Sunday, December 30, 2007

Joust (Atari 1983)

I REALLY can't find anything wrong with this translation. I've always held this opinion, and after playing it again this morning, I'm sticking with it. I don't understand why it gets trashed in some quarters; you mean that graphics aren't on the same level with it's Williams arcade namesake? Oh gee, what a surprise the vcs doesn't have the graphic resolution power of coin-ops!!! The eggs float???? So what!! I think it diminishes nothing in the game play. No lava troll? The pterodactyl doesn't swoop? This is still quite challenging without those elements. Focusing on what this translation doesn't have obscures what you do get. Nice title screen as well!!

Rating: A

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Conquest of Mars (Champ Games 2006)

Wow. This is quite an impressive outing on the 2600. This incredible game is based (and quite like) Caverns of Mars, which was a 1981 game programmed for the Atari 8-bit computers, which kind of was a vertical scrolling version of the Konami arcade game Scramble. I hated this game at first; the laser gate level seemed to hard to get through with out any visual ques to help...but it is doable, and once that hurdle was overcome I began to realize what a fantastic game this is. You scroll downward through six martian caverns avoiding all kinds of obstacles to defuse a bomb at the bottom. Then you must make your way back up before the bomb explodes. This game DOES have a high difficulty level; so much so I thought of downgrading it's rating a little....but I can't, this title is pure genius. Plus, the programmer states that there's a nice ending if you can complete all levels.

Rating: A

Aquaventure (Atari Prototype 1983)

Given my love for many things seafaring, this unreleased title gives me the warm fuzzies. I can't tell if it's completed or not, but the difficulty increases gradually and I find myself fighting to beat my last high score. You are a diver with a spear gun descending through various stages of sea depths to grab a treasure chest and make it back up to the top before your oxygen runs out. There are various nicely drawn sea-creatures which you must avoid on the way down, and on the way back up. It's best if you try not to shoot them though...because they get replaced by fast swimming hard to hit fish that are more difficult to get around. Prudence is essential. A turtle keeps track of your air supply at the top. It moves from left to right....if it gets all the way to the right you lose a life. Now an appealing aspect to this game is that you have to touch a mermaid to complete the dive!! She carries you the rest of the way to the top were your air is replenished and your imagination runs wild!! This game along with the Classic Intellivision title Shark! Shark! help me get through the long winter months by giving me a taste summertime pleasure when I'm engaged in my water activities. Very pleasant, I must say.

Rating: B-

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Gyruss (Parker Brothers 1984)

By the time the mid-80s had arrived, I wasn't playing arcade games anymore, but a friend of mine had the fortune of his parents buying him a Texas Instruments computer in which he had a bunch of the old games that I loved from a few years back, like Pac-Man, on floppy disk. One game that I wasn't familiar with though was Gyruss. It became my favorite game to play on the computer. The 2600 version captures the spirit of the game. It has the famous Bach fugue playing continuously, but no other sound effects. The alien spacecraft do not have the circular formation in the middle of the screen; they simply disappear; plus they look like single colored flying blocks. All the levels are included--including the planets (except Jupiter) and the chance stages. It's a must to hit the middle satellite for double shots, because shooting singly is a lukewarm experience. Watch those meteors as well--I play the most difficult setting and am always getting nailed by those things. Really, a shadow of it's arcade namesake.....but it works, and I like it.

Rating: B

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mr. Do! (Coleco 1983)

While not a pure translation and with a few, perhaps glaring, faults, I find this version of Mr. Do! mildly addicting. The tunneling is flawed; you knock out big chunks instead of being able to make thin-walled mazes. In this case, your maze strategy has to be tunneling in wider patterns. The monsters are pretty aggressive and have no problem getting to you. It's up for debate whether these are problems, or a different challenge twist. The title and "game over" screens, plus the "EXTRA" feature add to the quality of this cartridge. It may not be perfect, but it's still fun. It will have to "do" until I get another working Colecovision.

Rating: B

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Skeleton+ (Eric Ball 2003)

One of life's greatest pleasures is blasting the undead; Skeleton+ provides plenty of opportunity to do so. Maybe my ignorance allows me to be easily impressed, but this is allot of game fit into 4k. Sort of similar to Tunnel Runner in that it is played from a first person perspective while you navigate various mazes, but I think this game is more enjoyable. Eliminate the skeletons before they eliminate you sums up what goes on here. A side note: the game seems easier when you first turn it on--the skeletons don't need as many shots to be killed than if you start the game by hitting the reset. Various difficulty features are programed as case it gets too easy for you.

Rating: B+

Monday, October 8, 2007

Entombed (US Games 1982)

Here's a great over-looked title that's allot of fun. You are an archaeologist in a vertical scrolling maze. The better your progress, the faster the mazes get. There are zombies to slaughter you though; some of them can even run through the catacomb walls. There's also moving blocks that you can snag to either make holes in the maze walls or to put a block up behind you. I've never found a reason to use it for the latter--especially when the action gets fast. Although, you have to be careful you don't block yourself at the top of the maze. If you run out of maze you die. A fun, challenging game. The only problem is I get a hand cramp when the going gets tough!

Rating: B

Kaboom! (Activision 1981)

Kaboom! is another great title you should have in your core 2600 library. This game has always had me constantly hitting the reset. The action is so fast, sometimes it's hard to breath! It's an experience getting to the point were the bombs are falling so fast and still being able to catch them. Fun with the "Mad Bomber" is not to be missed! A classic all the way around.

Rating: A-

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Halloween (Wizard Video Games 1983)

I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one, being that I'm a huge fan of John Carpenter's cinematic masterpiece, plus the decent reviews I heard about this game. The reality is that this slasher title doesn't live up to it's reputation. The graphics are second rate, a bunch of rooms that look the same with too few places that Michael Myers can come out and surprise you from. It progressively gets more challenging, but it remains a boring play. You get spurting blood, and (unlike the movie) Michael goes after the children. I like the pumpkins and the music, but, nevertheless, this game is a total snore.

Rating: C

Title Match Pro Wrestling (Absolute Entertainment 1987)

This is a nice looking game. The graphics are really good, plus I was impressed with the player selection screen. I like nice graphics as well as anybody, but I mainly grade on game play. Let me tell you, this game is just about impossible to play. You are supposed to be able to execute a number of moves using the joystick, but it's just about impossible. The computer beats you up so badly you don't get a chance. Nothing but continuously hitting the reset.

Rating: F

Monday, October 1, 2007

Hunchy II (Homebrew 2005)

Here's a first-rate homebrew game that contains 14 levels for completion. You are a hunchback who must gather bells to save the girl while avoiding missiles and medieval guards. The faster you complete each level--the higher your score. The first levels are easy, but the latter ones are difficult and you need to master all preceding levels so you have enough lives to figure out each new one. No bonus lives, and having to always start from the beginning is kind of frustrating. This game hits me as kind of a hybrid of Donkey Kong and Megaman and is one of the best platformers for the 2600.

Rating: B+

Tron Deadly Discs (M-Network 1982)

The nice folks at Mattel give us a translation of Tron Deadly Discs originally created for their Intellivision; based on the classic video game movie "Tron." The graphics aren't as detailed as the former version, but this game entails allot of strategy. Once you get to the point were the three opponent warriors really start moving, you have to be quick, dead-on with your aim, dodge fast discs, and use the teleportation doors on the wall strategically.....if not, you'll be "de-rezzed" in a blink of an eye!

Rating: B

Friday, September 28, 2007

Donkey Kong (Coleco 1982)

Considered by many as a disgusting piece of Coleco pimp work, this is definitely a stripped down version of the arcade game. My main complaint is not that it only has two out of the four screens of the original, but that it seems that they didn't even care enough to make them GOOD screens. The game still ramps up the difficulty as you get to later levels--so that's good. Even those things that I THINK are supposed to be fireballs on the girder level eventually get kind of tricky to get passed. It would be nice if someday we get a better version of this classic game for our vcs--until then, we are stuck with this.

Rating: C

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Solar Fox (CBS Electronics 1983)

Here's a game that continues to challenge even after years of play. I can set it aside for awhile and when I come back, it rarely fails to pull me in. You have to be on top of your game with this one, because it gives little margin for error. It's basically a game of collecting while avoiding getting shot by two cannons using tons of skill, timing and strategy. It keeps ya busy. My only (minor) complaint is how unforgiving the control can be. I think you can consider yourself an accomplished Solar Fox when you successfully spell the word by mastering the bonus screens.

Rating: A-

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lady Bug (Champ Games 2006)

I enjoyed playing this game on my Colecovision; luckily this version was released right about the same time my clunky Colecovision gave out. I don't remember this game in the arcades back in the golden days. It's very under-rated in the saturated genre of maze games. Champ Games gives us a beautiful effort that leaves nothing out. This is as about as perfect that you can come to gaming on your 2600. I hope these guys have more in store for us.

Rating: A

Astroblast (M-Network 1982)

It was a frustrating ordeal going over to my neighbors to try to play Astrosmash on their Intellivision. If I would have been paying attention, I could have been enjoying (nearly) the same game on my vcs as much as I wanted. It's even been said that the version they made for the 2600 is superior to the original. I'm not going to debate that, but this is a good game. You get very fast action using the paddle controllers. The drawback is that there is a glitch in either the scoring or number of lives (I don't remember) once your score starts reaching mammoth heights. I use the joystick because of this. For the action you sacrifice, you get a helluva challenge. Anyway, the Intellivision version used the disc, not, really, if one wants to nitpick, the joystick is the more "pure" way to play. It's fun either way.

Rating: B

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jr. Pac-Man (Atari 1984)

Amazing arcade translation we have here. Scrolling mazes and many levels give this game almost infinite replayability. Actually, when I'm in the mood for a Pac-Man game, this is usually the version I play. If Atari would have made the original Pac-Man HALF this good, maybe things would have been different. Nevertheless, you need this in your core collection of games for your 2600; there's no doubt about it. The only irritant I have with it is the FIRST screen is a bit too difficult. I've always had trouble not loosing one or two lives before the second screen; which means less lives for later levels. A minor point really, because you DO have the option at starting at any level you choose. I personally like the challenge from starting at the beginning though.

Rating: A-

Monday, September 24, 2007

Reactor (Parker Brothers 1983)

This is a rather interesting game in which you attempt to avoid a meltdown inside a nuclear reactor. You need to constantly trick the various types of particles that are trying to destroy you by ramming them into and eliminating the control rods. This is easier accomplished in the solid core phases, rather than the heart racing vortex core. The longer it takes to destroy the rods, the larger the core grows, and the greater the danger becomes. Different elements of the game add to the strategy like using decoys and trapping the particles in different compartments of the reactor for bonus points. Challenging, abstract and original. Well worth owning.

Rating: B-

2005 Minigame Multicart (Homebrew 2005)

I know I need to give allowances since the games here (except M-4) are only 1k, and I commend the programing talent of those involved, but my main concern is playability and THAT is what I am going to take into account here. Seven games on one cart is a compelling feature; not only that, but an actual selection screen with cool electronic music!! I almost felt I was playing one of my retro-comps on the ps2! Unfortunately the games have next to no depth, and are marginally fun at best. I have never played the original version of Hunchy, and this port doesn't stir any curiosity to investigate it. Basically, I feel I'm playing a substandard boring rip-off of Pitfall!, albeit without the complex challenge that underscores the gameplay of the latter. I question the unlimited lives feature; maybe it's needed to complete all the levels, but playing without consequence eliminates any tight-rope urgency and sweat. I have that problem with arcade games that are equipped to eat your quarters for progress. I don't see the point in playing games like Gauntlet when all you have to do is hit the start button to continue. Jetman is a decent idea that's fun up to a point. It's basically a semi-platformer in which you fly around by means of your jetpack to grab fuel for a rocket while avoiding missiles. Once you get hit a certain amount of times, the game starts over from the beginning. I wish there was a level counter so you could compete against your previous progress. Sort of reminds me of a simpler Saboteur. Nightrider is a "live fast and die" little ditty in which you cruise at great speed with your vehicle without crashing into the bumpy terrain while a helicopter tries to bomb you back to the Stone Age. As in life, you have one chance, and let me tell you, it's hard not to crash and burn. It takes allot of patience to amount a sizable score on this game. It's sort of like Moon Patrol's little immature brother on speed. Zirconium is one of my favorite entries served up on this cart. It's really a pretty looking game with it's shimmering squares of zirconium to blast a path through to take on the mother ship. Really, a Breakout-like shooter. My biggest complaint is that the first four levels are too easy, then the difficulty level jumps considerably on the fifth mind field; your shield is easily fried. Rocket Command is my other favorite. Simplistic fun and challenge along the lines of Kool-Aid Man...well, almost. Goal is to blast the invaders as they move up the screen and score enough points to earn yourself another missile arsenal to keep fighting. Gets a little fast and furious. Good scoring system adds depth. Not bad. Allot of hype surrounds the port of the 1977 arcade game M-4 in which your tank and opponent tank shoot at each other from behind a wall. The glory of this game must come from the two player variation, because I can defeat the computer two out of three times by just repeatedly hitting the fire button. Not very challenging. Honestly, I haven't played Marble Jumper that much, being I'm not that big into puzzle games. When I get the puzzle itch, I'll update this review. This is a mildly entertaining collection of games, but it doesn't make me want to go in search of more 1k experiments.

Rating: C+