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

Atari 2600 Reviews I

I Want My Mommy
Grade: F
Publisher: Zimag (1983)
Posted: 2015/7/19

screenshotIf you think the title of this game is irritating, wait until you play the thing. I Want My Mommy is a weird platformer featuring some colorful, high definition graphics but not much else. You control a guy named Teddie trying to reach a big apple at the top of the screen. You're forced to endure some nauseating, off-key nursery rhyme music before you can even start moving.

Teddie walks slowly and can't jump. To ascend the structure you must walk up to blinking pixels and press the button. This causes a pole to appear that you can shimmy up and down on. You can also hang on the pole mid-way to avoid roving enemies. There are eight poles on each screen, and you must activate every single one of them before you can complete the stage. The characters patrolling the platforms are colorful but I have no idea what the heck they're supposed to be.

A yellow box occasionally floats around and grabbing it lets you defeat the enemy on your current platform. The second screen features Teddie's mom instead of an apple, and she's heinous. She looks like Yoda's girlfriend! Completing this roundreprises that irritating music and then... what? The game is over?! Clocking in at less than five minutes, I Want My Mommy is the shortest game I've ever completed. Note: This is an abbreviated version (for kids?) of Open Sesame. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 2410
1 player 

Ice Hockey
Grade: A
Publisher: Activision (1981)
Posted: 2001/8/15

screenshotQuite possibly the best sports game ever produced for the Atari 2600, this two-on-two game brilliantly captures the essence of hockey. As a kid, my father surprised me by bringing this one home one afternoon, and my best friend Andy and I played it constantly. Ice Hockey's graphics are clean and bright, with nicely animated, multi-colored players and a puck that's easy to follow.

The outstanding gameplay boasts non-stop action and pinpoint control. When in possession of the puck, it moves back and forth across your stick, and your timing determines the exact angle of your pass or shot. Playing off the boards is really the key to this game. Despite having only two players on each team, passing is surprisingly effective.

Player control switches automatically between your forward and goalie, and it always seems to occur at exactly the right moment. You can even get physical by swinging your stick wildly, knocking your opponent onto his backside! The computer is a worthy challenge, but nothing can beat this game's two-player action. Ice Hockey by Activision is not only a sports classic - it's even better than the real thing! © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 18-9
1 or 2 players 

Ikari Warriors
Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 2017/10/28

screenshotIkari Warriors (NES, 1986) made a name for itself on the NES, but this Atari version is a lot better than it looks. It was one of the final cartridges released for the system, so most people don't even know it exists. Ikari retains all the core elements of the original, including enemy bunkers, tanks, and helicopters. I haven't seen this kind of one-man-army game on the 2600 since Front Line (Coleco, 1982).

You get a generous supply of grenades (99) which you'll need to use against the heavy artillery. Just don't blow up that red tank, because it's one you can commandeer! The graphics are classic 2600 - chunky but smooth. Your soldier is rendered in an array of colors and I like how he sneaks around. Once you get a feel for the controls you begin to appreciate the intricate gameplay. It feels like a game of cat and mouse as you dart back and forth, getting off a shot or two before retreating. Crossfire situations are brutal. I almost broke my wrist playing this game!

You'll wade through marshes, blast open fortress doors, and cross rope bridges while being fired on by helicopters. There's a two-player mode but it's alternating only. Hey, you can't have everything. The sense of progression is limited by the sparse scenery but the difficulty curve feels just right. I dare you to score 10K! If you do, you earn a free soldier. The graphics might be considered abstract but I'll take the Pepsi Challenge against the NES original any day of the week. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 15,000
1 or 2 players 

Indy 500
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1977)
Posted: 2023/3/4

driving controllers After dealing with modern F1 games with their complicated controls and endless laps, playing a simple racer like Indy 500 feels refreshing. The game features head-to-head racing on screen-sized tracks. Two required driving controllers were packaged with each copy of the game. They look nearly identical to paddle controllers but can be rotated in any direction indefinitely. It makes sense since the actual Indy 500 is a series of left turns.

The primary variations are 25-lap races on four courses including two perilous "ice" tracks. The driving controllers provide pinpoint control and there's a good sense of physics. You'll even power-slide when taking a curve at high speeds. Races are very exciting for two evenly-matched players. Try to keep it close if you're trailing, because if your opponent catches an edge, it could create an opening. The engine sounds are realistic enough, but when you hit something it sounds like a shotgun blast!

Indy 500 also includes several fun, non-racing variations. Crash 'n Score challenges players to collect the most squares as they pop up at random all over the playfield. In "tag" you touch your opponent in an attempt to make him "it" for a longer period of time. Every variation in Indy 500 (other than tag) includes a single-player time trial mode.

Back in the day I recall seeing Indy 500 on a store shelf and marveling at its fat box. I want to say it was $36, which seems like a bargain in retrospect. My friends love Indy 500, and it's a good choice for tournament play with its short, white-knuckle races. It may not look like much but this bad boy has been doing victory laps on modern racing games for decades. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Indy 500 XE
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari Age (2008)
Posted: 2008/8/23

screenshotIf you couldn't get enough of the original Indy 500 (Atari, 1977), this game is for you. Indy 500 XE is an interesting hack of the original, incorporating 16 new tracks! The track designs are extremely clever, and many are surprisingly complex considering they are only one screen in size. A few take the whole "drive off one side and appear on the other" to a mind-blowing extreme. One of the ice tracks even features a grandstand with blocky spectators! Some designs even incorporate images from classic Atari games like E.T., Sky Diver, and Berzerk.

Upon switching to a higher difficulty, your car not only has a higher top speed, but assumes the look of a dragster! The highlight of the game is the "crash 'n score" variations where the players dart around open playing fields to collect squares that pop up at random. My friend Steve and I had a blast playing those.

Indy 500 XE is an exciting title for classic gamers, but I have to take exception to the manual which states "More tracks, more fun!" For one thing, the tracks tend to be extremely narrow, making passing extremely difficult. In close races, the cars will constantly bang into each other, slowing the action to a crawl until someone finally breaks loose.

It's a shame there's no option to turn off the collision detection. Indy 500 XE is designed with two players in mind, but there are plenty of single-player variations that let you race against the clock. Paired with the original game, this is probably all the Indy 500 action you'll ever need. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 24A
Our high score: 22
1 or 2 players 

Grade: C-
Publisher: Apollo (1983)
Posted: 2005/11/23

screenshotSome gamers believe Infiltrate is one of those "hidden gems" in the 2600 library, but I don't see it. At first glance, its generic platform layout and blocky graphics are sure to elicit groans from Atari veterans. As you guide your man between platforms via elevators, the idea is to collect "documents" (rectangles) while avoiding "assassins" (ghosts with legs).

One element guaranteed to catch first-timers off-guard is that these assassins actually shoot at you! Whoa - we're not in Pac-Land anymore, Toto! Fortunately, you can fire back. Infiltrate's action is faster and more frantic than most platformers, but its controls are touchy and the flickering "assassins" jump around erratically. Even so, Infiltrate is not as bad as it looks. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 18200
1 or 2 players 

International Soccer
Grade: C+
Publisher: M-Network (1982)
Posted: 2011/11/23

screenshotThis action-packed soccer title straddles the line between realism and fun. International Soccer offers a vertically-scrolling field with all the proper lines and even the correct number of players on each team. You won't see any headers or bicycle kicks, but passing and shooting goals is easy enough. I like how the ball never comes to a complete stop or goes out of bounds, which keeps things moving.

On the downside, the ball can blend into those thick white lines, and your goalie can stray from his post at the most inopportune moments (where the [expletive] did he go?!). Sometimes it's hard to determine which defender you're controlling as well.

The contests are lively but tend to run a little too long, so you'll probably want to settle for just playing a half. My friend Steve is an actual soccer player, and he genuinely enjoyed kicking everybody's ass at this. Some single-player variations would have been nice, but International Soccer is definitely worthwhile if you're up for some head-to-head competition. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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2 players 

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