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+