quick and fun and if you happen upon a watermelon you can throw as many handfuls of food as you want, covering the screen in sticky sweet goodness. Upon reaching the ice cream cone, the child’s head grows three sizes and its mouth opens like a snake to fit the whole thing in, the cone is larger than the child’s body. The animation is amazingly smooth and is almost hypnotizing to watch. Upon completing each stage all of the unthrown food will fly up to the score, each piece of food adds 100 points to your score and my goodness is it amazing to watch, especially if you managed to not throw any food in that screen. When you get caught all of the food conglomerates on your body and you get suffocated and eventually die. Seriously, this is just a wholly satisfying game to play, as the game progresses the screens get more and more dense with food, chefs and pits, apparently there are 100 screens, and I’d believe it!
This is a fantastic game that, while not being as complicated as Super Mario or Sonic, is far more rewarding to play and is just so damn satisfying! Copies are fairly cheap with loose carts starting at less than eight dollars and boxed copies starting at seventeen dollars. No Collector’s Zone today, the game is just too good, and cheap to boot.