Publisher: StarPath (1984)
Rabbit Transit is a forgettable game that borrows elements from Frogger and Q*bert. You control a nicely-animated white rabbit that can only jump diagonally. The first game screen is much like Frogger, as you hop across a meadow while avoiding snakes, butterflies, and chattering pairs of teeth (where did they come from?). The second screen is definitely Q*bert inspired, as you need to jump around platforms and turn them all into the same color. Making your life more difficult is some annoying guy who throws rocks at you. Should you survive, you're treated to a cute intermission showing two rabbits and their offspring. Then it's back to the beginning for some faster, more intense action. I wasn't particularly thrilled with Rabbit Transit. The graphics and control are fair, but the gameplay lacks originality. In addition, "London Bridge Is Falling Down" plays constantly in the background, which is irritating to say the least. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Apollo (1981)
This unlikely sports title begins promisingly enough with two multi-colored players entering an enclosed 3D room. The rules are like real racquetball, with both players taking turns smacking the ball off the front wall and not allowing it bounce twice. Racquetball's graphics aren't bad at all, but its gameplay absolutely sucks. Instead of a single shadow moving under the ball, multiple
shadows move erratically across the floor, walls, and even ceiling! I was like, "What the hell
is going on?!" With all those dots flying around, it's too disorienting. I quickly removed the cartridge and cleaned its contacts to make sure it wasn't malfunctioning. When you can't tell when a game is broken or not, that's never a good sign. With a "normal" shadow and slower action, Racquetball could have been worthwhile. But as it is, it's practically unplayable. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1989)
This jet fighter game straddles the line between simulation and arcade, but the results mixed. You embark on five missions of increasing difficulty and view the action from just behind your triangular plane. Radar Lock begins with a nice runway sequence before switching to a nice blue horizon with passing clouds. When engaging the enemy, multiple brightly-colored planes appear, darting around unpredictably. I've seen up to four planes on the screen at once, and they look pretty good. You can bank and accelerate, but thankfully, altitude is not a factor. The dog-fighting action would be pretty weak if not for the fact that you can switch between three different weapons on the fly using the right joystick. Your standard weapon, and easily the most effective, is your rapid-fire machine guns. The guided missile weapon is a disappointment - it's not only hard to use, but unreliable as well. Your third option is a limited supply of "proximity missiles", which can obliterate planes en masse. Unfortunately, you must time their detonation perfectly or risk blowing yourself up instead. I found switching weapons in the heat of battle to be awkward, but a two-player mode lets a second player assume the weapon responsibilities. Enemy planes fire missiles periodically, and the best means of escape is to move the joystick like crazy. Radar Lock game is a tough
game, and I couldn't even make it past the third mission. It seems like the hardest part is just getting the enemy planes to appear on the screen. After the first mission, they tend to be elusive, sitting at the radar's edge while you wrestle the joystick to bring them into range. The situation becomes even more aggravating when your fuel is running low. I do like how you must refuel at the end of each mission by docking with a fuel tanker - it's not too hard and spices up the gameplay. I also like how the black and white switch can be used to pause the game. I doubt that Radar Lock will appeal to the casual player, but those looking for a challenge should appreciate it. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: US Games (1982)
This game is so
bizarre. Are you telling me that this is the best idea U.S. Games could come up with ?! In Raft Rider, you guide a rather scary-looking man down a river while avoiding various obstacles. This dude has my vote for ugliest Atari 2600 character of all time. Not only is he thin and pale, but he has a huge nose and wears a top hat. I doubt U.S. Games intended him to be such a monstrosity, but he's an absolute freak. After giving Raft Rider a chance, I discovered it really wasn't half bad, but its unorthodox control scheme takes a lot of practice. Your raft moves in a delayed manner, forcing you to react early to oncoming obstacles. There's a wide variety of obstructions including rocks, branches, and an occasional Loch Ness Monster (the manual says it's a moose, but I know what I saw!). Your raft moves slowly at first, but the pace picks up in a hurry. Raft Rider's graphics are decent, but the sound effects are best described as annoying. If you enjoy games with lagging controls and ugly people, this is the game for you. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Publisher: Atari (1982)
If the artwork on the label is any indication, this game looks and plays just like the movie!
Okay it doesn't, but Raiders of the Lost Ark does a commendable job of combining live action and puzzle solving. Like the film, the gameplay involves bartering with merchants, exploring temples, avoiding snakes, outrunning thieves, and locating a hidden map room revealing the location of the Ark. Outfitted with his trusty whip and trademark fedora, Indy is well animated and bears a striking resemblance to Harrison Ford. Snakes slither nicely down the screen, but the rest of the graphics look either painfully abstract or just awful
in general. Characters like the thief, raving lunatic, and giant spider look so appalling
that you'll need to consult the manual just to know what you're looking
at! It's a good thing
programmers don't do their own artwork anymore! The Indiana Jones theme loops at the beginning and end of the game, but otherwise the audio is sparse. The unusual control scheme requires two joysticks: one to control Indy and one to manipulate your inventory. You can carry six items at a time, and typical items include a gun, key, parachute, watch, shovel, and various artifacts. It's interesting to explore new areas, but the screens can be incredibly irritating to navigate. Tsetse flies paralyze you, floating lights imprison you, thieves steal your items, and falling off a cliff is a regular occurrance. Trying to determine the purpose of each item requires a great deal of trial and error. Back in 1982 I was astonished
when my little sister blew up a wall with the grenade, revealing a huge cave! Years later she admitted that she had peeked at the hints in the back of the manual! While graphically challenged and often frustrating, patient gamers will appreciate the intricate complexity of Raiders. There is a true sense of accomplishment when you finally uncover the Ark. Yes, it's possible to love this game, but you really
need to try! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Telesys (1982)
Like most people, when I hear "Ram It" I think of the music video performed by the 1986 L.A. Rams football team
. Compared to that national embarrassment this unrelated bargain bin cartridge isn't half bad. The screen consists of colored bars lining each side that gradually "grow" inward at varying rates. You move a cannon (called a "Ramroid" in the manual) up and down the center, shooting rapidly left or right to wear the bars down. The graphics aren't particularly enticing and the audio is heinous!
It sounds like a baby banging on a toy piano and I couldn't hit mute fast enough. At that point my friend Chris advised me to put the Ram It video on loop to provide suitable background music (good call). The controls are responsive and it's fun trying to keep the bars at bay. There's no "ramming" involved, so why the hell did they name it that? When the bars converge on center they can seal you off, and once all the bars are grown (or gone) a bonus is awarded and you proceed to the next round. After playing Ram It for a while some strategy unfolds. If you completely eliminate a bar, it doesn't return, so it can pay off to keep shooting until a bar is gone. If you line up perfectly between bars, you can shoot two at the same time, which is satisfying. Occasionally a bar will start to flash which can be completely destroyed with a single shot. Be sure to go after these "bonus bars" whenever you spot one. The action is mildly addictive and reminds me of Turmoil
(Fox, 1982). The controls are a little touchy, making it hard to position your Ramroid with precision in the heat of the moment (perfectly normal for a man my age). If you find yourself playing Ram It for more than four hours straight, please stop, because frankly it's not all that good. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 5B
Our high score: 48,460
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Activision (1989)
I never cared for Rampage in the arcade, so my chances of liking this watered-down Atari 2600 version were pretty much nonexistent. Based on the premise alone, I must admit that Rampage sounds like one heck of a fun good time. One or two players can select between three huge monsters (gorilla, lizard, wolfman) and proceed to wreak havoc on a series of cities by bringing down skyscrapers, snatching helicopters, tossing police cars, and munching on innocent civilians. Thanks to its humorous animations, Rampage rates quite high in terms of novelty value, but its gameplay is awfully repetitive. All you do is systematically climb buildings, punch holes in them, and watch as they crumble to the ground (or in this case - blink
to the ground). Grabbing people and vehicles earns bonus points and health, but they're hardly worth going out of your way for. It would be easy to belittle the graphics in this version of Rampage, but they actually get the job done very well. The crappy buildings in the foreground are composed on huge, solid-colored blocks, but the background skylines look great. Your monster looks more like a blob at first glance, but closer scrutiny reveals a nicely-animated creature. They look especially funny when chewing on people. Once your creature loses all of its life, it shrinks down to its naked human form, and it's funny to watch the embarrassed little guy slink off the screen. The control is fair, but it's hard to tell where you can or can't climb. Rampage's lackluster gameplay is its main downfall. Not only is it painfully repetitive and slow, but it's remarkably easy
as well! There are 85(!) cities to trash, but after toiling through the first dozen or so, I didn't see much point in continuing. A difficulty option might have saved this game, but I doubt it. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Parker Brothers (1983)
After receiving much flak regarding my negative review of Reactor, I decided to go back and give it a second chance. After several plays and careful analysis, I developed an intricate understanding of the game's subtle nuances. And after much soul-searching, I think I'm finally ready to say, "What is wrong
with you people!? Reactor stinks
and there's no way around it!!" It's really hard to believe that this was once an arcade game, considering just how annoying
this game is. You guide a star-shaped "ship" around a blocky "reactor" chamber with an ever-growing core in the center. Small, round particles swarm your ship which you're supposed to knock into walls for points. There's little room to maneuver however, and slippery controls make it easy to slide into the outer wall, resulting in instant death. Actually, the particles tend to destroy themselves if you just move the joystick randomly and keep your distance from the walls. In order to shrink the expanding core, you must knock out "control rods" (dashes) on either side of the chamber, and there are also "bonus chambers" to knock particles into. The squirrelly controls make tough to navigate and the collision detection is awfully erratic. Another thing I dislike about Reactor is how the game discourages
you from taking risks. In my experience, trying "not to die" is the most effective strategy. Even so, the game takes a terrible toll on your wrist. Reactor does provide a substantial challenge, but it's far more aggravating than it is rewarding. If this is what it's like to work in a nuclear power plant (and I'm almost sure it is), then I feel sorry for those people. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3B
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Atari (1982)
This was Atari's big opportunity to make up for that embarrassing Homerun debacle, but they blew it big time. It's a shame really, because Realsports Baseball had potential. The graphics aren't bad and you can easily toss the ball around the diamond, but the fun stops there. Due to poor programming and an egregious lack of play testing, Realsports Baseball is chock-full of obvious flaws and ridiculous bugs rendering it nearly unplayable. Every pitch looks exactly the same
, sailing straight over the plate. You never know if a pitch is hittable until you let it pass or swing right through it! Batted balls are hit to the same spots over and over. Fly balls are indicated by a ringing sound, and not catching one results in a home run. Runner control is clumsy but at least it gives you the ability to lead off and steal. The fielding isn't so bad, but throws constantly sail over the first baseman's head, forcing you to run down the errant throw. The CPU opponent does this constantly, and it looks absolutely hilarious to see such an inept computer-controlled team. The CPU also enjoys throwing to the wrong base, so once you have a man on first you can pretty much run around the bases without being challenged. The headache-inducing sound effects include an inordinate amount of buzzing, and you have to wait for both teams to switch sides between innings (yawn). Last but not least, you have to explicitly
select your player to control even when you only have your batter on the screen! Realsports Baseball had the makings of a decent game, but it's so unpolished that it's pretty much a total loss. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Compared to Activision's Boxing, Realsports Boxing is graphically superior but less fun. The finely detailed ring is viewed from the side, and having four multi-colored boxers to choose from is pretty sweet. The control scheme lets you to punch high, low, jab, or block. The boxers tend move a bit too fast, but setting the difficulty to 'A' will slow the action down to a more reasonable pace. One odd play mechanism is the strength meter, which increases as you do well. When it fills up, you can knock out your opponent. So how does this game play? Not bad, but when both boxers are close it's difficult to tell who's landing punches because they tend to overlap. It's much easier to tell what's going on in Activision's Boxing. Still, this ambitious title deserves some credit. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1982)
My original Realsports Football review was largely predicated on fond memories of playing it against my cousin Todd each Thanksgiving during the 1980's. Several readers however have thrown the red challenge flag on my favorable B- grade. Upon further review, the call is overturned, due to indisputable evidence of a mediocre game!
No question about it - Realsports Football has its share of problems. It's played on a rather sparse side-scrolling field with a yard line every ten yards, but no hash marks. Before each play, you select one of seven plays (five on defense) for the entire team. Your options are limited, but this makes the game easy to learn. The five players on each side look fairly realistic, but they flicker quite a bit. There are some nifty running, throwing, and kicking animations. When a player is tackled, he keels over like he just got shot in the side! The action is fast-paced, but touchy controls and poor collision detection keep the fun factor to a minimum. The passing game is difficult because the defender only has to position himself between the quarterback and receiver to be in position to intercept. The running game is practically non-existent because if a defender is anywhere near
the runner, the runner immediately keels over. I've heard of two-hand touch rules, but this game is more like no-hand
touch! Realsports Football does give you the ability to kick field goals, which is something you won't find in most classic games. A one-player mode is included, but the brain-dead computer opponent is worthless. Realsports Football is playable between two evenly matched humans, but serious quality control issues make this one tough to recommend. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1983)
What the heck happened here? I thought the term "Realsports" was supposed to indicate some degree of realism! Heck, Pele's Soccer (1980) is more realistic than this! In Realsports Soccer they removed the goalie, eliminated out-of-bounds, and made it a cinch to score. And what's the deal with these graphics? Sure the players look good, but the field is just a bunch of blocky lines and the nets are nowhere to be found. Fortunately, Realsports Soccer plays pretty well. The controls make it easy to steal and pass, and it's definitely more exciting than Pele's Soccer. You still control three players, but now they're spread out across the field and the screen scrolls sideways. Still, this seems like a rather lukewarm effort. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1983)
It may be flashier and more full-featured that Activision's Tennis (1982), but Realsports Tennis is still just mediocre at best. With limited control and repetitive volleys, the only strategy is to keep hitting the ball until the other guy screws up. This game does make a fine first impression - I'll give it that much. When starting a new match you're prompted to enter your name
on the scoreboard. I find it amusing how even in 2011
my friends still seem to get the biggest kick out of that feature. The players on the court are multi-colored with one wearing a red outfit and the other in blue. Realsport's brand of tennis is more interactive than Activision's. You must press the button to swing (on the A difficulty, at least), and you execute hard shots or lobs by moving toward or away from the net while swinging. It sounds great on paper, but the system is flawed. The hard shots are never hit at much of an angle, and the lob doesn't have any more height than a normal shot! What's the point of that?
It's impossible to hit an effective cross-court shot, and just like Activision's game, the players are swift enough to chase down any volley. I'll give Realsports credit for its colorful graphics and fast pacing, but the poorly designed controls and minimal challenge keep the fun factor way down. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: AA
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Atari (1982)
This was a Christmas gift from my sister way back in 1982. I remember it sat wrapped under the Christmas tree for two weeks, and while I knew it was an Atari cartridge, I had no idea which one it was. By the time I finally opened it, the box was all bent out of shape from me handling and shaking it so much. Realsports Volleyball is impressive looking, but to be honest, it's too slow and repetitive. Its two-on-two contests take place on a bright yellow beach, complete with blue "waves" and a setting sun. I really like the continuous sound of surf crashing into the beach. The volleyball teams are composed of two players that move in unison. Although blocky and single-colored, they are large and well-animated. They really move fast on the 'B' difficulty setting, but limp around on 'A'. Realsport Volleyball's gameplay is not up to par. Setting the ball and spiking is easy enough, but the hits are weak, resulting in endless boring volleys. Set, set, spike, set, set, spike, rinse and repeat. The computer opponent isn't much of a challenge, considering he can't reach shots centered between his players. As the only volleyball game for the 2600, this comes off a bit flat, but at least it has a surprise ending. If you wait until after the sunset, you can spot a shark fin moving slowly across the horizon. It may not be a big deal now, but in 1982, my sister and I were absolutely freaking out over it! © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 2BB
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Atari Age (2006)
Christmas games are few and far between, making Reindeer Rescue a fantastic treat to pull out around the holidays. It may not be great
, but it's hard to dislike a game that exudes so much holiday spirit. Through four stages you help Santa bound over rooftops and snow-covered landscapes in an effort to gather up his eight reindeer. Santa is rendered in several colors, and the fluid manner in which he runs put a smile on my face. The houses and snowdrifts in the foreground look blocky, but in the background you'll spot all sorts of seasonal images, including snowmen, trains, and polar bears. There are surprises as well including AT-ATs and snowspeeders from Star Wars! Getting past the third stage is a challenge, and there's some strategy involved in deciding whether to run on top of a snowdrift or underneath it. Santa's health is represented by a string of Christmas lights at the bottom of the screen, which is another nice touch. But what really steals the show is the game's outstanding soundtrack, which plays pleasant renditions of many Christmas carols. These timeless tunes elevate an otherwise average game to the ranks of holiday classic. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Rescue Bira Bira
Publisher: Hozer (1997)
Bira Bira, a small brown plaster idol, has become the stuff of legend among video game collectors. It symbolizes all of the crap you find at flea markets while hunting for rare cartridges. Rescue Bira Bira is actually a hack of an old Mystique game. Taking control of a helicopter, you attempt to smother flames around a Bira Bira statue that's being sacrificed on a raised alter. Bad guys on the ground attempt to stop you by hurling "ET cartridges" in your direction (according to the instructions). When the flames get low enough, you can grab Bira and fly her to safety. You'll then be treated to a quick screen showing two guys worshipping the idol. Then it's back to the beginning, but now everything is faster. It's an amusing concept, but the gameplay is just so-so. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: VentureVision (1982)
Rescue Terra I has the makings of a decent Vanguard-style shooter, but it's a disjointed mess. The initial stage offers the unique perspective of shooting down
as meteors approach from the bottom. The rocks are nicely rendered in multiple colors, but it looks like they have some kind of funky green fungus growing on them. You'll sleepwalk through the first stage, which seems to drag on for an eternity. Stage two incorporates gray rockets and bouncy aliens, both of which fire missiles. While not particularly difficult, it's enough to rouse you from your slumber. I like how the rockets are rendered with a nice gray gradient, with red flames shooting from the back. But even this stage becomes boring after a while, and you might lose consciousness before exhausting your abundant lives. There's little chance anyone would ever witness stages three and four if separate variations weren't available to let you play them individually. These side-scrolling stages try to mix things up, but they're just terrible. Bogged down by lengthy stages and a complete lack of difficulty, Rescue Terra I is the ultimate intergalactic snoozefest. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: 62,850
Revenge of the Apes
Publisher: Games of the Century (2003)
This recently-resurrected old Fox prototype is technically impressive, but leaves something to be desired in terms of gameplay. Obviously inspired by the Planet of the Apes movie series, you control a man marooned on a hostile planet. To escape, he'll need to navigate his way through numerous forest, river, village, desert, and cave screens to reach safety. The scenery is fairly chunky but the characters look good. In most screens, multiple apes approach from the left or right, and you can shoot them for points. You'll encounter harmless chimps, fearsome orangutans, and gorillas that can actually fire shots at you! At one point you character wades through a river with water up to his chest, and it looks really neat. Unfortunately, he can also get stuck in the scenery
, which is frustrating. The scoring system is worthless, since you can just remain on one screen and shoot wave after wave of regenerating apes. A better challenge is to see how many times you can escape before your life expires. While the gameplay is admittedly weak, several newly-added features make this game respectable. When captured, you're treated to a full-screen graphic of a man behind bars, and it looks terrific. There's also a Statue of Liberty ending which is equally impressive. You'll also get a brief glimpse of the original ending, which looks pretty pathetic by comparison. I can't forget to mention the game's incredible soundtrack. While the unconventional music sounds terribly rough and distorted at first, these unique, edgy tunes really grow on you. Overall, Revenge of the Apes is mediocre, but the notable enhancements make it an interesting item for collectors. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Revenge of the Beefsteak Tomatoes
Publisher: 20th Century Fox (1982)
Yeah, I know you're all pretty tired of Beefsteak Tomato games by now, but this is one you won't want to pass up. In fact, I'm kind of amazed
by how much fun
I had with Revenge of the Beefsteak Tomatoes. Its graphics and sound are minimal, but it has an unorthodox style of play that's oddly captivating. You control a "tomato sprayer" that moves freely around the screen. A row of tomato plants fires at you from the bottom, and large "Beefsteak" tomatoes attempt to ram you by moving sideways across the screen (Beefsteak is a real variety of tomato, by the way). Colored blocks travel across the top of the screen, and by shooting them and immediately firing downward, you methodically construct walls to contain the firing plants and block their missiles. Once three walls are complete, the round ends and you're awarded bonus points. It sounds like crap, but it's very challenging and entertaining. I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I call this the best Beefsteak Tomato game ever produced. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 5AB
Riddle of the Sphinx
Publisher: Imagic (1982)
This innovative adventure puts you in the middle of an Egyptian desert, searching for the Temple of Ra where you intend to make an "offering". Along the way you'll encounter traders, rock-throwing thieves, scorpions, and two desert deities: the beautiful Isis and the evil Anubis. Your quest will take you past pyramids, temples, the Phoenix, and the Sphinx. Some of these high-resolution locations require specific offerings to pass. You'll discover and purchase useful items along the way including tools, treasures, and artifacts. The right joystick is used to control your inventory, but since you can hold a dozen things at a time, you won't need to do any tedious juggling. By toggling the difficulty and black/white switches, you can monitor your health, score, and time. Riddle of the Sphinx deserves a passing grade on concept alone - few adventure games for the 2600 are this sophisticated. Its graphics feature a nice white desert background with scattered palm trees, obelisks, and camels - very easy on the eyes. Your character moves across the bottom of the screen, and the scenery scrolls up and down above
him, so he never really touches
anything. In order to trade with merchants or sacrifice to temples, you must approach them from below. This can be problematic, because when you move downward you can't see where you're going! I recommend staying to the far left when moving "southward". The actual "riddles" can be found in the well-written manual. These provide hints as to what items each temple will accept, and they're not hard to figure out. Playing for score doesn't make much sense, since the longer you play, the more points you rack up. The main challenge is to complete game #3 in the shortest amount of time. Imagic did a decent job with this game, but I think they missed a big opportunity. By incorporating random elements or mystery items, the game would have been far more intriguing. As it is, Riddle of the Sphinx is still a fascinating journey. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3B
Publisher: Tigervision (1984)
My first impression of River Patrol was not good. Sure the Atari 2600 can display a rainbow of colors at the same time, but did Tigervision really need to work it into every single one
of their games?! This is a boat rescue game
for crying out loud. The game's incessant music sounds like a broken carnival ride, and I almost put my head through the TV lunging for the volume control. Over time however I gradually warmed up to River Patrol. The idea is to guide a leaky boat up a creek rescuing drowning people while avoiding hazards like driftwood, oncoming boats, and even alligators. These gigantic alligators would be right at home in a Syfy channel movie of the week starring Debbie Gibson. Whirlpools are another hazard, but you can wiggle your joystick to escape those. Holding the button accelerates forward, and you can only steer while moving. This means if you want to move to the other side of the screen you must perform a series of stops and starts to slowly shimmy your way over. It's time-consuming and not worth the effort. It's best to go full steam ahead even if it means leaving a few stragglers behind (cry me a river). Your boat has a sense of momentum and it's satisfying to squeeze through narrow channels without letting off of the gas. At the end of each stage you earn a bonus before starting on a more treacherous course. River Patrol has a lot of originality, and it's actually quite enjoyable once you get the hang of it. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 5,550
Publisher: Activision (1982)
River Raid has got
to rank as one of the top five Atari 2600 games of all time. And to think - it was designed by Carol Shaw - a girl
for Pete's sake!! This addictive vertical shooter requires precision flying and excellent timing as you guide your jet through a river valley while blasting ships, helicopters, planes, and bridges. Flying over fuel barges restores your ever-dwindling fuel supply, and savvy gamers will destroy these just after
refueling (for extra points). When your fuel gets low, it's a good idea to hold your fire so you don't accidentally blast an upcoming barge. Part of River Raid's challenge lies in navigating its narrow, branching channels without crashing into the sides. Enemies often camp out behind cliff walls and you can never predict when they'll be on the move. For best results, I recommend using a joystick with minimal "give" such as the TAC-2. River Raid is expertly programmed with crisp controls, smooth animation, and tight collision detection. Its flicker-free graphics feature multi-colored objects, satisfying explosions, and even some scenery on the riverbanks. You control the speed of your jet by pushing the joystick up or down, and you can select between straight or guided missiles. The difficulty ramps gradually so despite having only one skill level both novices and experts can enjoy the game equally. Deceptively simple on the surface, River Raid will always give you a run for the money. A sequel would eventually follow, but how do you expect to improve on perfection? If you own a 2600, it really doesn't get much better than this. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: A
Our high score: VGC 93,790
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Activision (1988)
This sequel didn't arrive until six years
after the first River Raid, and it has a completely different look and feel. If you loved the original game, there's a good chance you'll hate this. When my friend Chris first played River Raid 2 he lamented "Oh no! It's three dimensional!"
Yes, this vertical shooter incorporates altitude into the equation, making the game more realistic but less intuitive. The learning curve is pretty steep, as reflected in the fact that there are three meters: altitude, fuel, and speed. You begin by taking off from an impressively large aircraft carrier. In addition to shooting missiles you pull back on the stick to bomb ships, tanks, and bridges. Instead of using barges to refuel, you'll pass over golden refueling planes. At the end of each stage you must land on an aircraft carrier, and I would have never been able to figure out how to do that without an instruction manual. River Raid 2 is not particularly attractive for an Activision title, and some might even regard it as ugly
. Most objects are rendered in solid colors, and many are hard to discern. The game requires a lot of practice but guess what? It's worth learning! Much of the action takes place over open water as you bomb destroyers, blast helicopters, and avoid rising flak. In the river valleys you can bomb landing pads and fuel tanks as long as you maintain your altitude. You can swoop down to snag yellow fuel buoys, but this is a tricky maneuver that introduces a nice risk-versus-reward element. Despite what the manual would have you believe, the A difficulty is easier because unguided missiles allow you to fire and then bail out of the way of incoming missiles. Landing can be exciting, especially when you're running low on fuel. River Raid 2 came out too late to attract much attention, but those willing to invest a little time in this sophisticated shooter will enjoy the payoff. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 36,600
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Atari (1989)
One of the final titles released for the 2600 system, Road Runner does a fine job of capturing the whimsical spirit of the cartoon series. With eight unique stages, it's also one of the more challenging titles for the system. I couldn't make it past the fourth stage, but at least I had fun trying. You control the roadrunner, speeding down a desert road while avoiding Wile E. Coyote and his inventive gadgets, which include roller skates, rockets, cannons, and a magnet strapped to his body. You'll also need to dodge hazards in the road such as trucks and mines. The basic strategy involves swerving around these obstacles and "guiding" them into your pursuer. The scenery is sparse, but the characters are high in resolution and their nice animations are entertaining. The game offers no continues, but when you lose a life you pick up right where you left off. None of the music or sound effects stand out, except for the trademark "beep beep". My main gripe is how you constantly have to hold the joystick to the left, which made my arm very tired after a few minutes. Still, Road Runner is a quality game that requires both skill and strategy. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Xonox (1983)
There's no question that the programmers at Xonox could whip up some pretty slick visuals on the Atari 2600. Making a playable game however proved to be more of a challenge. Robin Hood's instructions claim it has four screens, but in fact only three are playable. The first only lets you select your variation, so that doesn't count. Still, its minstrel music really put me in the mood for some medieval hijinx. Then again, when am I not
in the mood for that?
Our hero begins his journey in Sherwood Forest as foes emerge from behind chunky trees. The way Robin struts around in that flamboyant green outfit, you'd think he was up for Pimp of the Year
honors. Enemy soldiers are decked out in more fashionable black-and-red-striped outfits. They only emerge one at a time, making this the most poorly-executed ambush ever!!
Unlike the Colecovision edition of Robin Hood, you can only fire arrows horizontally. That's a pain, especially when an enemy appears above or below you. If they appear directly on top
of you, you're dead, so it's a good thing you get five lives. If you exchange shots with an enemy but strike him first, his arrow will disappear in mid-air. After a certain number of kills the screen will flash, signaling that you can move on. The second screen is quite the eyeful with its narrow battlefield in the foreground and sprawling castle looming in the background. Just look
at that thing! After killing a handful of soldiers the drawbridge opens and closes, allowing you to sneak through with good timing (read: luck). Once inside things get more confusing. Each of the three floors has a set of doors and some pretty amazing-looking checkerboard floors. Touching a door has random effects. Sometimes nothing happens, and sometimes you're transported to a higher floor. When a henchman appears it's bad news because you're completely unarmed. I actually managed to rescue the princess once, but I swear
it was by accident. Robin Hood is an attractive Atari 2600 title but there's way too much "huh?" and not nearly enough "yay!" © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 76,000
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Activision (1983)
I first acquired this cartridge when returning a defective version of Atlantis to a nearby mall back in the early 80's (would you believe it had Cosmic Ark on it?!). The apathetic teenager working there said I could exchange it with any other game on the shelf. Sensing a golden opportunity that comes once in a lifetime (if you're lucky), I grabbed Robot Tank off the shelf, despite the fact that it was marked at an exorbitant $36! Since I had only paid $10 for the defective Atlantis, this exchange was comparable to a bank heist. I confidently executed the transaction (trying not to let on) and swiftly fled the scene before the dude could realize he'd been played like a piano. Once home and safe from the authorities, I reveled in my latest acquisition. Robot Tank is a first-person shooter along the same lines as Atari's Battlezone, but if Battlezone is a simulation, then Robot Tank is pure arcade. It's not realistic at all. Only one tank appears on the radar at a time, and it only fires if it's in view. Incoming missiles resemble large blocks, which can be evaded by simply rotating your tank until they disappear from sight. That makes absolutely no sense if you think about it. Enemy tanks move quickly and erratically, giving the game a target shooting vibe. Your missiles are guided and can collide with incoming shots. What's good about Robot Tank? Well its graphics for one thing. The terrain moves smoothly as your tank rolls over it, and the mountains in the background look far more impressive than the ones in Battlezone. But the main gimmick is the time-of-day and weather changes, which are announced with some official-looking "red alert" text. In 1983, this simply blew me away. As the game progresses, day turns to night, and each day brings a new random weather condition, including rain, snow, and fog. The weather not only affects your vision, but the handling of your tank as well! During the night, you must rely almost solely on your scanner to track down the enemy. One cheap strategy is to keep your enemy behind you until daybreak. You couldn't do that if there were two enemies at a time! Robot Tank has one skill level. It's a good-looking game, but it doesn't have nearly the depth of Battlezone. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Whoever programmed this game did one hell of a job. The three stages look beautiful, with smoothly animated characters, outstanding control, and catchy background music. It's a shame Roc 'N Rope is such a crummy game! Did anybody ever
like this game? The answer to that question, I'm afraid, is no
. In order to ascend the game's series of platforms, you have to shoot a rope at higher ledges and pull yourself up. Apparently the object is to touch the big chicken on the top of the screen, but Roc 'N Rope's is slow and tedious. If only the programmer had worked on Donkey Kong instead. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Commavid (1982)
A reader recently described Room of Doom as a "hidden gem" in the Atari 2600 library. I can't argue about the "hidden" part; not only is it difficult to track down this loose cartridge, but the instructions are nowhere to be found. Calling it a "gem" is arguable, but I must admit it has a certain frantic, Berzerk-like quality to it. The unlikely premise has you moving a guy around a rectangular room. You must avoid a slow, wandering monster as men fire at you from holes around the perimeter. The monster is only of minor concern, but the multiple shots fired create perplexing crossfire traps. Small windows open and close in front of each shooter, allowing you to methodically blast these sharp-shooting bastards. Kill them all and you clear the wave. The challenge ramps sharply, and by the third of fourth room you'll be liquidating lives at an alarming rate. I like Room of Doom's cat-and-mouse gameplay. You really need to find a "safe spot", and then dart out periodically to take out the gunmen. The graphics and sound however are pretty pathetic. The human characters are poorly rendered and the blocky monsters look equally cheesy. At least the flying bullets are large and easy to see. Room of Doom offers an overwhelming selection of 64 variations, combining options like straight/diagonal shots, guided shots, and fast/slow modes. Personally, I would have preferred a single variation that changed these options between waves. Room of Doom didn't win me over, but I can see how some people might like it. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
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