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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.
It's interesting to note that Rabbit Transit was sold on cassette tape as part of the Starpath Supercharger line. You'd hook a tape player to a special Starpath cartridge, hit play, and the game would load. For the sake of full disclosure, I happen to be reviewing this off a ROM on my Harmony Cart.
Rabbit Transit's gameplay alternates between two screens. The first plays like a diagonal Frogger (Parker Bros., 1982) as you hop across a meadow while avoiding snakes, bouncing eggs, and flies. I can't believe touching a fly will cost you a life! A fly! The dangers are sparse however so this screen is not hard. Since your rabbit only jumps diagonally, you may want to angle your joystick.
The second screen is a rip-off of Q*Bert (Parker Bros., 1982). There's a pattern of "ledges" you hop diagonally between in order to turn them all from green to yellow. This would be pretty easy if not for the guy moving along the top of the screen dropping pies on you. The difficulty goes through the roof when the pies start reverting ledges to their original colors.
Completing this round causes the pie-dropping guy to shout "!?!" Pretty strong language for an Atari game! You're then treated to a "victory" screen with our rabbit hero hopping across with a momma rabbit and several babies in tow. Each time you complete a set of levels, there are more bunnies. That's nice. There are also some crazy-looking stars in the sky. Northern lights perhaps?
For musical tunes the developers scraped the bottom of the public domain barrel, belting out screechy renditions of Pop Goes the Weasel, London Bridge is Falling Down, and For He's a Jolly Good Fellow. Audio notwithstanding Rabbit Transit is a fair game that looks really good. It borrows liberally from other games, but at least those games were good! © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.
The dog-fighting action would be pretty weak if not for the fact that you can switch between three different weapons on the fly using the right joystick. Your standard weapon, and easily the most effective, is your rapid-fire machine guns. The guided missile weapon is a disappointment - it's not only hard to use, but unreliable as well. Your third option is a limited supply of "proximity missiles", which can obliterate planes en masse. Unfortunately, you must time their detonation perfectly or risk blowing yourself up instead.
I found switching weapons in the heat of battle to be awkward, but a two-player mode lets a second player assume the weapon responsibilities. Enemy planes fire missiles periodically, and the best means of escape is to move the joystick like crazy. Radar Lock is a tough game, and I couldn't even make it past the third mission. It seems like the hardest part is just getting the enemy planes to appear on the screen.
After the first mission they tend to be elusive, sitting at the radar's edge while you wrestle the joystick to bring them into range. The situation becomes even more aggravating when your fuel is running low. I do like how you must refuel at the end of each mission by docking with a fuel tanker - it's not too hard and spices up the gameplay. I also like how the black and white switch can be used to pause the game. I doubt that Radar Lock will appeal to the casual player, but those looking for a challenge should appreciate it. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
After giving Raft Rider a chance, I discovered it really wasn't half bad, but its unorthodox control scheme takes a lot of practice. Your raft moves in a delayed manner, forcing you to react early to oncoming obstacles. There's a wide variety of obstructions including rocks, branches, and an occasional Loch Ness Monster (the manual says it's a moose, but I know what I saw!). Your raft moves slowly at first, but the pace picks up in a hurry. Raft Rider's graphics are decent, but the sound effects are best described as annoying. If you enjoy games with lagging controls and ugly people, this is the game for you. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Outfitted with his trusty whip and trademark fedora hat, the smoothly-animated Indy bears a striking resemblance to Harrison Ford. l love the way snakes slither down the screen but in general the graphics range from painfully abstract to just plain awful. Characters like the thief, raving lunatic, and giant spider look so appalling you'll need to consult the manual just to figure out what you're looking at! There's a reason they don't let programmers do their own artwork anymore.
A fine rendition of the Indiana Jones theme loops at the beginning and end of each game, but otherwise the audio is sparse. The unusual control scheme requires two joysticks: one to control Indy and one to manipulate your inventory. You can carry six objects at a time, with typical items consisting of a whip, key, parachute, watch, shovel, and various artifacts. Juggling items is clumsy. There's nothing worse than trying to use a critical item only to hit the wrong button and drop it instead!
The contiguous screens can be tricky to navigate. Tsetse flies paralyze you, floating diamonds imprison you, and thieves steal your items. Falling off a cliff is a regular occurrence. Still, the game is all about discovery. It's fascinating to experiment, and when you stumble upon a new room it's quite a thrill. Raiders is modest in scope so it doesn't take long to figure out how the screens fit together.
Trying to determine the purpose of each item requires trial and error. Back in 1982 I was astonished when my little sister blew up a wall with a grenade, revealing a huge cave! Years later she admitted that she had peeked at the hints in the back of the manual. This is the first game manual I can recall to include spoilers, preceded by big red "warning" panels.
Raiders also has the distinction of foreshadowing future Indiana Jones films. The mesa in the center of the "Vally of Poison" resembles a huge flying saucer - not unlike the one in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull! The items on your inventory panel often look much different than how they appear on the screen. For example the "timepiece" is a square pocket watch in your inventory, but looks like a big sundial when you discover it in a cave. A dial... of destiny?
Though frustratingly random and arbitrary at times, committed gamers will come to appreciate the sheer ingenuity of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I managed to unearth the Ark before the internet was an option, so it is possible! There's not much of an ending, so don't expect any melting pixels or exploding heads. What you can expect however is a monumental sense of accomplishment. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.
The graphics aren't particularly enticing and the audio is heinous! It sounds like a baby banging on a toy piano and I couldn't hit mute fast enough. At that point my friend Chris advised me to put the Ram It video on loop to provide suitable background music (good call). The controls are responsive and it's fun trying to keep the bars at bay. There's no "ramming" involved, so why the hell did they name it that? When the bars converge on center they can seal you off, and once all the bars are grown (or gone) a bonus is awarded and you proceed to the next round.
After playing Ram It for a while some strategy unfolds. If you completely eliminate a bar, it doesn't return, so it can pay off to keep shooting until a bar is gone. If you line up perfectly between bars, you can shoot two at the same time, which is satisfying. Occasionally a bar will start to flash which can be completely destroyed with a single shot.
Be sure to go after these "bonus bars" whenever you spot one. The action is mildly addictive and reminds me of Turmoil (Fox, 1982). The controls are a little touchy, making it hard to position your Ramroid with precision in the heat of the moment (perfectly normal for a man my age). If you find yourself playing Ram It for more than four hours straight please consult your physician. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Thanks to its humorous animations, Rampage rates quite high in terms of novelty value, but its gameplay is awfully repetitive. All you do is systematically climb buildings, punch holes in them, and watch as they crumble to the ground (or in this case - blink to the ground). Grabbing people and vehicles earns bonus points and health, but they're hardly worth going out of your way for.
It would be easy to belittle the graphics in this version of Rampage, but they actually get the job done very well. The crappy buildings in the foreground are composed of huge, solid-colored blocks, but the background skylines look great. Your monster looks more like a blob at first glance, but closer scrutiny reveals a nicely-animated creature. They look especially funny when chewing on people.
Once your creature loses all of its life, it shrinks down to its naked human form, and it's funny to watch the embarrassed little guy slink off the screen. The control is fair, but it's hard to tell where you can or can't climb. Rampage's lackluster gameplay is its main downfall. Not only is it painfully repetitive and slow, but it's remarkably easy as well! There are 85(!) cities to trash, but after toiling through the first dozen or so, I didn't see much point in continuing. A difficulty option might have saved this game, but I doubt it. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
You guide a star-shaped "ship" around a blocky "reactor" chamber with an ever-growing core in the center. Small, round particles swarm your ship which you're supposed to knock into walls for points. There's little room to maneuver however, and slippery controls make it easy to slide into the outer wall, resulting in instant death. Actually, the particles tend to destroy themselves if you just move the joystick randomly and keep your distance from the walls. In order to shrink the expanding core, you must knock out "control rods" (dashes) on either side of the chamber, and there are also "bonus chambers" to knock particles into.
The squirrelly controls make it tough to navigate and the collision detection is awfully erratic. Another thing I dislike about Reactor is how the game discourages you from taking risks. In my experience, trying "not to die" is the most effective strategy. Even so, the game takes a terrible toll on your wrist. Reactor does provide a substantial challenge, but it's far more aggravating than it is rewarding. If this is what it's like to work in a nuclear power plant (and I'm almost sure it is), then I feel sorry for those people. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Every pitch looks exactly the same, sailing straight over the plate. You never know if a pitch is hittable until you let it pass or swing right through it! Batted balls are hit to the same spots over and over. Fly balls are indicated by a ringing sound, and not catching one results in a home run. Runner control is clumsy but at least it gives you the ability to lead off and steal.
The fielding isn't so bad, but throws constantly sail over the first baseman's head, forcing you to run down the errant throw. The CPU opponent does this constantly, and it looks absolutely hilarious to see such an inept computer-controlled team. The CPU also enjoys throwing to the wrong base, so once you have a man on first you can pretty much run around the bases without being challenged.
The headache-inducing sound effects include an inordinate amount of buzzing, and you have to wait for both teams to switch sides between innings (yawn). Last but not least, you have to explicitly select your player to control even when you only have your batter on the screen! Realsports Baseball had the makings of a decent game, but it's so unpolished that it's pretty much a total loss. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Before each play you select one of seven plays (five on defense) for the entire team. Your options are limited, but this makes the game easy to learn. The five players on each side look fairly realistic, but they flicker quite a bit. There are some nifty running, throwing, and kicking animations. When a player is tackled, he keels over like he just got shot in the side! The action is fast-paced, but touchy controls and poor collision detection keep the fun factor to a minimum. The passing game is difficult because the defender only has to position himself between the quarterback and receiver to be in position to intercept.
The running game is practically non-existent because if a defender is anywhere near the runner, the runner immediately keels over. I've heard of two-hand touch rules, but this game is more like no-hand touch! Realsports Football does give you the ability to kick field goals, which is something you won't find in most classic games. A one-player mode is included, but the brain-dead computer opponent is worthless. Realsports Football is playable between two evenly matched humans, but serious quality control issues make this one tough to recommend. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The players on the court are multi-colored with one wearing a red outfit and the other in blue. Realsport's brand of tennis is more interactive than Activision's. You must press the button to swing (on the A difficulty, at least), and you execute hard shots or lobs by moving toward or away from the net while swinging.
It sounds great on paper, but the system is flawed. The hard shots are never hit at much of an angle, and the lob doesn't have any more height than a normal shot! What's the point of that? It's impossible to hit an effective cross-court shot, and just like Activision's game, the players are swift enough to chase down any volley. I'll give Realsports credit for its colorful graphics and fast pacing, but the poorly designed controls and minimal challenge keep the fun factor way down. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
The volleyball teams are composed of two players that move in unison. Although blocky and single-colored, they are large and well-animated. They really move fast on the 'B' difficulty setting, but limp around on 'A'. Realsport Volleyball's gameplay is not up to par. Setting the ball and spiking is easy enough, but the hits are weak, resulting in endless boring volleys. Set, set, spike, set, set, spike, rinse and repeat.
The computer opponent isn't much of a challenge, considering he can't reach shots centered between his players. As the only volleyball game for the 2600, this comes off a bit flat, but at least it has a surprise ending. If you wait until after the sunset, you can spot a shark fin moving slowly across the horizon. It may not be a big deal now, but in 1982, my sister and I were absolutely freaking out over it! © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Through four stages you guide a running Santa over rooftops and snow-covered landscapes in an effort to gather up his eight reindeer. Each stage plays a beautiful rendition of a different Christmas carol. The white snow and blue backdrop are oh-so-easy on the eyes. Houses and snow drifts in the foreground are blocky but Santa and his reindeer move with such fluid grace, I assume they were motion-captured.
The screen is constantly scrolling to the left, and if you don't think fast you may fall into a crevasse and get smushed. Fortunately outstanding controls make it very easy to jump and alter your position in mid-air. Obviously it helps to become familiar with the layout of each stage.
You also lose a life when the string of Christmas lights on the bottom of the screen burn out. These can be replenished by snagging cookies, hot cocoa, and other bonus items scattered throughout each stage. Your path frequently gives you the option of going high or low, adding a strategic element.
What makes Reindeer Rescue extra sweet are the fun seasonal images you'll spot in the far distance, including snowmen, trains, and polar bears. There are even AT-ATs and snowspeeders from Star Wars! Fun to play and full of surprises, Reindeer Rescue is a fantastic treat to pull out each Christmas. It's a legitimate holiday classic. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.
Bad guys on the ground attempt to stop you by hurling "ET cartridges" in your direction (according to the instructions). When the flames get low enough, you can grab Bira and fly her to safety. You'll then be treated to a quick screen showing two guys worshipping the idol. Then it's back to the beginning, but now everything is faster. It's an amusing concept, but the gameplay is just so-so. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
You'll sleepwalk through the first stage, which seems to drag on for an eternity. Stage two incorporates gray rockets and bouncy aliens, both of which fire missiles. While not particularly difficult, it's enough to rouse you from your slumber. I like how the rockets are rendered with a nice gray gradient, with red flames shooting from the back. But even this stage becomes boring after a while, and you might lose consciousness before exhausting your abundant lives.
There's little chance anyone would ever witness stages three and four if separate variations weren't available to let you play them individually. These side-scrolling stages try to mix things up, but they're just terrible. Bogged down by lengthy stages and a complete lack of difficulty, Rescue Terra I is the ultimate intergalactic snoozefest. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The items are different but serve the same purposes. There's a "ladder" instead of a bridge, a scepter instead of a sword, and a "dismembered hand" instead of a magnet. Instead of dragons there are three types of ghosts. Your objective is to return a skull back to a crypt.
My first impression of this game was not good, partly due to abstract graphics that make it tough to figure out what you're supposed to do. I'm supposed to touch that red block with the thing that looks vaguely like a shovel?
The stage designs don't help. While the first set of square rooms look vaguely Haunted House-ish, you'll spend the bulk of your time navigating dark, narrow passages with a candle illuminating the area around you. Until you memorize the complex maze layouts you'll find yourself perpetually going in circles and hitting dead ends. It's aggravating.
My opinion of the game improved dramatically after I discovered the manual posted online. These instructions not only clearly explain what's going on, but are presented in that classic, fun-to-read Atari manual format. There's even a brief walk-through. Armed with this new knowledge I was able to enjoy the game as intended. When I finally obtained the skull it was exciting to high-tail it back to the entrance, especially with multiple angry ghosts on my tail!
Return to Haunted House combines elements of two classic games, but fails to convey the atmosphere of Haunted House or the polish of Adventure. What it does do however, is provide an entirely new adventure with a fun macabre theme. With three sprawling levels and many secrets to uncover, this isn't so much a sequel as it is a whole new experience. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
You'll encounter harmless chimps, fearsome orangutans, and gorillas that can actually fire shots at you! At one point your character wades through a river with water up to his chest, and it looks really neat. Unfortunately, he can also get stuck in the scenery, which is frustrating. The scoring system is worthless, since you can just remain on one screen and shoot wave after wave of regenerating apes. A better challenge is to see how many times you can escape before your life expires. While the gameplay is admittedly weak, several newly-added features make this game respectable.
When captured, you're treated to a full-screen graphic of a man behind bars, and it looks terrific. There's also a Statue of Liberty ending which is equally impressive. You'll also get a brief glimpse of the original ending, which looks pretty pathetic by comparison. I can't forget to mention the game's incredible soundtrack. While the unconventional music sounds terribly rough and distorted at first, these unique, edgy tunes really grow on you. Overall, Revenge of the Apes is mediocre, but the notable enhancements make it an interesting item for collectors. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Colored blocks travel across the top of the screen, and by shooting them and immediately firing downward, you methodically construct walls to contain the firing plants and block their missiles. Once three walls are complete, the round ends and you're awarded bonus points. It sounds like crap, but it's very challenging and entertaining. I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I call this the best Beefsteak Tomato game ever produced. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The bright white sand background makes this game look distinctive, dotted with finely-detailed palm trees, obelisks, camels, and the occasional oasis. It's a shame the characters are just static images. You begin at the bottom of the screen, and moving causes the scenery to scroll up and down above you, so you never actually touch anything. This is advantageous while moving upward, as you can effectively "wipe" enemies off the screen. Moving downward however is more perilous as danger can suddenly appear from below. In order to trade with merchants or sacrifice to temples, you must approach them directly from below.
Riddle of the Sphinx is highly sophisticated by 2600 standards, requiring a second joystick to manage your inventory. The colorful, well-written manual offers tantalizing clues as to which items should be presented to each temple. The black-and-white switch is used in conjunction with the right difficulty switch to view various status indicators such as "inner strength", thirst, and time elapsed.
Despite its technical limitations the game is intriguing. You'll find yourself experimenting with various objects and digging where there appear to be unusual monument arrangements. You'll hurl rocks back and forth at thieves, trade with merchants, and refresh yourself at oases. Taking damage causes you to slow to a crawl, and it's possible to die. The scepter is probably the most useful item in the game, allowing you to move across the land at great speed.
Riddle of the Sphinx makes you feel as if you're trying to solve an ancient mystery. Even when you think you know the correct offerings to be made, the game is no pushover. Though often perplexing and sometimes frustrating, Riddle of the Sphinx will captivate you like few other Atari 2600 games can. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
The idea is to guide a leaky boat up a creek rescuing drowning people while avoiding hazards like driftwood, oncoming boats, and even alligators. These gigantic alligators would be right at home in a Syfy channel movie of the week starring Debbie Gibson. Whirlpools are another hazard, but you can wiggle your joystick to escape those. Holding the button accelerates forward, and you can only steer while moving. This means if you want to move to the other side of the screen you must perform a series of stops and starts to slowly shimmy your way over. It's time-consuming and not worth the effort.
It's best to go full steam ahead even if it means leaving a few stragglers behind (cry me a river). Your boat has a sense of momentum and it's satisfying to squeeze through narrow channels without letting off of the gas. At the end of each stage you earn a bonus before starting on a more treacherous course. River Patrol has a lot of originality, and it's actually quite enjoyable once you get the hang of it. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Part of River Raid's challenge lies in navigating its narrow, branching channels without crashing into the sides. Enemies often camp out behind cliff walls and you can never predict when they'll be on the move. For best results, I recommend using a joystick with minimal "give" such as the TAC-2. River Raid is expertly programmed with crisp controls, smooth animation, and tight collision detection. Its flicker-free graphics feature multi-colored objects, satisfying explosions, and even some scenery on the riverbanks.
You control the speed of your jet by pushing the joystick up or down, and you can select between straight or guided missiles. The difficulty ramps gradually so despite having only one skill level both novices and experts can enjoy the game equally. Deceptively simple on the surface, River Raid will always give you a run for the money. A sequel would eventually follow, but how do you expect to improve on perfection? If you own a 2600, it really doesn't get much better than this. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
You begin by taking off from an impressively large aircraft carrier. In addition to shooting missiles you pull back on the stick to bomb ships, tanks, and bridges. Instead of using barges to refuel, you'll pass over golden refueling planes. At the end of each stage you must land on an aircraft carrier, and I would have never been able to figure out how to do that without an instruction manual.
River Raid 2 is not particularly attractive for an Activision title, and some might even regard it as ugly. Most objects are rendered in solid colors, and many are hard to discern. The game requires a lot of practice but guess what? It's worth learning! Much of the action takes place over open water as you bomb destroyers, blast helicopters, and avoid rising flak. In the river valleys you can bomb landing pads and fuel tanks as long as you maintain your altitude.
You can swoop down to snag yellow fuel buoys, but this is a tricky maneuver that introduces a nice risk-versus-reward element. Despite what the manual would have you believe, the A difficulty is easier because unguided missiles allow you to fire and then bail out of the way of incoming missiles. Landing can be exciting, especially when you're running low on fuel. River Raid 2 came out too late to attract much attention, but those willing to invest a little time in this sophisticated shooter will enjoy the payoff. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
The basic strategy involves swerving around these obstacles and "guiding" them into your pursuer. The scenery is sparse, but the characters are high in resolution and their nice animations are entertaining. The game offers no continues, but when you lose a life you pick up right where you left off. None of the music or sound effects stand out, except for the trademark "beep beep". My main gripe is how you constantly have to hold the joystick to the left, which made my arm very tired after a few minutes. Still, Road Runner is a quality game that requires both skill and strategy. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Our hero begins his journey in Sherwood Forest as foes emerge from behind chunky trees. The characters are large, multicolored and smoothly animated. Robin and his "Merry Men" (hmmm) strut around in green duds while enemies are decked out in more fashionable black-and-red-striped outfits. They only emerge one at a time, making this the most poorly-executed ambush ever!
Unlike the Colecovision edition you can only fire arrows horizontally. When trying to line up with an enemy above or below, you need to shoot first (like Han) the instant they are in your line of fire. Killing an enemy will also destroy his arrow mid-flight. That's critical because once you shoot you're temporarily frozen in place.
The second screen is quite an eyeful with a sprawling castle looming in the background. After defeating a handful of soldiers its drawbridge opens, allowing you to sneak through with good timing. Once inside the eye candy abounds. The castle interior is rendered as three floors with winding stairs and psychedelic checkerboard floors that look like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
This screen is also very confusing. You're unarmed and on the run from a henchman with a club. The instructions suggest it's possible to escape him but I kept dying on the stairs. At some point a maiden or treasure magically appears on the middle floor. Grab it to earn your bonus and restart at a harder level. Robin Hood is an interesting Atari 2600 title but could benefit from a little less "huh?" and a little more "wow!" Note: This is available as a double-ender cartridge with Sir Lancelot. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.
Upon arriving home I realized I had pulled off the heist of the century! Robot Tank is a first-person shooter similar to Battlezone (Atari, 1983) only with less realism and more style. Robot Tank's graphics are great. I recently showed this to my friends Chris and Brent and they couldn't believe it was an Atari 2600 game. The terrain undulates smoothly as your tank rolls forward and the layered mountain backdrop looks realistic. Only one tank appears on your radar at a time and it fires only when in view. Incoming missiles resemble large blocks which can either be shot down or evaded by steering them off the screen. Makes sense right? Not really!
Enemy tanks tend to be slippery little bastards but it's fun to guide your shots into them. A clock on top reflects the time of day. You'll want to "make hay" during the day, because during the pitch black of night you'll need to depend solely on your radar. Tension is high as you try to hold out until dawn! But the best aspect of the game are the red alerts about random weather conditions like fog, rain, and even snow. These conditions really do affect your vision and handling. There is only one skill level. It may lack the depth of Battlezone, but Robot Tank will satisfy those looking for arcade-style shooting fun. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
The monster is only of minor concern, but the multiple shots fired create perplexing crossfire traps. Small windows open and close in front of each shooter, allowing you to methodically blast these sharp-shooting bastards. Kill them all and you clear the wave. The challenge ramps sharply, and by the third or fourth room you'll be liquidating lives at an alarming rate.
I like Room of Doom's cat-and-mouse gameplay. You really need to find a "safe spot", and then dart out periodically to take out the gunmen. The graphics and sound however are pretty pathetic. The human characters are poorly rendered and the blocky monsters look equally cheesy. At least the flying bullets are large and easy to see.
Room of Doom offers an overwhelming selection of 64 variations, combining options like straight/diagonal shots, guided shots, and fast/slow modes. Personally, I would have preferred a single variation that changed these options between waves. Room of Doom didn't win me over, but I can see how some people might like it. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.