Atari 2600 Reviews J

James Bond 007
Grade: F
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1983)
Reviewed: 2006/7/9

screenshotWhen trying to determine the best adjective to describe James Bond 007, the best I could do was "wretched". This sure is a far cry from that impressive (but apparently bogus) "train shoot-out" preview screen shown in the Parker Bros. catalogs! This travesty of a game is a generic side-scroller, and a poor one at that! Its four stages are meant to recreate different Bond movies, but you'd never know it unless you read the manual. The brief intro features a nice rendition of the James Bond theme song, but the game itself looks like a third-rate Moon Patrol.

Your pod-shaped car is supposed to be some kind of all-terrain vehicle. As you cruise along the planet surface and "hop" over volcanic craters, satellites and helicopters drop bombs from overhead. The helicopter's searchlight looks cool, but it never even comes close to reaching the ground. Perhaps the pilot should consider flying below the satellite! Yes, that's right, the helicopters fly above the satellite orbit.

Your vehicle is armed with a cannon, but get this - you can't shoot your attackers! No, that might be fun, so it's not allowed. Instead, you can only shoot the periodic "diamonds" that appear in the sky. The second half of the stage takes place over water, where you'll witness enemy aircraft inexplicably bombing their own divers in the water below! Once you reach the oil rig (which is invisible half the time), you'll need to perform a complicated maneuver to bring the stage to a merciful conclusion. It only took me about 20 tries or so.

The second stage forces you to deal with "poison bombs" which spell instant death if you don't shoot them down at launch. That's as far as I got, but I can only assume that the subsequent stages are equally as idiotic. James Bond 007 is challenging, but only because you don't know what the [expletive] is going on half of the time. What a complete and utter waste of a movie license. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 5650
1 player 

Jawbreaker
Grade: A-
Publisher: Tigervision (1982)
Reviewed: 2001/8/30


screenshotWhen it comes to Pac-Man clones on the 2600, Jawbreaker is the cream of the crop. You guide a pair of white choppers around a screen composed of nine horizontal corridors filled with dots. Your adversaries are big round smiley faces that travel from side-to-side, and a power pill occasionally appears in the center. So how do you move up and down between the platforms?

Each wall has an opening that moves from side to side, and the varying speeds of these openings create an ever-changing maze. Consequently these provide for plenty of narrow-escape opportunities. Ain't it cool?! Yeah, and it's a blast to play! The action is non-stop and the control is dead-on. Jawbreaker takes an old theme and manages to make it exciting again. Highly recommended! © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Journey Escape
Grade: F
Publisher: Data Age (1982)
Reviewed: 2001/5/14

screenshotUpon turning on this game, you'll hear the classic rock tune "Don't Stop Believing", and it doesn't sound half bad! But please, don't start believing that this game is any good! Journey Escape is definitely horrible, with mindless gameplay and laughable graphics. The object is to guide Journey to their "spaceship" within a time limit.

Controlling individual band members, you march up the screen while avoiding "groupies" and "greedy promoters", rendered with atrocious-looking abstract symbols. The promoters are floating heads and the groupies are big hearts with legs. The screen displays your money total, and this decreases whenever you are touched.

This scoring system really doesn't make any sense, since you lose money as you progress. Journey Escape is monotonous on the normal difficulty, and just plain annoying on the high setting. Its novelty value may attract collectors, but the game itself is a joke. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Joust
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2000/4/19

screenshotAtari had to take a few liberties to shoehorn Joust into the Atari 2600, but it still offers the same addictive brand of gameplay. Flying an ostrich around platforms while holding a lance, you knock adversaries off their mounts by colliding with them in mid-air, with the higher ostrich winning. The graphics are minimal in this version, with flat platforms, a fireless pit, and single-colored warriors.

The control is quite good however, and Atari even managed to include the pterodactyl! The main difference between this and the arcade is that when enemies are defeated, eggs they produce don't settle on the platforms, but instead bounce around until hatched or caught. It sounds cheesy, but it actually makes the egg waves more interesting. Most important, the excellent two player simultaneous action has also been retained. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 52850
1 or 2 players. 

Jr. Pac-Man
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Reviewed: 2012/1/22

screenshotWhen the original Pac-Man arrived on the 2600 it bore little resemblance to the arcade version. Ms. Pac-Man was more faithful to the original but a little on the easy side. Jr. Pac-Man hits that "sweet spot" by delivering both arcade-style graphics and challenging gameplay. It has a nice collection of mazes and each is so large that the screen scrolls up and down as you move.

Junior is decked out in a little beanie cap with a propeller, and when caught by a ghost he disappears as the cap falls to the ground. The select switch lets you choose your starting maze based on a toy-shaped symbol at the bottom of the screen. These toys are really hard to make out! No matter what level you pick your skills will be put to the test, so grab your best joystick and hold on tight.

The torrid pacing requires both quick-thinking and cat-like reflexes. This game gets my vote for "most likely to shatter your wrist." The ghosts pursue you so relentlessly that you have to use the power pills as a defense mechanism! The effect of these pills doesn't last long, so gobbling up four ghosts is a rare occurrence. Heck, just clearing one maze is a monumental achievement!

As if the game wasn't hard enough, some dots become "fat" to slow you down, and wandering toys can destroy power-pills. Now that's just uncalled for. Still, Junior Pac-Man is extremely addicting and will give jaded gamers a real run for their money. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: tricycle
Our high score: 19,500
1 player 

Jungle Hunt
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1982)
Reviewed: 2006/7/9

screenshotI purchased Jungle Hunt at the start of my 1983 summer vacation, and my timing could not have been better. This is a terrific adaptation of my favorite arcade game of the time, "Jungle King". Although this home version contains smaller characters, it arguably offers cleaner graphics and tighter controls. Jungle Hunt has four unique stages, each more entertaining than the last.

You begin deep in the jungle, swinging from vine to vine. From there, you must survive a crocodile-infested river, armed only with a knife. Next, you're back on shore, jumping over rolling rocks and ducking under large boulders. Finally, you must leap over two spear-toting natives in order to rescue the girl.

The main character is rendered in several colors, and that alone was pretty exciting back in 1983! The jungle scenery is modest but features some parallax scrolling to convey depth. There's minimal flicker in the high-resolution graphics, and the controls are responsive.

Fans of the arcade game may frown on the level landscape in the boulder stage, since the arcade version had a slope. The ending is admittedly weak (if you can even call it an ending) but overall this is a quality title. There are two levels of difficulty, and the second one offers a genuine challenge. If you own an Atari 2600, Jungle Hunt is worth tracking down. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 21090
1 player 

Juno First
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari Age (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/12/12

screenshotExcellent home-brews like this one continue to breathe new life into the classic consoles. When you fire up this new Atari 2600 shooter, you're treated to a jaunty, futuristic tune that instantly compelled me to perform "the robot" dance in front of my TV. That's some funky music! Juno First resembles one of those "over the planet" shooters along the lines of Moon Sweeper and Solaris. You can actually move forward and backward over the surface, and I love how you see your thrusters engaged on the back and front of your ship (details are everything).

Juno First is simple, fast, and fun. A large number of enemies appear on the screen at once, with closer craft scaling in and distant craft represented by pixels on the horizon. They tend to flicker when the action gets intense, but you have to be impressed by the sheer number of aliens on the screen at a given time. Not only do they move quickly, but the aliens literally spray you with missiles! Holding the fire button initiates rapid-fire, and I love how your shots slice through multiple aliens like butter! You can fly around them, but they never go away. Instead they "wrap around" the playing field, so be extra careful when moving backwards.

When my friend Chris accidentally backed into an alien, he remarked, "I didn't realize how small the world was!" Apparently he's never been to a certain Disney World attraction. Juno First is a true original, and its single skill level is ideal. If you own an AtariVox, it will save top 10 high scores (sweet). The graphics in Juno First are relatively high in resolution, but for some reason the game does seem to have a lot of electromagnetic interference. That didn't prevent my friends and I from totally digging this wild new shooter. Buy it now! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 61,800
1 player 


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