Fairchild Channel F Reviews A-Z

Alien Invasion
Grade: B-
Publisher: Zircon (1981)
Reviewed: 2013/11/13

screenshotEvery classic system worth its salt needs a Space Invaders knockoff, and Alien Invasion serves that purpose for the Channel F. The game follows the standard formula with rows of pixelated aliens, three shields, and a mother ship that occasionally crawls across the top. Each row of aliens is unique in design, but their extreme blockiness and solid orange color fails to bring out their winning personalities. I like the green and blue checkered landscape below, which vaguely resembles the platforms of Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991). You can hold down the fire button to shoot continuously, but you only fire one missile at a time and it moves slowly. Due to my super low expectations I was impressed that a brief explosion effect occurs when you hit something. The large aliens are easier to hit than miss, and the low difficulty makes the game feel tiresome after a few waves. The mother ship is shaped more like an arrow than a saucer, and if the screen is almost clear you'll get several clean shots at it. After each wave your bonus is tallied, and this time-consuming operation makes it appear that the CPU is struggling to perform simple addition! The audio is limited to a bunch of clicks and blips, making this sound more like a ping-pong tournament than an invasion. During one game I noticed an extra pixel on the screen, which had my mind racing, thinking it could be a secret easter egg on par with the dot in Adventure. Sadly, my bullets just wiped it away so I guess it was just a graphical glitch (*sad face*). The two-player simultaneous mode works well. It's fun to trade shots at the mother ship, especially since each player has their own color-coded missiles. Alien Invasion isn't the best Space Invaders, but just being able to play a decent version of the game on the Channel F feels like a small victory. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 11,140
1 or 2 players 

Baseball
Grade: B-
Publisher: Fairchild (1977)
Reviewed: 2013/6/25


screenshotI can't remember the last time I enjoyed playing such a pathetic game! Baseball is one of those rare titles that succeeds in spite of itself. All nine fielders are present, but aside from the bases there's not much of a diamond. The screen's white background makes it look like they're playing in the snow. The pitching controls are pretty slick. You have full control of the ball in flight, so you can curve, speed up, or slow down the ball as you please. You swing the bat by pressing the button, and your timing does seem to affect where the ball is hit. Then there's the fielding. These fielding controls are so insane, you'll swear up and down that the game is broken. Your outfielders and shortshop move in unison - but only side to side. The good news is that you can pre-position your fielders. The bad news is there's a hole in left field where no fielder can reach, and sure enough the ball is hit there quite often. The ball is "caught" when it touches a fielder, and it usually comes to a stop in the foot or crotch region. When a hit gets through, you'll need to watch the runners on base to see if it's a single, double, triple, or home run. The bottom right of the screen displays two numbers: the outs and the number of runs scored this half inning. That's right, you can't view the actual score until the inning is over. At that point both players must hit their buttons at the same time in order to proceed. Despite its awkward design, Baseball is fun and competitive, mainly because it moves along so incredibly fast. I swear I once retired three batters in less than ten seconds! My friend Scott noted "If real baseball was this fast it would be a lot more enjoyable. Oh who am I kidding - it would still suck." © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Desert Fox
Grade: C
Publisher: Fairchild (1976)
Reviewed: 2013/1/17

screenshotI'd call Desert Fox a second-rate Combat (Atari 2600, 1977) except for the fact that it came out a year before that game. Each player maneuvers a pretty sorry-looking tank around a non-descript battlefield of mines and barriers. The tanks look awful but controls aren't bad. You can turn independently of moving, making this one of the first shooters (if not the first) to let you strafe! You can fire rapidly, and since your opponent doesn't move when hit, you can often get in several shots in a row. The action is fast but shallow as you tend to trade shots with your opponent. The collision detection is suspect and I've seen shots pass right through a barrier. The audio is minimal and there's not even a sound when you fire. The two-player action is serviceable but bland. Shooting Gallery is a single-player variation where you shoot as many "pigeons" (blocks) as you can in the fewest number of shots. Your "rifle" is an angled paddle placed in random locations on the left side of the screen. This isn't as bad as it looks (it can't be, right?). You'll need to properly time your shots but the collision detection is very forgiving. It cracks me up how the manual provides instructions for calculating your "batting average." I was told there would be no math! Desert Fox/Shooting Gallery is shooting action of the least common denominator. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Galactic Space Wars
Grade: C
Publisher: Zircon (1980)
Reviewed: 2013/11/13


screenshotThis first-person space shooter feels like a scaled down Star Raiders (Atari 2600, 1982) so strap yourself in! The black screen features moving stars that convey the illusion of movement in a less-than-convincing manner. The lower left side displays a pair of coordinates, and your goal is to reach sector 0,0. Occasionally an enemy ship (a clump of white pixels) moves into view, and you'll want to center it on the screen before taking a shot. The collision detection is loose to say the least, but it usually works out in your favor. When you blast an enemy the screen turns yellow and you hear a fuzzy, obnoxious beep. Different point values are awarded depending on the type of enemy. If you aren't quick enough, you'll incur damage and be subjected to all sorts of irritating noises. Score is kept for both you and the aliens on the lower right, and you'll want to be ahead when time expires. For a bare-bones space shooter, Galactic Space Wars provides some decent twitch shooting action, and as a bonus you get a Lunar Lander mini-game. Unlike the slow original, your lander drops like a bag of bricks so you need to immediately thrust to prevent a crash. With a little practice you'll be landing that bad boy in under 10 seconds. Galactic Space Wars was better than I expected. You won't love it but you probably won't hate it either. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 48-34
1 or 2 players 

Maze
Grade: D
Publisher: Fairchild (1977)
Reviewed: 2013/1/17

screenshotHere's a competent maze game marred by an incomprehensible user interface. Maze lets one or two players guide blocks through a randomly-generated maze that's ideal in size. You can usually "eyeball" the maze to figure out the right path, but while you're doing that your opponent may already be off and running. The game has several variations, but the game is only fun when the maze is completely visible. The invisible variations will make you miserable. Feeling your way around is a chore, especially when bumping into a wall results in an annoying buzz sound. One nice feature is the option to include a free-roaming, computer-controlled "cat". This makes the game playable solo and adds spice to the head-to-head action. Unfortunately, configuring a game requires entering a confusing sequence of keyboard and joystick commands. Even when you get it right, after one round it usually reverts to one of those dreadful "blind" variations. That's your cue to move on to another game! © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Pac-Man
Grade: A
Publisher: Blackbird (2004)
Reviewed: 2013/1/29

screenshotThis astonishing Pac-Man translation has got to be the high water mark for the Fairchild Channel F. Remarkably faithful to the arcade original, Pac-Man kicks off with an attractive title screen that introduces the ghosts, each of which is a different color. The main screen features a maze with a layout that's identical to the arcade. The background is white (instead of black) and the opening tune sounds distorted though still easily recognizable. The maze over-scans my television a bit, so the upper and lower regions are just barely visible. The game plays like a dream and the controls are very comfortable. The collision detection is less forgiving than the arcade, so if you're camped out by a power pill, don't wait too long to snag it. Upon getting caught by a ghost you're treated to the classic death animation and sound effect. Pac-Man is a heck of a lot of fun to play on the Fairchild. I hear there's another version with full intermissions, but as far as I'm concerned this one already goes well beyond the call of duty. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 11270
1 or 2 players 

Robot War/Torpedo Alley
Grade: D
Publisher: Fairchild (1977)
Reviewed: 2013/6/25


screenshotThis two-in-one package reeks of mediocrity. Robot War plays like a poor man's Berzerk (Atari 2600, 1982). You move a man freely around the screen as a gang of robots converge upon him. These robots aren't too bright and tend to mindlessly follow your movements. You defeat them by guiding them into "electrified force fields" which bear a striking resemblance to blue squares. When played at a low speed, the game is easy and unsatisfying. If you crank up the speed however, it becomes a frantic little chase game. There's no pre-defined score limit (lame), but I'd recommend playing to ten. Torpedo Alley is similar to Air-Sea Battle (Atari 2600, 1977). One or two players move cannons across the bottom of the screen shooting at boats moving across in both directions. Each layer of ships has its own point value, and there's also a layer of mines that block your shots. The only problem with this is that your torpedoes move far so slowly. In fact, you'll find yourself firing before a ship enters the screen, hoping it will just run into your torpedo. Neither of these games are particularly good, but I guess they might be worth a quick round or two. I love the disclaimer on the box which reads "Game play in color only on color televisions." © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Sonar Search
Grade: B+
Publisher: Fairchild (1977)
Reviewed: 2013/6/25

screenshotSonar Search takes the classic Battleship board game formula (remember that?) and actually makes it fun. Each player takes several "shots" per round by aiming a target at a clear blue screen. Hits are indicated by colored squares until the entire ship is revealed. When a shot misses, a series of "pings" indicate the proximity of the nearest enemy ship. By making calculated adjustments you can methodically hone in on the location of each ship. This extra audio component adds a nice layer of strategy. One flaw is that it's hard to tell apart hits from player one and player two, since their tiny colored dots are surrounded with a while square. In addition to head-to-head action, Sonar Search also provides a fun single-player mode which challenges you to sink five ships with the least amount of ammo. For such a modest little game, Sonar Search packs a surprising amount of entertainment value. My friend Chris absolutely hates this game, but only because he can never defeat me. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 1-4
Our high score: 59
1 or 2 players 

Space War
Grade: F
Publisher: Fairchild (1977)
Reviewed: 2013/1/29

screenshotI was beginning to think that all the games for the Fairchild had some degree of redeeming value, and then I played Space War. On the surface it looks a lot like Desert Fox, but instead of tanks you guide a saucer freely around the screen while shooting energy beams at your opponent. You can direct your shots left or right by turning the joystick. The screen is wide open except for some scattered mines and two diamond-shaped "star bases". Firing shots and taking hits drains your energy, but you can "recharge" at any time by touching either one of the star bases. This leads to endless stand-offs where both players trade a few shots before docking at their bases and returning good as new. Playing Space War is so pointless that you're probably better off doing absolutely nothing instead. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Spitfire
Grade: C
Publisher: Fairchild (1977)
Reviewed: 2013/1/29

screenshotAfter two minutes of playing this game my friend Chris came to the stunning realization: "Wait a minute - oh, we're airplanes!" Okay, so maybe Spitfire isn't much in the graphics department, but its dogfighting action isn't so bad. Each round begins with a plane on each side of the screen and a green control tower in the middle. After a brief countdown the planes take off and can fly freely around the screen while attempting to shoot each other down. The controls are a little counter intuitive, as you push up to dive and pull to climb. I guess it makes sense from an airplane control point of view, but on the 2D screen it would have been easier to just turn the knob. The game is pretty fun because you need to react quickly to shake an opponent off your tail. The collision detection isn't perfect but that actually makes the game more realistic. I really enjoy the crash animations of the planes spinning into the ground. You can play to any score, and there's even a one-player variation. Easy to play and competitive, this twitch shooter is usually good for a few rounds. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Tennis/Hockey
Grade: B
Publisher: Fairchild (1976)
Reviewed: 2013/1/17

screenshotThis two-for-one sports title comes built into the Fairchild Channel F console. Tennis is your basic Pong clone, and it's not a particularly good rendition. The action is slow, never speeds up, and you can't even affect the trajectory of your hits. I wasn't expecting much more from hockey. The field is a rectangle with openings on each side, and there are four "paddles" (two forwards and two goalies). I was expecting to only move up and down, but in fact your "forward" paddle has full range of movement all over the field! That's right - you can walk right up to your opponent's goalie and get all up in his business! Better yet, you can actually twist the joystick to angle your paddle! As icing on the cake, you can independently control your goalie by pulling or "plunging" the joystick! I was going to characterize this unprecedented degree of control as "4D" until my friend Scott pointed out that this game falls just short of letting you manipulate time itself. Is it hard to wrap your brain around this crazy control scheme? Yes. Does it add to the challenge? Yes. The collision detection could be better but the matches are action-packed. This isn't your father's hockey game! Oh wait... it might be. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Tic-Tac-Toe/Shooting Gallery/Doodle
Grade: D-
Publisher: Fairchild (1976)
Reviewed: 2013/11/13

screenshotThis cartridge is so primitive, it's difficult to imagine anybody shelling out real money for it. Then again, in 1976 any degree of interaction with your TV screen (apart from flipping channels) was considered a small miracle. This cartridge contains several tiny games. Tic-Tac-Toe is up first, and there are no fancy variations or gimmicks to spice things up. Heck, at least Atari's 3D Tic-Tac-Toe (Atari 2600, 1980) incorporated some semblance of originality. As if plain Tic-Tac-Toe wasn't lame enough, it's saddled with a really awkward control scheme. Instead of freely navigating the 3x3 board, you can only move the joystick sideways, letting the cursor travel row by row. As the final insult, you don't push the button to make your move - you pull up on the joystick. When the Video Game Critic has to consult instructions to play freakin' Tic-Tac-Toe, something is very, very wrong. Up next is Shooting Gallery, and believe it or not, it's not terrible! The game positions a paddle on the left side of the screen at random positions and angles. You need to time your shots to hit targets moving down the right side, and it's often necessary to ricochet your shots. If you set the game to quick (2 minutes) and fast (speed 4) you'll have yourself a mildly amusing little shooter. The next game, Doodle, is a simple drawing exercise where you "paint" by moving around a box. It's pointless in 2013, but during the bicentennial I'm sure it was considered a novel way to pass the time. You can turn the knob on the controller to change colors, or pull up on the knob to increase the size of your painting block. Quadra Doodle takes the concept to the next level by having the computer first draw random geometric patterns on the screen - which you can drawn over. This four-in-one cartridge is a true relic, but not the kind that Indiana Jones would risk life and limb for. You shouldn't either. Note: Shooting Gallery is also included on the Desert Fox cartridge. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Shooting 2min
Our high score: 20/44
1 or 2 players 


Select new range: A-Z

Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, VideoGame Console Library, Channel F Mania

Back to Top
Fairchild Channel F index
Return to Main Page