Publisher: 20th Century Fox (1983)
Oddly enough, this game has practically nothing
to do with the 1970's TV series it's based on. In M*A*S*H, one or two players pilot a helicopter and attempt to rescue as many soldiers as possible without being destroyed by enemy fire. Scattered trees serve as obstacles, and touching one will cause you to lose control momentarily. To its credit, M*A*S*H also features a cool bonus stage that lets you perform surgery on a patient. The object here is to remove as many pieces of shrapnel as you can in a limited time, and it plays a lot like the old board game Operation. Although its label is marked "one-player", this is clearly designed as a two-player game. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: US Games (1982)
M.A.D. (Missile Attack and Defense) looks a lot like Missile Command, as you control a cannon situated between six cities at the bottom of the screen. Actually, the cities look more like random pixels. In any event, the object is to shoot down approaching kamikaze aircraft using a turret that can be positioned at seven degrees of precision. M.A.D. isn't very exciting to play alone, and as a result my initial review was rather harsh. But after a perceptive reader pointed out the two-player mode, I gave it a shot with my friend Scott, and we actually had a pretty good time with it. One player guides the enemy aircraft while the other shoots them down, and players take turns trying to destroy each other's cities. It's actually possible for the loser to get a higher score, which doesn't seem right. Anyway, it's the two-player mode that elevates this game above the mediocre mark. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Answer Software (1983)
This oddball title tries to take the Pac-Man formula in a new direction, but fails to strike gold. I should point out that Malagai is not
to be confused with Malachai
- that evil kid from the Children of the Corn film (hey, it's an honest mistake). This game lets you guide a dude in a jet pack through a maze with three lurking "Malagai" aliens of slightly differing body shapes. With their single eyes and tentacles, they resemble pixelated versions of those green aliens on the Simpsons. It's hard to believe this game came out long before the Simpsons were even invented!
The top of the screen shows the order in which you need to "catch" the aliens. After touching the correct one, you race to the "airlock" at the top of the screen before a timer runs out. The game cycles through three different mazes. Malagai's graphics are clean but blocky, and its sound effects are mainly limited to random beeps. Three skill levels are available, but the advanced ones require you to memorize which aliens you catch, which negates much of the fun. Who wants to think
when they play Atari?
Malagai is a playable, but its mediocre graphics and derivative gameplay expose it as another unremarkable third-party title on a system already loaded with them. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 4,700
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Spectravision (1983)
This ultra-rare game is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen on an Atari 2600. The word "mangia" (pronounced mon' ja) is an Italian word meaning "to eat". Before learning this tidbit of information, I had been pronouncing it "man-gia" (what a dumb ass I was). This unusual game is set in a kitchen, where a mother is serving pasta to her kid. The characters are huge and detailed, but somewhat creepy-looking. Each time the mom returns to the table, she heaps more food on the kid's plate. Playing the role of the kid, your job is to dispose of the food any way you can! Sure, you can eat it, but if you eat too much your stomach will expand and eventually explode
. That's right - the game actually depicts the poor kid's stomach bursting into a pixilated mess! Can you believe it? I'm telling you, Mortal Kombat has nothing
on Mangia! Anyhow, to prevent this gruesome tragedy, you periodically toss some of the food to the cat in the window or the dog under the table. The problem is, these pets only appear intermittently, and you can only toss the food when mom's back is turned. If caught, she'll bring THREE helpings of food at a time, and too much food will break the table legs, costing you a life. Does this game sound like a twisted nightmare or what? The movie Seven comes to mind. The controls utilize the joystick only (no fire button), and Street Fighter-like joystick "sweeps" are used to sling food. Sound effects include an irritating ring that blares whenever the cat appears. A nice Italian song is played between levels, but you'll soon get sick of it. Mangia's novelty value held my attention a while, but once you get the hang of it, it gets really long and repetitive. Still, I'll give the game credit for being original (and somewhat disturbing). © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tigervision (1982)
One astute reader pointed out how I was overly critical in my original review of Marauder, which I gave an F. He was 100% right. Marauder may be a Berzerk
(Atari, 1982) clone but there's more than enough innovative elements to set it apart. You move a guy between contiguous mazes while blasting robots. The characters are rendered from an overhead perspective, giving them the appearance of small blobs. Your main goal is to locate the "power cell" and destroy it for big points. The screens are laid out in a new pattern each round, and I like how when you clear a room of robots it usually remains clear. Marauder boasts smooth animation and responsive controls. And get this: robots don't appear until they are in your line of sight!
That's a pretty advanced feature! Too bad you can only shoot them when they're visible. Robots are aggressive but not fatal to touch and you can outrun
their bullets! If you fire repeatedly, your shots cancel out just like Gorf
(CBS, 1981). When you find yourself in a crowd of robots I recommend going buck-wild with the fire button. As you plow through them it looks like you're knocking them out with your fists!
You can actually see them falling back! Occasionally you'll find a "magic armor" icon that makes you invincible for a few seconds. There's a lot of cool stuff in Marauder but some flaws as well. Upon respawning you are sometimes placed directly in front of converging robots, leading to cheap deaths. On the other hand, the game sometimes places you in the power cell room first
, which makes for a really easy round. Balancing issues notwithstanding, you have to like how Marauder takes the Berzerk concept to a new level. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 10,860
Publisher: Xype (2002)
This new 2600 title offers some refreshingly original gameplay and a unique control scheme. It's based upon the old board game where you tilt a board on two axis in order to guide a marble through a maze. Marble Craze requires you to use two paddle controllers at the same time, and that's a first as far as I know. The controls feel pretty comfortable once you get accustomed to them, and bars on the edge of the screen help keep you orientated. In each of the 18 stages, you guide a large white ball around contiguous screens, trying to reach the end of the maze before a timer runs out. The first few mazes have walls, but the more advanced, wide-open stages require a great deal of skill. Scattered "power bars" provide bonuses such as extra time or bonus points. Marble Craze delivers some fine split-screen competitive action, but what's really charming is how it pays homage to classic Atari games. Some mazes are taken from old 2600 games (the blue maze in Adventure for example), and you'll even find mazes in the shape of classic characters like Pac-Man, Space Invader, and ET. My single complaint is that it can be hard to determine which direction you need to go. But overall, Marble Craze's inspired gameplay is both fun and addicting. There's even a nice title screen. Xype continues its winning streak. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (1983)
Marine Wars takes the tired formula of Atari's "Air-Sea Battle" and spices it up with all kinds of nifty features. Looking out over the sea, you'll see three rows of ships, and the ones further out look smaller, conveying a pseudo-3D look. A sophisticated control scheme allows you to line up your targets and even guide your missiles to a certain degree. An island in the distance helps you gauge your position. You can unleash three shots at a time, and the explosions are nicely rendered. Konami added a few additional features that push this game above the average mark. There are night stages where you can't see distant ships. Other stages challenge you to shoot down pairs of planes on bombing runs. Your shots sometimes even collide with incoming missiles. Marine Wars is a tough game, mainly because your ship is such a large target. But since it takes three hits to destroy your ship, you effectively have nine lives. A pleasant surprise, Marine Wars is a demanding shooter that requires more finesse than most. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1983)
This likeable platform game is the first to feature Mario by name, and it even co-stars his brother Luigi! Although played on a single screen, Mario Bros. still contains many of the elements that would be associated with Nintendo's Super Mario series. Turtles, crabs, and other creatures emerge from pipes on top on the screen. As they slowly make their way down, you can flip them over by bumping them from below. Once on their back, you can kick them off the screen for points. When a second player assumes the role of Luigi, it becomes a head-to-head competition for points. It's a shame you can't "bump" the other player (as you can in the arcade), because this reduces the strategy. Mario Bros. on the Atari 2600 looks about as good as Mario Bros. can look on the 2600. Our heroes are rendered in multiple colors and the creatures only flicker slightly. The number of objects on the screen at a given time does seem limited however, which reduces the challenge considerably. I also don't like the animation of turtles trying to upright themselves - what are they doing?
Mario Bros. provides some amusing head-to-head action, but this scaled down version lost a bit of fun in the translation process. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 5
1 or 2 players
Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man
Publisher: M-Network (1982)
He-Man was a hugely popular Saturday morning cartoon character in the early 80's. You may recall that his arch-nemesis, Skeletor, had a face that resembled a skull. The video game adaptation of the cartoon series made a splash on the Intellivision, but this 2600 version is not as good. Oddly enough, although game's graphics are generally bad, the game's intro and ending screens are fantastic. When you first turn on Masters of the Universe, you witness a blonde, bare-chested dude transform into the muscular He-Man. Whoa! The first stage places He Man is some kind of rocket ship flying across a stretch of barren land en route to Skeletor's castle. Henchman fire at you from the ground, and you can shoot down their missiles and drop bombs on these thugs. Once you arrive at the castle (which looks pathetic compared to the Intellivision version) you participate in which appears to be one of those bad Swordquest mini-games. The object is to reach Skeletor on the right side of the screen while avoiding two moving walls. Skeletor fires missiles at you, but you can block his shots with your shield by pressing the fire button. Should you reach Skeletor, the game displays a nice ending screen, featuring a full-screen He-Man triumphantly raising his sword. Wow! Then it's back to the beginning, although at least M-Network was considerate enough to change the background color for each stage. In the end, Masters of the Universe remains an interesting title despite its weak gameplay. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sears (1978)
See review of Slot Racers
(Atari, 1978). This is the same game published by Sears under a very non-descript title. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Maze Craze: A Game of Cops 'n Robbers
Publisher: Atari (1978)
Maze Craze is a technical marvel. This meager 4K cartridge not only packs a fast maze generation algorithm but also 256 (!) game variations. That's more than any other 2600 cartridge. You can toy around with Maze Craze alone but the game is ideal for quick head-to-head competition. It's not usually obvious which path is correct, so you'll just need to pick one and hope for the best. Imaginative variations really spice things up. In "robbers" you must avoid wandering colored blocks or get knocked out of the game. Wounds mode allows you to slowly recover after getting caught. The aptly-named terror mode prohibits you from exiting the maze until your opponent is knocked out!
"Capture" variations turn the tables by forcing you to catch
the robbers before you can exit. There's even a blockade mode that allows you to create phony dead-ends to trick your opponent. I'm not a big fan of the "invisible" variants that block out portions of the screen, but "peek" and "scout" features are available to help you find your way. Despite its overwhelming number of options, a well-designed selection screen makes it remarkably easy to find the right combination. Better yet, when the game is over you can just press the button to restart with a fresh maze. This game is so 80's, the cop and robber on the label look like Hall and Oates... if Hall had a mustache...? C'mon, work with me people!
Maze Craze is classic fun that never really gets old. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sears (1978)
Publisher: Duarte/Harvey (2009)
Mean Santa is a quirky holiday title that feels just slightly undercooked. Apparently Santa has turned sour on Christmas and is now in the business of stealing
presents. Fire up the cartridge you're treated to the first four notes
of "Joy to the World". My friends assured me the rest of the song would be made available in the form of a patch! Your score is the time it takes to visit 15 houses, but it's a shame there's no visible timer. On the first screen you guide Santa in his sleigh but he looks more like Snoopy
. Where are his reindeer? Every few seconds a blocky house appears and it's a challenge to land on the roof without colliding with the chimney. Advanced stages add weather conditions like killer snowflakes and thunderbolts but they only stun you momentarily. A successful roof landing takes you to an indoor screen sprinkled with sharp, colorful items like candy canes, wreaths, dolls, trucks, and AT-AT walkers (yes!
). Collecting stuff is pretty easy but I like how you can complete a game in just a few minutes (unlike the Odyssey 2 version). Mean Santa includes an unlockable "snow mode" but personally I feel those blizzard-like conditions should have been the default. The lack of audio in this game tends to understate the festive holiday mood. Mean Santa is a strange game but it tends to grow on you over time. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Med
Our high score: 3:54
Publisher: AtariAge (2007)
Everybody knows I'm a huge Warlords fan, so this game was pretty much a slam-dunk
to grade. Medieval Mayhem elevates the art of fireball-hurling to the next level while incorporating a butt-load of options. Just like Warlords, there is a king protected by a wall in each corner of the screen. Using a paddle controller, each player moves a shield around the perimeter of their wall, deflecting (or catching and throwing) a fireball at other players. The graphics are a big step up from Warlords. The bricks now have texture, and the king symbols actually look
like king symbols! Each round is introduced by a colorful "launch dragon". Rendered with personality and animated with loving care, this dragon may be the best looking thing you'll ever see on your Atari 2600. He does however tend to linger on the screen a bit too long at times. Although Medieval Mayhem borrows heavily from Warlords, the game still has its own distinctive flavor. When you "throw" the fireball, it often leaves your shield at an unpredictable angle, and holding the fireball for too long causes it to "eat away" at your castle. As each round progresses, the castle walls slowly degrade, causing the tension and excitement to grow accordingly. Additional fireballs gradually enter the fray, and eventually the onslaught becomes overwhelming. At the conclusion of each round, a comical little knight marches onto the screen, holding the lone survivor's flag as an amazing funky tune plays. Every time I play Medieval Mayhem, it turns into a crazy, raucous affair. My friend Jonathan commented that it was one of the best multiplayer games ever
! And that was after a bunch of us had been playing Halo 3 for hours on end! Heck, this game is even fun with one
player, as I learned when I faced three CPU opponents and got my ass handed to me. A plethora of options are available on an impressive scrolling menu with ornate text. If you're a classic gamer, do whatever it takes to get Medieval Mayhem into your collection. It is outstanding. You can purchase this game from AtariAge.com
. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 20th Century Fox (1982)
Mega Force is a bargain bin game based on some forgettable 1982 science fiction movie starring Barry Bostwick. This frantic side-scroller has its share of issues but it's not a complete waste. The fact that you ride a motorcycle that transforms into an aircraft is at least
worth a letter grade. From the look of it, Mega Force most closely resembles Chopper Command. The idea is to protect a white city on the far left side of a scrolling landscape and destroy the black city on the far right side (that's racist). Enemy aircraft tend to swarm and unleash tiny projectiles. If that's not enough, you'll have to deal with heat-seeking missiles launched from the surface below. The action gets a little crazy at times, but that's okay. The only thing that bothers me is how you can't destroy the missiles because your shots pass right through them
. The colorful scenery features a barren desert with red mountains and blue skies. The exotic-looking buildings look sharp, and there are some palm trees and small ponds. Mega Force is sloppy and confusing at first, but once I figured out what the [expletive] was going on, I developed a modest appreciation for this throw-away shooter. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 2BB
Our high score: 10,781
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Activision (1982)
I am of the opinion that an effective marketing blitz was largely responsible for the success of this average vertical shooter. A stylized TV commercial for the game featured a zany rock band, colorful visual effects, loud music, and embellished clips of the actual game. Instead of shooting the obligatory space aliens (that's so
1979), you blast hamburgers, cookies, radial tires, bow ties, steam irons, and space dice?!
This game is out of control!
Okay, let's regain our composure for a second. The truth is that these rudimentary, solid-colored objects aren't very detailed. In fact you'd be hard-pressed to identify them without the manual. And once the waves start repeating, the novelty wears off completely. Visuals aside, Megamania is pretty tough! The objects move quickly and tend to change direction unexpectedly. Some will dart sideways, ramming you along the edge of the screen. You wouldn't last long at all if you didn't earn a free life every 10K. You can select between guided and straight missiles, but guided is the way to go, especially since it offers continuous fire. Megamania is not a bad little shooter, but it's not all it was cracked up to be. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 76,230
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Ebivision (1999)
First the good news: Merlin's Walls has an awesome title screen! The lettering looks totally wild, and the music is hands-down the best I've ever heard on the 2600! That song rocks!! Now for the bad news - this game sucks! It's a 3D maze game spawned from the depths of hell. The initial alarms went off when I first examined the well-written instruction manual. In order to "achieve the desired 3D effect" while playing the game, you must either tilt your head or your television
by 90 degrees. The manual has some imaginative and unintentionally hilarious illustrated suggestions for accomplishing this. You can turn your TV on its side, or set it on its back like a tabletop! It even suggests a sophisticated set-up involving a series of tilted mirrors. All this for one Atari 2600 game - and a bad one at that! I finally settled for the easiest option - lying on the floor on my right ear. And you know what? It works - kind of. The corridors are painfully blocky, but I was able to make out halls and doorways (with some difficulty!). Sadly, I was never able to make it all the way through a single maze - even with the first one that's mapped out
in the manual! Every hallway looks the same and it's a hopelessly confusing situation. In the final analysis, Merlin's Walls is more of a conversation piece than it is a game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1988)
This is probably the best pinball game you're going to find for the 2600. Midnight Magic's table is small but colorful and finely detailed. There are bumpers, rollovers, drop targets, and two sets of flippers. Although the table looks sparse by modern pinball standards, there are enough targets to keep things interesting. It's a challenging game, especially on the "A" difficulty level. While I found Midnight Magic's gameplay to be somewhat fun and addicting, I was less impressed with the control. There's no nudge, and the flippers could be more responsive. Still, pinball fans will be satisfied with the overall quality. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1984)
This worthy sequel to Centipede retains the same tried-and-true gameplay, but throws a lot
more bugs into the mix, including periodic swarms of dragonflies. One cool new feature is the presence of DDT boxes scattered among the mushrooms. When shot, these emit poisonous clouds which engulf approaching insects. It's a brilliant concept and it really does add additional strategy. Millipede is difficult, but fun enough to keep you reaching for that reset switch. The graphics are slightly improved over Centipede, with less flicker and better-looking spiders. Unfortunately, the animation of the spiders and other creepy-crawlies is surprisingly choppy, and it adversely affects the gameplay. In a fast action game such as this, you must be able to tell what's going on at all times. Still, for frantic arcade fun, Millipede is tough to beat. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tigervision (1982)
As a Miner 2049er veteran who has played the game on a number of systems, I speak with confidence when I say that this one sucks!
Miner 2049er is a Donkey Kong-inspired platformer with some pretty elaborate screens that incorporate slides, transporters, and even TNT cannons. The game opens with a rendition of the "Clementine" song that's absolutely horrific. The bright graphics are not bad, but the gameplay is shameful. Unlike every other version of this game, your miner moves at a snail's pace. That's a serious problem considering you need to walk over every square inch
of platform to clear a screen. It's especially demoralizing after you've slowly worked your way to the very top of the screen, only to accidentally slide all the way back to the bottom. The animation is pathetic and the sound effects are obnoxious. It's nearly impossible to jump over the wandering aliens (or whatever the hell they are). Upon losing a life the entire screen is reset, wiping out all of your progress. This game is a disgrace. If you want to experience Miner 2049er as God intended, check out the excellent Atari 5200 or Colecovision versions. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1255
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Tigervision (1983)
The first Miner 2049er game for the 2600 pushed the limits of human misery, so you may ask why this sequel even exists. Easy money I'm afraid! This is the exact same game as the first, except with three new screen layouts. You'll get the same queasy feeling when you fire up the cartridge and hear that putrid, off-key "Clementine" song. When will the hurting stop?
The stage layouts incorporate an adjustable lift, a radioactive waste pool, and machines specially designed to crush miners
(just my luck). But these gimmicks can't hide the painfully tedious and sluggish gameplay. I've had more fun cleaning a cat litter box! Fortunately very few copies of this game were ever produced, and only die-hard collectors will be the least bit interested in this. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 458
Publisher: Commavid (1982)
I can't recall the last time I wanted to beat an Atari game as badly as Mines of Minos. It looks like a run-of-the-mill maze game but there's far more to it than meets the eye. You control a mining robot with crazy legs syndrome. He moves swiftly through the maze and I like the sound of him clanking around. You destroy wandering creatures by dropping mines as they pursue you - a highly original concept for a 2600 game. The creatures range in design from one-eyed tentacled monsters to slithering Alien-like creatures. They tend to gang up on you and seem to regenerate as fast as you can kill them. Man, this game is so hard!
When enemies die their bodies slowly disintegrate. You can walk right through their decomposing corpses but only after
the "kill" sound has subsided. Don't go rushing in because you only have one life! The smoothly-scrolling vertical maze is unremarkable but it does have Pac-Man-style side exits. I really like the idea of gathering robot parts to make extra lives, as this adds a treasure-hunting aspect. Also interesting is how the maze eventually begins to flood, making your life a lot more difficult. The literature states your goal is to blow up a command center, but where is it? Well, as it turns out, if you hold in the button while traveling through a side exit, you emerge in a whole new maze! This game is about five mazes wide! After finally locating the command center I realized the only way to destroy it was to sacrifice myself. Time to build some robots! Surprisingly deep and relentlessly challenging, Mines of Minos will put your joystick skills to the test. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 1BA
Our high score: SDZ 2,150
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Atari (1979)
There aren't many copies of Miniature Golf floating around, and that may be indicative of just how bad
the game is. I imagine most copies have long since been retired to the garbage bin. The sorry graphics, gameplay, and sound effects can all share the blame. Each of the nine holes are uninteresting, blocky monstrosities. The ball is a small block, and your putter is a big block. The occasional moving obstacle is - you guessed it - another
big block. The poorly designed screens provide limited room to maneuver, so you often have to depend on ricochets, even when a shot is straight on. Miniature Golf's horrid graphics are complemented by practically non-existent sound effects. The physics used in this game is not of this universe, so the ball tends to move unpredictably. Even for a 1979 game, this is just an embarrassment. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1981)
When I was a kid, Missile Command was the most popular video game in my neighborhood. I clearly remember purchasing my copy at the local 7-11 for $22. It was a hot summer morning during my summer vacation, and I called the store beforehand to ensure they had a copy before embarking on the treacherous one-mile trek. Life was good. To this day, I find the whole concept of shooting down incoming missiles to protect the helpless cities below simply brilliant. Missile Command for the 2600 is a respectable, scaled-down version of the arcade game, but a few basic elements were compromised to squeeze it onto the system. There's only one missile base instead of three, and although this reduces the strategy, it doesn't really detract from the fun. A more serious constraint is how you can only unleash three anti-ballistic missiles at a time. When you attempt to shoot a fourth missile, the game makes an annoying "squeak" sound. The joystick control is reasonably good, but surpringly, the game doesn't work very well with Atari's own trackball. This version of Missile Command lacks the planes and UFOs of the arcade, but it does have those elusive satellites. The sound effects are nearly arcade-perfect, including the warning alarms and random high-pitched tones that signal a free city. I love how the backgrounds change colors as the waves progress, although that "pea soup" green screen looks pretty nasty. An all-time favorite, Missile Command deserves a place in every 2600 game collection. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 8B
Our high score: VGC 34,420
1 or 2 players
Missile Command Trak-Ball
Publisher: Thomas Jentzsch (2002)
It's somewhat ironic that the 2600 trackball controller doesn't support Atari's ultimate trackball game: Missile Command. Anybody who grew up playing this classic at the local arcade knows that it was NOT designed with a joystick in mind. Thankfully, Thomas Jentzsch has addressed this long-standing problem with his new "hack" of the game, and you'll be surprised how big a difference it makes. You can whip that cursor clear across the screen in a flash, yet position it with perfect precision. Not only is this version faster and more arcade-like than the original, but you can look forward to shattering your previous high scores with ease. It will be very difficult to go back to using the joystick after playing this. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 8B
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Amiga (1983)
The Atari 2600 never ceases to amaze. Despite its modest hardware, the system can still manage to pump out a pretty convincing first-person skiing game. The tips of your skis can be seen on the bottom of the screen as you weave through alternating blue and red gates that scale smoothly into view. Mogul Maniac was originally designed for use with a "joyboard" controller, and that explains why the steering controls seem reversed. It's because in real skiing you would press on the inner edge of your right
ski to turn left
. Don't worry - you'll get used to it. You can really get into a rhythm swerving side-to-side, and I love the whooshing sound effects. You can adjust your speed to some degree by pressing the joystick forward or backward, but like real skiing, it's inexact. The nine courses each have their own gate configurations, number of gates, and maximum speed. The "bunny trail" variations are a snore, but the fast ones (like #6) are challenging enough. There's little scenery except for a lonely gray mountain in the distance. Despite its name there are no moguls to be found, or maniacs for that matter (unless you count the person playing, in which case your point is well taken). I like Mogul Maniac but wish the programmers had taken the concept a little further. It would have been pretty neat it they had a separate "downhill" mode with trees instead of gates. There's not a whole lot to Mogul Maniac, but what it does it does well. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 6
Our high score: 1:10.6
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
This slick adventure game is absolutely superb in every respect. Its graphics are colorful and detailed, with no flicker to speak of. The control is best described as "crisp", and the gameplay is madly addicting. An an Indiana Jones-type explorer, you must traverse over 60 rooms of treasures, traps, and creatures. Be prepared to encounter snakes, spiders, and rolling skulls. You'll need keys to open doors, a sword to slay creatures, and a torch to light your way. Each room presents a unique challenge, and there are plenty of areas to explore and secrets to uncover. If you're looking for adventure on the 2600, it doesn't get much better than this. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Here's yet another high-quality arcade conversion from Atari. All the elements of the arcade game are here, including the intense challenge. Moon Patrol is unique because it forces you to concentrate on two things at once. As you blast rocks and hop over holes on the surface, you also exchange fire with saucers floating overhead. The worst aspect of this version has got to be its graphics. The enemy UFOs look decent, but your moon-rover resembles a red blob, and the background is just a bunch of boring, blocky mountains. Still, this game is a lot of fun and the high difficulty will keep you coming back for more. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Moonsweeper isn't the most addictive game in the world, but there's more to it than your average space shooter. It reminds me of a simplified version of Solaris
(Atari, 1988). You begin the game in outer space, with your ship positioned on the bottom of the screen and a sun in the center. Orbiting bodies curl around the edge of the screen, putting you in danger of being rammed. You'll want to avoid comets and pixels called "space bullets" (pretty cheesy!
), but touching a planet transports you to its surface via a slick (albeit brief) animation. As you skim along the planet, your goal is to pick up six miners and then fly through "acceleration rings" to lift them to safety (and cash in some sweet bonus points too). There are also colorful towers you'll need to shoot or avoid. Be careful, because from a distance the men look an awful lot like towers! You'll also contend with large "launcher" ships and satellites that float across the top of the screen. Although you fire forward by default, pulling back lets you launch missiles straight up at these lucrative targets. It looks cool when the launchers deploy "surface destroyers", but man, those little bastards are mean
! If they can't shoot you, they'll try to ram you instead. You can fire diagonally in addition to forward, but that looks as awkward as it controls. There are four different colored planets to land on, with the more challenging ones awarding larger bonuses. Moonsweeper has crisp, clean graphics, and offers four levels of difficulty. It won't dominate your 2600, but it's certainly worthy of a spot in your collection. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 3,080
Publisher: Atari (1990)
The super-rare Motorodeo lets players roll monster trucks through an obstacle course of ramps, cars, walls, and mud. Played on a split screen, it kind of reminds me of Excitebike (NES 1984). For a 1990 title, the graphics are pretty plain, with small trucks, single-colored obstacles, and no background scenery. At least your tires are round (small victory there), and the vehicles you crush actually model damage. Turbo powerups let you catch big air which is terrific fun, but plowing through mud by moving the joystick back and forth is just arduous. Motorodeo lets you race for time or points, and the computer opponent is definitely a worthy competitor. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: CBS (1983)
Mountain King has depth and originality to burn, but poor controls make it a constant struggle. The object is to navigate mines located within a mountain and retrieve a golden crown. You can move in all directions as you traverse levels by jumping, falling, and climbing ladders. The screen scrolls in a slow, herky-jerky fashion that's not so easy on the eyes. You can fall from any distance, but there's a short recovery time for long falls. In order to gain access to the crown, you'll need to acquire the "flame spirit". The flame is normally invisible but you can locate it with your flashlight. Or better yet you can listen for music to home in on its location. It's a well-executed concept. In the Atari 5200 edition the crown is housed in an elaborate temple, but here it's sitting out in the open - or so it would seem
. As it turns out, an "invisible force field" prevents you from approaching it from the side. It's possible to get hopelessly stuck in this force field, and novice players will have no idea what the [expletive] is going on when that happens. Transporting the crown to the top of the mountain is hard as balls
, but only because of the awful controls. Jumping requires you to hold the joystick diagonally, and there's no room for error as you squeeze between narrow ledges. You only have a minute to escape, and even when you get close a fluttering bat will steal the crown from your clutches. Mountain King has plenty of good ideas, but its controls are infuriating. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 32,890
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
As a "thinking man's Pac-Man", Mouse Trap requires more skill and strategy than your garden-variety maze game. You guide a mouse (a mouse head
actually) around the board while gobbling up "cheese" blocks and avoiding three aggressive felines. Bones serve as power pills you can stockpile, letting you transform into a cat-eating bulldog at the touch of a button. Mouse Trap's graphics are simple but exceptionally clean and polished. The flicker-free animals move smoothly and the maze is rendered with bold, green lines. The only things that don't look so hot are the bones, represented by blocky X's. Some walls in the maze flicker, and these can be moved by holding down
the fire button. This lets you change the maze configuration on the fly, sometimes trapping a pursuing cat in the process! Mouse Trap's controls take some getting used to, but are pretty good once you get the hang of them. One thing that kind of freaks me out is how the mouse head is constantly moving his mouth. At first I thought he was just chewing on cheese, but now I'm convinced he's trying to tell me something!
The game only has one notable sound effect, and that's a screech
that's heard as your dog snags a cat. Hey, that sounds like a real cat!
I just wish they didn't reuse the same sound when a cat catches you
. If you're in the process of transforming from dog to mouse when you touch a cat, it's hard to tell who caught who!
Mouse Trap is tough, so don't leave any bones "on the table" when working on that final life. Four difficulty levels are available via difficulty switch combinations. Competently programmed and fun, Mouse Trap is a nice addition to the collection. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: AA
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
At first glance, Mr. Do comes across as a blatant Dig Dug rip-off. However, closer scrutiny reveals a faster-paced game with a few ingenious twists. You control a clown who burrows through dirt and drops apples on his adversaries, but instead of a pump, you destroy enemies with your magic balls. Once you unleash a ball, it continues bouncing through the maze until it strikes something. Besides eliminating your enemies, you can also clear a screen by collecting all of its buried fruit. And oh yeah, if you can kill enough letter-shaped monsters to spell out "EXTRA", you get a free man. Mr. Do is hectic and fun, but less strategic than Dig Dug. The graphics and sound are above average, and the control is quite responsive. Mr. Do has four skill levels. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Mr. Do!'s Castle
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
The original Mr. Do was good clean fun, but Mr. Do's Castle is positively user-hostile!
The screen consists of six chunky levels connected by shifting ladders. There's not much to see but the green and purple color scheme is attractive. The action begins with a gang of "unicorns" climbing down from the top, which is totally bogus because everybody knows that unicorns can't climb ladders!
They have hooves
for Pete's sake! So much for realism. Pressing the fire button causes Mr. Do to bang away with a hammer, but it looks more like he has a spastic appendage
on his forehead. You can knock out blocks in the floor which causes less-intelligent foes to fall in, but the big points are earned by knocking blocks onto
enemies walking below. That's a lot harder than it sounds, because once you knock out a few blocks it's hard to ascend the structure, much less position yourself to do any damage. The collision detection is harsh
, so if you're not positioned perfectly you'll go from being Mr. Do to Mr. Done
. The music is a pleasant surprise, featuring a looping two-part melody that's catchy as hell. The graphics are not good, and if I didn't know any better, I'd think those unicorns were Sleestaks from Land of the Lost. Mr. Do's Castle is not fit for mass consumption, but gamers looking for a challenge will find themselves hitting the reset button over and over again. Not so much for the fun as for the sake of figuring this [expletive] thing out! Good luck with that! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: SLN 4,660
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Wow - this is an outstanding version of the popular arcade game. In fact, this puts the original Atari 2600 Pac-Man to shame. The graphics are surprisingly faithful to the arcade, and the control is dead-on. All of the mazes from the arcade are present, so the only thing missing is the intermissions. My only complaint is that the game is a bit on the easy side. An expert variation with smarter ghosts would have been nice. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Mystery Science Theater 2600
Publisher: Hozer (1999)
Here's an innovative hack that combines a classic game with a funny TV show. The game is Activision's Megamania, and the show is Mystery Science Theater. You'll recall this show as the one that makes fun of really bad old "B" horror flicks like "The Crawling Hand" and "Robot Monster". Now, instead of shooting household appliances Megamania-style, you'll fire on bizarre creatures inspired from these old movies. Unfortunately, like the original Megamania, it's often difficult to discern what most of these things are supposed to be, although the humorous instruction manual will help you out. MST2600 is well conceived, injecting new life into a classic shooter. All it really needs is some of that cheesy old horror movie music. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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