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  1. Back to the venerable 2600, and two games that have some of the best label art ever! K.O. Cruiser 5/5 K.O. Cruiser is a boxing game that harkens back to the arcade classic Punch-Out!! You control the transparent outline of a boxer, throwing punches and dodging blows from your opponents. You win by either knocking them out or going the distance and getting the judges' decision. If you get knocked down, you have only seconds to get back up before you're counted out. K.O. Cruiser is a game that I never expected to see attempted on the 2600. The transparent boxer works extremely well, especially considering the 2600's graphics limitations. All of the opponents look terrific, with excellent detail and funny expressions when they get hit, and they all exhibit distinct personalities and fighting styles. The controls work well, although all you can do is essentially punch, block and dodge (you can't choose between a body blow or uppercut, for example), but for this game nothing else seems really necessary. The sound is good throughout the game, with each opponent having their own musical theme when introduced. I wish that AtariVox support could have been added for the ring announcer, and to have opponents taunt you or respond when hit. There are only six opponents in the game, and while you'll probably get through the first few on the easy setting pretty quickly, in the higher difficulties you're going to find yourself on the canvas quite a lot. K.O. Cruiser is an excellent game, well-worth buying whether you're into boxing or not. The game is a blast to play, the characters are a lot of fun, and there are difficulty levels suitable for any player. There are already sequels in the works, so we will get the chance to see more characters. With any luck, maybe we'll get AtariVox support at some point, too. Or at least some ring girls. Duck Attack! 5/5 In the original Adventure for the 2600, the dragons that were attacking you looked more like giant ducks. Well there's no ambiguity in Duck Attack!, because now you actually are being attacked by giant ducks. And not just any ducks - but fire-breathing, radioactive, mutated, evil ducks that lay plutonium eggs. Fortunately, you have a trusty robot minion at your disposal to enter the mad scientist's labyrinthine lair to retrieve all of their eggs, and put a stop to his evil plans. Duck Attack! plays much like Adventure, in that you explore a maze, pick up objects to use (or to gain bonus points), unlock new areas to explore, and battle giant ducks. The world of Duck Attack! is huge, and mapping it out is essential if you're going to find your way around. There are many obstacles to overcome, items to collect, ducks (and other enemies) to battle, areas to unlock, and a lot of guest appearances by familiar video game icons. Your goal is to collect radioactive eggs left throughout the maze, and use them to unlock doors to other areas. Collect all 25 eggs, and you will have successfully completed your mission. If all of your robots get eaten by ducks (or are otherwise killed) then it's game over. Along the way, you can also pick up speed-boosts, extra lives, shields, flashlights (to illuminate otherwise dark rooms), a rechargeable zapper to fend off enemies, and more. The graphics in Duck Attack! are outstanding. All of the sprites are large and multi-colored, and the ducks are especially impressive. To be sure, there's a lot of Adventure-like flicker, but it isn't too bad, and doesn't detract any from the enjoyment of the game. The sound is very good, with some helpful audio cues warning you of nearby enemies. If you have a SaveKey or AtariVox hooked up, it will save your top five high scores, but more impressively - you can save your progress mid-game. This means you can save your game, switch off your Atari, and resume right where you left off. How many times have you wished for that in other 2600 games? Duck Attack! isn't just an homage to Adventure, it's a complete re-imagining of it. With impressive graphics, a huge world to explore, and a terrifically fun concept, you can't go wrong with it. Even if you're not a fan of the original Adventure, Duck Attack! stands on its own as one of the best, and certainly most unique, homebrew titles. < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  2. Time again to dust off the ol' 7800. Failsafe 4/5 Failsafe is an unofficial sequel to the Atari 5200 game Countermeasure. Having never played Countermeasure, I can't judge Failsafe's success as a sequel, only on its own merits as a standalone title. The goal of the game is to drive a tank across hostile enemy territory, while destroying enemy gun emplacements, jeeps, terrorists and cruise missiles, while collecting pieces to a code that will allow you to to disarm a nuclear missile before they can launch it. To help you in this task, you can collect power-ups to increase your speed, make you temporarily invulnerable, freeze your enemies, extend your firing range, and so on. If all of your tanks are destroyed or you fail to enter the code in time, the bad guys win. The controls are simple - just move and shoot. However, your tank moves frustratingly slow (especially when you encounter certain types of terrain), which makes it all the more imperative to pick up power-ups whenever you can. You can move and fire in eight directions, but the 45° angles aren't actually 45°, which takes some getting used to, since you have to line up shots at odd angles. The plus side is that the enemies actually do shoot at 45° angles, so you can sneak up on them. The sound effects are minimal, but adequate. The graphics are detailed, but the limited color palette makes the game rather plain looking, and it's difficult to read the tiny letters that distinguish the power-ups. Generally, I just pick up anything I run across, and hope it's something useful. Unique icons or different colors would have helped make them more distinct. There's good variety to the terrain, although sometimes you're forced to slog your way through nearly impassible sections that can make the game more frustrating than fun. The 7800's second fire button isn't used for anything special, which is too bad. It would have been nice to be able to pick up and save a power-up for later use. Failsafe plays very much like Strategy X does on the 2600 - you drive a tank, you shoot some stuff. But from a 7800 title, I'd hope for something more - like less linear progression, or requiring the player to get out of the tank and fight hand-to-hand or switch vehicles (like Taito's Front Line). Still, Failsafe is a pretty good game as it is, and there are multiple difficulty settings which let you find a good match for your skill level. < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  3. In my Cave In review, I'd mentioned that I'd made maps of the game to work my way through it. I completely neglected to post them, and I was recently asked to, so here they are. There's a non-spoiler version which is just a map of the main caves. It can help you get around from place to place easier, but won't show the hidden areas: cave-in-map-no-spoilers.pdf And there's also a spoiler version, which shows the entire cave, plus has labels showing where everything is located: cave-in-map-spoilers.pdf As near as I can tell, the spoiler version is complete, although I'm not sure about one room. But given the vastness of Cave In, it's entirely possible I missed something, or many things. I strongly recommend though, that you take the time to map the game out yourself (and just use these to compare your results after you finish it). When I played it, that's where a lot of the fun came from. If you're stuck, I'd suggest checking out some of the documentation posted in the Cave In development forum thread. The earlier version of the manual posted there does a nice, concise job of spelling out what you need to do to win the game, without telling you how to do it.
  4. So it's time to go back to the arcade! Or perhaps "hack to the arcade", since these reviews are all about AtariAge's "Arcade" hacks. As with previous hacks the question is: Is a hack worth paying for if you already own the original game? This entry also contains my 100th Homebreview! It's hard to believe, but I've gotten almost as many games from AtariAge as commercial releases that I'd bought back-in-the-day. And there are even more new games on the way. But first... Pac-Man Arcade 4/5 Pac-Man Arcade is an extensive hack of Ms. Pac-Man that turns it into a pretty-good approximation of the arcade version of Pac-Man. The improvements over Atari's own Pac-Man are dramatic, since Ms. Pac-Man featured less flickering, better sound, better graphics, and mazes that were more in line with the arcade game, and these changes follow through to Pac-Man Arcade. The game plays just as well as Ms. Pac-Man with very precise controls, and well-balanced gameplay. The bonus items have been altered to match Pac-Man's arcade bonuses, and the maze has been changed to resemble the arcade game as well, although it's not quite an exact match. There's a title screen and demo mode, but none of the in-game intermissions. One minor gameplay gripe - the fastest monster in this hack is the wrong color (light blue, instead of red). If you're looking for a better Pac-Man on the 2600, Pac-Man Arcade is far and away superior to Atari's version, and is the closest you'll get to the arcade game, at least until someone programs a new version from scratch. Space Invaders Arcade 3/5 Space Invaders Arcade hacks the graphics of Atari's Space Invaders to better mimic the original arcade game's graphics. Both the sprites and colors have been changed and look pretty good, although the bottom two rows of invaders look slightly off, and the flying saucer is still more of a blob than a saucer. All of the original game variations are present, including the double-shot cheat. The sounds have also been altered some, although the 2600 really isn't capable of reproducing the arcade sounds very well. If you're looking for a version of Space Invaders that looks more like its arcade counterpart, this will work well enough, but I wish there were more to it. There's a different, more extensive hack that turns Space Invaders into Space Invaders Deluxe, complete with title screen, intermissions, different invaders, and other nice touches. It would be great to be able to get a cartridge that included both Space Invaders Deluxe and Space Invaders Arcade. As it is, for those of us who wish Atari had replicated the arcade graphics better in the first place, this is a pretty good alternative. Galaxian Arcade 3/5 Galaxian Arcade takes Atari's Galaxian and gives it several graphics tweaks to make it look more like the arcade original. First, the yellow borders have been removed, which have always been an odd-looking distraction; then the sprites have been altered to more closely resemble the arcade game's. What's particularly impressive is that through a clever use of animation, the sprites bob up and down slightly, similar to the arcade version, which is something Atari's version never did. The graphics' improvements look very good, although a couple of things have been overlooked - some of the dive-bombing sprites don't match the new designs, and when the top two rows of aliens dive-bomb, their colors are wrong (the yellow aliens turn white, and the red aliens turn yellow). The player's ship could probably match the arcade version better, but it has been improved some. Galaxian Arcade is a solid effort at making a more arcade-like Galaxian on the 2600. While not perfect, just the removal of the yellow border by itself may be a compelling enough reason to pick this up. Next time: Three non-games. Can't you just taste the excitement? < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  5. Ah yes, the Atari 7800... the poster child for "too little, too late". The 7800 had great promise when it was previewed in Electronic Games magazine back in '84, but the industry crash killed it before it even got out the door. By the time it was finally released several years later (to cash in on the success of the NES), nobody took notice, and nobody wanted to take a chance developing titles for it. The 7800's miniscule library eventually was the death knell for the system, at least as far as most people were concerned... But now there's an active homebrew community for the 7800, and we're starting to see some of the potential titles we missed out on... Space Invaders 4/5 In Space Invaders (as if you didn't already know...) you control a mobile laser cannon that must blast away at never-ending hordes of alien invaders who are trying to take over your planet. You have shields you can temporarily hide behind, but the aliens' march is relentless, and eventually they'll land and it's game over. Space Invaders is a great port of the arcade classic for the Atari 7800. The graphics and gameplay are spot-on, and there are the usual wealth of options: invisible invaders, moving shields, faster enemy bombs, etc. The sounds are pretty good, although the 7800 simply can't reproduce the original arcade game's distinctive sound effects. You can change the colors used in the game to mimic different overlays that were used in the arcade cabinets, and the options menu looks like it would have been right at home on the arcade original, but there's no hint of the background artwork that the arcade game featured. There's also a hidden option to use the 2600 version's graphics instead, although they're a bit squashed-looking, and the 2600 sounds aren't used. If you want Space Invaders on the 7800, this port delivers. However, given the capabilities of the 7800, I kept wishing there was more to it - like the inclusion of Space Invaders Deluxe, or some of the other Taito games of that era like Galaxy Wars or Lunar Rescue. As it is, it's a really good version of Space Invaders, but for $30 it just doesn't seem like quite enough. Jr. Pac-Man 5/5 Jr. Pac-Man is one of many sequels to Pac-Man, this time featuring Pac-Man's son. The usual group of monsters is in pursuit, and you're still eating dots and power pellets, but the key difference this time is that the maze is much wider than usual, meaning you have a lot more dots to eat, and a lot more ground to cover. Complicating matters are the lack of escape tunnels and the toy bonus items that periodically bounce through the maze. Instead of just benignly hopping around waiting to be eaten, the toys turn normal dots into larger ones that dramatically slow you down (but give you more points), and they'll also destroy your power pellets if you don't get to them in time. Jr. Pac-Man is an excellent port of the arcade game. The graphics, including the title screen and intermissions are all faithfully reproduced. The sound is very good, although the 7800's limitations are noticeable. The game plays like the original, and is just as mercilessly hard. Fortunately, there are options available to increase Jr.'s speed and give him more lives, and you more of a chance to survive. Jr. Pac-Man is a solid addition to the growing library of Pac-franchise titles for the 7800. It may be a bit too difficult for the casual gamer, but die-hard Pac-fans who are looking for a serious challenge should check it out. Super Pac-Man 3/5 Super Pac-Man is yet-another Pac-Man sequel. In this game though, much of what made Pac-Man a successful formula has been stripped away. Instead of having to clear off a whole screen full of dots, you first must eat several keys which unlock doors to a greatly simplified maze, then eat the fruit (or similar items) inside. The four familiar power pellets are still present, but now you also have two additional super pellets, which turn Pac-Man into a massive, invincible version of his former self, capable of smashing through locked doors and running over monsters at super-speed as if they weren't there. Super Pac-Man for the 7800 is a hard game to review. While it's an excellent port of the arcade game, the game that it's a port of is only mediocre to begin with. All of the changes completely ruin the dynamic of the Pac-formula, and the addition of the super pellets (plus super-speed if you hold down the fire button) make the game ridiculously easy. You don't even have to eat all the keys to beat a level, and with the absence of a maze full of dots to clear, there's very little strategy needed. It's more of a free-for-all than a maze game. Just grab a power pellet, eat some fruit, grab another pellet, kill some monsters, repeat several times, and by the time you get to the sixth pellet, you should have what little maze there is cleared out. The bonus items have also been changed so that now the point value is just random. If two flashing items happen to match when you pick up a bonus star, you'll get a huge bonus. If not, you'll get just a few hundred points. So your final score may depend less on skill than on luck. There are also bonus rounds during which there are no monsters at all, just items to pick up to pad your score. There's nothing but a clock to beat, no real challenge, and the idea seems tacked on as an afterthought. What's Pac-Man without monsters? While I can't recommend Super Pac-Man because the underlying gameplay is so flawed, strictly taken on its merits as a port of an arcade game it's very well done. If you're already a fan of Super Pac-Man, then you should pick this up. The gameplay and graphics are faithful to the original, including the intermissions and bonus rounds. The sound suffers from the 7800's limitations, but it's serviceable. However, if you've never played Super Pac-Man and are looking for a good Pac-Man themed game, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. Wasp! 2/5 I'm not sure what to make of Wasp!. Even though it's an original game, it plays more like a non-violent hack of Robotron. While there are no instructions included, the premise is simple enough: collect mushrooms, avoid wasps. And that's it. You have no weapons, no bonus items, and the graphics never seem to change. You're always collecting the same thing, always pursued by the same five enemies. The difficulty ramps up gradually, but there's no variety to the game - it's just the same thing over and over. Even a change in the colors of the objects would have been welcomed. I don't know if any extra lives can be earned or not (none show up as of 20,000 points), and there are no other game variations that I could find. The graphics are decent but sparse, and the sound is minimal. Wasp! seems more like a mini-game, or the early beginnings of a game idea, rather than a full-fledged, completed one. It's not that it's bad, it's just that there's not much there. Perhaps if it was part of a compilation I could recommend it, but as it is, Wasp! just doesn't have enough going for it. Next time: Back to the arcade! < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  6. What did we ever do to outer-space? They're always trying to bring us down with their interplanetary attacks and endless hoards of invading aliens! Buncha jerks... (Personally... I think they're after our CheeseKorn.) Backfire 4/5 In most "shoot the aliens before they reach you and destroy you" games, you're completely outnumbered by the enemy. But in Backfire, you have two cannons at your disposal, and only one enemy attacking which never even fires a shot. Sound easy? Well, you're more likely to end up shooting yourself than the bad guys, since the shots from one of your cannons can destroy the other, or worse yet, bounce back off one of the enemy's shields and come right back in your face. And if one cannon bites the dust, so does the other. Lose them all, and lose the game. Backfire was a very frustrating game starting out, since I tend to play this type of a game with a "shoot first, and forget about asking questions" approach. But with Backfire, patience and careful shotmaking are the keys. You have to be sure that if you miss your target, you aren't going to blow up your other cannon, or hit one of the many shields populating the screen and have your shot reflected back at you. You must always be aware of where your shot is going to go and where your cannons are at all times. Making the game even more challenging is that the shields are always in motion, so you can't just camp out in a comfortable spot and blast away. Plus, if the enemy ship gets too close to you, your ship shudders violently, making it a matter of luck whether you hit him or not. The enemy ship can attack either of your cannons, so you must switch control between them and shift your focus from one half of the screen to the other. And if that wasn't enough to deal with, there are bonus ships that fly across the center of the screen which make for tempting targets... and distractions. Once I got over not being able to blast everything in sight, I enjoyed Backfire. I think it's still a very hard game, and there are times when it seems a bit unfair - such as if you get shot, you're momentarily incapacitated, but the enemy just keeps coming and you can easily lose two lives in rapid succession. Of course, the only way to get shot is by shooting yourself, so I suppose it's good incentive not to do that. There's not much sound in the game, and some audio cues for the enemy getting closer or the bonus ships approaching would have been a nice addition. The graphics are pretty good, although some of the colors don't have very good contrast. One complaint is that you can't start a new game with the fire button, so you're going to need to reach for the Reset switch quite a lot. Also, the collision detection is a little off, so your shots will pass right through the enemy ship's tail from time to time. Backfire is a good game though if you're looking for something that's a little different, and a definite challenge. Inv+ 3/5 Inv+ is all about aliens invading from space, and as always, you have to shoot every last one of them before they shoot you or land on your planet. But this time, there are more of them than ever! Inv+ is a different take on the homebrew Space Invaders concept, where instead of trying to accurately re-create the look of the original arcade game, the focus is more on re-creating the gameplay and feel of it. The end result is the only 2600 invader game with all 55 aliens on screen. The way the graphics are handled keeps the aliens small and in proportion with the screen, but it also looks very blocky with each alien being only two rather chunky pixels wide. Obviously, this severely limits any sort of detail, but once you get past the looks, the game plays pretty well. The speed of the aliens feels right, the UFO scoring is patterned after the arcade version, plus there's a simultaneous two-player option and an invisible invaders mode. In the end, Inv+ does a good job of putting up a lot of enemies on screen and making it work. It's still basically just Space Invaders, but it manages to do that pretty well - if you can look past the blocky graphics. Space Instigators 3/5 In Space Instigators, it's you against those pesky space-invading aliens again. Dodge their shots and shoot 'em all before they land or it's game over. And while this may all seem familiar, it's not quite the same game you remember playing on your 2600, or at the arcade. Space Instigators is a homebrew version of Space Invaders written from scratch, with the goal of making a more accurate version than what Atari produced. Instead of just six invaders across, Instigators manages an impressive nine without any flicker. The sprites look closer to the original arcade version as well, although the bottom two rows aren't quite right, and the UFO that flies across the top of the screen is disproportionately huge. While the game looks pretty good on the surface, there are some shortcomings with it. First, the sound effects are dominated by a "popping" sound every time a shot hits something - like firecrackers going off. Second is the aforementioned UFO, which moves far too fast across the screen to really factor into the game; hitting it is more a matter of luck that anything. Third, there are no variations or options - just a single, one-player game. Finally, and most critical, is a limitation of the 2600 itself: the display area just isn't big enough. The aliens take up so much space, that it only takes the whole group a few steps to reach the edge of the screen, and within seconds of starting a game, they've already gone across and back. The strategy of moving into a clear area to pick off one column at a time suffers greatly, and while a large number of aliens may appear more arcade-like, the whole game feels out-of-proportion. Although an impressive programming feat, in the case of Space Instigators, more isn't always better. The game comes in a plastic VHS tape box, with a nicely printed cover insert. At about 50¢ each, it's a good solution for affordable homebrew boxes. I didn't really care for the cartridge being held in place with Velcro, but having a box didn't have any bearing on this review one way or the other. This Planet Sucks 3/5 This Planet Sucks is a port of the vintage Taito arcade game Lunar Rescue. Your mission is to land on a planet, rescue trapped colonists, and then blast back up to your orbiting mothership before running out of fuel. You can only carry one colonist at a time, and there are three to rescue per level. If you lose all three colonists, or crash all of your spaceships, the game is over. This Planet Sucks is a pretty good translation which captures a lot of the gameplay of the original. The animation of the panicky colonists running around (or writhing on the ground if you land on them) is pretty funny, and reminiscent of the arcade version. What's lacking however, is the ability to shoot at the orbiting asteroids and enemy spaceships on your way back into orbit. This was a big part of the original, and it's really missed here. The graphics look good, although the garish colors may give you a headache (an option to play the game in the original arcade colors would have been welcomed), and the sound is adequate. There are no game options or variations, such as different platform locations or shapes, difficulty settings, or two-player modes; and you can't start a new game using the fire button. There's also a bug that will pop up from time to time: if you crash into the top-most asteroid when descending, the game will instantly reset - even if you had multiple lives left. Still, This Planet Sucks doesn't suck - it's a nice throwback that manages to capture some of the fun of those early video games, and it's one of the better bargains in the AtariAge store. Asteroids DC+ 3/5 Asteroids DC+ is a hack of Asteroids that uses the Indy 500 driving controller to rotate the spaceship, rather than just the left/right directions on a joystick. The gameplay has also been made slightly harder, and the sprites have been changed to look more like vector graphics. The graphics changes look pretty good, but seem to have caused a problem with collision detection where your shots will occasionally pass straight through some of the smaller asteroids. Also, a black and white mode would have been a nice option, to better resemble the arcade graphics. There were no instructions included, so I guess it's presumed you either already own Asteroids, or can look up the manual online. But you'll have to also look up the hack's webpage to discover that the driving controller needs to be plugged into the right joystick port. Once you've done that, the driving controller spins the ship very quickly and accurately. The problem is, if you expect to be able to actually play the game beyond just spinning and firing, you'll need to combine the driving controller with some sort of multi-button controller (similar to the arcade game) in order to have enough buttons to thrust, fire and activate hyperspace (or shields). Do that, and you'll end up with something that works very well - like the arcade versions of Omega Race or Cosmic Chasm. However, if you go to the trouble of buying or building a five-button controller, you might as well just use that since the driving controller doesn't really improve on it much. If you don't already own a copy of Asteroids, you might consider buying Asteroids DC+, but be prepared to buy or build an additional controller (in addition to getting a driving controller) to really make it work. But if you already own Asteroids, save your money, get yourself a five button controller, and skip this edition. Missile Command TB 5/5 The underlying question of a hack is: does it improve the game enough to make it worth buying again, if you already own the original? With Missile Command TB (for use with the Atari Trak-Ball) the answer is "yes". The arcade version of Missile Command used a Trak-Ball to aim with, but the 2600's joystick control always fell short. Missile Command TB solves this by bringing Trak-Ball control home. Prior to this hack, you could already plug in a Trak-Ball and use it with the 2600 version of Missile Command, but it wasn't true analog control with variable speed and direction. Instead, it simply reproduced the eight directions and one speed of a joystick, no matter how the ball was rolled. But now Missile Command TB allows you to switch the Trak-Ball from Joystick mode to true Trak-Ball mode, and gain full analog control over the aiming cursor. Speed, direction and distance all respond exactly the way they should. This really transforms what was already an excellent game into a much more satisfying arcade-like experience, giving you incredibly responsive and precise control. There were no instructions included with Missile Command TB on how to select different Trak-Ball speeds, or choose any other game options, so you'll need to go online somewhere and dig that up. Still, not only is this hack worth buying, it's worth buying a Trak-Ball for, too. Up next: Fun things to do in the backseat of a car. < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  7. Today marks the fourth anniversary of my blog! And to celebrate the event... the review that nobody thought would ever happen! (And no, I don't mean N.E.R.D.S 2 ) Yes, it's Actionauts. So, you're probably wondering, "How and or why the sweaty heck did you get Actionauts?!?" After all, I wasn't exactly enamored with the marketing fiasco associated with it. Simply put, I got a comp copy for having done some work on the manual and label. Ain't no way I'd plunk down $79.95 for an unfinished/prototype/reproduction/collectible. It's just not my thing. Nonetheless, a year-and-a-half after doing the work (I guess that answers the question of what my time's worth), I got my copy of the game, and decided to give it a fair shake. No, seriously... Actionauts 2/5 Actionauts was a prototype game programmed by Rob Fulop in 1984, after his departure from Imagic. As the video game market collapsed, the 2600 version of this game was shelved until recently when it was revived and spruced up for a limited edition release. In Actionauts, your goal is to program a little robot to navigate a series of mazes to reach a goal (referred to as "the cheese"). In one screen, you see the maze with your robot and the cheese; in the other, you enter in your program that will move your robot. You have three commands you can tell the robot: move ahead, turn left, and turn right. There's also a "jump" button, which makes your program jump back to the top, so it will run in a loop. This is a necessary element in later mazes, because you only have a limited number of program lines to use, and you can't reach the goal without using loops. So a big part of this is figuring out which loop, when repeated, will get you to the cheese. Actionauts is an interesting concept, but clearly a very unfinished prototype. For one thing, there's no way to lose a game. You just keep endlessly trying, failing, and reprogramming your robot over and over, until you reach the cheese - then you move onto the next maze, and do the whole process again. And while it's interesting enough the first time you get to a maze, once you figure it out, there's really no reason to revisit it. There's no score to improve on, and even if there's more than one solution per maze, there's no reward for using the fewest possible moves, or penalty for using more moves than necessary. There's also no way to clear a program (short of hitting Reset), and since your program can be long enough to extend off the screen, it's hard to keep track of exactly where you are within your program. Line numbers would have been most welcomed, or color coding so every fifth and tenth line would be different colors. Just counting symbols is tedious, plus there's no clear indicator of the top or bottom of your program - you just have to scroll until it stops to see where the ends are (hint: keep some scratch paper handy). While the program is running, the command being executed is the one that just went off the screen. Having it highlighted when executed would have been better, so you'd get a clear idea of where your program failed. There are also some bugs in the game, including one where you can't see which command you've selected, another where the screen rolls badly when switching to the maze, and one where the robot sprite gets distorted (but that's far less frequent). These all seem to clear out by switching between the maze and programming screens, but still the first two happened pretty frequently even in my relatively brief time with the game. The sound is pretty minimal, and is really hurting for some robot noises and computer blips and bleeps. The robot graphics are disappointing - having a more interesting looking robot and a variety of objects to collect (or rescue) would have added more appeal to the game. Certainly, there's some potential in Actionauts. The original design notes hinted at more. Adding enemies to shoot, obstacles to move, objects to pick up, walls to tunnel through, etc, could have made for a pretty cool game. But none of that is here. It's a good start, but that's about it. Admittedly, I did have some fun cranking up the robot's speed all the way and watching him repeatedly bash into the walls - but that's not really the point of the game. The "exclusive limited edition" of Actionauts came in a nicely printed box, with a manual and a photocopy of the original design notes describing the concept of the game. There is no insert to hold the cart in place, so perhaps this explains why it was stuffed into the same form-fitting bag with the manual - to keep it from rattling around in the box. Unfortunately, that resulted in the manual being wrapped around the cartridge and getting creased - probably something most collectors wouldn't appreciate. The cart and box are both signed and numbered, and mine is #204 (or #207, depending on how you decipher the handwriting). Box or not, Actionauts is basically just a collector's item. It was always intended as a collector's item, despite some extra work being put into it to make it more playable. And while it is playable, it's not really re-playable. It may take you awhile to work through the mazes (if you decide it's worth doing), but then there's nothing left to do with it. So Actionauts is a collector's item, a historical footnote, and an interesting concept. But as-is, it's not really much of a game. Next time: Who's on First? < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  8. Well, between working on my entry for the Medieval Mayhem contest and other projects, I managed to get in some quality time with several of the new homebrews I got from the AtariAge store. I decided to tackle the Ebivision games first, since I've never played any of them before, and have been curious about them for some time. They've achieved a sort-of legendary status, probably due to the lack of readily available ROMs, more than anything. So, do they measure up to the hype? Ebivision Five-Pack (this will include all five reviews in the store review) 3/5 Ebivision games are kind of hit and miss. They have a couple of excellent games, a couple of average ones, and one complete stinker. All of the manuals have back stories for the games, which adds a nice extra dimension to them. Price-wise, this is a good deal if you really want all five Ebivision games. But the only two games I can really recommend are Power Off! and Allia Quest. Unfortunately, Ebivision doesn't make the ROMs available, so you can't check out the games ahead of time. You'll have to decide if it's really worth the risk for all five or not. Ebivision Four-Pack (this will include all five reviews in the store review, except for Power Off!) 2/5 Given that one of Ebivision's best games - Power Off! - isn't included here, there's not much left to recommend about this four-pack. Unless you're a collector and absolutely must have all of Ebivision's games, save your money and just buy Allia Quest. And now... the individual games: Alfred Challenge 3/5 Alfred Challenge is a typical platform game, where you climb, jump and slide, while avoiding enemies and trying to figure your way out of each level. The added challenge is that you must find a series of keys in order to unlock various parts of each level. You can't just go through a level from one end to the other to get out - you often have to backtrack once you've opened a door in order to grab the next key. This means you really have to master sections of each level, which does help with the replay value. Unfortunately, Alfred Challenge isn't terribly exciting. The controls are adequate, but a little sluggish, and the sounds and graphics are merely average. For example, Alfred doesn't have any animation for climbing ladders - he merely slides up them sideways. You also can't start the game with the fire button, there's no score, and as far as I can tell, no way to earn additional lives. Alfred Challenge isn't a bad game, it's just a little dull, and it seems unfinished - especially compared to other games of its genre. Allia Quest 4/5 Allia Quest is an excellent vertical shooter featuring large, colorful graphics that would be right at home in the classic arcade game Astro Blaster. The graphics in this game are absolutely superb, including a multi-level star field which gives a very nice sense of depth and movement, and the most impressive title screen I've seen on any 2600 game. The gameplay isn't anything new - you just shoot everything that attacks you and try not to get hit. But it is well executed, and the game is fun and challenging with good replay value. On the downside, there's no indication of how many lives (shields) you have left, and you can't use the fire button to restart after losing a game. Both of these are pretty obvious omissions, but don't detract too much from it being a good game. An additional element - such as needing to refuel periodically (as in Astro Blaster) would have been a nice touch, but even as it stands, Allia Quest is definitely recommended. Merlin's Walls 1/5 Merlin's Walls is a 3-D, first-person maze game. The goal is to simply find your way out of a series of mazes. The problem is, in order to make 3-D work, the programmer rotated the game 90 degrees. To play it you either have to lay on your side (which is a literal pain-in-the-neck), or turn your TV on its side. This effectively reduces Merlin's Walls to little more than a technological curiosity, and not much of a game. But to be fair, I dug out my old portable TV, and flipped it on its side (I wasn't about to do this with my 27" set). Well, it looks right-side-up now. Inside the maze. Once rotated, the game becomes playable, but with no indication of which way you're facing (some sort of compass is desperately needed) it's almost impossible to get oriented. Even with the included map of the first level, I struggled to find my way out. Through sheer luck, I managed to get through the first four mazes, but it was more guesswork than skill, and more frustrating than fun. Merlin's Walls seems like a case of a game engine in search of an idea. A different concept where you didn't have to rotate the TV (or you) 90 degrees would have helped. Maybe flying up and down corridors (like in the Death Star II at the end of Return of the Jedi) could have been adapted for it. If you're looking for a first-person game on the 2600, you can do better. Save your money and get Skeleton+ or a used copy of Tunnel Runner instead. Pesco 3/5 Pesco is a pretty decent Pac-Man clone. But instead of Pac-Man, you're a fish named Pesco, who must eat plankton and avoid getting eaten by three hungry crabs. If you eat glowing plankton, you can turn the tables on the crabs and eat them. The basic elements from Pac-Man are here, except the maze is a little different, and there are only three crabs chasing you. While fewer crabs means less flickering, it also makes the game easier. Maybe too easy. The graphics are very good, but the sound is absolutely minimal. A few more sound effects could have really helped make the game seem more finished. There doesn't seem to be a way to earn extra lives, and in what seems to be an Ebivision tradition - you can't use the fire button to restart the game after losing. Pesco is enjoyable enough if you like Pac-Man, and probably a good game for kids, but it could really have used better audio, some additional mazes for variety, and another crab. Power Off! 5/5 Ebivision's most recent game is also their best. A very simple premise with absolutely addictive gameplay, you must deactivate power cells scattered on different levels, while avoiding sentry robots. You have no weapons - just speed and agility. The controls are near-perfect, and the game requires both patience and quick reflexes. You must analyze each of the robots' movements, carefully plan around them, then run for your life! The graphics are excellent, with a nice variation of robot designs, good animation of the player, and a very cool scrolling title screen. The sounds are well done, including some nice title screen music, and the ever-present pulsating of a supercomputer gone wrong. My only minor gripes with the game are: there doesn't seem to be any way to earn bonus lives, and - as with all Ebivision games - you can't start a new game using the fire button. Even so, I highly recommend this game, including the extra few bucks to get the professionally printed box. There are few things that will take you back to the "good old days" like opening up a new, boxed game for your Atari 2600, and Power Off! is well worth it. Next time... the games of UA Limited! < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  9. A couple of things I didn't mention about the mini-arcade games from Super Impulse that I've been collecting: First, they're sold with keyrings attached. They're a bit too large and impractical to be a keyring though: Second, they don't have a coin door on the front sticker. It would've been that much cooler had they added a little coin door and had the coin slots backlit. But that probably would've been cost-prohibitive. The irony is, you couldn't actually fit a quarter into the cabinet anyway. For that matter, they're a little too small even for saving "next game": But having a coin door would've been a nice extra touch. Which brings me to the point of this post. Some months back, a company named Replicade announced they'd be crowdfunding their own mini-arcade games. One of the rewards backers could get would be a coin slot keyring. I thought, "Cool - that'd almost be worth the $25 pledge to back the project!" But then I remembered I don't do crowdfunding. So I didn't get one. But then they showed up on Amazon anyway. So I got one. For $15. Saved myself 10 bucks. So, here it is: It looks just like a classic arcade coin slot. Except you can't put a quarter in it. It's heavy cast metal, too - just like an original coin slot. Which unfortunately, makes it entirely too heavy to use as an actual key ring. Plus, it's pretty big. As big as a large car alarm key fob. It's also over 1/2" thick, and the screws which hold it together stick out of the back a little bit. But - and this is the important thing - it does light up. Practical? No. Cool? Definitely.
  10. Bob DeCrescenzo continues to bring your own personal arcade a few steps closer to reality with more classics for the 7800. This time: two games from Cinematronics and three from Stern. (Okay... Scramble was only licensed to Stern. But a link is a link. ) Armor Attack II Armor Attack is the classic vector arcade game by Cinematronics in which you control a Jeep with a gun mounted on it, and your mission is to take out as many enemy tanks as possible. It will take two shots to do it - your first shot only disables a tank, but leaves its turret free to track and fire at you. It will eventually self-destruct on its own, but you don't get any points for that. For full points, you need to make both shots count. Complicating things are enemy helicopters that will fly overhead and make strafing runs at you. Fortunately, you can take those out with just a single shot. Take down five copters, and you earn an extra Jeep. Run out of Jeeps, and your game's over. Armor Attack II is Bob DeCrescenzo's 7800 sequel to Armor Attack. All of the original gameplay is there, but Bob also added different terrain layouts to the game, adding much more variety. You get a different layout at random each time you start the game, and after completing a certain number of rounds, you move on to a different layout. While the extra layouts are great, I wish they were numbered so you could more easily choose a favorite. Another change is that more tanks will come after you - the arcade game topped out at just three (although that was plenty once they got moving fast). Graphics are decent, although I would've liked to have seen an attempt at mimicking the original's vector graphics. Sound is adequate, although to be fair, there's not much sound in the original either (although I do miss the "squeaking" of the tank treads). Tanks are less forgiving in the 7800 version in that they're fatal if you touch them at all with your Jeep. In the arcade version, you can bump them from behind or the sides without issue. But I suppose since this is a sequel, you would expect the tanks to up their game a little bit. Armor Attack has always been a favorite of mine, and Armor Attack II nicely builds upon the original. While a solid single player game in its own right, where both versions really shine is in two-player mode. Cooperative games are often more fun than their single-player counterparts, and Armor Attack II is no exception. I'd highly recommend that you use proper five-button controllers (like a Starplex), since that's really the best way to play a game like this. My only real complaint about Armor Attack II is that I wish the Jeeps had more than 16 angles of rotation. I'll often find myself bracketing an enemy tank on either side with my shots, forcing me to move out of a safe spot in order to hit my target. For a sprite as small as the Jeep, it's difficult to make unique-looking shapes for each position. However, less important is the appearance of the sprite itself, than where the shots are going. So even if no intermediate sprites could be drawn for additional positions, the angle of where you're firing could still change in finer increments. Armor Attack II is a worthy successor to the arcade classic, especially with a second player. The additional terrain layouts add a tremendous amount of replay value to the game, as you have to formulate different strategies for each one. Highly recommended. Armor Attack II gets a 5/5 (4.5 on a half-point scale) Rip Off Rip Off is a classic vector arcade game by Cinematronics where you must protect some triangular fuel cells in the center of the screen. Enemy tanks will come out and try to steal the fuel, and you must use your own tank's cannon to stop them. The enemies will fight back though, as they have short-range pulse lasers that will destroy your tank in a flash. You have unlimited tanks, but once the fuel cells are all gone, the game is over. If you add a second player, you can team up to fight the fuel thieves together. I always felt that Rip Off was built to rip off quarters from arcade players. In single player mode it's a pretty brutal game, accelerating rapidly in difficulty. The enemies get smarter, faster, and more accurate within just a few attack waves. Without a second player, you don't stand much of a chance. With a second player, the game becomes much more playable because the odds are improved, plus you're less likely to have both players die at the same time. About the only two suggestions I have for a single player game are: when new tanks are about to appear, rotate in a circle while rapid-firing shots around you - you might just hit something by accident; and if you're having trouble shooting an enemy tank - ram him! Sometimes you can shoot one tank while ramming another, and if they're the last two in a wave, your new tank will appear before the next enemies do. Bob DeCrescenzo's 7800 port of Rip Off is about as close to the arcade game as you could hope for. The pseudo-vector graphics mimic those of the arcade nicely, making each type of tank distinct and recognizable. As an added plus, the graphics are in color. Sounds are minimal, as they are in the arcade game. The only minor gameplay difference I noticed was that in the arcade version, running over the fuel cells causes your tank to slide around, and in the 7800 version it doesn't. Rip Off's weak point is that you can't rotate or aim precisely. The arcade version had effectively limitless angles of rotation, but the 7800 version is limited to only 16. As it is now, I often have trouble zeroing in on an enemy tank when firing at it, and it gets progressively worse as distances increase. While having to defend something adds a unique twist to the "thrust, rotate and fire" genre (rather than just blowing stuff up), as a single-player game Rip Off doesn't offer a lot of replay value. The gameplay is pretty shallow and wears out its welcome quickly. However, as a two-player game, Rip Off is transformed and comes alive. A much-welcomed "Easy" setting helps novice players adapt to the difficulty of the game. As with other games that use a similar control scheme, a five-button controller (like a Starplex) is an absolute must. If Rip Off were a single-player only game, I wouldn't have much to recommend about it. But if you can find a second person to team up with, it's worth checking out. Rip Off gets a 4/5 (3.5 on a half-point scale) Frenzy Frenzy is the sequel to Stern's arcade hit Berzerk. In both games, you start out in a maze of rooms and your goal is to fight your way past enemy robots and escape to the next set of rooms. The robots will fire lasers at you and move in your direction, closing in on you. If you linger too long in a set of rooms, Evil Otto - a bouncing smiley face - will come out and chase you down. Berzerk and Frenzy are effectively the same in terms of gameplay, but Frenzy changes things up by adding: different robots, walls that reflect shots back at you, walls that can be destroyed (and escaped through), an Evil Otto that can be stopped temporarily, and four special maze rooms each with a unique gameplay element. Bob DeCrescenzo brought both Frenzy and Berzerk to the 7800 in a single cart, which makes this a terrific value. All of the gameplay elements from the arcade games are here, including the games' distinctive sound effects and digitized voices. Berzerk was one of the earliest arcade games with voices, and the 7800 version just wouldn't feel complete without it shouting "Chicken! Fight like a robot!" as you escaped from a room. The graphics are spot-on recreations from the arcade games, although a little less colorful. Both games play so much like the originals, that my best scores on the 7800 and arcade versions are effectively identical. The only significant knock I could find with Frenzy and Berzerk is that whenever the digitized voices play, the game action pauses briefly. To minimize the disruptiveness of this, the voices are restricted to those that happen near the end of a level. Welcomed additions to both games are two-player cooperative and competitive modes. This lets two players either take on the robots as a team, or take each other out for extra bonus points (the arcade versions only had turn-based two-player games). Missing from the game are different difficulty settings, so novice players may feel frustrated without an Easy option to learn the game, and expert players may find themselves wishing for a Hard option to really challenge their skills. Frenzy for the 7800 contains two excellent arcade conversions in one. Minor shortcomings aside, Frenzy is highly recommended for any 7800 owner looking for some arcade action. Frenzy gets a 5/5 (4.5 on a half-point scale) Scramble Scramble is Konami's classic side-scrolling shooter where you fly a spaceship over different terrains and through tunnels, destroying ground targets, avoiding enemy missiles, and shooting down enemy saucers. Along the way are bonus targets to take out for extra points, and fuel tanks that you'll need to destroy in order to replenish your own dwindling fuel supply. Get through all five stages and you'll enter the enemy base. If you can destroy it, your reward is a quick congratulatory message before getting sent right back out to do the whole thing all over again at a higher difficulty. The more bases you destroy, the faster the enemies will be, the faster you'll fly - giving you less time to react, and the faster you'll use your fuel up. If you run out of fuel, crash, or get hit by an enemy, you'll lose a ship. Lose all of your ships, and your game is over. Bob DeCrescenzo's 7800 version of Scramble is a near-perfect rendition of the original. All of the terrain and objects are replicated exactly, and the game plays exactly like the arcade game down to the smallest detail. The sound effects and opening music sound like they were lifted right out of the arcade game. The only minor differences is that there aren't quite as many colors used for the graphics, and along the left and right edge of the screen the terrain "pulses" as it enters and exits the screen. However, that's quickly and easily ignored as soon as you start playing the game. The game offers three difficulty settings for players of different skills. Scramble is as good as arcade ports get. If you're a fan of the original or just want a good, fun shooter for the 7800, this is must-have. Scramble gets a 5/5 Up next: the 2600 strikes back in Arcade Assault, Vol. 3 < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  11. Because reviewing five games last time wasn't enough... I really like mini-game collections. Sure, not all of the games in a given collection will appeal to everyone, but usually you can find one or two real gems on a given multi-cart, and they're typically good value for money. Plus the idea of a quick, simple game is part of the 2600's DNA, stretching back to the original nine games the system was designed to play. There are plenty of unissued, fun mini-games still out there in the forums, just waiting to be gathered and released together on carts. Simone Serra who created Lead, Sync and Omicron (you still out there, Seemo?) has enough excellent mini-games for at least two or three mini-game collections of his own. I'd love to see a new series of AtariAge Mini-Game Multi-Carts, to follow up the one from 2005. Maybe that would encourage more development of these smaller but still fun titles. In the meantime, here are two such collections. Unfortunately, one of them is no longer available... The Byte Before Christmas The Byte Before Christmas is a collection of four sometimes vaguely Christmas-themed mini-games, each programmed by a different author. The games are selected from a main menu featuring festive graphics and a nice rendition of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas". To return to the menu, you must power the console off and back on again. Santa's Scabs (Jarod Kitchen) I was going to make a joke about picking this one to review first, but then thought better of it. Anyway... Santa's Scabs is about an elf labor strike at Santa's workshop, and you - apparently being an out-of-work ninja - decide to cross the picket line to get a job. Your first objective is to collect three pieces of coal. This is done by kicking picketing elves in the face. You can't kick them in the shins, or in the back. Only the face. This isn't quite as easy as it sounds since you're a very short ninja (or they're very tall elves), your kick must be precise, and you can kick only one specific elf at a time. Any other contact with the elves at this point is deadly. When you do connect, the target elf will drop a piece of coal. Collect three of these, and you can then go through and gleefully kick the rest of the elves in their faces too, or just skip all of the face kicking and take on their boss. Then you have to kick him in the face until he stops twitching, and you can enter the workshop and move onto the next level. Santa's Scabs feels like a martial arts beat-'em-up game that was loosely re-themed as a Christmas game. If you just looked at it without knowing the backstory, it could take place almost anywhere, with only a few bars of "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" and some of the graphics to give it away (typically, reindeer aren't in beat-'em-ups). Even bearing in mind that this is a mini-game, there's still not much to it. You kick elves and bosses in their faces, then it just repeats. The graphics are okay, but the controls have one nagging problem - in order to help line up your ninja with the elves, the game automatically "snaps" you in line with them. The problem with that is that it's a bit too aggressive, and I often found myself being pushed up into a picket line of angry elves while just trying to retrieve a piece of coal. The snapping effect is a nice idea, but it shouldn't take effect until you're closer to being in line. The game is also a bit buggy, with some visual artifacts showing up from time to time, and one of the bosses I was fighting got "stuck" while jumping in mid-air, forcing me to hit Reset and start over. Santa's Scabs doesn't offer much in the way of variety, so some different formations of elves or more locations would have been welcomed. The game suffers from a lack of fine-tuning as well. It's passable as part of a mini-game collection, but calling it Christmas-themed is stretching the concept. Christmas Adventure (Todd Holcomb, graphics by Illya Wilson) Christmas Adventure is a mix between Adventure and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, but rather than being just a graphics hack of Adventure, this one was programmed from scratch. This makes a huge difference, since the layout isn't as restrictive, the flicker is dramatically reduced, and the graphics are an order of magnitude better. Not only are the sprites absolutely first-rate (and look like they should have come from a far more advanced console), but even the low-resolution playfield backgrounds have been transformed into beautifully detailed street scenes, rooms, and the Grinch's lair. The game itself plays just like an appropriately mini-sized version of Adventure. Max (the Grinch's dog) plays the role of the object-stealing bat (and is just as annoying), and the dragons have been replaced by toys that have run amok. Your weapon of choice is a stale candy cane (probably sharpened into a shank), and there are other objects and goals as well, which I'll leave you to discover. Suffice it to say I had a great deal of fun playing this, discovering how to solve it, and really relishing the attention to detail. It's not a huge game, but it doesn't need to be. I found this to be a truly delightful Christmas-themed game, despite writing the review for it in the middle of July. Bell Hopper (Tomas Härdin) Bell Hopper is a game in the vein of the smartphone hit Doodle Jump. In Bell Hopper, you control a bunny that hops upwards, aiming to land on bells floating in the air. As you land on each bell, the bell disappears and you're propelled even higher. If you miss a bell, and there are none below you, you fall all the way back to the ground, and your score resets to zero (but your highest score will still be displayed). There are no deaths - you just start hopping again. I actually found that a refreshing approach. After all, who wants to be mean to bunnies? There are also birds that if you hop on them, they'll double your score. If you're playing for points, you can rack up some incredibly high scores this way, to the extent that after awhile they'll be shown using scientific notation. Well, bunnies are known for multiplying. Bell Hopper is an incredibly fun, addictive game. The graphics are charming, and while the joystick control is already very good, the game really shines when you plug in a paddle. Yes - Bell Hopper supports paddles! And since you plug the paddle into the right controller port, you can leave the joystick plugged in for the other games. Bell Hopper doesn't really have much to do with Christmas, but the manual features a backstory that (sort-of) ties the game in with the rest of the collection. Really though, Bell Hopper is an outstanding mini-game that you can enjoy any time of year. Naughty List (Mike Saarna) Naughty List is another game that makes me wonder if it actually started out as a Christmas game, because thematically it's also a little bit weird. In this game you play Santa Claus, flying his sleigh over the city, and dropping presents full of explosives on buildings, destroying them. It's an odd cross between Rampage and Canyon Bomber, but with a rage-filled Santa Claus causing the mayhem. There's only one control - the fire button - so Santa's sleigh is on auto-pilot. As you fly repeatedly across the screen, your reindeers descend with each pass, making the buildings a threat to navigation. If you don't take out all of the buildings in time, you'll crash and lose a reindeer. Lose all three reindeer, and the game ends (apparently the others are still out playing reindeer games). You must avoid dropping packages onto innocent pedestrians, and on some levels indestructible bulldozers will come out to add to (or repair) buildings, making them even taller and more of a hazard. Naughty List has the same sort of potential for fun that Canyon Bomber has, but there are a few shortcomings with it. First, you have to bomb the exact center of the base of the buildings. There are no off-center hits. It would have been more interesting if near-misses inflicted varying degrees of damage, but here it's all or nothing. Another issue I had is with the trajectory of the falling packages - they don't follow a proper arc. This may seem trivial, but details like that really help a game feel polished. Instead, the packages just drop almost straight down, to the point where you can line up your shot by waiting until part of Santa's sleigh is over the building you want to hit. Once you adapt to this, it takes much of the challenge away and the game becomes pretty repetitive. For more variety, it would have been nice to have seen additional ground targets to either take out or avoid, or add the challenge of making the player duck under oncoming airline traffic. The graphics are very well done, and while there are a couple of short bars from Christmas tunes, thematically the idea of Santa leveling entire cities is still a bit odd. The game plays well enough for what it is, but like most of the packages that Santa drops, it ends up falling short. The verdict I already liked the idea of mini-game collections, and having them linked thematically (even if it's a bit forced at times) makes for a nice way to package them together. While Santa's Scabs and Naughty List are playable, they're merely okay. The real standouts on this cart are Christmas Adventure and Bell Hopper. Those two alone make The Byte Before Christmas worth owning. Consider the other two games a Christmas bonus. The Byte Before Christmas gets a 4/5. Piñata Piñata is a collection of five games created using batari Basic by AtariAge member Cybearg. The games are selected through on onscreen menu, which can be returned to from any game by holding Select and Reset. High scores can be saved using an AtariVox or SaveKey. Heartbreak Heartbreak is the sort of game that instead of being limited by the 2600's capabilities, finds a an interesting way to exploit them to come up with something unique. You use the joystick controller (or driving controller) to rotate a ring made of 16 Pong paddles. A ball bounces across the center of the ring, and each time it hits a paddle, the ball bounces off it, removing that paddle, leaving a gap in the ring. The goal is to remove all of the paddles without letting the ball through a gap, so you're constantly rotating the ring back and forth to make sure you can hit a paddle. It's a bit like a cross between Breakout and Radial Pong, but there's more to it than that. There's a heart beating in the center of the ring, and each miss reduces the size of the heart. When it's gone, your game is over. While this is a clever way to show your lives remaining, there's more to it than that. The heart also changes color as it beats, which is a key component to this game. The first level is all one color, so all you have to worry about is not missing. But after that, the paddles have different colors, and you have to change the color of your ball to match the color of the paddle you want to take out. But you can only change the color of the paddle to the current color of the heart, so timing and decision making become critical. In later levels, you deal with paddles that require multiple hits to clear out. So for example, to clear a purple block, you have to hit it with a red ball and a blue ball. It requires some thought and planning. Using a driving controller feels more intuitive, but it's still perfectly playable with the joystick, mostly because the ball will only ever hit the same four locations. In a way, this actually helps the game, since there's less guesswork involved in where you're going to have to position a particular paddle. But it would be nice if, as the game progressed, the number of possible angles would increase. There are a lot of untapped possibilities for a game like this, including different sizes and numbers of paddles, gravity or wind that would make the ball curve, and so on. Still, Heartbreak is a fun game as it is, and has a really inventive play mechanic. My one gripe with it is that the colors selected for orange and red look nearly identical on my TV. Pushing orange to a lighter shade would have helped distinguish the two. Ping Ping takes what can often be a frustrating game element - invisible mazes - and turns it into the centerpiece of a unique and addicting game. In Ping, you control a bat (named Ping) that you have to navigate through pitch-black caves, avoiding walls, dodging owls, and eating insects. But you can't see anything since you're, well, blind as a bat. But you can use echolocation to find your way. Pressing the fire button sends out a signal which briefly reveals (lights up) the cave for you. But it only does it for a second, and then it fades away. You have to move quickly to navigate through what you just saw. For each screen, you can press the fire button up to three times to echolocate, then you're completely in the dark until you can find your way to the next cave. The concept works brilliantly because of a phenomenon known as persistence of vision. This is what allows us to see sequential images (such as film or TV frames) as continual motion. In Ping, because of this effect, you see an after-image of the cave for a brief second or two after the image fades. The effect is even more pronounced on a CRT display. This allows you enough time to navigate through the mazes in short bursts. I'd love to see an effect like this used in other games with invisible mazes (I'm looking at you, Adventure hacks). It makes navigating in the dark actually a fun challenge, rather than just random flailing and frustration. It's not always easy, and some of the passageways are a bit too narrow, but Ping is a perfect example of a programmer thinking of a really cool way to approach a problem. It's a fun, innovative, and smart little mini-game. Joyride In Joyride, you're playing the role of a motorcycling daredevil, who is riding headlong into oncoming traffic. Your goal, simply put, is to stay alive by dodging cars. You can also pick up "flares" which can be triggered to clear the screen of all cars if you get in a tight spot. There's also a two-player cooperative mode where the game only ends if both players have crashed at the same time. Joyride is an okay game, but it's just not very interesting. It's repetitive, and reminiscent of some of Activision's dodge-the-obstacle games (Grand Prix, Barnstorming), but without a timer to beat or Activision's nicely detailed graphics. Joyride's cars and trucks are just featureless rectangles. The two-player version doesn't really add anything extra to the game, other than you have two people trying to dodge traffic at the same time. But you're not dodging each other - you pass right through the other player. I think there's a real missed opportunity here to have a two-player combative mode, where you'd push the other motorcycle into the traffic. Add some AI for a single-player version, make up a backstory about having to fend off a biker gang or enemy spies, and you'd be good to go. Fixer Fenix Sr. No that's not a typo. It's spelled Fixer Fenix Sr., but it should be obvious that it's a riff on Fix-It Felix Jr. from the movie Wreck-It Ralph. This is an attempt to bring the arcade game featured in that movie to the Atari 2600, and it meets with mixed results. The object is to climb around on a building, fixing windows that have been broken by a big, hulking brute, who is also dropping bricks on your head. You must also dodge flying birds, and you can pick up pies from window sills to gain extra lives. On the plus side, all of the essential elements are here, but for a game that was all about the characters, the execution just falls short. The character sprites are low resolution and completely devoid of any detail. The buildings are featureless, and broken windows aren't actually shown on the building - you have to look at an indicator at the bottom of the screen to see which ones need fixing. Sound effects are minimal and generic. The controls are decent - once you adapt to how long Fenix has to stay in place to repair a window - but the gameplay is repetitive. Fixer Fenix Sr. just doesn't have the level of inventiveness or polish of some of the other games in this collection. It's an admirable attempt, but perhaps an over-reached one. Flipside Rounding out the collection is Flipside. You play one of two combatants trapped in an arena by an evil alien overlord for his amusement. (Isn't that just always the way?) Your goal - be the first to collect four orbs. Simple enough. You (or your opponent) can also steal orbs from each other, which adds to the competitive nature of the game. But Flipside's real hook is that you can control your own personal gravity. Press the button, and you fall up. Press it again, and you fall down. This adds a really fun, unique element to the game, and it becomes intuitive (and addictive) very quickly. The AI opponent in single-player mode is a bit random, but persistent enough to keep the action going so you can still enjoy this game even without a second player. If anything, I wish Flipside were larger - with more arenas to play in, more objects to collect, and more goals to achieve. It'd be fun to have side-to-side gravity on some levels, or vary the strength of it. There's a lot of untapped potential in this play mechanic. As it is though, Flipside is still an excellent little mini-game, especially for two players. The verdict Piñata is a mixed bag, although three of the games: Heartbreak, Ping and Flipside make the collection worth checking out. Unfortunately, Piñata was removed from the AtariAge store by its author, likely out of copyright concerns about Fixer Fenix Sr. This is a real shame, since Piñata would be just fine without it. Hopefully the author will reconsider adding it back to the store in a modified form, maybe even with a few new additions. Piñata gets a 4/5 Up next: a review you probably thought you'd never see: Star Castle Showdown < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  12. I picked these up the other day: There are quite a few of these mini-arcade cabinets on the market. Different manufacturers make their own versions with various games being available. Some are available at Target and other stores, but I decided to pick up these particular ones from Amazon after seeing Ben Heck hack one of them into a multi-game keychain: There have been a number of reviews of them online, most of them being pretty favorable. To me they just looked... cool. I liked that the marquees lit up, that they were fully playable games, and I wanted all of the cabinets to match. Because that's important. Plus, most of them are only around $12 on Amazon and they come with batteries that are actually replaceable (3 AAA's). Even the Flashback Portable didn't have that! So I bought two of them to just check them out, and liked them well enough to buy the other two. The games aren't arcade-accurate, but neither were the old Coleco mini-arcade games from the early 80's. If you think of them in that context, they're pretty amazing. These little cabinets (and they are tiny) actually have little LCD screens, and are fully playable adaptations of the arcade games. They all play surprisingly well, too. It's not going to give you the same experience as MAME, but that's not the point. These are super-cool little things to have on a shelf or a desktop to play once in awhile and show off to other gamers (or people who just like cool stuff). For that, they're awesome. And every once in awhile, you just need to buy yourself a toy. These particular ones are made by Super Impulse, and they're planning to release Galaga, Dig Dug and Frogger this year, too. Hopefully they'll be able to continue to release even more after that. Basically, anything with a joystick and two or fewer buttons would work pretty well. (Q*Bert would require them to rotate the stick 45°, so that may not be as likely to happen.) Frogger looks like it will use different artwork than the classic arcade cabinet. So I may have to see about replacing that... Anyway, these are worth checking out. I think of the lot, Pac-Man and Galaxian play the most like the arcade games. But they're all still good fun, and they put a big smile on my face everytime I look up at them on the shelf.
  13. These showed up yesterday: Yeah... I know. Now I'm even further behind with my reviews. But it is nice to finally get my hands on some of the games I worked on. (I didn't have anything to do with Epic Adventure. But it's on my list of games to review.)
  14. Many months ago, I teased: Up next: It takes two to tango This was my intention to finish off the last of the games that I had yet to review for the AtariAge store: Two-Player-Only Games. The trick was, finding that second player. Most of the people I know who are inclined to play videogames don't live in the area. So that meant going out of town, and hauling an Atari, controllers and carts with me. This past weekend, I finally got around to doing just that. I went down to my friend Jeff's place in Redondo Beach for the Fourth of July weekend. After an evening of barbecue and fireworks with the family, we hooked up a 7800 and went to work. So first, a big "thank you" to Jeff for helping me slog through these games. Usually, we dig out the Wii and play Mario Kart with people around the world (which is very cool, by the way), but Jeff's an old school gamer too, and was willing to help out with these reviews. And anyway, he owed me big-time for dragging me off to see The Flintstones. (There's an hour and-a-half out of my life I'll never get back.) So now we're even. With that out of the way, I could finally write new reviews for three two-player-only games: Mental Kombat, Sea Battle and Swordfight. We also played the two-player options of several other games, as well. I took the opportunity to go back and update the reviews for Bee•Ball and Cold War (from Stella's Stocking), since I didn't have the chance to review those games with two players before. I didn't add anything about the two-player modes in Sync, because the problem there is you really need two players of equal skill to have any chance of that working - otherwise it ends up just being one player dominating, and the other being frustrated. Both players will have had to practice Sync a lot, and that just wasn't possible here. Sync is a great game, and I'm sure under the right circumstances the two-player modes would be a lot of fun, but it already got a 5/5 even without them. We also had the chance to play Asteroids Deluxe and Space Duel (for the 7800) in two-player modes, however that didn't change my reviews any, since I'd already (correctly) surmised that the lack of the "tethered" mode in Space Duel was its weak point. The "competition" mode in each game ends up just being a 30 second slug-fest as you try to kill the other guy off as fast as possible, and the "team" mode doesn't add much of anything to either game, since you're still basically just shooting space junk (not that there's anything wrong with that ). Mental Kombat 1/5 Mental Kombat is a two-player-only game comprised of a checkerboard-like playfield. Each player takes turns turning the squares either red (player 1) or yellow (player 2) one square at a time. You can only change a square adjacent to a blinking cursor, and you can't use your turn to undo the last player's turn, so there are only three maximum positions you can move to at any time (and even fewer along the borders). If you can turn four or more contiguous squares to your color, your opponent loses "energy". If he loses enough energy, then you win the game. Since Mental Kombat is a two-player-only game, you have no way to practice the game without a willing opponent. In my experience, that meant both of us had to learn the game at the same time, which meant neither of us were any good at it, and had no opportunity to really figure out any sort of strategies for it. We spent most of our time just trying to figure out the idiosyncrasies of the game as we went along. Things didn't start off very well, as we were thrown off by the odd game option of having both players' moves controlled by a single joystick. Only I could move, and my opponent couldn't do anything. Admittedly, this is something that is in the manual, and eventually a flip of a difficulty switch put us into the correct mode so we could each use our own controller, but it is really counter-intuitive to typical Atari 2600 games to have to pass the controller back and forth. Also, if you should want to play against yourself using a single joystick (the only way you can practice), there's an infuriating lag between moves. Again, this is intentional, and is mentioned in the manual, but it's something else that just doesn't jibe with other 2600 games - it feels like the game is fighting against you. We were also frustrated that once you moved the cursor - that was it. You're stuck with that move. A far better approach would be to let the player move wherever they wanted, then "set" the move with the fire button (a common approach in 2600 board games). If speedier play was the intent, this could have been made optional (and a much better use for that aforementioned difficulty switch). After all that, was figuring out exactly what was going on in the game. The idea is that you move the cursor in a direction, and the square you move the cursor onto swaps color with where you were. So if you move onto a yellow square, then that square becomes the cursor (which isn't either color), and where the cursor was, is now yellow. Follow me? Well, it's a pretty simple concept, but in practice, it's a little weird, because you're moving squares of either color at any given time - not just your own. So while you're assigned a color as a player, you can both move any of the squares on the game board. Sometimes your move doesn't actually change anything - since if you move from one square to the another that are the same color, nothing changes. Maybe this is something that would work better on a real game board with marbles. On the 2600, the whole thing is rather boring. Now I'll admit that for some people this may make for some interesting gameplay, or strategies, or possibly even fun. However, neither of us had the patience or enough interest in the game to sit there and try to figure out any nuances it might have had. By pure accident one of us finally managed to win a game, although neither of us was really certain how it happened, nor did we care. The graphics are just squares, and there's practically no sound in the game whatsoever, except for a few blips. It seems the most time and effort went into coming up with elaborate title screen graphics. If more work had gone into making the game more fun to play, rewarding to win, or possible to practice against, then maybe Mental Kombat might have been more than just a clever name. Sea Battle 4/5 Sea Battle is a lost gem amongst the seemingly endless stream of unreleased prototypes that keep resurfacing. Two players each command an island at opposite ends of the screen. The goal of the game is to launch ships from your harbor, and get one of them into your opponent's harbor. If you succeed - you win the game. (Apparently, your enemies are easily intimidated.) You begin by launching up to four ships at a time (choosing from three each of battleships, destroyers, PT-boats and submarines). You can choose any of the ships at any time, and move them amongst the islands on screen, setting traps for your opponent and trying to outmaneuver his fleet. At this point, only you know which ships you've launched, since they're only shown as blips on a radar screen. When two enemy ships get near each other, the screen "zooms in" to Battle Mode, where you finally get a look at what kind of ship you're up against, and the two of you can battle to the death (there's no running away, here). Each ship has its own strengths and weakness in terms of weapons, vulnerability and speed. You also carry existing damage to subsequent battles, so if you can't sink one of your opponents ships in one encounter, go after it a second time and it will be easier to take down. But beware of navigation hazards - if you hit an island, you can become shipwrecked! Sea Battle is a pretty remarkable game, which involves both strategy and action. It takes a few minutes to get up and running, but once you do, it's quite a lot of fun. The graphics are well-done, and the controls are smartly implemented. One minor complaint is that there should be two small instruction cards included (one for each player) showing the ship types and how to select them, so you don't have to keep passing the manual back and forth while learning the game. Even then, it only takes a few minutes to get the hang of the game, and the potential variety and depth in the gameplay will keep you coming back for more. The only major downside to Sea Battle is that it requires two players to play it (which is the reason M-Network never released it in the first place, and why I'm giving it only a 4 out of 5). But if you can find a second player willing to sit down and play it, then Sea Battle is one battle that's well-worth fighting. Swordfight 2/5 An unreleased M-Network prototype, Swordfight (which requires two players) features two large figures on floating platforms, swinging "laser swords" at each other. Hit your opponent enough times, and you win. Simple enough. If anything though, Swordfight is too simple. While it has decent graphics, the controls are under-utilized. While you can swing and block, you are limited to "left", "overhead", and "right". The problem is, you're looking at the characters from the side - so "left" and "right" are effectively wasted. Far better would have been "high", "middle", and "low" swings and blocks. The fire button is used to advance and retreat (which works well enough), but since the "left" and "right" attacks look pretty much the same and its difficult to predict how to block your opponent (since the motions are so limited), most of the time you'll just find yourself flailing wildly at your opponent until he dies (or you do). Swordfight doesn't keep track of scores, so you can't play multiple rounds and keep track of who's ahead. The lack of a one-player option also severely limits the playability of the game. There's no way to really practice except with another player, and the lack of any progression (through different rounds or difficulty levels) really gives the whole thing a very unfinished feel. While the manual claims the game is indeed finished, Swordfight almost seems like a game engine in search of an idea, or maybe a particular movie license which had been locked up by another game company. With limited controls and no depth to speak of, the novelty of beating up your opponent with a light sab... I mean, "laser sword", wears off pretty quickly. Up next: The review that nobody thought would happen! < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  15. So you're on a long road trip and the kids are in the back seat jumping up and down yelling "Are we there yet?" Well, what can you give them to keep 'em busy? Why, card games and puzzles, of course! Poker Squares 3/5 Poker Squares is a solitaire version of poker, where your goal is to create the best five-card poker hands vertically, horizontally and diagonally, within a five-by-five grid. The more and better hands you can create, the higher your score. If this sounds familiar, then you may already own Atari's Casino (aka Sears' Poker Plus), since that cartridge has the exact same game on it called Poker Solitaire. There are only minor differences between Poker Squares and Poker Solitaire: the graphics are better in Poker Squares; Poker Squares uses a joystick, Poker Solitaire uses the paddles; and while there are a couple of minor game variations in Poker Squares that Poker Solitaire lacks, Casino also comes with Black Jack and Stud Poker. Poker Squares is completely without sound, even lacking the shuffling sound from Poker Solitaire. If you already own Casino, there's really no reason to get Poker Squares. The game itself is a decent solitaire effort with some interesting strategies and play value, but it really needs some additional games to make it worthwhile. Euchre 4/5 Euchre is a card game that's played with a partial deck, where the goal is for you and your partner (the computer) to win more "tricks" than your opponents (also played by the computer). You do this by playing one card each turn around the table, and the highest value card wins. Win enough tricks out of five and you earn points, with the first team to ten points winning the game. Cards of the "trump" suit are of greater value than others, with the Jack of that suit being the highest value, and the Jack of the same-colored suit being second-highest. This takes a little getting used to since higher face value cards may not always be the best ones to play. It took me awhile to figure out Euchre, having very little experience with card games of this sort. Even with the help of the manual and a couple of online pages about Euchre, I'm still not entirely sure of all the rules and why I can or can't play certain cards at certain times. However, after giving it a fair chance and quite a number of tries, I've begun to appreciate the game and pick up on some of the strategies involved with it. The computer players are very good, and at times your onscreen partner seems to follow your lead almost eerily well. The key I've found is to pass up the opportunity to select the Trump suit, and only play when you have a very good hand, or are forced to play by the computer. I must admit that Euchre took me by surprise, and I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. The graphics are nothing spectacular, and the sound is only minimal, but the game itself drew me in, and the computer makes for both an excellent partner and opponent. Okie Dokie 4/5 Okie Dokie is a deceptively simple puzzle game, where you have to make all of the symbols in a pattern disappear. You move a cursor around the screen, and when you press the fire button, the symbol your cursor is under and four adjacent symbols will "flip" their current state - visible ones will disappear, and invisible ones will reappear. By carefully planning out which symbols you flip on and off, you can eventually clear off all of the symbols. There are 30 pre-set patterns, and an option that chooses from over four-hundred patterns at random. Even as one of the first 2600 homebrews, Okie Dokie is a solid game with excellent gameplay and good graphics. Sound is minimal, but adequate. A few minor quibbles: you can't start a new game with the fire button; whenever you press Select, it resets back to the first puzzle instead of letting you pick up at the most recent puzzle you were at; there's no indication of the minimum number of moves a puzzle requires to solve; the manual neglects to mention that the PAL/NTSC mode is toggled with the left difficulty switch (causing the screen to roll on "B/Novice"); and the "You Win" screen is blinding. Still, the game itself is what matters, and Okie Dokie delivers for puzzle enthusiasts. It can become maddeningly addictive at times, as you get oh-so-close to solving a puzzle, only to get stuck and have to backtrack to figure out where you went wrong. And while not relevant to this review, Okie Dokie also features the longest Easter Egg message I've ever seen. Crazy Valet 2/5 Crazy Valet is a sliding puzzle game (based on the board game Rush Hour), where the object is to move cars out of your way so you can get your car out of a crowded parking lot. If that sounds a lot like another homebrew game - Jammed - it's because Crazy Valet was that game's inspiration. Crazy Valet is a decent puzzle game, but the graphics are just non-descript white blocks, and the sound is practically non-existant. The real problem though, is there's really no reason to buy Crazy Valet when Jammed is available. The two games basically play the same, but Jammed offers several key improvements: a counter showing the minimal number of moves required to solve each puzzle, improved graphics, and several hundred more puzzles - all for two dollars less. Unless you just have to own every single homebrew, you can skip over Crazy Valet, and just get Jammed instead. Up next: It takes two to tango < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext
  16. 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 5/5 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 5/5 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 45°. If you're a fan of Q*bert, b*nQ is a must-have. Asteroids Deluxe 5/5 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 4/5 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. < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  17. This has been added to my "to-review" list. Thanks Richard! What? Don't have one yet? Well, what are you waiting for? (Of course, to actually play with it, I'm going to need some kind of software... Darrell? )
  18. Here's the next batch of games I'll be reviewing. There will be quite a few more coming after these, but these are here now since they were all on my to-do list for one reason or other...
  19. And the reviews continue... this time it's the games of UA Limited. (Okay... so these are reproductions, not homebrews. But "Reproductionviews" just doesn't have the same ring to it.) Cat Trax, Funky Fish, Pleiades Bundle (this will include all three reviews in the store review) 2/5 Lost games from a long-forgotten company, these have been rescued from obscurity and finally released more than 20 years after they were originally written. The newly-created packaging is first-rate, but the games themselves are typical examples of the below-average fodder that was cranked out by the ton in the early 80's - victims of the very glut they helped to create. Pleiades is okay, but otherwise this set of games is probably for collectors only. And the individual games... Cat Trax 2/5 In Cat Trax, you're a cat being chased around a maze by three dogs, and you have to avoid them as you run around picking up pieces of cat food. Every once in awhile, a magic potion will appear that will turn you into a dog catcher, and let you round up the dogs. Basically, it's Pac-Man with cats and dogs. Unfortunately, it's just not as much fun. Cat Trax has decent graphics and sound, but the controls leave much to be desired. You can't quickly reverse direction (this is supposed to be a cat, after all), and the spotty collision detection will often allow a dog to catch and kill you from around a corner. All of this, plus only one location to pick up the magic potion from, makes Cat Trax far more frustrating than it should be. Even if those aspects were improved, it's still just a Pac-Man knock-off, and a second-rate one at that. The game has a very nice box with it, but unfortunately, the game is likely to stay inside it most of the time. Funky Fish 2/5 Funky Fish is a port of an obscure arcade game, in which you're a fish that spits at various undersea creatures. Spitting on them turns them into fruit, which you can then eat, and then you swim over to other, larger creatures and pick up fuel from their dying, bloated corpses. Don't you just love the early 80's, when almost anything was grist for the video game mill? Despite its weird premise, the arcade version of the game has some decent and unique gameplay. Unfortunately, the 2600 version didn't really capture it. While the sound and graphics are about average for the time (although I have to wonder why the ocean is green), the controls are unbearably sluggish. Faster movement is needed to make this game even remotely playable. And while the arcade version isn't exactly lightning-fast, at least it's responsive. Funky Fish is an interesting curiosity. A leftover from a doomed video game company, and nothing more. The nice box that it comes in just can't make up for that. Pleiades 3/5 A vertical shooter and wannabe sequel to Phoenix, Pleiades has three stages: shoot at enemy formations attacking your planet, shoot at a big mothership and the aliens defending it in the depths of space, and finally land back on your home planet to start all over again. Of these, the landing stage is the most unique to Pleiades - as you have to weave your way through a landing strip full of parked spaceships - unfortunately, after the first level it becomes difficult to the point of almost being unfair. Pleiades is a decent attempt to bring the original arcade game to the 2600, and although the arcade game had four stages rather than three, at least the middle two arcade stages have been combined into a single stage here, rather than eliminating one entirely. The graphics are pretty good, and the sounds are decent as well. The problem is that Pleiades itself is just an average game. There's nothing that makes it stand out above other games in its genre. It lacks that "something special" that made other games much more successful, and much more fun. It's not bad, but it's not great. The box it comes in is nicely done, but it would have been better to put that effort and money into a more deserving game. Up next... four completely unbiased reviews! < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  20. Climber 5 4/5 Climber 5 is an adaptation of a game (also called Climber 5) originally created for the Atari 8-bit computers. I downloaded and tried out the original version prior to writing this review. The object of the game is to climb up a building that's under construction, and retrieve a baseball that's been hit up there. You have to climb ladders, and avoid girder beams moving back and forth. That's about as far as the original game went, and an adaptation of that version is included on the 2600 cart. But Dennis Debro also added two improved versions to the cart. The "Normal" version adds a timer, randomized girders and ladder positions, and the ability for the player to change the girders' directions (which takes extra time away from you). For those looking for an added challenge, the "Advanced" version also adds falling objects that you need to either avoid, or catch to earn more time. This third version is where Climber 5 really begins to shine. The falling objects transform it into a really well-rounded and challenging game, where strategy and good timing become indispensable. The player's speed on the first level feels really sluggish, but that picks up starting in the second level. The graphics are decent, and in keeping with the original game. The sounds are about average for a 2600 game. Ultimately though, it's the gameplay that will keep you returning to Climber 5 - especially the "Advanced" version. FlapPing 3/5 Joust meets Pong. That's the concept for FlapPing (originally titled JoustPong), although it's more Pong than Joust, since the goal is exactly that of Pong: hit a ball with a paddle, and get it past your opponent to score points. The difference here is that instead of using a paddle controller to move, you press a button repeatedly to flap your paddle's "wings", in order to gain or lose altitude and hit the ball. Unfortunately, FlapPing could have used a little more Joust. I kept desperately wanting to move my paddle left and right - even just a little bit. The ball in FlapPing is extremely small, and very difficult to hit when it's moving fast - especially if it has a lot of vertical movement on it. The problem is only made worse after you miss and the next serve comes your way, since it will be served at the same angle and speed you just missed the last shot at. It's very easy to miss multiple shots in a row this way. A more forgiving serve would have done wonders for this game. It would have been great if the ball had been a little larger, too. The pterodactyl from Joust also makes an appearance, although it would be nice to have the option of either shutting it off, or making its appearances only periodic, instead of continuous. FlapPing does have the option of adding Warlords-like walls behind each player, which makes the game a lot more forgiving, and a lot more fun to play. There is also an "easy" mode, but basically it just makes the computer so clueless, it never hits the ball back to you. FlapPing is a great concept, and there's some fun to be had here, but a larger ball and some horizontal movement would have helped make it more fun, and a lot less frustrating. Oystron 5/5 One of the earliest of the modern-era homebrews is still one of the best. A fast-paced shooter requiring twitch reflexes, Oystron also delivers surprising depth and a ton of replay value. The game is split into three phases - the goal of the first phase is to shoot enemies that approach you from the right side of the screen and catch "pearls" that they release, collecting them in rows along the left half of the screen. What the manual inexplicably neglects to tell you, is that each row that you complete earns you an additional bomb, to use during the second (Oystron) phase. It took me more than a few games to figure this rather important point out. During the Oystron phase, you plant bombs around the screen in an attempt to get the Oystron to run into one and blow itself up. The more bombs you accumulate in the first phase, the more you have to use here. Following that is the Warp phase, which is basically a faster version of the first phase (albeit with psychedelic colors), after which you return to the first phase, but at a higher difficulty level. Oystron is packed with frenetic action, top-notch graphics, excellent sounds, and unique and addictive gameplay. There's a good variety of enemies, each with different characteristics, and enough challenge to keep you coming back for more. Although the manual is a little lacking in information (such as what the different game variations are), at only $20, the only remaining question about this game is - why haven't you bought a copy of it yet? Oystron should really be on the AtariAge Bestsellers list by now. If you're looking for an outstanding action game, whether you're in the habit of buying homebrews or not, pick up Oystron. Space Treat Deluxe 4/5 In Space Treat Deluxe, you maneuver a ship vertically up the screen, avoiding enemy drones, in order to rescue your planet's food supply trapped at the top. On the surface, it may look a little like Frogger in space... with food. But unlike Frogger, you have to turn around and bring the food back, and do so before your fuel runs out. After the first few levels you can't just make a straight run for your food supply either - you have to stop along the way and pick up a key, first. Space Treat Deluxe is great take on the Frogger/Freeway game genre, and manages to carve out its own niche with a number of unique gameplay elements, including level layouts that are different each time you play. Space Treat Deluxe has vivid, colorful graphics, smooth controls, and fast action. There aren't any additional game variations, and the sounds are pretty basic, but neither of those detract from the game. Space Treat Deluxe is a lot of fun to play and a treat to look at, but don't let the cute graphics fool you - this game will challenge your skills and reflexes as much as any game will, whether you're rescuing candy canes or not. ___________________________________________ Up next... a bonus review! < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  21. Here's my latest haul from the AtariAge store. Not sure I'll review the two Atari prototypes or not, since they're no longer in the store, but thanks to Albert for making those available one last time. After this last batch, there aren't very many games left in the AtariAge store that I don't have. Several of these aren't even "games", as such: Amiga Boing! Demo 2.0 Backfire Crazy Valet Dark Mage E.T. Book Cart Euchre GoSub INV+ Mental Kombat Okie Dokie Poker Squares Space Instigators StickyNotes Cart TestCart This Planet Sucks There are also a few more reproductions I don't have yet, so I may never completely catch up (and to be honest, there are a few in there that I simply don't have any interest in). There are a lot of games in development though, that I'm really looking forward to seeing completed and released on carts someday. This list is hardly complete, but it's what I was able to come up with off the top of my head: Colony 7 Juno First Chetiry Lead Sync Rip Off Moon Cresta Wizard of Wor Arcade SuperBug Gingerbread Man Stellar Fortress Battle of Midway Master of Arcturus RPS Man Goes Down
  22. The reviews continue... Crazy Balloon 4/5 Crazy Balloon was an obscure arcade game from the 70's, from a time when videogame genres were still being invented. Game companies hadn't settled into reusing the same formulas over and over again, and unique, quirky games like Crazy Balloon were the result. While essentially a maze game, Crazy Balloon is more than simply finding your way from point A to point B. It's a devious mix of needing to be patient, while beating the clock. The first few levels give you the feel for moving your balloon carefully through the maze, but then the levels get trickier as obstacles push and pull at your balloon, and threaten to send you careening into a wall. Manuel has managed to include all of the levels from the arcade game, and the result is a whimsical, yet fiercely challenging game, unlike anything else on the 2600. Strat-O-Gems Deluxe 5/5 A great, colorful puzzle game requiring strategy and fast reflexes, Strat-O-Gems Deluxe is a welcomed addition the 2600 library. The game starts you out slowly, but this allows you to build up potential chain-reactions of gems which are the key to scoring big points. The manual, although a bit wordy, is full of useful tips on how to get the most out of your game. As you get to higher levels, the pace picks up and you'll have less time to strategize, and barely enough time to survive. Nice touches like bomber and wild-card gems give you even more opportunities for strategy and scoring. The sounds and graphics are all first-rate, with some cool visual effects. The gems change shape each level, which not only adds visually to the game, but keeps you on your toes as you have to adjust to each new shape. When you score a particularly impressive combination, the game stops to congratulate you, but I found this to be disruptive to the flow of the game. Fortunately, you can turn that option off using the right difficulty switch. Warring Worms: The Worm (Re)Turns 4/5 It's Surround meets Combat - with enough variety to keep you busy for months. This is a great game to play head-to-head, and the single-player mode has pretty decent AI as well. The concept is pretty simple - box your opponent in, or blast him to bits. What makes this game a keeper though is the sheer number of options available. There's a mode for everybody here, from indestructible walls to constantly changing arenas, wide-open vistas to confining spaces, weapons or no weapons, scoring variations, and a mode that generates random options for each round in a game. This is one game you may never play the same way twice, but if you find a mode that's your favorite, the game selection menu makes it easy to dial in exactly the settings you want. Swoops! 5/5 A fun collection of three mini-games: Splatform, Crash 'n' Dive and Cave 1k. You can play each separately, or as a "3-athlon" where your scores for all three mini-games are combined. Splatform alone would be worth the price of the cartridge. It's a fun, addictive game which requires deft control and patience (but not too much patience, since time is against you). The more you play, the better you'll learn the layout of the platforms, and the higher you'll score the next time. But there's also a random platform mode that ensures you'll never completely master this game, even if you manage to beat all of the regular levels. Crash 'n' Dive is a surprisingly fast-paced game where you plummet past (and into) colored platforms. If you hit the same color multiple times in a row, your score will increase faster. Miss a platform, your score goes down. The trick is picking the right colors to run into, without letting too many of the other ones go by. The platforms can race by at a breakneck speed, and the paddle control makes it a pretty fun twitch game. It would be nice to have more than just one life though. Finally is Cave 1k, where you use only the fire button to control the altitude of a helicopter flying through a cave. It's a pretty good mini-game, but it would have been nice if there were more to it. Fuel to pick up, objectives to accomplish, people to rescue, or maybe more complex terrain (like the platforms in Splatform). Even so, as an addition to the other two mini-games, it rounds out this collection nicely. Up next... three more games! Or is it nine? < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  23. Despite the fact that it's almost April, any time of the year is gaming season! Holiday Qb (The 2004 AtariAge Holiday Cart) 4/5 Holiday Qb is an action/puzzle game based on the original 2600 homebrew Qb. The goal is to move sliding pieces around a playfield to match displayed patterns, while collecting bonus items and avoiding enemies. The Holiday aspect of it comes into play with modified graphics reflecting a Holiday theme. Santa Claus, elves, wreaths and other items replace the original Qb graphics. Originally only available as a limited edition in 2004, it was made available for general purchase during the 2006 holiday season. The original Qb is a fun and challenging game, with great graphics and plenty of replay value. While the holiday version maintains these features, Qb's sound has always been quite lacking, and the holiday version suffers from this as well. Taking the extra time to add a few sound effects or some music would have made this a truly special edition. Still, Holiday Qb is an excellent game, and if you don't already own Qb in some form, this is well worth getting. However, if you already own Qb, this version doesn't really add anything new. Reindeer Rescue (The 2005 AtariAge Holiday Cart) 5/5 Okay, I'm biased. I designed the graphics in Reindeer Rescue, and even got credited on the title screen. That said, if it weren't a fun game, I wouldn't give it a good review - especially since my name's on it. Fortunately, Bob Montgomery did an excellent job designing and programming Reindeer Rescue, and it is indeed a fun game! Reindeer Rescue is a side-scrolling platformer, where you make Santa Claus leap over obstacles and collect items in a search for his missing reindeer. As you progress through four different levels - the North Pole, frozen tundra, the suburbs and finally the city - the pace picks up and the terrain becomes trickier to navigate. The whole time you're running out of energy, and must pick up items in order to build it back up. The levels are very well designed, and offer a lot of replay value. There's more than one way to get through some of the levels, and you may even have to intentionally miss rescuing reindeer at times for maximum points or extra lives. The suburb level is particularly tricky to get through, and the city level is one of the coolest-looking levels on any 2600 game (watch out for the lightning!). The sound is excellent, with seven different, nicely translated Christmas carols (which you can turn off if you're not in the Holiday spirit). Graphics-wise, I'm a little biased, but Bob did a great job creating a game that could pack in so many graphics. The levels are quite large, featuring varied landscapes, different objects to pick up (or avoid), and even some sprites in the distant background just for eye candy. Most importantly, Reindeer Rescue is fun to play. The controls are responsive and precise, and there's a lot to see and explore in the game. There's also a nice reward if you manage to rescue all of the reindeer and finish the game. Whether it's the holiday season or not, Reindeer Rescue is highly recommended. (And no, I don't get any money if you buy a copy. But Bob does. So buy two.) Toyshop Trouble (The 2006 AtariAge Holiday Cart) 4/5 In Toyshop Trouble, you're an elf with a mission. A mission to paint toys in Santa's workshop, in time for his big Christmas Eve delivery. But there are a lot of toys, a lot of colors, and each toy must be painted correctly. If that weren't enough, you've got a limited amount of time to meet your quota each day, and every day you have more toys to paint. You'd better be fast - but accuracy counts too! Santa won't accept any toys that are painted the wrong color. Miss your quota, and it's game over. The screen shows an overview of a toyshop with several conveyor belts on which toys appear. Before each level, you're shown any new toy to be painted, and how to paint it. Once the level starts, you move the elf around with the joystick, pressing the fire button to run at full speed and apply paint that you've selected from one of several paint buckets. Paint all of the toys in the required time, and you move onto the next level. Toyshop Trouble is an excellent action game that requires quite a bit of strategy and a good memory. Once you have a dozen different toys on screen at the same time, it's challenging to remember which toy is which color, and to figure how to paint them most efficiently. As you progress further in the game, the action is relentless, and you'll find that even miss-painting a single toy can cost you the game. The graphics are colorful and detailed (I may be a little biased since I designed most of them), and programmer John Payson did an amazing job getting the 2600 to display so many colorful objects all at once, with no flicker. The music is also very well done, with several variations on an original song that sounds like a mix between "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Jingle Bells". Also included on the cart is a hidden mini-game. I won't tell you how to find it, but it is a nice bonus, and a fun game in its own right. If I had any complaints about Toyshop Trouble, is that the game doesn't end after December 24th. Since the story is that you're helping Santa prepare for his annual trip on Christmas Eve, it doesn't make a lot of sense for the game to continue after that point, starting back up in January at a harder level, and eventually becoming unplayable. In hindsight, when December 24th was cleared, perhaps it would have been better to move from Toyshop Trouble straight into the mini-game (which is a natural follow-up to the main game). As it is, once you've gotten past December 24th, there's not a lot of incentive to keep playing - there are no more goals to achieve, and nothing new to see. Minor quibbles aside, Toyshop Trouble is an excellent game, which looks and sounds great throughout. The controls are smooth and responsive, and the gameplay is action-packed and highly unique. Released as a limited-edition in 2006, if you have the chance to get a copy, be sure and pick it up. That's it for this round. Next time... me guzzle spa! < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  24. Dark Mage 4/5 You are facing a blog entry. > Look You see nothing special. > Scroll There is a game review here. > Use You can't use this item. > Eat You can't eat this item. > Read Dark Mage is a text adventure, in the classic style of Zork. I spent many hours in the early 80's at my friend's house, with the two of us logged into the University of Washington's VAX, playing Zork through a modem hooked up to his TRS-80. I don't recall how long we played it, but it seemed to go on for months. I remember mapping out the world as we explored it, trying to find our way through the game, little knowing that this particular version of Zork wasn't actually solvable. It wasn't until we got the retail version from Infocom, that we actually found doorways that worked in two directions, rooms that stayed connected to each other, and a way through this wonderful world. Dark Mage really took me by surprise. It does a pretty amazing job of fitting a text adventure into a 2600 cartridge, and it instantly transported me back in time. I spent a really enjoyable evening, sitting in front of my 2600 with a pencil and a piece of paper, mapping out the world, and trying to work my way through it. While not a large world, Dark Mage still does exactly what a good text adventure should do: it pulls you into it. You imagine seeing rolling hills, strange creatures, barren wastelands, and castles on the horizon. And, in the grand tradition of text adventures, I had to go online to dig up a couple of clues (my hint: some objects have more than one use). I thoroughly enjoyed playing Dark Mage. Although it's only text with no sound effects at all, none were needed. I put some early 80's music on the stereo, and was transported back in time 25 years. There's also no manual included with it (figuring out the joystick controls doesn't really require one), although it would have been cool to include someplace to write down notes (like the original Myst had). People who never played text adventures may not get the appeal of Dark Mage, but hopefully they'll give it a chance. For the rest of us, it's a well-done homage to that genre, and for the price, well-worth the nostalgia trip. I really wanted to keep playing it, discovering the next clue, unlocking the next piece of the puzzle - but in an evening's time, I had solved it, and it's short enough that by the time I was through it, I knew it by heart. That would be my only complaint - is that I wanted more. Hopefully someone will take advantage of larger cartridge capacities and utilize the AtariVox's save feature, and create another, larger text adventure. _____________________________ Up next... move over, Merlin's Walls! There's a new "worst-homebrew-ever" in town... < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
  25. Not homebrews this time... but more unreleased prototype reproductions (like the UA Limited games). I've noticed my reviews keep getting longer and longer. So after these two, I'm going to try to write shorter ones again. 3D Rubik's Cube 2/5 This unreleased and long-lost prototype is an accurate simulation of a Rubik's Cube, even extending to the ability to rotate it in apparent 3D space. Unfortunately, it's even more maddening to solve than the real thing. While a visually impressive feat of programming (ugly color scheme notwithstanding), 3D Rubik's Cube has a couple of big knocks against it. First - the cursor that you control is agonizingly sluggish. It seems to fight you the entire time that you're trying to select a different face to rotate. Second - it's far too easy to accidentally rotate the cube in a way you didn't intend to and get completely disoriented. Admittedly, this may not be a problem for those people who can solve a Rubik's Cube behind their backs, but for the rest of us, it simply sucks any fun there might have been right out of this game. Just as you think you're making progress, you're suddenly looking at the wrong end of the cube, and you have to figure out how to get it back to a recognizable state. A better control scheme was desperately needed for this game. And that brings up another point - it's not really a game. It's a puzzle simulator. There's no scoring. No time limits. Nothing but you, and a pseudo-3D representation of yet-another unsolved Rubik's Cube, just like the real one that's probably sitting on a bookshelf somewhere, mocking you. If 3D Rubik's Cube only had some point to it - like being able to teach you practical moves to solve a real cube - then it might have seen the light of day. As it is, there's a good reason it was shelved: it's not really any fun, and there's no benefit in playing this over having a real Rubik's Cube. As a point of comparison, I played Atari Video Cube after playing 3D Rubik's Cube. Even though Video Cube really has nothing to do with Rubik's Cubes, it actually makes for a much better video game, and it's a decent puzzle game when judged purely on its own merits. On the other hand, 3D Rubik's Cube is merely a collector's item. It came with a great-looking box and manual, but the game itself is just a historical curiosity and an interesting exercise in programming. Saboteur 4/5 Howard Scott Warshaw is probably best known for the original Atari 2600 game Yars' Revenge. Later, he programmed Raiders of the Lost Ark and the infamous E.T - The Extra Terrestrial. Saboteur was his last game for Atari, and one that saw HSW return to what he does best - original action games. Unfortunately, Saboteur never got released because at the time it was created, Atari was only interested in games that were based on licensed properties. Whether arcade games, movie and TV show tie-ins, cartoon characters or Muppets, Atari had long since lost faith in its programmers' abilities to come up with successful, original concepts. Atari assumed that consumers were so narrow-minded and short-sighted, we wouldn't buy anything not related to some hit property. Saboteur was re-tooled into an A-Team themed game, but it had nothing at all to do with the show, and was never released. It's a shame this game never saw the light of day, because it has the makings of a really excellent action game, including top-notch graphics and sound. There are three screens you must battle through. The first places you in the middle row of the screen, and you have to shoot (or avoid shooting) aliens and robots running back and forth above and below you. The goal is to prevent the bad guys from constructing a rocket that will be used to destroy your home planet. The action gets fast and furious, and actually reminds me a little bit of Robotron: 2084. You don't have the same freedom of movement, but you do have eight-way rapid-fire, and plenty of enemies to contend with. The second screen is in some ways very reminiscent of Yars' Revenge, in that you aren't firing directly at your targets, but you're shooting at them indirectly - in this case, by ricocheting your shots off of an enemy robot. It's a clever idea, and more than a little difficult to get the hang of (especially with enemy drones chasing you around). But as with any challenging game, once you start to get the hang of it, it's eminently satisfying. The final stage has you simply firing at the completed warhead to destroy it. It's not nearly as challenging as the other stages, and seems almost tacked on as an afterthought. The warhead is only the size of your character, so it's not very intimidating. Having to destroy a much larger warhead (like the one in the title screen) by shooting pieces out of it would have been a lot more fun, and more in keeping with the rest of the game. When you do destroy the warhead, nothing much happens except you start at the first screen again, but at a higher difficulty. It would have been nice if there had been something a little more impressive at the end of the stage, like the Qotile explosion in Yars' Revenge. As it is, it's all very anticlimactic, and rather disappointing given the rest of the game. Saboteur was released in a limited run with a professionally printed box (including silver ink - something even Quadrun didn't have), and a very nice manual. It's well-worth getting if you can find a copy, and if you can't, the game was also included on Atari's Flashback 2 console. Next up... games that begin with an "E". < PreviousHomebreviews IndexNext >
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