G.I. Joe Cobra Strike
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
Bizarre 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 made 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.
Recommended variation: 3A
Our high score: 7,420
1 to 3 players
Publisher: Atari (1983)
A 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 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.
Recommended variation: 6B
Our high score: 28,560
Publisher: Spectravision (1982)
Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 3,340
Publisher: Spectravision (1983)
This 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
Publisher: Xonox (1983)
Recommended variation: BA
Our high score: 193,750
Publisher: Activision (1985)
Ghostbusters 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!
Taking up a huge chunk 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
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.
Publisher: Atari Age (2007)
Our high score: 3,646
Publisher: Telegames (1989)
Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 16,620
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Atari Age (2005)
If 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.
Publisher: Atari (1980)
Take one look at Golf's crude graphics, and you might be tempted to dismiss it as an ancient relic best left forgotten. That however, would be a mistake. Golf's blocky graphics and sparse audio are certainly rudimentary, but there's some fine gameplay under the hood! Golf features a single course with nine screen-sized holes dotted with trees, water hazards, and sand traps. The controls are the precursors of today's modern golf games: aim, wind up, and swing away. Upon hitting the ball onto the green, a second "close-up" screen appears for putting, and that's pretty cool. You don't have many options (none really), but that simplicity makes it possible to play nine holes in less than ten minutes, and I like that a lot. Playing against a friend is especially fun. There are no game variations (besides number of players), but the difficulty switches determine if the ball will sail over the rough or stop on the edge, and that dramatically affects how you approach each hole. Golf would have been awesome with multiple courses or randomized hazards, but it's still worthwhile just as it is. Rumor has it that Tiger Woods himself honed his game by playing Golf on the Atari 2600. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 40
1 or 2 players
Publisher: US Games (1982)
I never claimed to be a gopher expert. In fact, the bulk of my gopher knowledge is derived from repeated viewings of the movie Caddyshack. But I do know one thing: this bargain-bin game does little to repair the pesky vermin's reputation. You play the role of a farmer obsessed with protecting three measly carrots
. Umm, ever heard of a grocery store?
Duh! I like how the programmer rendered the farmer in five colors, but did he need to make the guy so creepy looking?
He looks like John Malkovich
for crying out loud! Under the ground a gopher can be seen busily digging tunnels, and it's amusing to watch him scuttle around unpredictably. After digging side-to-side, he'll burrow multiple tunnels to the surface, occasionally making a dash for the closest carrot. This gopher is a cocky little fellow, occasionally sticking his head out of the ground just to taunt
you. Son of a gopher!
You move the farmer sideways, using your hoe to fill in holes or "bonk" the gopher over the head for a cool 100 points. Good reflexes come in handy, but there's also a lot of guesswork involved. Adding a wrinkle is a seed-dropping duck that periodically flies across the top of the screen. If you catch the seed, you can use it to replace a stolen carrot. Gopher isn't a great game, but there's enough substance here to justify hitting the reset button a few times. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 5,160
1 or 2 players
Publisher: CBS (1981)
Our high score: 7400
Publisher: Activision (1982)
Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 1:57.96
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 16,200
Publisher: Atari (1984)
Gremlins 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? Really Atari?
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.
Recommended variation: 4
Our high score: 35,750
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Apollo (1982)
Here'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
Publisher: Xype (2001)
Publisher: Sears (1978)
See review for Outlaw
(Atari 2600, 1977). Gunslinger is the Sears version of the same game. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Parker Bros (1984)
Recommended variation: 4
Our high score: 35750
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