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

Atari 5200 Reviews M

Mario Bros.
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2015/5/9

screenshotOf all the versions I've played of Mario Bros., I think this Atari 5200 edition is the best looking. Mario Bros. was only a minor arcade hit, but it was the precursor to Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985), the blockbuster that put the NES on the map. This game places Mario and Luigi (if two players) on a screen with platforms arranged in a configuration similar to Joust (Atari, 1982). Turtles, crabs, and hopping bugs emerge from the pipes on the top level, slowly making their way to the bottom before cycling back.

By bumping platforms beneath these creeps you can flip them over and kick them off the screen for points. If you think that sounds very satisfying, you would be right! Better yet, there are even POW blocks! Mario Bros. will test your platforming skills and good timing is key. The vivid graphics are arcade-like, but Mario's head looks a little small. What makes the game interesting is its subtle details. If a turtle lies on his back for too long, he'll crawl out of his shell and flip it over himself! That's awesome.

These crabs look totally pissed off, and when they grab you with their pincers, the crunching effect even sounds painful! The game's two-player simultaneous mode sounds like a good time but you tend to cause each other to die. Take too long to clear the screen and the game unleashes fireballs, which are a serious pain in the ass. At least you get plenty of lives. Mario Bros. isn't a top-tier Atari title, but you have to appreciate the innovation and attention to detail. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SDZ 51,280
1 or 2 players 

Grade: NA
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2016/10/6

screenshotWhen it comes to Atari 5200 prototypes Meebzork is not so much a game as it is a morbid curiosity. It begins with a knight emerging from an impressive-looking castle rendered in a pseudo-3D style. The programmer must have dedicated 90% of his time meticulously crafting that castle. Your first challenge is to scurry around on land while firing at birds (dragons?) flapping in the air above. It looks like you're being attacked by black creatures below, but those are shadows believe it or not.

The shooting action is wildly inexact and a red spider harrasses you non-stop! Not only does this son of a [expletive] constantly home in on your position, but he'll even fire shots at you on occasion! What a nightmare! You can't tell when you're taking damage but when you see that fancy "game over" graphic it's a welcome sight.

The main menu lets you select between six unplayable "practice" stages, each more repugnant than the last. Most involve trying to navigate precarious scenery while avoiding falling blocks or laser beams. The graphics are uninspired and the stages have a banal, repetitive quality reminiscent of Swordquest Earthworld (Atari 2600, 1983). Perhaps the programmer was just throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what would stick? Nothing did. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: B+
Publisher: Activision (1983)
Posted: 2001/5/5

screenshotUnlike most old shooters that feature aliens in space, Megamania takes aim at food items and household appliances. It was a novel idea, and Megamania was quite a hit in its day. The main problem with the Atari 2600 version was that you couldn't always tell what you were shooting at, but that's not a problem here. These sharp graphics clearly depict everything from hamburgers, to moonpies, to ladybugs, to steaming irons. Trying to advance to the next level to see what wacky targets lie ahead is all part of the fun. You can select between guided or straight shots. I like how you can hold down the fire button for continuous shooting, saving wear and tear on your thumb. Megamania is one of the few Activision titles that's better on the 5200 than it is on the 2600. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: G
Our high score: 13960
1 or 2 players 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Electra Concepts (1983)
Posted: 2013/2/26

screenshotIn this blatant Asteroids rip-off you appear to be shooting giant heads of lettuce instead of space rocks. My first instinct was to compare Meteorites to Asteroids, until I realized there is no Asteroids for the 5200! I have a few ideas why Atari may have passed on that project. The Atari 5200 joysticks make it difficult to rotate with precision, and if you don't manually center the stick your ship will continue to rotate on its own. It takes some getting used to, but guess what? Once you get the hang of it, Meteorites is a heck of a lot of fun!

Your small blue ship is elusive and the collision detection is forgiving, making it easy to thrust around without colliding with anything. My friend Scott noted there are a lot of "near misses" in this game, until I pointed out they were actually near-hits. The physics is a little off-kilter. If you shoot a rock moving away from you, the new chunks will sometimes slingshot right back towards you!

The single player mode is addictive, but the two-player alternating mode forces you to share a single controller. The sound effects are lifted straight from Asteroids, including the steady background cadence and the choom! choom! of your shots. Meteorites may be a shameless Asteroids knock-off, but this is a very competent Asteroids knock-off. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 8540
1 or 2 players 

Grade: D+
Publisher: Atari (1984)
Posted: 2008/5/3

screenshotThis sloppy conversion of the arcade hit comes as a shock, considering how good its predecessor (Centipede) was on the same system. This edition of Millipede is actually a port of the Atari computer version (which is reviewed in my Atari XEGS section). On the bright side, it does incorporate all the elements of the arcade game, including descending mushrooms, exploding DDT bombs, beetles that cross the bottom of the screen, swarm stages, and multiple spiders.

Your cannon moves smoothly around the lower area, and controls well with either the track-ball or normal controller. Although most of the insects glide smoothly across the screen, the millipede and spiders move in a noticeably choppy manner. Considering they're the two main elements of the game, that's a problem! They're also too easy to kill, thanks to some extremely generous collision detection. As a result, I feel like I can play this game indefinitely! Even with three spiders bouncing around the bottom of the screen, I find myself racking up free lives on top of free lives (every 10K points, unlike the arcade game which is every 15K).

The "swarm" stages, which let you rack up crazy points, are also much longer and easier than they should be. By the time it's over, it's almost a relief. The arcade game offered the option to start at an advanced stage (spotting you up to 40K in points), but this version lets you continue at much higher scores. If your game ends at 135K, you can begin your next game with 130K, and that's just bogus. This game has inherent entertainment value just because it's Millipede, but it should have been a heck of a lot better. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 148832
1 or 2 players 

Miner 2049er
Grade: A
Publisher: Big Five (1982)
Posted: 2001/5/5

screenshotHere's a platform game that borrows heavily from both Donkey Kong and Pac-Man to create a very entertaining hybrid. The main character Bounty Bob walks across the various platforms, they turn a solid color under his feet. To clear a stage, he must walk over every inch of the platforms while avoiding bad guys -- which resemble non-descript blobs. Tools act as power pills, allowing Bob to eliminate enemies for points. It sounds pretty generic, but each of the ten screens is innovative, presenting an entirely new challenge. My favorite contains slides and plays like Chutes and Ladders. The simple, colorful graphics are very clean and attractive, and the control isn't bad either. Miner 2049er is an addictive platform game that has withstood the test of time very well. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 16325
1 or 2 players 

Missile Command
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (1982)
Posted: 2000/10/5

screenshotMissile Command is noteworthy because it's a game that's played completely from a defensive point of view. The object is to intercept incoming missiles and protect six cities at the bottom of the screen. I remember Missile Command from my old bowling alley, where an employee who worked there was an absolute whiz at it. He would attract a crowd as he detonated walls of explosions to neutralize the waves of incoming ballistic missiles.

This Atari 5200 version looks surprisingly blocky in comparison, and it's disappointing to see only one missile base compared to three in the arcade version. The game throws too many elusive satellites at you, which artificially increases the difficulty, changing the overall feel of the game. At least the sound effects are faithful to the arcade, and the trackball control is extremely responsive. It may not be arcade perfect, but Missile Command is still a good time. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 45515
1 or 2 players 

Moon Patrol
Grade: C+
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2011/6/18

screenshotIt looks simple on the surface, but playing a good game of Moon Patrol requires some serious mental focus. As your vehicle moves over a craggy planet surface you'll need to shoot rocks in your path and jump craters. You can control your speed but you can't stop. Things become more hectic when alien ships appear from above and begin dropping bombs.

Moon Patrol's gameplay is faithful to the arcade, but the graphics were compromised a bit. The alien ships look chunky, and your moon rover looks more like an animal with a snout. I'll never forget what my friend Scott said the first time he played this: "What am I, an ant-eater?!" At least the scrolling backdrops look good. The mountains have that "gradient" look that I always found impressive back in the day, and that futuristic city looks amazing. When your ship explodes, it looks like three blasts superimposed over each other - culminating in a mushroom cloud. Dying has never felt so satisfying.

What makes Moon Patrol hard is how you must concentrate on so many things at once. Sometimes aliens will drop bombs that create craters, and often the ensuing explosion obstructs your view of the new crater (when in doubt, jump). The fact that the jump and fire buttons are in such close proximity doesn't help; it's really easy to forget which is which! You can fire rapidly, but mashing in those side buttons is not good for your thumb. It's fun to see how far you can get in Moon Patrol, but there's a good chance that hand cramps will limit your progress. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Beginner
Our high score: SDZ 6500
1 player 

Mountain King
Grade: D
Publisher: CBS (1983)
Posted: 2013/2/26

screenshotI want to love this game, but the controls just drive me nuts! It's tempting to fault the Atari 5200 controller (as usual), but I blame the game itself - especially since the 2600 version has the same control issues. In Mountain King you guide a little explorer through a mountain interior by jumping between ledges and scooting up ladders.

Calling the controls wretched would be an understatement. You jump by pushing diagonally, but if you're not positioned perfectly you'll hit your head on something and fall. Climbing ladders is also hazardous, as they are so slippery you can slide right off the sides. The object of the game is to capture a crown located in a temple chamber embedded deep in the mountain.

Your first task is to collect 1000 diamonds, and that's not hard because they're plastered all over the walls. Just beware of the giant spider that patrols the lowest level. Once you gather the diamonds you'll need to capture the "flame spirit", which is invisible except for an occasional flicker. Locating this flame is done by "following the music", which is a neat and well-executed concept.

Once you acquire the flame you can enter the temple and grab the crown. This is where the hurting begins. You only have a minute to transport the crown to the top of the mountain. The controls are bad in general, but when you're in a hurry, they are murder! As you frantically attempt to ascend you'll fall again and again as the frustration mounts.

And just when you approach the summit a bat flies in and snags the crown from your clutches. In this game's defense, I kept coming back for more punishment. Had the controls been more forgiving Mountain King would have been one heck of game. Note: This game does not work on the 2-port Atari 5200 model. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 40,510
1 player 

Mr. Do's Castle
Grade: D-
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
Posted: 2012/3/6

screenshotAfter recently reviewing Mr. Do's Castle for the Atari 2600, I was surprised by the complexity of this 5200 version. The screen layout consists of seven platforms connected by ladders. You move a little red guy armed with a hammer around the structure while being pursued by colored unicorns (which look heinous, by the way). Each floor is composed of blocks you can knock out with your hammer.

Blocks are marked with symbols such as keys, skulls, and cherries. Knocking out skull blocks causes a floor to collapse, sending unsuspecting unicorns to their death. Knock out key blocks to open a door at the top of the screen that lets you "cash in" bonus points. Knocking out all of the blocks clears the level.

The vibrant, pseudo-3D graphics are pretty sweet and the moving ladders look particularly good, but Mr. Do's Castle is too complicated for its own good. Cerebral players may relish the challenge of figuring it out, but bad controls make each game feel like an ordeal.

Moving sideways and swinging your hammer is easy enough, but trying to finagle your way up ladders is crazy hard. You need to be lined up perfectly, forcing you to wrangle with the controls. The harmonized soundtrack is nice but the lack of options is disappointing. No difficulty select, no two-player mode, nothing! Hard to play and harder to master, Mr. Do's Castle seems intriguing at first but eventually you may want to just throw it out the window. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 6,420
1 player 

Ms. Pac-Man
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2003/5/26

screenshotRemember the old Nuprin commercial? Little. Yellow. Different. Better. Not only is this a better port of the arcade game than the Atari 5200 Pac-Man, but the changing mazes and bouncing fruit make it a better game overall. It may run a bit slower than Pac-Man, but the graphics, maze designs, and heart-warming intermissions are identical to the arcade. The ghosts now have white eyes and the fruits are easy to distinguish. Unlike the speedy 5200 Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man plays at about the same speed as its arcade counterpart. You get five lives to start with, but this is offset by smarter ghosts that change directions unexpectedly. With solid control and a variety of skill levels, Ms. Pac-Man is practically flawless. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 25960
1 or 2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, Moby Games