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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The gameplay is FAST, noticeably faster than the arcade, which makes it more fun and challenging in my opinion. Blinky is particularly aggressive. The wobbly 5200 controllers might cause you to miss a few turns at first, but they actually work well once you get a feel for them. The only fault with the graphics is the single-colored ghosts which look like they belong in the 2600 version. With eight difficulty levels, Pac-Man is always a good time. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Sometimes I'll just go down a line of blocks, sending each one across and hoping for the best. Fortunately the bees move slowly and some seem to have a serious death wish. Reading the manual reveals that lining up the three "diamond blocks" can earn you a bonus upwards of 10K. The problem is, it's so time-consuming you end up blowing your time bonus in the process. Pengo is likeable enough but the game suffers from technical problems.
Slowdown can be onerous at times, and that combined with graphic breakup leaves you with the impression Atari assigned this to a junior programmer. The 5200 joysticks work fairly well with Pengo, mainly because the action is so slow. The game also supports the trak-ball which is just a miserable option. Now you have to spin a ball like a madman while pressing a button just to move a block! No thanks! Pengo never really got much traction in the arcade and this home edition feels pretty run of the mill. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
And if you thought this would be as fun to play as the Atari 2600 version, think again! The control absolutely stinks thanks to the non-centering joystick. You can imagine how frustrating it is to jump across the crocodile heads. Then there's the problem with letting go the vines. That's right, you'll actually need to wrestle with the joystick just to release yourself. Control problems really hamper this game, so stick with the Atari 2600 version. NOTE: This cartridge will not run on the two-port Atari 5200 models. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
This 5200 game is one of the best-looking versions of Q*bert I've seen. The screen looks almost arcade-perfect, and there seem to be a lot more baddies than usual bouncing around the pyramid. But, leave it to the Atari 5200 controller to throw a monkey wrench into the fun! Because its non-centering joystick could be troublesome in a game like this, you have to move the joystick AND push a button (in concert) to jump!
That means you'll be holding down the fire button for most of the game -- which is not comfortable. Even with this fail-safe mechanism I still found myself heading in the wrong direction, especially when trying to escape from Coily the snake. Still, I think Parker Bros did the best they could with this. There are three skills levels. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Using your fast or slow "draw" buttons, you can move off the perimeter and start boxing out your own territory, with 75% (or more) of the screen being your goal. If the helix touches you while you're in the process of drawing, you're a goner. Although the slow draw option is more risky, it rewards you with twice as many points.
There are an endless number of strategies you can employ, allowing the player to show some creativity. In addition to your main enemy, lethal "sparx" patrol the perimeter, forcing you into harm's way. This game is tough, and the better you get, the more risks you tend to take. Qix must be played to be appreciated, and this 5200 version is highly recommended. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
There are ten entrances, each of which leads to a series of rooms connected by slides. In each room you'll want to equip your Geiger counter to detect treasure. If it goes crazy, use your chisel on the wall. Sometimes you'll find gold bars (for points) and sometimes you'll discover a "map rock" required to open the golden vault. You need to work fast because the air supply is limited inside the pyramid.
I question that design decision, but the main problem with Quest for Quintana Roo is its nightmarish controls. Your character moves slowly and tends to get hung up on everything. To pick up most items you'll use the lower fire button, but collecting the map rocks requires you to use the keypad instead, which is confusing. Poor collision detection makes it hard to pick up objects, which is frustrating when poisonous spiders and snakes are converging on you.
It took me a while to get the hang of this game, but eventually I was able to bring the three map rocks into the vault entrance room. Despite following the directions precisely however, the game would not let me insert the rocks into the holes. Doing a search on the Internet seemed to reveal that no one has ever completed this game, so as far as I know it's just broken. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
The pitching controls are outstanding! You can choose between nine pitches, and even control the ball in flight. Thanks to the helpful shadow, each pitch is visually distinctive. The batting controls are also innovative, taking full advantage of the unique Atari 5200 joystick design. You swing by sliding the joystick left to right, and can even control the height of your cut. Fielding takes a while to get used to, but the computer is surprisingly adept at choosing the appropriate fielder.
The whole baseball experience is captured in this game, complete with tagging up, hit and runs, squeeze plays, no wind-up pitches, base stealing, and throwing errors! Thanks to some nifty voice synthesis, an umpire calls strikes, balls, and outs. The menu screen allows you to fully configure the number of players, difficulty, and number of innings. No game is perfect, and waiting for the teams to leave the field between innings gets old after a while. But when it comes to classic baseball, Atari 5200 Realsports is second to none! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Once the ball is in the air, you can guide your receiver to it, but the players tend to bunch up, making it hard to locate the intended receiver. The main flaw with this game is that the players are so [expletive] SLOW! I suppose that makes it easier to time passes or run through holes, but once a receiver breaks away from the pack, he'll be running for a LONG TIME! Sometimes you feel like you're playing on a 1000-yard field! You can take MINUTES off the clock during a long run.
Realsports Football does have a few noteworthy features. You can call an audible at the line of scrimmage -- which is pretty neat. You can also kick field goals, punt, and it's actually possible to block kicks. Still, its overall sluggishness forces this game to take a backseat to the primitive but far more exciting Atari 2600 version. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
The fire buttons are reserved for kicking, so switching between men requires using the keypad, which is a really bad idea. It's awkward having to constantly move your hand between the joystick and keypad. And instead of switching to the player closest to the ball, you have to cycle through the whole team! It's hell on your wrist. The side-scrolling field looks sharp but the fact that you only see a portion of the field negates your ability to effectively pass.
You can't control the goalie and the ball is always going out of bounds. Those non-stop "galloping" sound effects would be more appropriate for a horse racing game. The length of the halves is configurable, but even at five minutes this is hard to take. If you're looking for a game that's both boring and uncomfortable, give Realsports Soccer a try. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Having to use the joystick, keypad, and fire buttons (to serve) is ridiculously awkward. Even Atari felt compelled to include instructions like "place the controller in your lap" and "if you have large hands, try to maneuver the joystick with your thumb." The only thing missing is a formal apology! The graphics aren't really much better than the Atari 2600 version, with a blocky court and no background graphics.
The ability to enter your name into the scoreboard was once a selling point, but now it doesn't even seem worth the effort to cycle through the letters. The players tend to move faster than the ball, resulting in endless volleys. Atari tried to take a new approach with Realsports Tennis, but they turned a relatively simple game into a complicated mess. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
The illusion isn't as convincing by today's standards (there's plenty of pop-up), but it doesn't look too bad. This immersive, first-person game begins at your mother ship. You fly through a long tunnel before entering space and proceeding towards the planet Fractalus. The graphics depict your descent onto the planet's surface, and they look impressive, especially considering the now dated technology. Your control panel displays 19 different instruments, but you'll only need a few. The excellent control scheme makes heavy use of the keypad.
Your mission is to rescue a number of pilots and shoot enemies. When you locate a pilot, you land your ship near him and open your airlock to let him in. Hearing the pilot knock on the door and step into the airlock is indicative of the game's outstanding sound effects. Fractalus plays like a simulation, but there's plenty of action too. Once you get a feel for the controls, Rescue on Fractalus becomes an engrossing adventure. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Robotron provides simple, yet relentless shooting action. While your primary goal is to wipe out all the robots on each screen, don't forget that saving humans is how you earn the big points. I actually scored far better in this version than I ever did at the arcade. The Atari 5200 joysticks seem well-suited for this kind of action. Robotron is like Berzerk on steroids. If you can find the joystick coupler, this game is a blast. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, Moby Games