Publisher: Leisure Vision (1982)
Clearly a poor-man's Missile Command (1980), Missile War pits you against waves of incoming missiles that are bearing down on four cities. You move a crosshair around the screen to aim your anti-ballistic missiles, which create explosions that envelop the incoming threats. I can't blame Leisure Vision for wanting to rip off Missile Command, but man, couldn't they have made this suck
a little less??
The graphics are sharp enough, but the poor programming is glaringly evident. Incoming missiles flicker terribly and randomly disappear for no reason. The speed of the game fluctuates wildly
(depending on the number of incoming missiles), which really
throws off your timing. Between waves there are inexplicably long pauses. On the bright side, I do like how you can unleash any number of missiles at a time, and they actually do
look like small rockets (unlike the dots in Missile Command). But the difficulty doesn't ramp well at all
. The first two waves are manageable enough, but the third wave rains down far more missiles than you could possibly defend. Even gamers who've never played the real Missile Command will find this one hard to stomach. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Mobile Suit Gundam (Japan)
Publisher: Bandai (1983)
Mobile Suit Gundam is an old anime series that has spawned many games including a few Playstation 2 mech shooters. Who knew the original Gundam game was released on the obscure Arcadia 2001 console? When I first discovered this game on my Arcadia multicart, my sense of shock was on par with the time I discovered Halo for the Atari 2600. And when I saw Gundam's elaborate high-resolution title screen with the detailed robot face, I thought "that must be all there is." But no, this is a full-blown, legitimate robot shooter. The first wave begins with a white ship flying across the screen to deploy your mech. Your white robot can fly freely and aim his one-pixel blaster in any direction - even diagonally! It's a good thing, because you face an alien armada from above, roving tanks below, and bombers that cross the middle of the screen. The graphics are sharp and clear, and a little theme song even plays in the background. Once you clear the first screen, a space stage begins where you face off against other flying mechs. Mobile Suit Gundam is well programmed and so action-packed that the controller once flew out of my hand!
As it turns out, the controls are the game's Achilles' heel. The Arcadia joysticks are stiff as hell to begin with, and the robot's stilted movements force you to wrestle with the controller. I guess that's just how a giant robot would handle in real life. Another issue is the loose collision detection, although that tends to work in your favor. Mobile Suit Gundam is one of the more interesting titles for Arcadia, but beware of its tendency to inflict physical pain. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1360
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
Ocean Battle uses a classic formula seen in other naval combat games, most notably Sea Battle
(Intellivision, 1980). A map screen depicts a series of continents with two armies of ships scattered throughout the oceans. Players take turns moving a ship into enemy territory, triggering a one-on-one battle. The control scheme is not the most intuitive you've ever used, but it's quite possibly the least
intuitive! Moving your ship requires pressing an awkward combination of keys, resulting in the vessel hopping from space to space. The actual battles are often mystifying. The larger ships can only move sideways, but they can
move off one side and reappear on the other. It's possible to have half of your ship showing on each side of the screen, and man, does that look like crap
. The submarines can move in any direction but their slow speed makes them sitting ducks. Each type of ship has its own set of capabilities, leaving some room for strategy. I like how certain ships can fire off shots at any angle. Each battle ends with a sinking animation, which is a heck of a lot better than watching a boat blink and disappear, right? Ocean Battle is playable, but only if you can stomach the sloppy graphics and terrible controls. Sadly, that's a really big "if". © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
This is a really shameless Berzerk clone that gets the visuals right but doesn't even come close
to matching its fun factor. I can't quibble with the graphics, which make a solid first impression. The maze walls have a granular texture, and the characters are small but nicely detailed. Your man runs by taking super long strides, but he moves in slow motion! And since he's small, you have a lot
of ground to cover to reach the exit of each room. You fire huge red balls, but they take forever to cross the screen, and for some reason you begin each screen by firing upwards for no good reason! The robots are shaped exactly like the ones from Berzerk, right down to that single eye moving side-to-side. You can almost picture one of them saying "Shoot him - he's very slowly
getting away!!" Only one robot can move one at a time, and they move at a snail's pace. They can also shoot, but their slow projectiles only present a danger at point-blank range. Should you linger in any room for too long, a small bouncing head appears in the center of the screen. Considering he's meant to chase you out, his pace is entirely too leisurely! Robot Killer isn't very challenging, and you'll hands will start cramping up long the game ends. I tried to increase the difficulty by adjusting the options, but each variation was equally slow and laborious. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 4-4
Publisher: Tehkan (1983)
Route 16 is one of those obscure, long forgotten titles that's so good
it catches you completely off-guard. This boldly original maze racer is best described as a cross between Dodge 'Em
(Atari 2600, 1980) and Venture
(Colecovision, 1982). You begin by guiding a car through a simple maze with three police cars on your tail. Exiting the maze puts you in a giant grid of 16 city "blocks". Here your car looks like a red pixel as you steer it around while avoiding the swarming police. Each block contains openings that let you enter a unique maze. You can tell which blocks have loot, and the idea to snag all the money symbols to clear the level. Your car handles well and you can even reverse direction. The cops never rest, and when they're approaching your maze you can see them driving along the border (even over your score!). This adds excitement and forces you to think ahead. There are times when it looks like you're hopelessly trapped in the grid view, but if you duck into one of the mazes you can draw the cops in and perform some evasive maneuvering. Route 16 also contains mystery icons that cycle between cash (good), oil (slows you down), and a skull (instant death). Clearing the entire level becomes an obsession, and subsequent levels feature more aggressive cops and rearranged icons. My only real complaint is the whiny "siren" effects that play when you're on the grid view. One reader compared the sound to a broken smoke alarm, and that's pretty accurate. Otherwise, Route 16 is hard to fault. It's a shame more people don't know about this exciting and refreshingly original maze chase title. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 2,430
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
I was totally psyched up about this Galaxian clone when I first turned it on. The alien armada on top of the screen looks sharp, and stars twinkle in the background. Since many Arcadia games are slow, I was pleased by the speed at which your missiles whiz up the screen. Dive-bombing aliens peel off two at a time, but if you ever see them in an "attack formation", it's probably by accident and not design. Space Attack's collision detection is really suspect, and it's not uncommon for your missile to pass clear through an incoming alien. I was surprised to discover that my missiles can collide with alien bombs, causing them to cancel each other out. It seems cool, until you realize it happens all of the time!
There's nothing worse than not being able to destroy an alien bearing down on you because your shots keep colliding! Another unnecessary "feature" is the fuel gauge at the bottom of the screen, which recharges after each wave. Space Attack could have been a great title, but like many Arcadia titles, it appears to be the victim of over-programming. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
It may not look like much, but Space Raiders has an arcade vibe that most Arcadia games lack. Like Defender, you guide a ship over a side-scrolling screen while blasting aliens with streaming missiles. When shot, enemy saucers and mutants burst into large bunches of pixilated squares. If the programmer was trying to create the largest possible explosions, he succeeded, but the effect looks pretty messy! There's no landscape on the bottom of the screen, but missile bases periodically move into view. If you bomb both missile launchers, you can dock between them to refuel. The keypad is used to unleash bombs, but the destruction is minimal since bombed launchers simply turn dark blue. Space Raiders has only one variation, but its difficulty is reasonable. Between waves your ship tends to change in appearance, and I have no idea why. It's a shame Space Raiders lacks the concept of "waves", because it would have been a lot more compelling. Despite its shortcomings, this is one of the more intense games for the system. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Leisure Vision (1982)
Like so many other Arcadia 2001 games, Space Vultures is sloppy, confusing, and completely lacking of originality. You fire a cannon at the bottom of the screen at waves of birds - some big, some small. If that description doesn't remind you of Phoenix (1980), well, it should
. The first wave opens with a pointless sequence showing large wings being attached to small bird creatures. Once the action finally kicks in, these birds tend to remain still for seconds at a time, making it easy to nail them dead center. Hitting a wing causes smaller birds to be created, which you face in the subsequent stage. This second stage is a little more interesting since the small birds tend to flutter around and you can fire multiple shots at a time. Even so, the animation is choppy, the collision detection is marginal, and there are glitches a-plenty (including one that transformed my cannon into a single pixel). Since Space Vultures is not totally unplayable, it actually has a leg up on most Arcadia games. But on any other system this would probably be considered defective merchandise. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
someone has figured out a way to make normal Chess even more tedious!
Star Chess replaces pieces with star ships, bombards your ears with beeps and boops, and throws convention out the window. My friend Chris and I attempted to figure this out without a manual, but we got nowhere. Fortunately a helpful reader directed me to an on-line copy of the instructions. As it turns out, the controls in Star Chess are roughly ten times more complex than they need to be. You need to press about 12 buttons on the keypad to move a ship three spaces. The directional pad is inexplicably not used at all. A cursor is used to select your ships, and its light color practically blends into the background! The keypad functions are non-intuitive to the extreme, and one particularly useless button relocates the cursor to the top corner of the screen (I always hit that accidentally). How far you can move each piece is never clear. When you attack a ship, the game emits a lengthy series of high-pitched beeps that give you impression that the program is stuck. You never know how much damage your ship sustained, and you'll need to use your entire turn
just to check its status! One interesting aspect of Star Chess is the way you can temporarily "warp" a piece off the screen for the few turns. This is accompanied by a flashy effect that might just leave you with the impression your ship just self-destructed
. You never know where a warped ship will reappear, so it's a risky maneuver. My friend Scott indicated that the instructions lie
, pointing to some text that describes Star Chess as "a two-player game of strategy and fun
." Any promising ideas the intergalactic theme may have introduced were squandered by bad execution. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: UA Ltd (1983)
These days the term "Super Bug" calls to mind infectious diseases and antibiotic-resistant viruses. Was this old game sending a message to future generations about global pandemics, genetic mutations, and the fate of the human race? Nope, Super Bug is just an insect-themed maze shooter. You control a hideous bug with a jumble of legs who controls (and even sounds) like a tank. Your goal is to snag fruit in each stage and exit without being caught. Each screen is unique in design with a pair of wandering insects like beetles and dragonflies. The fruits include apples, cherries, lemons, and even marmalade. The graphics are chunky but the animation is smooth. Super Bug isn't as easy as it looks because your shots move slowly and enemies are unpredictable. They aren't that smart either. Sometimes they will bear down on you only to turn away at the last moment (*whew!*
). When you shoot one, the insect will respawn a few seconds later either in the center of the screen or near the exit. Respawning near the exit is problematic but it does add strategy. My friend Brent discovered that you can "snipe" these bugs as they reappear. Sometimes it's best to just leave them alone if you can maintain a safe distance. You rack up the big points by reaching the exit so don't dawdle. When you escape a tune plays that sounds a heck of a lot like Frosty the Snowman with a slightly different ending. Each screen has scattered obstacles in the form of card suits (spades, diamonds, etc). Sometimes you can shoot these, sometimes you can walk over them, and sometimes they are deadly to the touch. I have mixed feelings about these arbitrary rules, but it's always fun to see what each new screen has in store. Even with its flaws, Super Bug is infectious fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 98,500
Super Bug 2
Publisher: James Jacobs (2009)
If there was one Arcadia 2001 game begging for a sequel, it was Super Bug. Okay, "begging" is a little strong, but this homebrewed sequel is still a welcome addition. Like the original, Super Bug 2 is a nifty shooter that involves collecting fruit in various stages while avoiding insects who don't take kindly to your thievery. This well-crafted homebrew/hack gives us more of the bug-shooting mayhem we crave. You get a fresh set of stages, brand new fruit, and more challenge. Many screens have not one but two pieces of fruit to collect, which effectively doubles the challenge. The fruit tends to assume recognizable forms like bananas and pineapples. The screens are thoughtfully designed, allowing the player to devise and experiment with different strategies. I especially like the screen that looks like a castle. Super Bug 2 is tougher than the original but every bit as fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 139,600
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
This is one of the better and more original titles for the Arcadia 2001. In fact, I really can't really think of any other game
that's quite like this. Tanks A Lot places you in a maze against a brigade of tanks. Your slow-moving soldier is armed with a missile launcher that unleashes large blue balls. Your goal is to protect your "commanding base vehicle" at the bottom of the screen, which actually looks like a little red truck. Several enemy tanks appear near the top of the screen per wave, but only two are active at a time. The stationary yellow tanks may look like sitting ducks, but they'll sometimes surprise you and suddenly spring into action. When dealing with tanks in motion, be sure to stay out of their line of sight. Anticipate their movement into an intersection, and fire just before they arrive. When two missiles collide, they cancel out. The maze is composed of bricks, and it's cool how you can blast holes in the walls. Adding more strategy is your ability to open and close gates, and even "warp" to another part of the maze. Tanks A Lot offers an interesting combination of traditional elements, but the action is so sluggish that you almost feel as if you're playing in slow motion
. Your death animation is so drawn-out that it's almost comical. Tanks A Lot could definitely use a little zip, but compared to most of the derivative garbage on the Arcadia, this is not half bad. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 1-1
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, OldComputers.com, Games Database, Arcadia 2001 Central