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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Atari 2600 Reviews G

G.I. Joe Cobra Strike
Grade: C
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
Posted: 2010/1/31

screenshotBizarre to say the least, G.I. Joe: Cobra Strike is definitely not what I was expecting. It features a huge cobra looming on the upper half of the screen, slithering side to side in a menacing fashion. The snake looks imposing, and the manner in which its body twists and contorts represents a pretty nifty piece of programming.

Army recruits can be seen running between buildings at the bottom of the screen, making them vulnerable to the cobra's venom and devastating laser beams. To protect these men you move a shield across the middle of the screen and fire missiles at the snake with cannons situated on each side. Paddle controllers are used, but they don't provide for very precise control. Your shield tends to slide around, evoking the feeling of trying to pick up a watermelon seed.

Holding in the fire button unleashes a missile from your cannon, but its movements are equally squirrely. Did the programmers purposely make the controls inexact in order to maximize the difficulty? Despite the erratic controls however, G.I. Joe is not a bad game. A coop mode allows two players to protect the troops, and a third player can even control the cobra! G.I. Joe is probably too weird for its own good, but Parker Bros. almost managed to pull it off. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: 3A
Our high score: 7,420
1 to 3 players 

Grade: A
Publisher: Champ Games (2020)
Posted: 2020/11/7

screenshotI didn't think I needed another Galaga game for the collection, but Galagon proved its worth. Its colorful packaging and glossy manual are a reflection of the considerable amount of TLC put into this ambitious project. The developers have taken one of the most beloved arcade games of all time and translated it with astonishing accuracy. The graphics, audio, and gameplay are so dead-on you'll forget you're playing an Atari 2600.

You could argue this is better than the original. The game runs faster and smoother. You can hold down the button to fire rapidly and continuously. The fact that aliens are more spaced out makes the game more fun. In addition to three skill levels there's a bonus mode consisting of nothing but the challenge stages. High scores can be saved to an Atarivox or compatible device.

If you're still not convinced, wait until you try the dynamite two-player coop mode. At first both players alternately control one cannon, switching control every ten seconds with the help of visual and audio cues. If you let a ship be captured and rescue it, both players will control their own cannons. Each cannon is slightly color-coded but it's very easy to confuse them in the heat of battle.

In theory it's possible to have two fully-powered, double-shot cannons blasting away in unison, and if I live to see this happen I can die a happy man. Imagine blowing through a challenge stage like that! Galagon is the latest flagship title for the venerable system. As if the excellent translation wasn't a remarkable technical feat in and of itself, the coop mode that puts it way over the top. Galagon take me away! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: coop
Our high score: 63520
1 or 2 players 

Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2009/11/17

screenshotA logical evolution of Space Invaders, Galaxian puts you up against a colorful armada of dive-bombing aliens with two "boss ships" positioned at the top. At first glance, you might be tempted to dismiss this as a watered-down rendition of the arcade hit. The playing field is surrounded by a tacky orange border, and the aliens are spaced out more than they are in the arcade. Fear not - this is one of the more exciting and frenetic shooters for the Atari 2600.

Your shots travel rapidly and holding down the fire button initiates continuous fire. In later stages multiple aliens glide across the screen at a time, so you'll need to avoid collisions as well as falling bombs. Pay special attention to those dangerous purple ships that make extra-wide sweeps. You can usually "thread the needle" between the falling bombs, but take care not to get trapped in the corners.

Galaxian has a nice flow to it, and once you get in a zone you can pick off as many as a dozen aliens in a row. As with the original arcade game, it's possible to blast two with a single shot, and dude - that is awesome. The audio effects perfectly recreate the same pulsating electronic sounds you'd associate with a typical alien invasion (we've all been there). With solid gameplay and nine skill levels, Galaxian delivers pure shooting satisfaction. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Game variations: 9
Recommended variation: 6B
Our high score: 28,560
1 player 

Gangster Alley
Grade: C
Publisher: Spectravision (1982)
Posted: 2009/9/8

screenshotThis primitive first-person shooter has some interesting elements, but it lags a bit in the fun department. When you first flip on Gangster Alley, the word "Wanted" is displayed on top of the screen, along with the mug shots of five villains. Take a good look, because these are the low-life scumbags you'll be shooting in the face. One looks like a red Frankenstein, and another is a dead-ringer for the Grinch. A third looks like a hitchhiker from Disney's Haunted Mansion ride.

As the game begins, you're staring at the side of a building with randomly placed windows. People slowly rise from each window, and if they're bad, you need to shoot them before they shoot you. Be careful not to accidentally shoot a woman or child, or you'll be penalized severely. You move the crosshair with your joystick, and the collision detection is forgiving - to a fault. Occasionally you're presented with a "night level" where the building is pitch-dark, illuminated only when you fire your gun. Since you have limited ammo, these stages are particularly challenging.

Lurking on the roof at all times is "Nitro Ed" - one of the worst lowlife scumbags you'll ever see in an Atari 2600 cartridge. When he holds a grenade above his head, you need to blast him immediately or he brings your game to an abrupt conclusion. Check out his reaction when you shoot him - the son of a [expletive] actually likes it! Adding insult to injury, if he ends your game he mocks you relentlessly with a pixelated close-up and the flashing word "ha". I try not to take my gaming too seriously, but this bastard just made it personal! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 3,340
1 player 

Gas Hog
Grade: D-
Publisher: Spectravision (1983)
Posted: 2003/9/14

screenshotThis rare game has questionable play value. Playing Gas Hog involves driving a vehicle over a planet's surface while jumping over holes and shooting aliens approaching from front and rear. A scanner on the bottom of the screen displays your progress through each stage. That description should sound very familiar to Moon Patrol fans. UFOs drop bombs from above, but despite having what appears to be a roof-mounted cannon (quite an imagination I have), you can only shoot forward, which really sucks.

In addition, there are actual numbers that appear between 20 and 90 which you can touch for points. Yes, we're talking about numeric digits floating in space. Be sure not to shoot them, however, or they'll subtract from your score. I hate games that take away from your score - it just doesn't sit well with me. But wait - it gets worse.

Every so often, the screen turns red and beeps to indicate you are low on fuel. In order to replenish, you have to fall into the underground area where fuel cells can be found. The problem is, once you're down there, you automatically move towards the LEFT, negating much of the progress you've already made! Once you refuel, getting back to the top level is extremely hazardous, usually resulting in death. Gas Hog isn't the worst game I've ever played, but it sure tries to be. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 3960
1 player 

Ghost Manor
Grade: C+
Publisher: Xonox (1983)
Posted: 2012/10/30

screenshotThis game isn't particularly scary or fun, and frankly it doesn't make a lot of sense. But Ghost Manor does have one thing going for it, and that's five unique stages. That's pretty monumental for a 2600 game. The idea is to save your friend from Dracula's castle, and you have the option of playing as a cute blonde chick in a blue dress or a dorky guy in a red cap. I have no idea what she sees in him.

Anyway the action begins with a graveyard rising from the ground as scary music plays and a red castle looms in the distance. Your first task is to chase a rainbow-colored ghost around the graveyard. Very few video games employ openly gay ghosts, and I applaud Xonox for keeping such an open mind. On the advanced difficulty the ghost is replaced by a bisexual skeleton.

After the pointless graveyard stage you move to the castle exterior which looks pretty awesome. Bats flutter around the towers, bugs crawl on the walls, and an axe-wielding mummy named "Choppy" guards the entrance. This stage plays like a mini-shooter and it's the highlight of the game. After killing all the creatures you enter the castle. The next two mazelike screens feature scattered coffins and moving walls that are deadly to touch.

Examining the coffins will reveal a pair of crosses needed for the final showdown. It's easy to get caught up on the walls of the maze, especially in advanced stages which are pitch dark! Ascending the final staircase puts you in a room with Dracula slowly approaching from the left. Without the instructions you'd be at a complete loss what to do next. It turns out you need to position yourself directly beneath him and press the button to force him into a tower at the top right corner.

If successful, your friend is released, you watch a quick ending (which looks suspiciously like the intro), and the game is over. There are four skill levels. Ghost Manor is very difficult at first, and with only one life any slip-up brings the action to an abrupt conclusion. Once you get the patterns down however, you can get through the screens quickly. Ghost Manor looks great and offers plenty of variety, but once you beat it you won't be dying to play it again. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: BA
Our high score: 193,750
1 player 

Grade: D
Publisher: Activision (1985)
Posted: 2009/7/24

screenshotGhostbusters is hard to stomach on any platform, but this Atari 2600 edition is better than most. It forgoes the tedious set-up screens found in other versions so you can immediately begin vacuuming ghosts off roads and trapping them in front of buildings. On the main screen you guide a Ghostbusters logo around a grid of city blocks to your next destination. The driving sequences don't go on and on as they do in some other versions (notably the NES), and your hearse looks remarkable!

Consuming a huge portion of the screen, this is probably the largest single object I've ever seen in an Atari 2600 game! When it comes to trapping ghosts in front of buildings, the graphics are equally impressive with multi-colored characters and nicely detailed building fronts. The green "slime ghosts" look terrific, but those yellow "street ghosts" look more like smiling bananas. Unfortunately, the controls for trapping ghosts are even more confusing than in other versions (if that's even possible).

Certain parts of the game even require you to fiddle with the difficulty switches - never a good sign! Advancing to the finale is just as hard and perplexing as it is in the other versions. The Ghostbusters theme plays throughout the proceedings, and while it's a decent rendition, you'll tire of it after a few verses. Ghostbusters is not bad on a technical level, but as a video game it leaves much to be desired. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Gingerbread Man
Grade: C+
Publisher: Atari Age (2007)
Posted: 2008/4/17

screenshotSubtitled "One Tough Cookie", this new platformer is one of the most challenging games I've played on my 2600. Its five unique screens will require a little bit of brain power in addition to reflexes. Gingerbread Man may be a tasty treat, but he knows how to take care of himself. In the first stage our hero hurls cookies at fire creatures using a decidedly non-intuitive control scheme. Since your cookies travel in an arc sometimes it's possible to take out several baddies at once, and that's pretty sweet. In other stages you'll construct a roof, collect balloons, help a baby bird, and even face a boss!

The controls are crisp and responsive, and this is one of the few 2600 games where you actually have the ability to duck! G-Man (as he's known in the hood) can jump, but not high enough to hurdle enemies, which increases the challenge substantially. The graphics are as blocky as blocky can be, but the stage layouts are very thoughtfully designed.

Deadly to the touch are pixelated, single-colored adversaries like dogs, cats, birds, and flames. Just reaching the third screen is a major accomplishment, although the game does include a handy "continue" feature which appropriately resets your score. Also notable is the harmonized music of the title screen, incorporating sinister undertones normally not associated with Gingerbread men that come to life.

I invited a few guys over to play Gingerbread Man with me (and no, that is not a euphemism) and I really expected them to embrace the challenge. Instead they dissed G-Man, even wishing bodily harm upon our sugary hero. Those guys just don't get it. Each stage is a puzzle, and once you find a pattern that works, the game doesn't seem quite so insurmountable. Personally I like Gingerbread Man for its variety, originality, and unlikely hero. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 3,646
1 player 

Glacier Patrol
Grade: D
Publisher: Telegames (1989)
Posted: 2015/1/15

screenshotGlacier Patrol may have "bargain-bin" written all over it, but at least it tries to be different. Loosely-based on a true story, invading aliens are attempting to encase our entire planet in ice. I sure am glad this is just a video game! An alien ship that looks straight out of Atlantis (Imagic, 1982) drops ice blocks from the top of the screen. Apparently Earth's last defense is some lanky dude with a laser gun.

Scampering side-to-side along the bottom, you must methodically disintegrate the falling blocks. Only one block falls at a time but once it falls into place it cannot be destroyed. Each block is worth 50 points. In theory you can earn 70 or 90 points by shooting early, but that only happens by accident.

Glacier Patrol would be awfully repetitive if not for the occasional snow ball that rolls across the bottom of the screen. You need to leap over it or be incapacitated for a few seconds. The jumping controls make no sense (pull back?) but I like how you can continue to fire after getting knocked on your ass. When a complete wall of ice is formed the game comes to a merciful conclusion.

Your goal is to reach 10,000 points, at which point the sun rises and melts the wall. Completing the first wave is a formidable challenge, but subsequent waves are exactly the same. Glacier Patrol won't win any awards but there are probably worse ways to spend your time. I said probably. Note: You may have difficulty inserting this cartridge into some consoles. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 16,620
1 or 2 players 

Go Fish!
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari Age (2005)
Posted: 2008/8/23

screenshotIf you're expecting an Atari 2600 version of Shark! Shark! (Intellivision, 1982), I'm afraid you'll be very disappointed with Go Fish. In both games you are a fish that grows by consuming other fish of equal size or smaller, but the similarities end there. In the Intellivision game the other fish moved in unpredictable patterns, but here the water is separated into neat rows, with one fish (or electric eel) traveling across each.

There's not nearly enough danger in this game. Even with the difficulty switch set to "A", the game is entirely too easy, despite the fact that you only have one life. The action unfolds very slowly, and you have to eat a ton of fish just to grow slightly. The other fish grow proportionally to you, causing the degree of pixelation to go from bad to just plain ugly! The sharks are pretty small, and their predictable movements aren't likely to strike fear in your fish's little heart.

The two-player head-to-head game is surprisingly lame. The first fish to grow can continuously eat the other player, leading to a very lop-sided victory. The musical soundtrack also got on my nerves after a while. I do like how the game supports the AtariVox voice attachment, but it's only used to save high scores. A few underwater bubble sound effects would have been nice. I was looking for some summer joy, but with Go Fish, I'm afraid my high hopes were scaled and gutted. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1980)
Posted: 2023/4/15

screenshotAtari Golf boils the sport down to its bare essentials. There's just a single, nine-hole course. The tree, sandtrap, and water hazards are always in the same locations. All cups are in the dead center of their respective greens. In spite of its simplicity and perhaps because of it, I love this game.

Golf's blocky graphics are basic but more than good enough to get the point across. This is one of those what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of games. The simple hole designs don't try to bait you into taking risky shots. There's no set-up before each shot; you just line up with the ball and whack away!

Granted, the "windmill" swing mechanic may be less-than-intuitive for those who haven't been playing this game for the last 40 years. A novice might have a hard time determining which direction the ball will travel, but taking practice swings helps. The longer you hold down the button, the farther your shot. Upon landing on the green you're presented with a closeup putting screen. It is possible however, to sink the ball from the fairway.

The B difficulty is usually the easier setting in most Atari games, but in this case it's harder. On B, when the ball hits the course boundary it will stop dead! At least on A the ball will keep going, allowing you to cut corners and sail over water hazards. Just try not to lose your ball in that blue, out-of-bounds morass.

Golf is ideal if you're in a hurry, as you can complete a round well in under ten minutes. I'm kind of bummed that no homebrew enthusiast has "reimagined" this game with more holes, richer scenery, and perhaps some randomized elements like wind. Just don't mess around with that simple wind-up swing please. That thing is gold! © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 39
1 or 2 players 

Grade: C+
Publisher: US Games (1982)
Posted: 2023/4/15

screenshotEasily dismissed as shovelware from the game-crash era, Gopher is actually somewhat original. You play the role of a farmer obsessed with protecting three measly carrots from a rampaging gopher. Hasn't this guy ever heard of a grocery store? It's impressive how the farmer is rendered in five colors, but did he need to be so creepy looking? The guy looks like a cross between John Malkovich and Freddy Kreuger for crying out loud!

Each round begins with the gopher frantically tunneling through the ground under your feet, breaking the surface every now and then. Let me tell you something about this gopher. He is one schizophrenic bastard. You never know when he's going to make a mad dash for a carrot. Often he'll stick out his head just to taunt you! He was clearly modeled after the mischievous gopher in Caddyshack - a film released three years prior to this game.

Bonking him in the head will net you 100 points but he's quick so your timing needs to be spot on. Filling his holes also adds to your score, but sometimes I think it's a good strategy to leave a hole open to bait him. Occasionally a duck will fly overhead and drop a tiny seed only one pixel in size. If you catch it, you can "plant" it in the place of a missing carrot, causing it to instantly "grow" back!

The game opens and closes with some ear-splitting music but otherwise Gopher is alright. It requires some multitasking and that pesky gopher will keep you guessing every step of the way. Sudz said he's never played anything quite like this, so that's got to be worth something, right? © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1A
Our high score: 5040
1 or 2 players 

Grade: B-
Publisher: CBS (1981)
Posted: 2022/2/19

screenshotGorf is pretty much what you'd expect from an Atari 2600 port. The graphics have been simplified, a stage is missing, and the voice has been axed. You can only move your cannon from side to side, not up and down. And yet this watered down version still has that distinctive Gorf flavor.

Gorf's shooting controls are interesting. You press the button to fire, but if you immediately press it again your previous shot is replaced by the new one. So you can effectively only have one shot on the screen at a time. While disconcerting at first, this mechanism provides an easy way to abort errant shots.

The opening stage entitled "Astro Battles" is a Space Invader-style knock-off with three rows of aliens marching down and across the screen. It's a good strategy to pick off the ones on the end first. Unlike the arcade, there's no shield protecting you from their bombs, but your shots will cancel out theirs.

The second stage, Laser Attack, is more challenging. There are groups of ships continuously repositioning themselves around the screen. They're tough to hit because as soon as they stop one will unleash a long laser beam straight down. This prevents you from camping underneath to get a clean shot. You'll need to rely on your reflexes and anticipation skills.

The third stage, Space Warp, may not look as impressive as the arcade but it's tougher. Tie fighters emerge from the "black hole" at the top, whirling around in concentric circular patterns. They unleash fireballs down the screen which have a tendency to cancel out your shots.

The final "Flagship" stage looks a bit sparse without the shield featured in the arcade. You'll need to hit the exposed "reactor vent" of the boss' underbelly while avoiding his fireballs. Your shot will need to be pixel-perfect but you get an unlimited number of chances so you'll hit it eventually. When you do the ship's pixels sizzle for a few seconds as the screen flashes wildly.

Afterwards the screens repeat but become significantly harder. As with most home versions of Gorf, the Atari 2600 version lacks the Galaxian stage, likely due to legal issues (Atari secured the home rights to Galaxian). It kind of feels like a lukewarm effort but playing this will still provide your daily recommended allowance of Gorf. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 7500
1 player 

Gorf Arcade
Grade: A+
Publisher: Champ Games (2023)
Posted: 2023/5/24

Gorf Boss Not all classics deserve a remake but Gorf (1982) was a prime candidate for several reasons. The original home versions lacked the "Galaxians" stage, reducing the total number of stages to four. This omission was likely due to licensing issues, considering Galaxian (Atari 2600, 1982) was already its own game. Another understandable omission was the distinctive "I am Gorf" voice synthesis that emanated from the arcade machine, luring players in.

Gorf Arcade not only makes the game whole, but arguably more playable. The first stage kicks off with colorful aliens rapidly deployed across the screen with no discernable flicker. Each stage offers subtle improvements from the crackle of alien explosions to the extra-wide fireballs of the warp stage. The redesigned flagship moves in an unpredictable manner that ratchets up the challenge considerably.

The intense Galaxians stage proves to be great fun, especially since you can "cancel" shots by firing another. This provides a kind of short-range rapid-fire capability against dive-bombing aliens. And when their point values pop up right there on the screen it's all the more satisfying.

I own an Atarivox accessory which saves high scores and outputs Gorf's voice to speakers. Hearing his voice emanate through a separate audio channel is a trippy aural experience Sudz described as "amazing". You never know what Gorf is going to say next but he always makes me smile. "You cannot escape my Galaxians." "You will pay for that." "Try again; I devour coins." I always mistook the "ha ha ha" for "toc toc toc", assuming it was some Gorfian taunt.

It's surprisingly easy to screw up a remake yet Gorf Arcade manages to improve upon its source material. And since it's produced by AtariAge you know the packaging is collector-edition quality. You can even earn an Activision-style patch by sending in a picture of your score. If that's not old-school I don't know what is. When it comes to Gorf Arcade I think Sudz summed it up best when he said "there's just no downside to this game!" © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Standard B
Our high score: 28,560
Save mechanism: Atarivox
1 or 2 players 

Grand Prix
Grade: C+
Publisher: Activision (1982)
Posted: 2014/3/19

screenshotIt's a little shallow but Grand Prix will win you over with its slick visuals, sonic effects, and twitch racing action. You move your sizable car up and down as traffic approaches from the right. The large Indy-style cars are rendered with a color gradient which makes them look rounded and shiny. Even more impressive is how their fat wheels spin at varying rates! That's a pretty big deal considering the technology.

Complementing the action are some amazing engine sounds which reverberate as you whiz past cars. Your goal is to clear each course in the shortest time, and races typically last a minute or two depending on which of the four tracks you select. Besides length, there's not much difference between them. They all have the same bushes alongside of the road, along with one or two "bridges" where the road becomes a narrow strip over a blue background (hint: a lull in the traffic means a bridge is ahead).

The game is really at its best when you're flying down the road at full throttle, weaving through traffic. Pressing left on the joystick applies the brake, but you'll need cat-like reflexes to make good use of it. Despite the high production values Grand Prix has limited play value. You're really just dodging cars and there's little drama or suspense. There's a clock at the bottom of the screen but no indication of your proximity to the finish line. Grand Prix is a well-programmed racer that could have used a little more spice. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 1:57.96
1 player 

Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 2015/4/1

screenshotIn general I frown upon gravity. It makes my life a lot harder, particularly when I'm taking out the trash. But this space shooter proves that gravity can in fact serve a useful purpose (for once). You may have heard Gravitar is one of the more challenging games for the 2600. Hell, you'll be hard-pressed to find a shooter this tough on any system. Gravitar kicks fancy graphics to the curb in favor of balls-to-the-wall shooting action, and I like that.

The opening stage presents a screen-sized solar system you can freely navigate. Your small triangular ship controls just like the one in Asteroids (Atari, 1981). You can liberate the planets in any order. Each has its own rocky landscape with turrets and fuel depots. Destroying the turrets while resisting gravitational forces is surprisingly difficult, especially with saucers attacking from above.

Gravitar requires all the finesse you can muster to keep your ship under control. You must continually thrust away from the center of gravity, and sometimes it's not obvious where that is! There are tight spaces to navigate, forcing you to make fine-tuned adjustments while homing in on your target.

The graphics are a little chunky, adding to the challenge of finding a decent shooting angle. Did I mention you also need to maintain your fuel supply? You refuel by hovering over a depot and activating your tractor beam - a task easier said than done. In addition to clearing planets you can invade the "alien reactor base" for the ultimate challenge.

Good luck navigating this twisting labyrinth, blasting the core, and escaping before time runs out. And don't expect any visual reward for pulling off this monumental feat; you're simply whisked off to the next solar system. There are twelve in all which is astonishing for a 2600 title. My friends were seriously impressed with Gravitar, with Scott drawing comparisons to Space Taxi (C64, 1984). If you think you're good at Atari games, this may be your ultimate test. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Game variations: 5
Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 16,200
1 player 

Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1984)
Posted: 2009/11/17

screenshotGremlins was a very dark and often funny 1984 film about evil little creatures that overrun a small town. Gremlins begin life as cute, furry "mogwai" creatures, but transform into green, scaly gremlins under specific conditions. Don't expose them to bright light, don't get them wet, and never ever feed them after midnight. After playing Gremlins on the 2600, one question comes to mind: Is this game really the best Atari could come up with?

How could such an imaginative film be reduced to such a generic, derivative piece of garbage? The action alternates between two equally uninspired stages, both of which involve moving a guy across the bottom of the screen. In the first screen you catch mogwai falling off the roof of the house, and it's a little like Kaboom! (Activision, 1981), only without the good control.

Instead of supporting a paddle controller (which would have been a natural fit), you're forced to use a joystick with stiff, imprecise movements. In the second screen you simply shoot gremlins slowly marching down the screen. When the action speeds up in later stages, your character becomes extremely jumpy and hard to position. Atari obviously didn't put much thought into this one, and squandered a valuable license in the process. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Game variations: 8
Recommended variation: 4
Our high score: 35,750
1 or 2 players 

Grade: D-
Publisher: Apollo (1982)
Posted: 2017/10/28

screenshotHere's a rarity - an Atari 2600 game I had never heard of - and a paddle game to boot! Guardian is part Missile Command (Atari, 1982) and part Demons To Diamonds (Atari, 1983). A blue saucer moves across the middle of the screen dispatching birds, zigzags, spinners and "O-faces". You move your triangular cannon from side-to-side, protecting a trio of Earth-style planets moving behind a force field.

At first Guardian seems like fun, as your solid-beam laser pierces multiple enemies at a time. Then after about ten minutes it just starts to get old. This game is too easy! Normally I go with the hardest variation but good luck trying to find it here! And no wonder it's so easy. When an enemy hits your ship, you don't die but just freeze for two seconds. What kind of a penalty is that? And even when an enemy gets past there's a force field that replenishes every 10K! They should have included an option to disable that altogether.

Setting the difficulty switch to A makes your life harder by breaking the controls. Now you only fire half the time you hit the button, making the controls feel unresponsive. Guardian does have a two-player simultaneous mode which lets both players battle at opposite ends of the screen. That's nice, but not good enough to elevate gameplay that wavers between "bad" and "not good". © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 15B
Our high score: 176,025
1 or 2 players 

Grade: A
Publisher: Xype (2001)
Posted: 2002/1/23

screenshotThe successor to Atari's Outlaw (1978) has finally arrived, and it's outstanding. Gunfight's musical intro features a superb rendition of the great Johnny Cash tune "Ring of Fire". As if that wasn't enough to earn Gunfight an instant "A", the gameplay itself is fast and exciting. The cowboys are well rendered, and can fire two bullets at a time. I can't emphasize how key this feature is, because it allows you to catch your opponent in your crossfire. And you'll need to shoot him twice, since the first shot just takes off his hat!

Selectable stages feature an impressive array of obstacles that separate the fighters, including cactus, stage coaches, rocks, arrows, and even a saloon! Using the right difficulty switch, you can select between a human opponent and a skilled CPU outlaw. The left difficulty switch adjusts the speed of the bullets, and the black/white switch enables horizontal bouncing. On top of everything, there are four distinct gameplay variants.

The first is your standard shoot-out, the winner being the first player to take down the other one seven times. The second variation, "six shooter", only gives you six shots before you have to pick up some more ammo. The "escape" variation lets the left player shoot at a defenseless right player, who tries to survive until the counter expires. Finally, a "score" variation lets players earn points by shooting obstacles. I can't say enough good things about Gunfight. I can only hope to see more new quality games like this one for the 2600. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grade: C
Publisher: Sears (1978)
Posted: 2000/1/29

screenshotSee review for Outlaw (Atari 2600, 1977). Gunslinger is the Sears version of the same game. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Grade: B
Publisher: Parker Bros (1984)
Posted: 2003/12/19

screenshotIt isn't pretty, but give Parker Brothers credit for even attempting to bring this graphically complex arcade hit to the 2600. Gyruss is a very unique space shooter where you move a cannon around in a circle, firing at aliens that emerge from both the outside and center of the screen. There's a good deal of scaling and rotation involved - a tall order for most classic systems. This 2600 adaptation is plagued by flicker, and the alien ships look like pixilated blobs.

Unlike the arcade you won't see many aliens on the screen at once (six at most), and they don't settle into formations in the center of the screen (they just disappear). But despite its mediocre visuals, this version still plays remarkably like its arcade cousin. Aliens attack in patterns, disappear into the center, and then re-emerge in pairs. Asteroids are a constant danger, appearing with little warning. Like Galaga, there are "double shot" power-ups and "chance" bonus stages.

If you have an arcade-style joystick, you'll need it for this game, because Gyruss requires incessant button-tapping. A destination planet appears in the center of the screen every few rounds, with your ultimate destination being Earth. I can't forget to mention that this version does contain the great classical soundtrack by Bach which Gyruss is known for. There are no sound effects, but the music is some of the best you'll hear on the Atari 2600. Gyruss is a bit on the easy side, so be sure to play it on the hardest skill level. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 4
Our high score: 35750
1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, 2600 Connection, Atari 2600 Homebrew, Moby Games, Atari Protos.com, Atari Mania