Atari 5200 Reviews H-J

Grade: C
Publisher: Activision (1984)
Reviewed: 2004/7/16

screenshotH.E.R.O. was an interesting little adventure game for the Atari 2600, but on the 5200 it's a major letdown. Assuming the role of a rescuer sporting a propeller backpack and laser goggles, you must navigate mineshafts to save injured miners. To complete each stage, you'll need to blow up walls with dynamite and shoot small but deadly creatures.

The levels get longer and more difficult as you progress, and some rooms are pitch dark so you'll need to feel your way around. The characters and objects are plain looking (and small like the 2600 version) but the underground walls have a more realistic, granular texture. Unfortunately, the wobbly Atari 5200 proves to be a serious liability, preventing you from navigating the narrow mineshafts with precision, causing many undeserved deaths. H.E.R.O. isn't a bad game, but the 2600 version is more playable. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 18030
1 player 

Haunted House II 3D
Grade: D+
Publisher: Mean Hamster (2002)
Reviewed: 2002/10/26

screenshotThis homebrew really fills a void in the Atari 5200 library, considering there aren't many adventures for the system (much less scary ones). Haunted House II 3D tries to be an expanded version of the original Atari 2600 game. The graphics are better and the house is larger, but the basic premise remains the same. You control a pair of square eyes, trying to collect all the treasures in the house and get the heck out of there. You can light a candle by pressing a button, which will reveal any hidden objects lying around.

As you wander through the house, you will encounter spiders, bats, skeletons, and ghosts. Their movements are unpredictable, but they don't pursue you from room to room. Sometimes one will appear from out of nowhere -- which is not fair at all. A sword is available for protection, but you can't collect items while holding it. So what is the "3D" all about? Actually, it's a bit of a stretch. Unlike the original Haunted House, each screen is a separate room (there's no scrolling) with pseudo-3D walls and doors in the background. But it's just eye candy - the gameplay is still completely 2D.

As a matter of fact, the "rendered" rooms are more confusing than anything else. Haunted House II is challenging, but it's not polished enough to merit an average grade. Graphical break-up, hit-and-miss collision detection, and inconsistent speed all hamper the action. One minute you're flying around the screen, then suddenly you've slowed to a crawl. Sound effects include footsteps and thunder, but these are sloppy. Haunted House II 3D does deliver in terms of challenge. There are two houses to complete, and just trying to finish the first one kept me playing for quite a while. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

James Bond 007
Grade: F
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
Reviewed: 2006/10/7

screenshotWow, I really can't get over what an absolute piece of [expletive] this game is. Not only is it terribly unpleasant to play, but the entire concept behind it is idiotic. It's hard to believe someone actually gave the "go ahead" to this ill-advised project. James Bond 007 begins with an incredibly shabby intro that borders on embarrassing. First you see a huge James Bond character getting into a tiny yellow car. Next, the car's wheels inexplicably begin to blink, and then the car shrinks down even smaller.

The accompanying theme song is decent, but the visuals look positively half-assed. The intro is followed by a nausea-inducing first stage that perfectly embodies the game as a whole. Looking like a half-baked Moon Patrol knock-off, you jump over craters while shooting blue "diamonds" floating in the night sky. Bomb-dropping satellites fly just overhead, but inexplicably, you cannot shoot them!

Soon you find yourself moving over water while doing the same damn thing, except now you have to deal with shooting divers. If you're sadomasochistic enough to complete the stage, you can expect equally brain-dead gameplay in the stages to come. Each level is supposedly based on a different Bond film, but they all look and play pretty much the same - crappy! Did Parker Bros. really think the Bond license alone would justify this inexcusable tripe? I'm still waiting for them to issue a formal apology to the gamers of the world. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 7900
1 or 2 players 

Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2000/12/28

screenshotIn this eccentric arcade classic you control a warrior armed with a lance, flying around the screen atop a flapping ostrich. There are several floating platforms and a lava pit located on the very bottom of the playfield. You "joust" other flying warriors by colliding with them, and victory goes to the warrior whose lance was higher at the point of impact. It sounds overly simplistic, but it works remarkably well. Two players can cooperate to clear each wave together (the best way to play), or engage in cutthroat competitions.

There's not much to criticize about this version (which is identical to the Atari home computer version, by the way). It delivers all the sights and sounds of the arcade, plus four levels of difficulty as well. The hand of the lava troll only has three fingers, but now I'm nitpicking. The 5200 controller is the only drawback, with slow response and a fire button that's not conducive to constant tapping. Overall this is a rock-solid translation of an old arcade favorite. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: skilled
Our high score: 46850
1 or 2 players 

Jr. Pac-Man
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1984)
Reviewed: 2003/5/26

screenshotJr. Pac-Man stars in a remarkable game, although he's often overshadowed by his parents. In this innovative spin-off, the mazes are so big that they don't even fit on a single screen! That's right, as you move junior around, the screen scrolls sideways to display the current section of the maze. You'd think this might slow down the action, but in fact Jr. Pac-Man is faster than Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man.

The scrolling is relatively smooth, and our little hero zips around with unabashed youthful exuberance. The graphic quality of the mazes and ghosts is comparable to Ms. Pac-Man, but these huge labyrinths are far more satisfying to clear! Instead of fruit bouncing around there are little toys, although they're often difficult to discern. The only thing missing are intermissions! © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 26080
1 or 2 players 

Jungle Hunt
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2014/8/25

screenshotWhen I frequented my local arcades in 1982 I pumped a lot of quarters into a game called Jungle King. This home version was renamed Jungle Hunt and Tarzan was replaced by a dorky explorer decked out in a yellow outfit. The game features four unique screens, beginning with a vine-swinging section. The vines swing back and forth at varying rates, but it's not hard to leap between them if you take your time. After the last vine there's a nifty animation of your man diving into a river.

The second screen is the most impressive-looking as you swim in a crocodile-infested river with a pink coral seabed. You're armed with a knife and when you stab it sounds like a friggin' shotgun blast! The hit detection is suspect however so it's wise to avoid confrontation. I really hate those pink "bubbles" that immobilize you for several seconds. According to the manual they are "mysterious murk". In other words, even the manual writer didn't know what the [expletive] they were!

Your next challenge is to run up an inclined plane while jumping over small boulders and ducking under large ones. Ducking requires more skill yet only earns you half as many points. Use the joystick in conjunction with the button to increase the height of your jumps. It's pretty methodical until you encounter two boulders at once, which really throws off your timing.

On the final screen you must leap over a pair of politically-incorrect, spear-toting tribesmen with your captive girlfriend suspended over a boiling cauldron. You'll need to make contact with her on your second jump to save her, even if it means burying your head in her crotch. Then the stages restart but you get a new color scheme and now have to contend with a monkey on the vine stage. The imprecise 5200 joystick controls don't do you any favors in a twitch game like this, but Jungle Hunt is still a fun romp thanks to its bright arcade graphics and sheer variety. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 16,600
1 or 2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, Moby Games