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

Atari 2600 Reviews Sa-Se

Grade: C
Publisher: Atari (1984)
Posted: 2004/9/2

screenshotYet another ill-fated 2600 project shelved in the mid 80's, Saboteur was consequently "lost" for many years. But thanks to the good people at AtariAge, you can now purchase this interesting shooter in its finished form. Saboteur has engaging gameplay and is quite sophisticated as well. You play the role of a robot attempting to stop an evil race from constructing a missile.

The first screen is divided into six layers, with your robot situated in the center. Various "slave" robots and Yar flies (!) scurry above and below, systematically building a huge missile on the right side of the screen. You can fire in eight directions, but try not to shoot the yellow birds, since they actually slow the missile construction.

The second screen is wide open, with a wandering "master robot" (which looks like a mask from Crash Bandicoot) and a conveyor belt along the bottom. By deflecting laser blasts off the master robot, you can indirectly destroy missile parts on the conveyor belt below. Should you not destroy all the parts in time, the third screen gives you a final chance to destroy the warhead as it's being launched.

Saboteur features nice graphics, original gameplay, and five levels of challenge. But despite having so much going for it, the game as a whole lacks excitement and comes off as somewhat flat. Maybe that's why it was never released in the first place. Still, Atari 2600 collectors should be grateful that this old gem has finally seen the light of day. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Game variations: 4
Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 4936
1 player 

Save The Whales
Grade: C-
Publisher: 20th Century Fox (1983)
Posted: 2002/10/30

screenshotAlthough released for the first time during the 2002 Classic Gaming Expo, Save The Whales is actually an old, unreleased Fox title from 1983. To be honest, it looks and plays like a bargain bin title with its simple graphics and shallow gameplay. You guide a sub around the middle of the screen, just above a school of colored whales. As a tanker on the ocean surface drops nets from above, you must destroy them in order to protect the whales.

The graphics are pretty standard, although the black puffs of smoke emitted from the tanker's smokestack really caught my eye. There are four speed settings and two-player modes that let a friend control the tanker. Setting the difficulty to 'A' changes the nets to harpoons, which are supposed to be harder to shoot, but I did not find that to be the case. Save The Whales is fast moving and difficult, and positioning your sub is key.

The worst part of the game has to be the "radioactive flotsam" that comb the screen between rounds. Although meant to add variety, these blobs are easy to shoot and just plain annoying. Overall, Save The Whales is a mildly amusing little game. I wouldn't call it a lost treasure, but 2600 fans should appreciate this little piece of the past. Personally, I would have given this a more imaginative title, like "Save The Whales - For Me!!" © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: BB
Our high score: 3400
1 or 2 players 

Scuba Diver
Grade: F
Publisher: Panda (1983)
Posted: 2023/8/12

screenshotScuba Diver introduces itself with a cringey tune that sounds like an off-key nursery rhyme. It tends to undermine the sense of thrill and excitement one gets when about to embark on a harrowing deep sea adventure. Scuba Diver's graphics would have Jacques Cousteau spinning in his grave. That ridiculous pink "fish" is going to give Atari 2600 graphics a bad name! Umm... moreso... In fairness, I could tell the stingray was a stingray.

Playing Scuba Diver is an exercise in aggravation. You begin in a boat on the top of the screen and can leap off either side. The thing is, you have zero control until you've sunk like a rock more than half-way down the screen. That's a problem because the fish are fatal to touch and their movements are unpredictable. Trying to thread this needle is frustratingly difficult. You'll lose most of your lives by brushing up against a pixelated fish on the way down.

Should you manage to regain control of your diver, your goal is to shoot the three fish with your harpoon gun. When you fire that thing you had better hit your target right in the nose or it will just sail right past. Since you're incapacitated while the harpoon is in flight, you're basically chum at this point. When you do hit a fish dead-on, it looks like the harpoon is burrowing into its skull!

Kill all three fish and you're granted entrance in that a green pixelated "ship" at the bottom of the screen. This takes you to a separate maze screen with treasure along the bottom, mostly embedded in walls. This screen is patrolled by some jellyfish "monsters". The tight constraints of the maze combined with bad controls ensure your death will be swift and unfair. Then it's back to the first screen.

Scuba Diver is about as pleasant as a case of the bends. Even when you know exactly what to do the controls let you down again and again. I think the scoring is broken too; whenever my game ends it always says zero at the bottom. Maybe it's just trying to indicate how much this game is really worth. Ouch! Note: This game was also released by Froggo under the name Sea Hunt. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Sea Hawk
Grade: D
Publisher: Froggo (1987)
Posted: 2000/2/14

screenshotI know it's hard to believe, but this Froggo game is almost good! You control a jet plane flying over open water, attempting to destroy as many helicopters and battleships as possible. Your enemies can fire back, and the helicopters move in schizophrenic patterns similar to Chopper Command. Sea Hawk's controls allow you to drop bombs or fire missiles, depending on how you're holding the joystick when you push the fire button. It's a bit awkward, but adequate.

Sea Hawk has one neat little feature: when you get shot down, a little parachute appears, and should you guide your man to a friendly boat, you won't lose a life. Other than that, this is a repetitive, never-ending shooter. Note: This game was originally released by Panda in 1983. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 7500
1 player 

Sea Hunt
Grade: F
Publisher: Froggo (1987)
Posted: 2002/12/3

screenshotFroggo has long been the whipping boy of Atari 2600 critics, probably because most of their releases are crap. Sea Hunt may be crap but at least it's challenging crap. You begin in a boat at the top of the screen. Ridiculously blocky fish swim below and there's a pixelated blob on the ocean floor meant to be a shipwreck. You jump out of your boat and enter the water with a nice splash. Your objective is to shoot the fish and plunder the ship's treasure. Unfortunately, you can't take control of your man until he sinks near the bottom, and more often than not you'll be eaten on the way down.

Once you gain control you can shoot fish but your harpoon is slow and you have to nail them directly in the mouth. If you miss, you have to wait for the harpoon to return, and by then you'll be as good as dead. With some patience, you'll finally be able to enter the wreck. This takes you to a separate screen with blocky crabs and three treasure items. But even after you grab the treasure, you're not finished! No, you need to return to your boat which is no small feat. If successful, you're finally awarded points.

Sea Hunt looks good on paper but on the screen it's a mess. The blocky graphics are embarrassing and stiff control makes it frustratingly hard to maneuver. Although there appear to be escape tunnels on each side of the screen, they're just a facade. Sea Hunt's audio is deplorable. The tune that plays after each game sounds like a bad nursery rhyme, and there's a noticeable lack of sound effects (like when you jump in the water). Sea Hunt had potential but it's very unpleasant to play. Note: This game was also released by Panda under the name Scuba Diver. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 12000
1 player 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Activision (1983)
Posted: 2009/6/24

screenshotYet another expertly-programmed Activision game, Seaquest is a sight to behold. The bright blue water, red sunset, and crisp graphics are incredibly inviting. The game offers some engaging, albeit repetitive, rapid-fire submarine action. Manning a yellow sub, you must rescue lost divers being chased by sharks. The blue divers look funny as they kick frantically with jaw-snapping sharks on their heels. You'll also have to contend with gray submarines that fire torpedoes.

Your sub can carry up to five divers at a time, and considering they are nearly as large as your sub, you wonder how they can all fit in the thing! It's like the clown car of the ocean! Your oxygen is limited, but that's rarely a factor. What is a factor is the small, unassuming ship patrolling above. He looks friendly enough, but that son of a [expletive] will try to ram your ass when you surface! Bastard!!

I love Seaquest's bright visuals and crisp controls, but its gameplay gets old in a hurry, and not necessarily due to the difficulty level. No, it's the extra ships you get at every 10K that water down the challenge and drag things out. Still, Seaquest is an appealing title that gets by mainly on the strength of its good looks. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 90,320
1 or 2 players 

Seaweed Assault
Grade: D-
Publisher: Duane Allen Hahn (2011)
Posted: 2011/11/23

screenshotIn Seaweed Assault you guide a white "submarine" around a blue screen while shooting green blocks (seaweed) that appear at random. Since when do submarines have flippers? Touching a block of seaweed harms you (for reasons unknown) and if you linger in one place for too long a psychotic piece of seaweed will reach up from the bottom of the screen. Occasionally a jellyfish thing that looks like a crown moves down the screen, and you need to avoid that.

There's really not much to this game. The green blocks are likely to remind many of Worm War I. The controls are slippery, making it hard to aim with precision. Despite its shallow nature, there is some subtle strategy. If your missile passes through multiple blocks of seaweed, their subsequent point values increase.

It's actually a good idea to let the screen fill in a little bit, adding a risk-versus-reward element. Seaweed Assault needs a difficulty select in the worst way. I got tired of biding my time while waiting for the challenge to kick in. On a positive note, the programmer seems to know what he's doing so hopefully this is just a precursor of better things to come. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 1,402
1 player 

Grade: C+
Publisher: Atari Age (2004)
Posted: 2020/9/12

screenshotIf you're a retro gamer there's a good chance you already have a few titles like Seawolf in your collection. The screen layout features an ocean rendered in gradients of blue with the "deeper" blues at the bottom (naturally). Your ship moves along the lower edge firing torpedoes upward. Since your shots are slow you have to "lead" them past layers of mines and into the hulls of ships crossing above. Games like this tend to be sluggish and plodding but Seawolf is not.

For one thing, you can fire up to three shots at a time (!) which radically alters the complexion of the game. It lets you effectively "spray" your shots instead of having to aim with surgical precision. Running out of torpedoes costs you a ship but refill caches usually appear when you run low. Seawolf offers an excellent variety of targets including frigates, speedboats, destroyers, and subs that sink below the surface. There are even iron-hulled ships that deflect your shots back at you!

As the game progresses the tempo picks up with shots and explosions all over the place. Unfortunately the fun hits a wall around the 5K mark. At that point ships are moving so fast you lose the ability to aim, so you just fire randomly hoping they run into your torpedoes. Seawolf is an expertly-programmed title but I think its well-worn maritime formula has been pushed just about as far as it can possibly go. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: BB
Our high score: 5130
1 player 

Secret Quest
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1989)
Posted: 1999/8/10

screenshotProgrammed by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Secret Quest pushes the 2600 to its limits. It's too bad this fine little adventure is a secret to most 2600 owners. Your mission is to blow up a series of space stations. To do this, you'll collect weapons and keys, fight monsters, maintain your oxygen and energy, discover a detonation code, detonate a bomb, and escape through a transporter. The space stations also include traps, teleporters, and 16 different types of monsters!

The characters are nicely animated and flicker-free. By flipping the black/white switch on the console you can consult a status screen which lets you know how you're doing. On top of all that, you are provided a symbolic "password" code that allows you to save and reload your game in progress! No question about it, there's a lot crammed into this cartridge. Three things detract from the fun. First, the rooms are all generic squares.

Next, the size of the stations in later stages are so large that you'll actually need to draw a map to keep track of your position in the maze. That kind of sucks. Finally, the detonation and save codes are displayed in fancy symbols that are difficult to remember (or even write down, for that matter). As a technical achievement, Secret Quest is outstanding, but as a gaming experience, it's only very good. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 10552
1 player 

Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 2004/5/5

screenshotHere it is: the one and only lightgun game for the Atari 2600! It also happens to be one of the most repetitive, mind-numbing shooters I've ever had the displeasure to experience. I normally dig light gun games, but Sentinel is so uninspired and generic that it's practically disgusting. The uninspired graphics include a large "orb" floating above a sparse planet surface. Your job is to protect the orb by shooting approaching objects of various shapes.

Some enemies fire missiles, but you can shoot those down as well. "Smart" bombs (which destroy all enemies) are initiated by shooting the orb itself, which makes absolutely no sense. Bosses appear at the end of each level, but they all look the same and require little strategy to defeat. Sentinel requires the Atari XE light gun, which is fairly responsive but fires slightly to the right of where you're aiming.

The stages are excessively long and boring, and a skill level select is needed in the worst way. Sentinel becomes somewhat challenging by the third stage, but by then your trigger finger will be aching terribly. I actually had to switch hands just to soothe my cramping muscles. This game is awful. If not for the physical pain it inflicts upon you, Sentinel would be completely forgettable. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

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