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

Atari 2600 Reviews T

Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1983)
Posted: 2005/4/10

screenshotAt first glance, Tac-Scan looks really intense. You man a five-ship squadron at the bottom of the screen, using paddle controllers to aim their shots up, left, or right. But you can only aim at three lousy angles! Doesn't that defeat the purpose of using a precise analog controller? Each "round" requires you to destroy 10 enemy ships that drop from the top of the screen.

Although your firepower is considerable, your closely-packed formation makes you a large target, so it's hard to avoid incoming projectiles. Not to worry however, as ships are replenished at the end of each round in a short sequence where you guide bonus ships into formation.

For the first few rounds, Tac-Scan is fun, if only because you have five freakin' ships firing at once. You just don't see that in Atari 2600 games. But as the rounds progress and the action speeds up, the visuals become more and more choppy. Eventually you're forced to just shoot like a madman and hope for the best. The instruction manual claims no one at Sega could survive the seventh round, but I suspect that's because Tac-Scan becomes unplayable by that point.

I also love how the manual boasts about how there are "no options to fool with". Yeah, thanks Sega for sparing us the ordeal of customizing the game to our tastes. I've seen the Tac-Scan arcade game, and its cool scaling vector graphics are a far cry from this insipid title. Tac-Scan for the 2600 is a mind-numbing experience at best. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 134300
1 player 

Tank Plus
Grade: B
Publisher: Sears (1977)
Posted: 2017/3/2

screenshotThis is Combat (Atari, 1977) published under the Sears label. This name change was a major downgrade in my book. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
2 players 

Tanks But No Tanks
Grade: C+
Publisher: Zimag (1982)
Posted: 2002/4/5

screenshotDespite its silly name, Tanks But No Tanks is no joke. What other Atari 2600 game lets you take on an army of 20 tanks? Okay, only five appear on the screen at a time, and they flicker terribly, but work with me here! The action is pretty intense as tanks emerge from the top of the screen and approach your base at the bottom. Your tank looks different, and its moving treads are very cool.

Too bad you can only fire one missile at a time, and it's so friggin' SLOW. The pink enemy tanks flicker badly, and their movements are unpredictable. They only shoot one shot at a time, but they can ram you. The first stage is set in a maze, the second stage is more sparse, and the third stage is completely wide open. The graphics are blocky but make good use of color. Tanks But No Tanks is a fun little game. It combines the elements of a maze game and a shooter very nicely. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 5600
1 or 2 players 

Tape Worm
Grade: C
Publisher: Spectravision (1982)
Posted: 2001/12/23

screenshotThis one looks a heck of a lot like Surround, that lame old Atari game where you move around a block with a growing tail. But Tape Worm adds enough original elements to make its gameplay interesting. In each level, your "worm" must collect a certain number of "beans" (gray squares), and the beans appear one at a time in random parts of the screen. You have to eat each bean before a bug at the bottom of the screen reaches the fruit on the right hand side. If you run into a wall or a wandering spider, you lose a life.

Be sure to play the advanced variations (3&4) because the beginner variations are slow as molasses! The game requires some good reflexes, and you'll need a responsive joystick. The control is tricky because you move much faster vertically than horizontally. Tape Worm's control and graphics could be better, but its interesting gameplay makes it worth a try. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3B
Our high score: 535
1 or 2 players 

Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1984)
Posted: 2005/8/30

screenshotSince my initial review of this game, I've acquired a full-sized Tapper arcade machine. Has that changed my opinion of this scaled-down adaptation? Not much. Obviously, the graphics take quite a hit when you downgrade to the 2600, but Tapper's original, frantic gameplay remains largely intact. The arcade game licensed Budweiser beer, but this version substitutes the kid-friendly Mountain Dew. Gameplay involves running a bartender between four bars, sliding drinks toward approaching customers to keep them at bay. You lose a life should you toss an extra beer, allow the patrons to reach the end of a bar, or drop an empty.

Tapper's graphics are pretty darn good as Atari 2600 titles go. The patrons are single-colored and blocky, but the bartender, drinks, and kegs are multi-colored and finely detailed. The bonus stage (with the Hamburglar-looking dude shaking up the cans) looks particularly impressive. A harmonized soundtrack plays throughout the game, but it's slightly off-key and does get on your nerves after a while. Unlike the arcade version, there are no tips to grab, but the dancing girls do make an appearance between stages.

Tapper would be a must-have 2600 title if not for one major flaw - you can only throw two beers at a time. To compensate, the game "remembers" when you try to throw a third, and automatically tosses it at the next opportunity (unless you move your bartender first). This is a reasonable compromise, but it can throw off your rhythm. You'll get used to it, but it does put a damper on the action. The one thing that truly impressed me is how all four stages are reproduced here - including the space cantina! All in all, this is a very respectable version of the fun arcade hit. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: AB
Our high score: 28215
1 or 2 players 

Target Fun
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sears (1977)
Posted: 2000/1/29

screenshotThis is the Sears brand of Air-Sea Battle (Atari, 1977). It's the exact same game under a much less interesting name. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Task Force
Grade: F
Publisher: Froggo (1987)
Posted: 2000/8/19

screenshotThis game was originally released by Spectravision as "Gangster Alley" in 1982. The graphics aren't bad, but where is the challenge? I can play this thing indefinitely on the hardest mode! You want to shoot people who pop up in windows of a building - but only the ones with guns! You move around a crown-shaped crosshair. The multi-colored people look good, but the collision detection is awful. Some of my "hits" weren't even close! Task Force's gameplay is monotonous and entirely too easy. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 12730
1 player 

Tax Avoiders
Grade: F
Publisher: American (1982)
Posted: 2013/4/1

screenshotIf the title of this game makes you want to run in the opposite direction, consider yourself a reasonable human being. Any game about the tax system has to be atrocious. The object is to accumulate as much money as you can by the end of a year. Items like red tape serve as metaphors for the tax system, and as in real life, the IRS tries to make your life miserable. Tax Avoiders alternates between two screens.

The first is a simple set of platforms with blinking dollar signs and red tape. These items blink so rapidly that you end up picking up every damn thing whether it's good or bad. An elevator moves you between floors but it only appears intermittently, which is irritating. The second screen offers a different set of platforms connected by ladders, and the layout reminded me of Porky's (20th Century Fox, 1983). The instructions give the impression that three men pursue you, but in fact it's just one guy in a trench coat who alternates between three colors. Pretty cheesy!

If you touch the guy when he's green an investment icon appears like a sun (solar), derrick (oil), or flask (research). Unfortunately he has an annoying tendency of suddenly turning black (IRS Agent) and taking half of your money. A date on the bottom of the screen progresses from January 1 to December 31, at which time the game mercifully ends. Tax Avoiders is a novelty title with "bargain bin" written all over it. Repetitive, random, and sloppy as hell, this is what happens when a bunch of bad ideas come together. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 127,109
1 player 

Grade: C-

screenshotThis game was released around the time when Atari made the curious decision to cater to younger gamers (hence all the "teddy bear" variations). Taz doesn't have a lot of substance, but there's something to be said for games that are simple and fast. For further proof, see Kaboom! (Activision, 1981). Taz's title screen features an illustration of a younger, slimmer version of the Warner Bros. cartoon character. It's a far cry from the bloated Tasmanian Devil seen in the cartoons and later found dead in a West Hollywood back alley (kids: don't do drugs).

The game's playfield consists of eight stacked "lanes" that you can move across and "hop" between. The idea is to snatch up snacks that glide across the screen while avoiding bombs. Mouth-watering food items include hamburgers, ice cream cones, root beers, popsicles, and... turnips? How in the hell did they sneak in there? The game begins slowly, but once you reach the "crazed wave" (around 30K) the action becomes positively frantic. There's a slight bit of strategy involved in deciding whether to aggressively pursue an item several lanes away or just let it go. Overshooting a lane is the primary cause of death, so you'll need a responsive joystick.

I like how point values pepper the screen as you snatch up items. Taz is okay but could have been a lot better. Instead of that fancy title screen, why didn't the programmer add more graphics to the actual game? A little scenery (like a desert landscape) would have been nice. Taz is represented as a little whirlwind the entire time, but it would have been awesome if he stood still when you released the joystick. Taz isn't much of a game, but I guess it'll do if you're in the mood for some shallow fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 74,000
1 player 

Tempest (Prototype)
Grade: NA
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2002/3/22

screenshotCould the Atari 2600 handle a game like Tempest? If this prototype is any indication, the answer is a resounding NO! Tempest was a shooter known for its flashy, 3D vector graphics, but this prototype features a single stage with extremely blocky lines. The blob-like aliens don't scale well at all, and actually appear to change shape as they emerge. Neither your missiles nor the aliens can manage to stay within the lines, and the result is an ugly mess. Add in bad collision detection, and you can easily see why this project was shelved. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 4800
1 player 

Grade: D
Publisher: Activision (1981)
Posted: 2011/7/29

screenshotAs the first real tennis game for the Atari 2600 (Pong doesn't count) Activision's Tennis was generally well-liked in its day. Its graphics are modest but well defined, and the players move with a fluid grace. The gameplay is simple as can be. Players swing their rackets automatically and the ball never goes out of bounds, so all you do is concentrate on positioning. Fun for a while, the action eventually becomes monotonous - especially if both players are skilled.

The speed of the ball is constant and the angles are weak, resulting in endless volleys. Hitting the ball with the very tip of your racket lets you hit it at a wider angle, but the risk is greater than the reward. More often than not you'll totally miss the ball in a desperate attempt to break up the monotony. Playing the net offers absolutely no advantage whatsoever.

Competing against a friend is mildly amusing, but playing the CPU is a tremendous bore. Sometimes it will lose a point by letting the ball bounce twice, probably because it just wants to get the game over with. One feature that was a big deal in 1981 is how the game keeps score just like the real sport, with deuces, ad-ins, and all that good stuff. It was respectable for its time, but Tennis has not aged well and tends to induce sleep. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: BB
1 or 2 players 

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Grade: F

screenshotWizard hit the right notes with Halloween (Wizard, 1982), but they truly butchered this Texas Chainsaw Massacre adaptation. If you've never seen the 1974 movie, it's one of the most unsettling and genuinely frightening films in cinematic history. This game may have been the first to let you play the role of the "bad guy", running around slaughtering screaming women. I can only assume this was one of those "behind the counter" titles in 1982.

You play as Leatherface, a chainsaw-wielding masked psycho out to fillet as many people as possible before running out of gasoline. The screen scrolls sideways as you search for helpless victims while avoiding obstacles like wheelchairs and cow skulls. The gameplay is somewhat nauseating, as you're constantly getting hung up on scenery, causing you to freeze in place for seconds at a time. When close to a victim they will inexplicably disappear and reappear on both sides of you, perhaps to mimic some kind of struggle.

The graphics are lousy. Leatherface looks like Frankenstien with a lumpy appendage. The women resemble Fisher Price toys and their screams are conveyed via ear-piercing tones. When you kill one they transform into an indiscernible blob.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre may have novelty value but its play value is minimal. I will give the game some credit for having both a title screen and an ending. Upon running out of gas, you're shown an animation of a girl kicking Leatherface in the butt! I suppose that cute ending is meant to make up for a games' worth of brutal, gratuitous violence. Fair enough. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 18000
1 player 

This Planet Sucks
Grade: B-
Publisher: Greg Troutman (1998)
Posted: 2021/9/28

screenshotI first reviewed This Planet Sucks way back in June of 1999 when homebrews were just hitting the scene, so it was hard to judge at the time. The game has a Lunar Lander vibe as you deploy a ship from the top which must navigate an asteroid field to rescue three stranded astronauts on the surface below.

This Planet Sucks is one of the best-looking homebrews you'll ever see, with sparkling colors and detailed objects. Your lander begins in the mother ship which moves side-to-side slowly across the top. You'll want to time your deployment carefully, waiting for a gap to appear in the rocks and aliens crossing the middle of the screen. The fire button ignites your thrusters, slowing your descent.

The hard part is picking up the people. These folks are not very bright and tend to run frantically back-and-forth on their narrow platforms. If you make contact with them before landing they become incapacitated and cannot be rescued. Since you must land slowly to avoiding crashing, there's little room for error.

This type of game could be very tedious yet This Planet Sucks is not. The controls are extremely precise, allowing you to hover in place while waiting for rocks to clear out. Sometimes you really need to thread the needle, and it's exciting to perform a bold maneuver, escaping by the skin of your teeth. After 20 years I think I'm finally beginning to appreciate this one. It's good! © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 767

Grade: C+
Publisher: Tigervision (1982)
Posted: 2022/10/13

screenshotAre you ready for a challenge? You'd better limber up those thumbs. Threshold is a rudimentary vertical shooter which at a glance looks a lot like Worm War I (Fox, 1982). Those wavy rainbow bars running along each side look so cheesy. Manning a cannon at the bottom of the screen, you take aim at birds, face-grabbers, mouse-ears, octopus, and other ambiguous objects moving in erratic patterns.

What's notable about Threshold is its control scheme, borrowed from Gorf (CBS, 1981). Not only can you move freely around the lower half of the screen, but when you fire a shot it cancels your previous shot. This effectively gives you short-range rapid-fire capability. It's a strategic trade-off whether you want to light up a target at the risk of getting up close and personal.

One interesting feature is your ability to toggle between normal (straight) and guided missiles via the difficulty switches. So why can't I get it to work? Well, as it turns out, the instructions were referring to enemy missiles. As if it wasn't hard enough dodging these spastic, dancing creatures, now their shots are darting around too! But you have to play that variation to prove you're the man. You are the man, aren't you?

Put quite simply, Threshold is hard as balls. Enemies have a tendency to move off the side of the screen and ram you upon re-entry. Make sure you're not in the center of the screen when a new wave begins, as a new enemy will materialize right on top of your ass. Threshold will chew you up, spit you out, and leave your thumb for dead. I hate it, which is why I love it. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 7820
1 or 2 players 

Grade: A
Publisher: Hozer (2000)
Posted: 2001/12/23

screenshotThrust is a far cry from the simplistic shooters so common on the 2600, and it's actually a conversion of an old Commodore 64 game. In addition to providing some great arcade-style shooting action, Thrust also has surprising depth. Like Gravitar, you guide a triangle-shaped ship through winding underground caverns, destroying cannons and picking up fuel. Shooting nuclear reactors will temporarily disable the cannons, but too much damage can cause a meltdown.

In later stages there are switches on the walls that open new areas. Controlling your ship takes skill, because you must constantly thrust to counteract the effects of gravity. Pushing the joystick up thrusts, and pulling back activates a protective shield. Your ultimate goal is to pick up a pod at the bottom of each cavern and transport it out safely. When you finally locate it, the real challenge begins!

It attaches to your ship via a cord, and swings precariously as you attempt to transport it through the narrow caverns without smashing it against a wall. It's a balancing act that requires excellent technique, and completing each mission is very satisfying. The crude graphics are large and blocky, but the animation is smooth and the control is flawless. The 24-level challenge is immense but rarely frustrating. There are even five levels of difficulty. Don't miss the best game to come along for the 2600 in a long time! © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 19650
1 player 

Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1983)
Posted: 2002/3/22

screenshotHere's a marginal game with blocky graphics and dull colors. You control a tank on the bottom of the screen that eats away at dirt in a Dig-Dug-like fashion. Two tanks pursue you as you clear away the dirt between you and your targets. The main problem with Thunderground is that it takes too long before the challenge kicks in. The enemy tanks initially move like snails, and their shots aren't much faster. You can methodically shoot your way through the first few rounds with little resistance. Occasionally you uncover a pixelated object in the dirt that's worth extra points. It's not until around stage nine that things start to get interesting, and you might have to start taking some evasive maneuvers. But you shouldn't have to play through eight rounds to get to the fun! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 93090
1 player 

Time Pilot
Grade: C-
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Posted: 2003/5/4

screenshotThis rendition of the popular arcade game is fair but lacks a few key elements from the original game. Time Pilot is a fly-anywhere shooter where you shoot down aircraft from various historical periods. The stages begin with biplanes from World War I and progress all the way to flying saucers in the year 2001 (man, they were way off!).

The arcade version was known for its rapid-fire shooting action, but in this version you can only fire two slow shots at a time. The "boss" aircraft only requires one hit to destroy, and there are no bonus paratroopers to rescue. Still, the graphics aren't half bad (especially the helicopters in the 1970 stage), and the game is challenging enough. Fans of the arcade game will be understandably disappointed, but those who take the game for what it is might enjoy it. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 7800
1 or 2 players 

Time Warp
Grade: D-
Publisher: Zellers (1983)
Posted: 2021/1/1

screenshotI roll my eyes when I see "Zellers" associated with an obscure Atari 2600 cartridge. It was one of those semi-legit companies that would publish any game for a buck. Still, I guess some of their stuff has merit. Play value? Alright, let's settle on conversation value. Time Warp is a generic side-scrolling shooter with a bunch of chunky helicopters approaching from the right. Miss a few and they just wrap around.

When you destroy the last one however something interesting happens. In what appears to be some sort of drawn-out explosion animation, the game actually is spawning a new set of adversaries. In this case five pulsating purple sponges. The process repeats several times as you destroy waves of saucers, birds, and other random shapes.

Unfortunately the mind-numbing shooting action is hampered by glitchy visuals, bad collision detection, and nonstop explosion sounds. I was so bored it took an unexpected bonus level to jar me from my stupor. The idea here is to navigate narrow red caverns to dock with some puckering orifice on the far right. Succeed and you'll earn a free ship, but is that really a reward? I did the Time Warp, but I don't want to do the Time Warp again. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 4600
1 player 

Titan Axe
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari Age (2016)
Posted: 2016/5/8

screenshotTitan Axe is a scaled-down version of an old favorite, Golden Axe (Genesis, 1989). I was really stoked to see how an Atari system would handle this hack-and-slash classic. Titan Axe begins with an arcade-style character selection screen, letting you choose between a stout dwarf or lithe babe. So far so good, right? The gameplay involves moving your character to the right, forging through contiguous screens, each offering new scenery and a fresh foe to slay.

The characters are large and extremely chunky. I can live with that, but the controls are another story. When you press the attack button you expect a weapon to stick out, but instead your warrior just gyrates in place as the enemy passes right through you. What the hell is going on?!? While performing a "special move" your character morphs into an incomprehensible jumble of pixels, sliding up and under your target. Eventually the monster disappears, but it's never clear how or why that happened. Worse yet, you usually sustain heavy damage in the process.

Occasionally a fairy flutters across the screen but I don't know what its significance is. All I know is, I can't kill it! After button-mash through several screens I find myself staring at a blood-soaked "GAME OVER" screen. There's no score in this game. I feel bad about my lack of progress because according to the glossy manual there are 64 screens (!) over eight sprawling stages (!!) and a slew of monsters to go with them. I suspect there's a decent game in this Titan Axe cartridge somewhere, but I can't find it, and it's not for a lack of effort. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Title Match Pro Wrestling
Grade: D
Publisher: Absolute (1987)
Posted: 2002/1/23

screenshotTitle Match is a good looking wrestling game, but its gameplay is badly outdated. With four distinct wrestlers to select from, you can play against the CPU or another player. Moreover, the matches can be tag team or one-on-one. The number of moves is impressive, and can be chained together to perform everything from elbow drops to body slams to airplane spins. Heck, you can even dive from the ropes!

Unfortunately, once you start actually playing the game, the carefully-designed control scheme goes out the window. The computer opponent is impossible to defeat, and he'll have you pinned in a heartbeat. On the other hand, when playing against a friend it's extremely hard to pin him, and the bouts go on long after the wrestlers have exhausted their strength. Still, I did have a good laugh watching the stiff-looking fighters toss each other around the ring. Title Match is an ambitious game, but it's not very fun to play. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Tom Boy (PAL)
Grade: NA
Publisher: Rainbow Vision (1983)
Posted: 2023/8/12

screenshotIf you're a fan of Pitfall (Activision, 1982) wait'll you get a load of Tom Boy. This shameless knock-off is basically a Pitfall "remix" with new colors, sprites, and sound effects. If this was, in fact, released in 1983, I'm impressed they managed to steal the Activision code, knock out a hack, and get it to market so quickly!

The prim-and-proper Pitfall Harry has been replaced by some kind of Tarzan-looking character in a loincloth. His skin hue suggests the poor guy may be suffering from a case of yellow jaundice. Consistent with other animations in this game, Tom runs in a less-than-graceful manner. Instead of climbing ladders to and from underground caves, he kind of scoots up and down poles.

The Pitfall formula is largely unchanged as you run between contiguous screens, gathering treasure while avoiding dangers like jagged snakes. The underground areas are guarded by the alien dog from Alien 3. Wow, that is one obscure reference. Anyway, that thing is impossible to jump over.

Some of the modified objects leave much to be desired. The "gold" is now in a red box, making it look more like movie popcorn. There's a spider that looks like a pixelated mess. Did someone step on it? When swinging over a pit, Tom makes the generic "falling down" sound you hear in too many other 2600 games. Since this is a PAL translation, the screen tends to "roll" between some screens.

The news isn't all bad however. The red trees in front of the turquoise "sky" project a very appealing color scheme. The crocodile heads have been replaced by lilly pads, and it's nice being able to skip over them in a carefree manner. Tom Boy doesn't improve upon Pitfall, but it gives you an idea of what it might be like to play the game in some kind of alternate-dimension, Bizarro world. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 5762
1 player 

Tomarc The Barbarian
Grade: D
Publisher: Xonox (1983)
Posted: 2005/5/5

screenshotHere's a game so rare I couldn't even find any instructions on-line! Fortunately Tomarc wasn't very hard to figure out. The game has one unique feature, and that is the ability to switch between two characters by pulling back on the joystick. These characters include a barbarian and a caged woman; you'll need to maintain both their health level. Mainly, you control the barbarian, searching for a magic sword (or is it a key?) to free the girl.

Jumping between contiguous screens, you must avoid rats that scamper over the floors. This brings up a host of issues. First off, the stiff jumping controls are dreadful. Trying to jump through the narrow holes in the walls (and ceilings) is a royal pain, and your barbarian often pauses for no apparent reason (aside from poor programming of course). Why is a muscular barbarian afraid of a few puny rats anyway?

Periodically a warning buzzer indicates that a bat is approaching the girl. Fortunately, she's armed (with what, I don't know) and switching to her screen lets you shoot down that nasty thing. Once Tomarc secures the sword (key, whatever) he just needs to reach her screen to automatically free her and rack up bonus points. I like the dual-character idea, but Tomarc the Barbarian's lack of polish prevents it from being anything special. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 17380
1 player 

Tomcat F14 Fighter Simulator
Grade: B+
Publisher: Absolute (1988)
Posted: 2002/12/3

screenshotFor 2600 fans looking for something more substantial, I'd recommend this incredibly realistic jet fighter simulator. With its sophisticated gameplay and intense air combat action, Tomcat is a very unusual but impressive effort. Technically, Tomcat gets the most out of the system. You begin on an aircraft carrier platform, with a deck officer prompting you to throttle your engine.

After launch, you immediately need to pull up on the joystick to avoid crashing into the water. Once you attain an altitude of 5000 feet, the combat portion of the game begins. Your plane is equipped with machine guns and three types of missiles. You'll not only need to jockey for position with the bogeys, but also shake off guided missiles.

Your cockpit is loaded with indicators and displays to monitor enemy fighters, weapons, fuel, wing position, and flight paths. The visuals are superb. Enemy bogeys scale nicely into view, you can see ripples in the water below, and the sky color cycles from blue to red to black as day turns to night. If you run low on fuel or supplies, you can execute a landing sequence back on the carrier.

I have to warn you - there's a serious learning curve required to play, but Tomcat is undoubtedly the most realistic game I've ever played on my 2600. My only complaint is the clumsy control scheme, which uses one joystick, the select switch, and reset switch to cycle through displays and options. I think Absolute could have simplified things by utilizing the difficulty and black/white switches, and maybe a second joystick. Still, Tomcat F14 is too good to be ruined by clumsy controls. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Tooth Protectors
Grade: C+
Publisher: DSD Inc (1983)
Posted: 2012/5/16

screenshotThis game was produced by Johnson and Johnson, so you know it's fun! Their logo even appears on the title screen. Some may consider Tooth Protectors an educational title designed to teach kids good oral hygiene, but it's really just a promotional item. The manual contains ads for Johnson and Johnson dental floss, Reach toothbrush, and Act dental rinse. A brief opening sequence depicts a set of big square teeth on the bottom of the screen being treated with a toothbrush, dental floss, and mouthwash.

The graphical depiction of the cleaning isn't bad, but that nursery rhyme-style song has got to go. When the action begins you move your "tooth protector" side-to-side over the teeth. He's got a big creepy smile and looks a heck of a lot like the Kool-Aid guy. Moving along the top of the screen is a baddy who drops "snack" cubes, and your protector can deflect these back. Hitting the baddie will kill him and earn you points, but he's quickly replaced.

What's interesting about this game is how you can angle your deflections by moving your protector as you hit a cube. If you're moving fast you can carom it at a pretty sharp angle. The instructions suggest using a trak-ball, but that just makes things harder since it takes longer to move across the screen. Sorry, the paddles are not supported. With each wave the baddie unloads more squares and the challenge ramps in a hurry.

Periodically you'll hear a warning buzzer signaling that the baddie is about to swoop down and grab you. It's a terrifying situation so be sure to quickly move to the far side of the screen to avoid his clutches! Tooth Protectors isn't a bad little game, but it may lead people to believe that Kool-Aid prevents cavities, which is probably not the case. Collectors will want this game for its novelty value alone. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 64,500
1 player 

Towering Inferno
Grade: C-
Publisher: US Games (1982)
Posted: 2003/5/4

screenshotAlthough more playable than Imagic's Firefighter, Towering Inferno suffers from poor graphics. Each stage begins with a helicopter flying from the top of a building. Initially, the building is completely engulfed in flames, but the fire disappears as you gradually conquer each floor. Each level is a blocky maze full of flickering W's that you extinguish with your endless water supply.

Your goal is to reach the white "door" at the top of the screen, and then escape out the bottom. That takes you back to the building screen, where the helicopter lands and "releases" the rescued people. Actually, it looks more like the helicopter is shooting blocks. In general, the graphics really suck. Your firefighter looks like a static blob and the blocky stages look like crap. The jumping, flickering flames look more like a graphical glitch, but at least they tend to be unpredictable. Your water cannon looks more like a trickle with three blue dots!

Control is good, and dousing the flames is fairly satisfying. The best aspect of Towering Inferno is how it encourages you to take chances. Should you extinguish those last few flames, or just try to dart across the room? Aggressive play is rewarded with more points, but can also get you burned (pun intended). When you complete a whole building, all you're treated to is a simple flashing screen - weak! In terms of difficulty, Towering Inferno is on the easy side. It's a sloppy game but definitely unique. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: 1A
Our high score: 1309
1 or 2 players 

Toyshop Trouble
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari Age (2006)
Posted: 2007/10/8

screenshotIt's amazing what programmers can do with the Atari 2600 nowadays. Toyshop Trouble is not only a technical marvel, but it exudes holiday cheer! The originality and creativity of this game is remarkable. I play hundreds of video games every year, yet I can't recall ever having played anything quite like this! Toyshop's main screen consists of five conveyor belts of moving toys with pots of paint lining both sides of the screen.

The idea is to paint all the toys their proper color before a timer expires. Each day in December offers a new "wave", often adding a new variety of toy into the mix. A nice intermission screen explains how newly introduced toys are to be painted. Some can be painted a solid color, but most require multiple colors, and sometimes the order in which you apply the colors makes a difference! Quick thinking and good technique is required to paint the toys in the most efficient manner.

The controls are excellent, and the fire button allows you to dash - a move that's often handy but sometimes risky. Toyshop Trouble is outrageously fun to play, but it's the toys themselves that steal the show. Not only are there the obligatory fire trucks, trumpets, and trains, but also more modern toys like Tonka Trucks, Godzilla figures, Lincoln Logs, and even AT-AT Walkers from Star Wars! And when I saw those beautiful Atari 2600 joysticks, I couldn't believe my eyes.

The multi-colored toys are artistically rendered in a high resolution, and Toyshop's audio features authentic choo-choo whistles and melodic holiday music. Completing the entire month of December poses a serious challenge, and as icing on the cake, there's even an Easter Egg buried in the game. The only thing missing is a two-player co-op mode! With so few holiday-themed games available, Toyshop Trouble is like a Christmas miracle! © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 11980
1 player 

Track & Field
Grade: B+

controllerThis is one of the most competitive games you'll ever play on your Atari 2600. Released to coincide with the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Track & Field provides frantic action similar to Decathlon (Activision, 1983) and Summer Games (Atari XE, 1984). The sharp graphics feature multi-colored and fluidly-animated athletes.

There are six events including sprint, long jump, javelin, hurdles, hammer, and high jump. If you've ever played the 1500m race in Decathlon, you'll appreciate the fact that all of these events are very short. Custom controllers were created specifically for this game. You alternately tap the two white buttons to build speed, and press the red button to perform an action (like throwing a javelin). The controllers are cool, but when push comes to shove, joysticks are the way to go. If nothing else, you'll get better scores.

Another thing that distinguishes Track and Field is its sheer difficulty. A minimum event score is displayed at the bottom of the screen, and if you don't qualify, the whole game abruptly ends. Even when playing on the novice setting, reaching the sixth event is a major achievement. In the two-player game, when one player gets knocked out early, the other must play out the remaining events against the CPU. Track & Field is highly entertaining and even thrilling at times. Difficulty notwithstanding, modern Olympic video games could learn a thing or two from this. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 48,820
1 or 2 players 

Treasure Island (Europe)
Grade: D-
Publisher: Suntek (1983)
Posted: 2019/6/4

screenshotHere's another obscure PAL conversion from Europe I'm mainly reviewing for completion's sake. The screen offers turquoise waters, red sunsets, and mysterious shores on the horizon. Unfortunately the graphics look messy and the audio is even worse, calling to mind a toddler pounding on a toy piano. You guide a ship around the left side of the screen, adjusting your cannon's trajectory while unloading cannon balls on ships and sea creatures.

Treasure Island has a few nice visual flourishes like ships propelled through the water by tiny oars. That's a nifty effect, but why do these same oars appear alongside whales and sharks?! Enemy ships resemble rubber duckies but there's a cool explosive flash when you hit one, sinking it into the depths. The ability to adjust your cannon would be a good idea if you could keep the [expletive] thing steady!

It doesn't help that the water currents are pushing you around and you need to press the stick right while pressing the button to shoot. What am I seeing on the horizon? Is that a jet fighter in a pirate game? Are those two moons?! You get six ships but you'll go through them fast because it's hard to tell when you're losing them. I played Treasure Island longer than I expected because the instructions hint it's possible to actually reach the island. I never got there but I'm sure the ending is totally amazing. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 3690
1 player 

Trick Shot
Grade: C
Publisher: Imagic (1982)
Posted: 2023/11/10

screenshotTrick Shot deserves credit if only for sheer ambition. You get a full, working pool table on one little cartridge, saving you thousands of dollars! Well, not exactly. Despite supplying a nice variety of playing modes, there are only four balls (counting the cue ball). It also lacks the fine-grained control you need for a precision game like pool.

The table is rendered with chunky pockets but the balls are round and roll smoothly. The physics can be a bit wonky as balls tend to speed up or slow unexpectedly. But the controls are the real liability. Your angles are extremely limited, and while you can apply English to compensate, that is easier said than done. You would think that pushing towards the ball would provide topspin, but it's just the opposite.

"Trick shot" mode is the highlight, putting you into nine different situations with balls strategically placed around the table. By applying just the right amount of power and spin, it's possible to sink them all. You earn a point for each ball sunk, so even if you can't master this mode, you can at least measure your progress.

The pool variations are simplified versions of the game with no concept of solids or stripes. You just earn a point for each ball sunk. The one-player mode lacks a CPU opponent, so you're just shooting around for practice. There's also a English Billiards variation, but since I'm not British I didn't even attempt it. The instructions look complicated as hell.

Trick Shot reminds me of a scaled-down version of Side Pocket (Genesis, 1992), but it doesn't play as well. After missing a few easy shots, I resort to just knocking the balls around in the hopes of something going in. Trick Shot is a unique addition to the Atari 2600 library. In this game there's always a shot... but good luck trying to find it. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 9
1 or 2 player 

Tron Deadly Discs
Grade: C
Publisher: M-Network (1982)
Posted: 2022/5/15

Tron joystick Tron Deadly Discs was a flagship Intellivision title, so how well did it translate to the Atari 2600? Well, the animation is smoother and faster. The characters are slightly less detailed but the action is non-stop. Being able to use a proper joystick makes all the difference as you sprint across the screen while avoiding those deadly discs.

The futuristic premise has you trapped in a room with waves of dudes dropping in, throwing discs at you. You have your own disc which returns to you after it hits a wall or you call it back. It's not lethal on its return flight, which was a missed opportunity if I ever saw one. I stumbled upon one feature by accident, which is the ability to use doors along the edges to exit and re-enter on the other side.

I love the relentless nature of this game. On the Intellivision, you don't get a new set of adversaries until you clear out all the old ones, but here, the reinforcements arrive continuously. There is however one huge feature missing from this game, and that's the menacing boss that enters every few rounds in the Intellivision version.

Tron Deadly Discs is highly playable but make sure you're using a good joystick because this is a real wrist-wringer. Yes, I just made up that term and I'm pretty proud of it! This review was conducted with my blue Tron joystick which I love but doesn't have much of a handle to hold. I think you're supposed to suction cup it to a table or something.

You could argue that the Atari version of Tron Deadly Discs is more playable than the Intellivision original, but without the boss encounter to break up the monotony, the game loses much of its mystique. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 40,025
1 player 

Tunnel Runner
Grade: D
Publisher: CBS (1983)
Posted: 2004/7/7

screenshotAlthough technically impressive, Tunnel Runner's simplistic gameplay won't win over many gamers. Older games that rely on fancy 3D effects don't tend to age well. Like a first-person Pac-man, Tunnel Runner's challenge is to escape from a maze while avoiding wandering heads with huge fangs.

The illusion of movement is smooth and convincing, and navigating hallways is surprisingly quick and easy. The "heads" are impressively large and scale nicely. Sound cues indicate when they are approaching, which adds a bit of suspense. Unfortunately, having to constantly check your position on the map screen (by holding the button) is a real chore.

The first few four stages are easy, but once you reach the "blind" mazes, the difficulty goes through the roof. Tunnel Runner may have gotten by on sheer novelty value in 1983, but in retrospect, its shallow gameplay is not very fun. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 2
1 player 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari Age (2010)
Posted: 2010/10/27

screenshotOn the Colecovision Turbo showcased remarkable scaling scenery and was packaged with a steering wheel controller that really put you in the driver's seat. A Turbo prototype was created for the Atari 2600, but it never saw the light of day - until now! This intriguing new cartridge from Atari Age includes both the original prototype and a new enhanced version. To be frank, the prototype could easily pass for a complete game.

It's a lot like Enduro (Activision, 1982) as you dodge cars that approach one by one. When you accelerate the road remains static as blocky cars rapidly scale into view. They're hard to avoid at top speed, so you'll want to tap the button to regulate your speed. The game demands twitch reflexes, so why aren't paddles used to steer? You'll need to pass 30 cars to extend the 90-second time limit, and that's not easy. Sometimes you'll be tempted to "hide out" in a corner and let cars whiz by, but the CPU quickly catches on to this strategy and sets you up for a head-on collision.

At first glance Turbo's graphics look pretty shoddy. The city skyline in the distance doesn't look bad, but that static gray road looks pretty blah. Sparse scenery scales by including white buildings that look like Legos. The light posts look pretty cool though, and the evergreen trees look nice in the snow stages. As you progress the scenery changes abruptly and frequently, and you'll even pass through a dark tunnel.

The enhanced Turbo is more polished and forgiving. It irons out the glitches of the original and incorporates realistic physics. There's a definite sense of momentum and I like how your car slows as you roll over the shoulder of the road. Turbo for the 2600 is fast and furious fun, proving once again that good gameplay will overcome mediocre graphics every time. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Enhanced
Our high score: SDZ 9,361
1 player 

Grade: A
Publisher: Fox (1982)
Posted: 2000/3/8

screenshotHere's a game few people have heard about, but those who have will tell you it's one of the best games for the system. I would describe Turmoil as a 2D Tempest. Your ship moves up and down in the center of the screen between seven rows, and can shoot left or right. A variety of colorful aliens move across these rows, trying to ram your ship. Fortunately, you have rapid-fire capability, and you can flood the rows with missiles. Some enemies however, like tanks, are invincible and must be avoided altogether. One particular type of alien sits and waits at the end of a row, and if you nab it before it starts moving, you'll score big points. With nine skill levels, Turmoil is a well-designed game that requires quick thinking to keep up with its frantic action. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 4
Our high score: 7990
1 player. 

Grade: D-
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
Posted: 2009/9/7

screenshotWhen you consider how great Tutankham is on the Colecovision, this sloppy translation can only be described as wretched. The goal is to survive four dungeon mazes while gathering treasures and exterminating spawning monsters. Tutankham is undeniably challenging, but for all the wrong reasons. Judging from its graphics, it appears that Parker Bros put its junior programmer to work on this project. I guess their best programmers were too busy working on that cool James Bond "train shootout" game that was never released but looked freakin' awesome in their catalog!

Tutankham's mazes feature dozens of monsters and treasures, but they're so puny that it's hard to discern what they're supposed to be! The snakes and scorpions look okay, but that triangle is supposed to be a Jackal? Uh-huh. Your explorer is a static stick figure, and he's a nightmare to control. Your movements are jerky, you can't move diagonally, and you're constantly getting caught up on the ill-defined passageways. If it makes you feel any better, the creatures tend to get stuck as well!

Unlike other versions of Tutankham, this game scrolls vertically. That doesn't sound like a big deal until you realize you can only fire sideways! When shot, creatures briefly transform into an asterisk, and that looks pitiful. Poor collision detection runs rampant, so be sure to apply those smart bombs liberally! I find it amusing how the first dungeon's "treasure" is the word "MAP". The sparse sound effects mainly consist of alternating beeps. Tutankham for the 2600 is an embarrassment, and King Tut would be spinning in his sarcophagus if he ever found out his name had been slapped onto this choppy mess! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 505
1 player 

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