Publisher: Spectravideo (1983)
This game features a grotesque insect trying to extinguish the flames of a burning building. Freddy gets my vote for ugliest video game character ever, bringing to mind disgusting memories of the movie The Fly. The game alternates between two stages. In the first, you shoot water blobs (from the bottom of the screen) at flames in windows while dodging objects that rain down. The second stage plays like a typical platform game, as you move from floor to floor shooting water at wandering flames. I wasn't too impressed by the graphics or sound, but I'll say one thing for Frantic Freddy - it's tough. The challenge alone is enough to keep you busy for a while. But when all is said and done, Freddie really doesn't offer anything new or exciting. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
I've been a fan of Berzerk for twenty years, but only recently did I discover the sequel: Frenzy. I'm glad I did. This brilliantly executed game retains the classic Berzerk gameplay; while adding additional strategic elements. You still control a man running through a series of mazelike screens, attempting to escape the clutches of Evil Otto and his robot minions. Enemies close in fast at the beginning of each round, so those first few seconds are critical. Your man is impressively animated, especially when he's taking aim or getting zapped. Unlike the menacing robots of the original game, these look more like skeletons with oversized heads. In addition, they are accompanied by roving tanks. Robot AI has been improved dramatically -- they deliberately avoid giving you a clean shot at them. But the biggest change is the addition of both destroyable and reflecting walls, which add subtle strategic elements. For example; missed shots will sometimes hit their mark after a ricochet, and occasionally you'll have to shoot your way through an enclosed area. You can even shoot Otto now! But beware - this makes him very angry, and he comes back twice as fast. The game continues momentarily after you die, so even after losing your last man, the robots sometimes can inadvertently earn you an extra life - just when you thought the game was over! I found Frenzy to be just as fun as Berzerk, if not more. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
Loosely based on a true story, Frogger lets you guide a helpless frog across a traffic-filled street and then cross a stream of moving logs and other hazards. The sympathetic premise is so appealing that even girls
have been known to enjoy this. Granted, the frog is the size of an SUV and could probably swallow a man whole, but work with me here!
Frogger is a nice-looking game. The screen is awash with color as every vehicle and animal is exquisitely detailed. Heck, there are even different types of cars in the same lane!
All the elements of the arcade are present like the snake who patrols the shoreline and that creepy looking otter paddling in the water. The frog must be a total stud because he is constantly picking up chicks on the way across the river. Pursuing a juicy fly can earn you a fat bonus, but try not to go crazy with this type of glory-seeking. The controls are less forgiving than most versions of Frogger. You need to land squarely on a log; if your feet are hanging off you'll probably slide into the water. Cars and logs tend to change speeds unexpectedly, making this one of the more challenging versions of the game. And I can't forget to mention something about the catchy theme song. How many modern games have you humming along as you play? Try none!
Frogger is a timeless game, and this is the version you want. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 11,920
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
This innovative sequel takes our amphibious hero from the depths of the ocean to the clouds in the sky. You'll traverse three distinctive screens, each with its own set of dangers. Your journey begins on the sea floor, where you must swim past alligators, barracuda, and eel to reach floating logs. It's pretty crowded down there, and that water current is a bastard!
Reaching a log takes you to the water surface where you hop across lily pads, ducks, whales, and hippos to reach a life preserver pulled by tug boat. Hopping on a baby duck pisses off the mother duck to no end, but if you hop on the mother directly she'll carry you into the sky. This third screen lets you bounce on fluffy clouds while avoiding airplanes and dragons. It's clever how the screens are tied together but Frogger 2 is less than the sum of its parts. There are a lot of animals, but most are rendered in a single color. The action is plodding at times, especially when you're waiting for your next chance to jump. Difficulty level 1 is so slow that I caught my friend Chris surfing his phone
while playing it! Variation 2 is faster but aggravating. Frogger 2 looks good on paper, but it lacks the simple fun that made the original so appealing. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: 7,215
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Front Line is the spiritual predecessor to so many of those "one-man army" games like Ikari Warriors and Rambo. You control a machine-gunning, grenade-tossing soldier fighting in a foreign land against all odds. As you forge your way up the vertically scrolling terrain, you'll navigate around bushes, trees, bricks walls, and barbed wire while engaging groups of soldiers, tanks, and cannons. Front Line's graphics aren't nearly as good as I was expecting. The goofy-looking soldiers look as if they're dancing, and the box-like tanks didn't impress me either. The range of bullets is so limited that you can linger just a few feet away from enemies with no fear of being shot. The constantly changing scenery keeps the action fresh however, and the screen even scrolls sideways to widen the battlefield. Occasionally you have the opportunity to man a tank yourself - an impressive feature for a 1983 title. Front Line is one of the few Colecovision games that actually requires
the Super Action Controllers, utilizing all four of its "finger" buttons. Unfortunately, the counter-intuitive control scheme uses two of these buttons to rotate the direction of your aim. While this provides the ability to strafe and finely adjust your shooting angle, it's awfully hard to remember which button turns which way, especially in the heat of battle. Front Line is a challenge, but its confusing controls and so-so gameplay put this one squarely in average territory. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Atarisoft (1983)
Here's one of the few cases where the home version of a game is actually BETTER than the arcade! This adaptation of the classic space shooter is absolutely superb in every way. The graphics are so detailed you can even see the fluttering wings of the swooping aliens. Your ship's explosion is impressive - far better than the arcade. Even the sound effects have a crystal clear, 3D quality to them. This game is hard
though. On the intermediate skill level I found it almost impossible to take out both escorts and the boss, a task I'm usually proficient at. What really makes this game special is the speed. Your shots move much faster than the arcade game, but this is offset by aliens who are faster and more aggressive. Overall, it's pretty spectacular. If Atari could do this, why is the Atari 5200 version so bad? © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Gateway to Apshai
Publisher: Epyx (1984)
When I would play the Dungeons and Dragons board game in the early 80's, it seemed like the hardest part was plotting your journey on a piece of graph paper. What a hassle! I could only dream of the day when a video game would automate the tedious task of mapping. And dice rolling. And everything else.
Well, apparently that day arrived in 1984, because Gateway to Apshai is a pretty straight adaptation of the D&D formula. You control a small warrior wandering through a series of dungeons which actually materialize as you walk through them
. Around each dark corner you'll find treasure, hidden traps, and magic items. These are normally guarded by evil fiends like swamp rats, snakes, green slime, and evil priests. The Colecovision keypad is well utilized, allowing you to manage your inventory, switch weapons, cast spells, search for traps, and check your vital signs. This is a pretty sophisticated dungeon crawler for 1984! Hell, you can even select the level of the dungeon
you want to explore - from 1 through 99!
Something's got to give, and in this case it's the visuals. The graphics are very modest, and even advanced enemies are small and single-colored. The fighting controls are extremely awkward. You need to press "2" to enter "fighting mode", and this allows you to "wave" your sword. This waving action is neither precise nor effective. Even lowly rats can sustain multiple hits, and if two monsters gang up on you, you're toast. Yeah, the fighting stinks, but you also have to option flee or use spells. Gateway to Apshai is an interesting stepping stone in the evolution of adventure gaming, but you won't want to ditch your old D&D player's handbook for this. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Let's get one thing straight - Gorf kicks ass. What other game provides so many different flavors of space shooting fun? Indeed, Gorf is four games in one; hence four times
the fun of your normal shooter. The first stage, "Astro Battle", is basically a Space Invaders clone, except you have a shield above (that you that you can poke holes in) and your cannon can move up and down -- as well as side to side. I love the unique firing mechanism, which allows you to abort your previous shot simply by firing a new one; preventing the need to wait for your bad shots to leave the screen. The second stage, "Laser Attack", has more of a Galaga flavor to it, with aliens moving around the screen in various formations. Then there's the third (and very brief) "Space Warp" stage. This one didn't turn out quite as well as the others. It's supposed to be a black hole with aliens emerging from it, but all you really have to do is shoot away at the middle of it, taking out aliens before they can escape. Finally, there's the climactic "Flag Ship" stage; where you take out the mother ship as it moves back and forth across of the top of the screen. You can blast away at the hull all you want, but only a perfect shot to the reactor will destroy the thing. The subsequent explosion, four fuzzy boxes, is pretty weak compared to the arcade. But overall the graphics are fine, and the sound effects are even better. There's a certain set of tones that play at the end of each stage that I really like. The only thing missing is the "My name is Gorf" voice synthesis from the arcade version. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
I loved Gyruss in the arcade because it took the standard shooter formula and added a cool twist. Instead of shooting up at invaders that flew above you, your ship rotates in a circle, shooting aliens that emerge from the center of the screen - clever stuff. I also like the fact that this game has an actual "goal" of trying to reach the planet Earth. Every few stages you reach a new planet, beginning with Neptune (what happened to Pluto?). If you're a Galaga fan, you'll recognize several similarities, including the "double shot" power-up and the bonus "Chance" stages (known as "Challenge" stages in Galaga). The graphics here are sufficient, but not great. The stars that emerge from the center of the screen look pretty sloppy and hardly convey the feeling of movement. The aliens are plain-looking and move in a choppy manner, making them tough to shoot when they're moving laterally. The biggest strike against this game has to be the control. Not only is moving your ship in a circle a chore, but having to tap that side button continuously to shoot is very awkward. An auto-shoot option would have been nice. If you enjoy the elaborate musical score, you should know that you're listening to Johan Sebastian Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor
. Little did Bach know when he was composing 300 years ago that someday it would be used in a video game. I should also mention that although the instruction manual mentions an options screen, I could not get it to appear. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Micro Fun (1983)
The title screen of Heist displays the company name (Micro Fun) with the slogan "the fun goes on forever." Wait a second... doesn't micro mean small?
Anyway, it won't take classic gamers long to notice parallels between this and Keystone Kapers
(Atari 2600, 1983). You play a burglar in a three-story museum, snagging art while using elevators and escalators to move between floors. Your character is large and certainly looks the part of a chain-smoking thug. If you look close enough, you can even see his tattoos and body-piercings. Not really. The pictures have small images on them but the rest of the scenery is limited to plants and a few benches. The game has a timer and you'll need to avoid touching the various alarm mechanisms. Alarms look like blinking red lights you need to jump over, and some even roll along the floor. Running around grabbing keys and artwork is fun, but the designers missed a few opportunities. First of all, a "count down" showing the number of remaining art pieces would have been extremely helpful. The elevators are fun to ride (just enter the number of the floor on the keypad), but the escalators are a nightmare. They look big and inviting but stepping onto one requires pressing diagonally after perfectly positioning yourself, which is problematic. Anyone who's played Keystone Kapers knows that hopping on and off escalators is one of the simple joys in life. Heist is moderately fun but it doesn't do much to elevate itself over average status. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 17,737
Publisher: Coleco (1984)
This game never made any sense to me, and I've given up trying to figure it out. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, but even after dozens of plays, I still can't wrap my mind around Illusions. The first screen is an "impossible" 3D maze of walkways and stairs that twist around in a mazelike fashion. The second screen is a simple cube. These are well rendered and interesting at first, but the novelty doesn't last. In the first screen, Amoeba-like blobs circle the maze, and your goal is to merge them together. In the second screen, your challenge is to break them up. You don't control the creatures individually, but can alter their direction (by pushing the joystick up or down) or make them "jump" to different parts of the maze (by pressing a button). The problem is, they only jump at predetermined points, and these are not the least bit obvious to the player. As a result, your jump command will register immediately, but the blobs won't actually jump until they reach a certain point, and the lag time is disconcerting. Illusions was clearly inspired by a work of modern art, but translating it into a video game was a mistake. The gameplay is hard to grasp and even harder to enjoy. Making matters worse, the looping background music will drive you absolutely insane (thankfully you can toggle it). If the developers were trying to create something totally unique, they've succeeded. But actually playing Illusions is an exercise in misery. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
It's Only Rock 'N Roll
Publisher: Xonox (1984)
In the 70's and 80's K-Tel produced compilation record albums containing not-so-fresh hits like "Sugar Sugar", "Candyman", and "My Green Tambourine". Apparently they also tried their hand at video games, resulting in It's Only Rock 'N Roll. I kind of expected an arcade-style title like Journey Escape
(Atari 2600, 1982), but got a text-based business simulation
instead! The main screen displays status information like money, energy, bank loans, fan clubs, popularity, and a happiness score. A menu of options lets you write a song, record an album, make a video, tour, and take time off. It's Only Rock 'N Roll is kind of cheesy and amateurish. When you choose "write a song" you're presented with a set of nonsensical lyrics like "she never did like jiving", "I can't look into my eyes", and "why do I like a raw steak". The lyrics are incomprehensible yet the game will insist the song is a "10 out of 10". When you accept a song, it prints "OK" all over the screen, which looks like something I would have programmed in BASIC when I was 10. The graphics are minimal but during a gig you'll watch an animated sequence of your band playing random beeps and boops. It's a nice surprise the first time you see it, but after that you'll wish you could skip it. Another irritation is the exorbitant cost of touring (damn you, Ticketmaster!!
). Unless you tour early on, it always seems out of your financial reach. Touring involves watching money rack up on the screen along with random status messages like "arrived late" and "drummer was drunk". It's Only Rock 'N Roll starts to get interesting when you break into the top 10 next to artists like The Cure, Billy Joel, Whitesnake, Queen, and Genesis. Sadly, it's hard to move up the charts because the game will end abruptly with some lame excuse like "you are over the hill" or "you died from a broken heart". I know It's Only Rock N Roll, but I don't like that!
There's novelty and originality here, but not much of a game. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 76
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
Unimaginative, poorly programmed, and devoid of fun, James Bond 007 takes a perfectly good movie license and flushes it directly down the toilet. The game's cheesy intro depicts James Bond waving effeminately before squeezing into his tiny "amphibious vehicle". The game plays like a third-rate Moon Patrol, as you jump over pits and dive under water while firing missiles and dropping bombs. The stages are loosely
based on four old Bond flicks, but you'd never know unless I told you. For the record, the films are Diamonds Are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, and For Your Eyes Only. The stages do look
different, but they all play the same and none are particularly enjoyable. 007's heinous graphics feature ugly color schemes and constantly flashing skylines. I hate
how the blue diamonds in the sky don't even disappear when you shoot them (hey, maybe they really are
forever!). James Bond 007 is not a pretty sight, but remarkably, this version holds a slight edge over its pathetic Atari 5200 counterpart. The controls are better, the difficulty is lower, and you can actually shoot
the satellites that attack from overhead. But make no mistake; James Bond 007 is still unadulterated crap
. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari Age (2016)
I wish I had picked this up in October because Jeepers Creepers has so many fun Halloween elements. Its vibrant title screen depicts a Frankenstein monster, a ghost, and a skeleton climbing out of a grave. The intro music has a moody, organ-like quality. The game itself may surprise you. This a rapid-fire shooter - not something you'd expect to see on the Colecovision. You control a guy out to save his girlfriend from a haunted castle, moving side-to-side blasting waves of oncoming creeps. In the first stage you strafe shambling skeletons in a graveyard and in the second you blast ghosts emerging from coffins. The ghosts tend to disappear as they move down the screen but fortunately you can still destroy them in their invisible state. The third stage pits you against waves of green Frankenstein monsters. I love the game's sense of foreshadowing as the castle gradually looms larger and larger in the distance. When a creature reaches the bottom of the screen it briefly turns into a skull before draining a point of your life. You begin with 50 points so you can afford to let a lot of them pass. Especially in arcade mode it feels like a war of attrition as you're turning back hundreds of creeps. Shooting down a passing bat recovers some life and that becomes a big deal later in the game. Upon losing your final life the game concludes with a shriek and diabolical laugh. I love it! Jeepers Creepers has a lot of nifty details but its gameplay is taxing. Each button throws with a hand so you naturally want to hold in both for maximum firepower. The problem is, after a few minutes your wrist will hurt like hell
. My friend Scott said his hand ached so bad he had to call in sick to work
the next day! He swore up and down next time he was bringing a vice grip
. Okay, so it's not as fun as it looks, but for a little Halloween hijinks Jeepers Creepers is probably worth the pain. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: arcade
Our high score: 8,490
Publisher: Epyx (1984)
It never gained the notoriety of Donkey Kong, but anyone who had Jumpman Junior on their computer in the early 80's would swear that it's a better game. This Colecovision edition is outstanding. The main character is small, but nicely animated, and his size allows for some colossal platform configurations. The idea is to climb ropes and ladders to collect small circles (bombs) scattered strategically over varying platforms. Unlike Donkey Kong, there are a LOT of screens - 12 in all! Each provides unique challenges such as spontaneously combusting flames, bouncing rocks, and guided bullets. There are numerous ways to complete each screen. The controls are responsive and mercifully forgiving, so you can't blame the game when you screw up. Little details add to the fun; for example, when your man falls or takes a hit he'll tumble down the entire structure, and occasionally you'll get lucky and he'll fall right onto the last circle, clearing the screen. It just doesn't get any better than that. Jumpman Junior is one of the few titles that let you to set the game speed (from 1-8) and I recommend setting 3. Another nice feature is the excellent harmonized music - these catchy tunes brought back some serious memories! Jumpman Junior is simply a blast to play, and only a sore thumb could pull me away from this. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atarisoft (1983)
This version of Jungle Hunt is the closest I've seen to the arcade. Originally entitled "Jungle King", the name and lead character were later altered after a lawsuit over the character's resemblance to "Tarzan". Instead, we get some nerdy explorer wearing tan shorts and brown socks. But what's great about Jungle Hunt is the variety of gameplay. The first stage requires good reflexes to jump from vine to vine, and then it's off to a crocodile-infested river. I don't know why the crocodiles are red, but they die pretty easy when you stab them (even if their mouths are open). Back on shore, you'll leap over small rocks and duck under large square ones before reaching your final destination. Here you'll find your girlfriend tied up and hanging over a boiling pot, and you'll need to leap over two natives to rescue her. Too bad there's no sort of ending. During the second time through, monkeys appear on the vines, a feature not found in most versions. This Jungle Hunt is fairly forgiving, and after you die you pick up right where you left off. I've played Jungle Hunt on many consoles, but this is my personal favorite. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Activision (1984)
Chalk this one up as a missed opportunity for Activision. The concept of chasing a robber through a department store opens up all sorts of eye candy possibilities. You could imagine the store having various sections for clothing, jewelry, sporting, hardware, etc. The Colecovision would certainly have been up to the task, but Activision was too [expetive] lazy
. Instead we get a less-appealing version of the original Atari 2600 game. The store is populated with random angular shapes that look more like glitches. I can vaguely make out telephones and stools, but otherwise the scenery looks like garbage. Objects like shopping carts, airplanes, and escalators are bland and single-colored. That ugly city skyline is the absolute worst. The controls are responsive but a little touchy. You'll get used to jumping over shopping carts and radios, only to accidentally jump face-first into a toy airplane. The policeman and striped convict look a little more detailed in this version; you can see their eyes. The cringe-worthy jingle that plays when you catch the crook sounds like something from a haunted carnival. The one saving grace is that this is Keystone Kapers, a game that delivers a challenging combination of jumping and ducking action with a dash of strategy. I found myself employing all my old tricks, like jumping onto escalators and pouncing on the crook. It's a satisfactory effort, but this Colecovision version should have been so much more. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 24,550
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
It would be tempting to write off this game as just another Pac-Man clone, but Ladybug has its charm. It's a likeable little maze game with some interesting features. You control a ladybug being pursued around a maze by nasty, evil bugs. The maze and dots look pretty standard, except for the fact that there are turnstiles all over the place that let you dynamically change the layout. These allow you to cut off your enemies and sometimes even isolate them in enclosed spaces. Unlike most maze games, there's no way to turn the tables on your enemies -- you're always on the run. Adding some variety are scattered bonuses and letters you can collect to earn a free bug. There's nothing fancy about the graphics, but the background music is pleasant enough. I found the control to be a bit stiff. I sometimes got caught up on the walls, and my hand started to ache after a while. But other than that, Ladybug is just good clean fun. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Was Looping really an arcade game? Never heard of it. To be honest, this game didn't do much for me. It's a side scrolling airplane shooter where you can fly forwards, upside-down, and perform loops (hence the name). Your initial goal is to destroy a few missiles on the ground below while being attacked by hot air balloons. Some missiles are protected by buildings that you'll need to break through. Once the missiles are destroyed, you must navigate a series of narrow mazes while shooting the occasional obstacle. During this part of the game you'll hear music that wouldn't be so annoying if it weren't so freakin' LOUD! If you reach the end this section, you're off to the next stage, which is slightly faster. The graphics aren't bad; there's plenty of detail and color. Looping has other problems, however. The control is super-sensitive; hardly providing the precision required to navigate the tight, narrow mazes. The collision detection is poor, and the game feels sloppy in general. Most importantly, it's just not much fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: STP 43,350
1 or 2 players
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