Atari 2600 Reviews L

Ladybug
Grade: A-
Publisher: Champ Games (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/1/20

screenshotColecovision and Intellivision owners enjoyed this game in the early 1980's, but Ladybug was never available for the Atari 2600 - until now. Classic gamers should take notice, because this game is no joke. On the surface, Ladybug might seem like any other generic maze game, but there's much more to it than meets the eye. In addition to evil bugs that emerge from the center, you need to avoid deadly skulls scattered throughout the maze.

But it's the green "doors" that truly set this game apart. When you push your ladybug through a door, it stays in its new position. Not only do the doors come in handy for evasive maneuvers, but you can effectively adjust the maze layout to your advantage. It's even possible to redirect the insects into the poison skulls. But wait - there's more. By collecting letters scattered throughout the maze, you can spell out the words "extra" for a free life or "special" to access a hidden stage.

An obligatory veggie item periodically appears in the center of the screen, and it's worth crazy points so go get it NOW! Graphically, Ladybug features well-drawn, smoothly animated sprites, but the maze does tend to flicker in an unsightly manner. A nice harmonized soundtrack complements the action, and there are three skill levels. Easy to play but surprisingly deep, Ladybug is a shiny new gem in the Atari 2600 library. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: B standard
Our high score: 49910
1 or 2 players 

Laser Blast
Grade: F
Publisher: Activision (1981)
Reviewed: 2003/7/29


screenshotSure, a few people out there like this game, but trust me, it's 100 percent nostalgia. It has to be, because Laser Blast is such a bad game. Everything about it is poor: the plain graphics, minimal sound, and mind-numbing, repetitive gameplay. You move a flying saucer across the top of the screen, firing on cannons that crawl across the planet surface below in groups of three. You can't even get off a shot until the cannons have completely moved onto the screen, which is irritating.

The cannons shoot solid-line lasers that appear instantly, and since there's no way to dodge them, the only way to evade harm is to keep moving. Unfortunately, your ship comes to a dead stop whenever you fire. You can shoot straight down or diagonally, but the sticky controls often cause you to fire in the wrong direction. There's little strategy as you systematically shoot each three cannons that march out, until you just get sick of the whole never-ending cycle. If Laser Blast was a food, it would be boiled cabbage - it has no flavor. This may well be the worst Activision game ever made. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 12960
1 player 

Laser Gates
Grade: C-
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Reviewed: 2000/12/17

screenshotThis rare and unimpressive side-shooter plays like the first stage of Vanguard. The bottom half of the screen is dedicated to an oversized "instrument panel" that displays your energy, shield, and time. Incidentally, you don't need to know any of this information as you play the game. Your tiny space ship flies through a narrow cavern on the top half of the screen, avoiding dangers like blinking walls, destructible walls, incoming missiles, and cannons.

You know the drill: shoot and dodge your way to the end of the level. The control is okay, but the graphics and sound are unspectacular and repetitious. You'd think the developers could at least change the colors between levels! Laser Gates is challenging at first, but once you figure out how to overcome each obstacle, it becomes dull and monotonous. There's no level select, difficulty options, or two player mode, so this action wears thin after just a few plays. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 28372
1 player 

Little Bear
Grade: NA
Publisher: Taiwan Cooper (1983)
Reviewed: 2003/2/22

screenshotThis Taiwanese rip-off of Frostbite (Activision) is only worth noting for just how absurd it is. First of all, it amazes me how Zimag could expect the Eskimo in the game to be passed off as the panda bear on the cartridge label. Making matters worse, the panda in the picture is sitting in a green meadow - a far cry from the ice-covered streams featured in the actual game. Finally, if it wasn't obvious enough that this is a blatant rip-off, you can even see the rainbow part of the Activision logo on the bottom of the screen (only the name has been removed). It's amazing what people will do to make a buck. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Lock N Chase
Grade: C+
Publisher: M-Network (1982)
Reviewed: 2003/7/4


screenshotAs Mattel's answer to Pac-Man, this was the first console game to let you be the bad guy! You guide a little thief around a maze with four cops on your tail. The graphics aren't very sophisticated - just a simple blue maze and some chunky, poorly animated characters running around. Heck, your lives aren't even displayed on the screen, which indicates some very lazy programming if you ask me. Dashes line the maze, and the bonus "treasure" appearing in the middle looks like a cake. Even the sound effects stink.

Fortunately, there's more to Lock 'N' Chase than meets the eye. You have the ability to construct horizontal barriers behind your thief as you move up or down (not sideways), and these are ideal for cutting off cops hot on your tail. You can drop two barriers at a time, and they inject a great deal of strategy into an otherwise lackluster game. It's even possible to box yourself in, which usually results in death but has saved my sorry ass at least once.

The key to racking up high scores is snagging bonus items whenever possible, since they're worth up to 2000 points. As a nice side effect, they also freeze the cops momentarily. Once a maze is cleared, you'll want to head directly towards the exit at the top of the screen. Don't get caught or you'll be screwed out of your bonus. Lock N Chase is always a challenge, even on the "easy" skill level, and I like how it "pauses" between lives. It may be a little slow and derivative, but give Lock N Chase a chance and it'll give you a run for your money. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 6440
1 player 

London Blitz
Grade: C-
Publisher: Avalon Hill (1983)
Reviewed: 2002/3/22

screenshotIf you think this looks like a boring 3D maze game, well, you're right. Still, London Blitz has a few things going for it. Sporting a nifty first-person view and an overhead map, your goal is to locate and disarm a series of bombs in a maze. The first-person point of view is surprisingly high in resolution and smoothly animated as well. It's confusing to navigate the maze however, and you'll need to consult the overhead map constantly.

It gets slightly easier with practice but everything looks the same! When you approach a bomb, a close-up screen reveals three sliding switches, and you'll get several attempts to diffuse the bomb by sliding these switches to their proper positions. Most bombs have lights indicating if a slider is positioned correctly or needs to be adjusted - similar to the board game MasterMind.

I found the controls to be a bit slippery - especially when trying to select the correct switch. The first few bombs are easy, but the later ones have very short fuses. The further you progress, the higher the rank you are awarded. London Blitz is not a bad game overall, but awkward controls and less-than-exciting gameplay keep it grounded in mediocrity. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Lost Luggage
Grade: D
Publisher: Apollo (1982)
Reviewed: 2005/7/6

screenshotIf you've ever fantasized about being an airport baggage handler (and who hasn't?), Lost Luggage is the game for you! A lame Kaboom clone, the object is to catch a bunch of suitcases falling from the top of the screen. Depending on the difficulty setting, you'll control one or two men who move in unison. The joystick control allows you to move up and down as well as sideways, but the action is more tiresome and predictable than it is fun. The first few waves are downright boring, but at around 2000 points the challenge abruptly shifts from "easy" to "impossible".

Well-constructed games are able to find the "sweet spot" in terms of difficulty, but Lost Luggage fails miserably in that regard. In terms of graphics, the planes in the distance look nice, but the baggage carousel looks like a triangular island in the middle of the runway. The game's only highlight occurs when you miss a suitcase, causing it to pop open, revealing "unmentionables" such as underwear, bras, socks, and shoes. It's cute, but that gimmick can't overcome the tepid gameplay. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1A
Our high score: 1290
1 or 2 players 


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