Atari 7800 Reviews A-E

Ace of Aces
Grade: D+
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Reviewed: 1999/9/24

screenshotAce of Aces is part flight simulator and part air combat. Despite its realism and attention to detail, this gameplay remains slow and tedious. Still, the game has plenty of depth. After choosing your mission, you stock your plane with missiles, bombs, and fuel supplies. The main view displays many gauges to indicate your position and status. There are five views to switch between, including a bomb bay that lets you see directly below the plane. Animation during dogfights is choppy, but the control is reasonable. I found myself spending too much time trying to fly in the right direction, switching between the cockpit and map views. Once a target is in range, the radar makes it pretty easy to locate and destroy it. People with enough patience to master the controls will enjoy Ace of Aces, but most will consider it a dull affair. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Alien Brigade
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Reviewed: 2001/12/18

screenshotThis hard-to-find title is probably the best light gun game available for the Atari 7800. Your mission is to shoot aliens and brainwashed soldiers while protecting civilians. Alien Brigade controls well, and you can easily select your weapons (including grenades) by shooting boxes on the top of the screen. Stages include a training camp, a river resort, underwater, and the alien cave base. Each stage has plenty of bad guys running around and the presence of civilians is sure to keep you on your toes. I really enjoy the rapid-fire, bullet-spraying action. There are some really nice animations in this game. Aliens melt when shot. Limbs are blown off of soldiers. Water skiers hold their nose before falling into the water. You'll even see water-skiing aliens! My complaints are very minor. There is some slowdown when many objects are on the screen. Also, aliens don't bunch up enough to make grenades particularly useful. Alien Brigade is a nice addition to your Atari 7800 collection - if you can find it. It took me over a year to acquire a good copy. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Asteroids
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Reviewed: 2004/5/2

screenshotThe ill-fated Atari 7800 system did not have many original titles, but it did provide some definitive versions of classic arcade games. This outstanding version of Asteroids ranks second-to-none, with enhanced graphics and fantastic two-player simultaneous modes. Like the original Asteroids, this version is relentlessly challenging and madly addictive. The action is a bit faster than the arcade game, and your cannon seems to have slightly better range. The colorful, rotating asteroids appear to have depth, and you can even see their craters. The UFOs are similarly detailed. In addition to the four skill levels, you can play some intense two-player simultaneous competitive OR cooperative modes. These alone are worth the price of admission. Asteroids should be standard issue for all Atari 7800 owners. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Ballblazer
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Reviewed: 1999/7/21

screenshotThis game was revolutionary when it first came out (on 8 bit computers) in the mid-80s. Ballblazer, a futuristic one-on-one split screen soccer-style game, was the first video game to let you play another human opponent from a first-person perspective. You move a small "rotofoil" around the 3D field, attempting to grab a floating ball and shoot it through moving goal posts. When your opponent has possession, you can knock it loose. The game is totally original and has an incredibly catchy theme song. If you prefer to play against the cpu, there are nine skill levels and the AI is impressive. The limited visibility and simplistic gameplay may wear thin after a while, but Ballblazer stands the test of time. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Barnyard Blaster
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Reviewed: 1999/7/2

screenshotThis has got to be the worst of the Atari 7800 light gun games. It's entirely too easy and repetitive. It looks promising at first, with good control and a variety of screens (barnyard, cornfield, barn, bonus). But when the screens start to cycle, boredom sets in. This game should have included a difficulty option. The bonus screen has an old man throwing bottles across the screen, and all you need to do is shoot in the same spot for about 5 minutes. Painful! © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Centipede
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1986)
Reviewed: 2006/12/19

screenshotCentipede may be the most addictive shooter ever created, and this stellar 7800 version pulls out all the stops. We're talking mad fun here. Not only does this wonderful translation feature the same beautiful graphics, sounds, and adrenaline-soaked gameplay as the arcade, but it includes two-player simultaneous modes! That's right, now you and a friend can either compete for score, or join forces in the mother of all exterminations. If you don't love that, you need to have your head examined. The visuals are faithful to the arcade except for the four-legged spider (who appears to be holding maracas) and the white border. The animation is super smooth and the mushrooms have a nice 3D appearance. The Atari 2600 trak-ball works okay, but a good joystick provides the best control. Centipede's gameplay is as challenging as ever, and four skill levels are included. Like Asteroids for the 7800, this may be the definitive home version of an arcade classic. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Choplifter
Grade: B+
Publisher: Broderbund (1987)
Reviewed: 2007/7/6

screenshotI've always admired this innovative combat/rescue side-scroller, which is far more involved than your garden-variety shooter. This Atari 7800 version is substantially better than the one I played on my Atari XL computer as a kid. UN diplomats have been taken hostage in a hostile country, and you must fly a chopper in and out of enemy territory to save them. While the country is never identified, the barren desert and Arabian architecture suggests the Middle East. Getting the hostages to safety won't be easy. As you fly over enemy lines, you're greeted with roving tanks, jets, and guided missiles. You actually need to blast open enemy strongholds to release the hostages, and then land on the ground long enough for them to climb aboard. The longer you're on the ground, the more vulnerable you are to roving tanks. The hostages are all black guys, probably because pasty white people would have blended into the desert sand. Choplifter can be a bit cheap at times, with tanks and jets tend that appear without warning, giving you little (if any) time to react. Should you return to headquarters in one piece, the hostages exit the chopper and you score one point for each. Yeah, the scores tend to be pretty low, with anything over 50 considered pretty impressive. As for the graphics, the vehicles are large and detailed, and I like how the helicopter tilts realistically as you fly forward. The American headquarters looks more like a little schoolhouse, but the landing pad and that large fluttering flag look nice. There's only one skill level, which I would describe as "moderate". With appealing visuals, an intriguing premise, and intense gameplay, Choplifter is ideal for arcade fans looking for a bit more substance. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Commando
Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1989)
Reviewed: 2003/5/7

screenshotThis is easily one of the most exciting, action-packed games you're going to find for the Atari 7800. The gameplay is similar to Rambo or Ikari Warriors, where you move through vertically scrolling territory while shooting soldiers and tossing grenades into bunkers. You can shoot at eight different angles, but enemies always tend to hang out in hard-to-reach spots. Grenades can only be thrown forward, but they are effective. Instead of blood, enemy soldiers are splashed with yellow when hit, which looks dumb and makes no sense. The graphics are pretty dull overall, but what makes Commando fun is the non-stop action. There are plenty of soldiers on the screen at any given time, and thankfully their bullets travel only slightly faster than they run. While you're dodging bullets I recommend shooting like a madman. The action really heats up when you find the automatic weapon, which lets you spray bullets by holding the fire button - very cool. My main complaint is the lack of a two-player simultaneous mode. Another problem I encountered is not really the game's fault, but the lousy Atari 7800 controller. Playing this game absolutely KILLED my hand - I mean, I was literally in pain by the time it was done. But I guess that's the price you have to pay for some kick-ass shooting action on the 7800. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Crack'ed
Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Reviewed: 1999/7/3

screenshotCrack'ed is a strange game with a poorly-designed control scheme. Your job is to protect eggs in nests scattered around the screen. You shoot advancing predators using a cross-hair to aim. If an egg is taken, you can shoot the predator before it gets off the screen and save the egg by catching it. The problem is, this is a light gun game with no light gun support. You have to move the jerky cursor with the joystick, and it's aggravating as hell. It's too bad, because there are some nice-looking screens including a haunted house and an underwater level. Predators include birds, mice, fish, and even ghosts. There's even a tough bonus stage where you throw eggs at a rooster. Unfortunately, the poor control undermines the gameplay. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Crossbow
Grade: B-

screenshotAtari light gun games aren't usually anything to write home about, but this one isn't half bad. In Crossbow you protect your friends as they wander across the screen by destroying various projectiles which approach them. There are numerous other harmless objects you can shoot for bonus points. The difficulty is fair, and the light gun is pretty accurate. The screens have medieval themes including castles, bridges, deserts, and volcanoes. The scenery has plenty of detail and animation, but due to the limited number of colors it can be difficult to see certain objects. You can choose the order in which you play the stages, which raises the replay value. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Dark Chambers
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Reviewed: 1999/9/9

screenshotDark Chambers is much like Gauntlet, only slower and less exciting. The graphics feature detailed characters and large dungeons. Unfortunately, there isn't much variety in the 26 levels; they are all brick labyrinths of rooms and hallways. Your character moves slowly through the scrolling dungeons. The game requires you to do a lot of backtracking which is boring and time-consuming. The left joystick button shoots and the right button allows you to use smart bombs. When you shoot a monster, he transforms into a weaker monster. These monsters aren't particularly aggressive. They look as bored as you do playing this game. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Desert Falcon
Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Reviewed: 1999/7/10

screenshotThis Atari exclusive looks like Zaxxon in the desert, with some additional strategic elements. As an arrow-shooting bird, you fly through an Egyptian world of obelisks and pyramids. Symbols on the ground allow you to acquire power-ups. When you pick up three symbols you are awarded with a power-up that can be initiated with the right button. How does this mix of action and strategy work? Not too well, because neither the action nor the strategy is particularly fun. As far as the action goes, it is extremely difficult to judge your altitude with respect to obstacles and enemies, resulting in many unintentional collisions. As for the strategy, stopping to hop around on the ground and pick up the symbols really slows down the game. Accidentally walking into an obstacle causes your bird to keel over! In addition, some powers, such as speed, are more problematic than beneficial. The graphics are well-drawn but the colors are dull. Desert Falcon is a real dud. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Dig Dug
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Reviewed: 2008/4/7

screenshotThis is a great version of one of the more timeless arcade classics. The star of Dug Dug is a little astronaut-looking guy with an air pump. As he tunnels under the ground, he can defeat his adversaries (including fire-breathing dragons) by pumping them until they pop, or score the big points by dropping boulders on their heads. The biggest thrill is to time your boulder drops to take out multiple baddies at a time. And don't underestimate the value of those bonus vegetables in the center of the screen. Never has eggplant been pursued with such zeal! As is the case with so many well-designed video games, the risk versus reward ratio is perfectly balanced. The characters in this Atari 7800 edition look similar to the arcade (maybe slightly chunkier), and the memorable "banjo" music is perfectly reproduced. The vibrant colors stand in stark contrast from the washed-out look of so many other 7800 games. It's a shame the game doesn't take advantage of all the screen's real estate, instead being "cropped" on both sides. This makes the playing field feel slightly cramped, leaving the player with little room for error. The game offers a generous number of lives (five to begin), but the difficulty level is high. The pace of the game is faster than the arcade, with creatures that are very aggressive from the start. Your score is not displayed when your game ends, so be sure to catch a glimpse before the screen goes black. Dig Dug on the Atari 7800 can't quite measure up to the arcade, but it's still a heck of a lot of fun. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Donkey Kong
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Reviewed: 2012/7/27

screenshotIf you enjoyed the Colecovision Donkey Kong you're going to freak out over this Atari 7800 edition. It's a remarkably faithful rendition of the arcade hit with all the subtle details and death animations fans crave. The visuals are far more richer and vibrant than on the Colecovision. The first stage incorporates flaming barrels, and while holding the hammer you can also bash barrels on the girder above you. I love how those point values appear right there on the screen. The rivet stage might look easy at first with only one flaming "peep", but it doesn't take long for that thing to multiply. The elevator stage is very forgiving, so don't hesitate to snag those 800-point umbrellas. As in most home versions, the conveyor belt screen is missing, but it's not much of a loss. The controls are responsive, and since only one button is required, you can kick back with your most comfortable Atari 2600 joystick. The sound effects tend to be a little abrasive, but that's not an uncommon complaint for the Atari 7800. The bottom line is that Donkey Kong is easily one of the best titles for the system. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Advanced
Our high score: 31,500
1 or 2 players 

Donkey Kong Junior
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Reviewed: 2012/7/27

screenshotIn this interesting sequel Donkey Kong is being held captive and his son must spring to the rescue. Donkey Kong Junior's innovative vine-climbing mechanics are fun and allow for plenty of technique. The graphics are noticeably richer than the Colecovision game and crisp controls let you maneuver with more precision. That's not to say this game is easy. There's very little clearance for leaping over chattering teeth, and even falling a short distance can be fatal. That second stage is absolutely crazy with all of its moving platforms, egg-dropping birds, and hanging scrotums. It's possible to vault from the trampoline to the moving green platform, but your timing needs to be perfect. There are no ropes on the "locks" screen, but otherwise this version has everything - including the electrified platform stage. The music is mediocre and the sound effects lack punch, but otherwise this translation is dead-on. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Standard
Our high score: SLN 32,100
1 or 2 players 

Double Dragon
Grade: F
Publisher: Activision (1989)
Reviewed: 2001/3/13

screenshotCompared to the Nintendo version of this classic fighter, this edition is pathetic. It's not surprising that this was made by Activision, who also inflicted so much pain with the Atari 2600 version. The background graphics are dull. The simple, looping music will drive you mad. The fighters look blocky, but at least they don't flicker. There are about six moves, but the controls are not responsive at all, and only the flying kicks are particularly effective. The backgrounds, which were somewhat interactive in the NES version, are plain and static. There aren't even any barrels to pick up and throw. Sure you'll find a few weapons, but the knife looks more like a big cucumber. In the late 80's, when side-scrolling fighters were the rage, the Atari 7800 faithful missed out in a big way. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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