The blocky, jagged roads look more like steps, and those cars are pixelated blobs! Vehicles and flags flicker badly and often disappear completely. This is one of the worst looking games I've ever seen on the Atari 2600, and that's saying something. After the initial shock, I started warming up to this game. The controls aren't bad; you can easily change speeds, and I soon remembered that jumping is not only for squashing cars, but also for leaping from one road to the next.
Once you collect all the flags, you're off to a totally different course. The roads are poorly rendered, but you start to learn where the bridges and hills are by the color scheme. The game is seriously challenging and undeniably fun. I really couldn't put it down once I started playing it. The background music is annoying, but at least it's faithful to the original game. When all is said and done, I like Up 'N Down. If you can stomach the graphics you're in for a good time. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
This Atari 2600 edition of Vanguard attempts to incorporate the same features but comes up a bit short. For one thing, it doesn't do a good job of simulating the dual joysticks of the arcade game. In this version, pushing the joystick in any direction not only fires in that direction but moves your ship slightly. Holding down the fire button lets you move quickly but halts your firing. Typically players will rotate the joystick rapidly to maximize their firepower but gradually meander around the screen. It really hurts your arm after prolonged play. Atari half-heartedly addressed this problem by supplying the option of automatic forward fire, but that makes the game entirely too easy.
Vanguard isn't much to look at, and even the rainbow colors can hide the horrid blockiness of backgrounds. Vanguard does have a nice variety of stages, each of which brings its own unique style of play. The zones scroll horizontally or vertically but not diagonally. The "stripe zone" is the most interesting, with two different paths and two sets of adversaries. The "bleak zone" features floating snakes that you can "dock" with for big points. The trick is to shoot the snakes just before docking, so you can collect the points for killing them (you can only do this three times).
Vanguard's most disappointing stage is the "gond" (remember the commercial? "Luther kills the gond!"). This blocky rainbow snowman is supposed to be the "boss", but all you do is shoot him in the face. It's hardly a challenge and definitely anti-climactic. The second level features the same set of stages, only harder and in a different order. Vanguard isn't a great shooter, but it's certainly original, and it'll give your arm one heck of a workout. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Venture's gameplay is super simple as you move between rooms full of monsters. You shoot them, loot the treasure, and get the [expletive] out of dodge. Take too long and a "hall monster" enters to chase you out. That's really one of the more exciting parts of the game; high-tailing it to the nearest exit before that skull-shaped thing can catch you.
Your character is supposed to be a smiley face but I don't think he's anatomically correct. His head looks too angular. Instead of shooting arrows he shoots dots, and they don't travel very far. The creatures moving around each dungeon are poorly animated, but I do appreciate the vivid colors of the dungeon boundaries.
This Venture has control issues of its own. You can't really stop to shoot, so if your shot misses you're in trouble. That's because you're navigating in close quarters with little room to work with. I really really wish that when I held in the button, my guy would stop and shoot. That way I could actually aim properly.
It only has eight rooms instead of twelve, but Venture for the Atari 2600 is still fun. I feel like it captures the essence of the arcade, but the lack of eye candy adversely affects the sense of discovery. I mean, you'll still discover stuff, but then you'll ask "what the [expletive] is that?" © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.
A technical marvel in its time, Video Chess has not aged well. The chess board consumes about half of the screen, and the small pieces look awful. The orange pieces are a pixelated mess, and the white ones look like stacks of horizontal lines. The interface for moving pieces around is slow and awkward. While the CPU is calculating its turn, the screen flashes random colors, instantly sending epileptic players into violent seizures and convulsions. Depending on the skill level, the CPU can take anywhere from seconds to hours to calculate its next move!
On the hardest level (7) the CPU can take up to 10 hours between moves! Hell, you could be playing this God-forsaken game for months on end! Adding insult to injury, it's a proven fact that the CPU will actually cheat on occasion! How pissed off would you be if it pulled a stunt like that after three long months of intense gameplay? Is there anyone who could appreciate the bad graphics and glacial pace of Video Chess in 2009? I'm not sure, but it would help to be stranded on a desert island. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
The variations become progressively more elaborate, allowing up to four players to participate and control multiple sets of paddles. The term "paddle" is confusing because it refers to both the analog knob controller and the rectangles you move on the screen. The variations are a mixed bag. Handball is confusing because players take turns hitting the ball. Foozpong has so many moving parts it's hard to follow the action. Soccer finds a nice middle ground and hockey isn't bad either.
Video Olympics got creative with its loose interpretations of basketball and volleyball, and the results are somewhat hilarious. After playing all the four-player variations with friends I think we could agree Video Olympics is moderately entertaining. Chris grew weary of the endless Pong action, but Brent was impressed that the cartridge packs such a comprehensive set of Pong games. Not all variations are winners, but when it's at its best, this is multiplayer fun at its purest. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
The key is its excellent nudge controls which let you influence the ball's movement much more than you can in real pinball. Once you learn how to manipulate the ball without tilting, a lot of strategy unfolds. First, you'll want to focus on hitting the diamonds at the top which increase the bumper multipliers. Next, try to earn an extra ball by hitting the Atari-symbol rollover four times. Once you master the nudge control, you can get the ball to bounce through the rollovers almost indefinitely!
By working the rollover on the right side, you can earn some outrageous bonus points. This is the kind of game that you can play over and over again, and you'll do a little better each time. I remember playing Video Pinball with my childhood friend Billy, and he could keep one ball going forever (much to my chagrin). It bears little resemblance to actual pinball, but Video Pinball's unique style of play makes it an enjoyable experience all of its own. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, 2600 Connection, Atari 2600 Homebrew, Moby Games, Atari Protos.com, Atari Mania