Atari 5200 Reviews R

Realsports Baseball
Grade: A+
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2008/4/7

screenshotThis is, without a doubt, my favorite classic baseball game. It may not have all the features of Intellivision's World Championship baseball, but it beats that game hands-down with superior graphics, awesome control, and impressive voice synthesis. Realsports Baseball gives you uniformed players, a sharp-looking diamond, and a stadium complete with a homerun fence -- and a crowd. There's even a scoreboard that displays the complete line score.

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.

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1 or 2 players 

Realsports Cornhole
Grade: F
Publisher: AtariAge (2022)
Posted: 2022/4/1

screenshot
realsports cornhole cart I recently posted a glowing review of Realsports Curling (Atari 5200, 2021), prompting many readers to question whether the game was even real. Oh it's real alright - and a lot of fun. It does however beg the question: Could the Realsports series be running out of sports? Well, with the arrival of Realsports Cornhole, we have an answer!

Cornhole is a hugely-popular backyard game typically played at picnics and tailgate parties. It involves tossing heavy beanbags (cornbags?) at a tilted platform with a hole in the center. It's harder than it looks. Heck, there's even an American Cornhole League (ACL).

My problem with this video game adaptation is that it happens to be a shameless hack of Realsports Curling. The developer basically just overlaid the bullseye with a cornhole board, substituting bags for rocks. It wasn't so much an exercise in programming as search-and-replace.

If Realsports Curling took a year to complete, I'm guessing Cornhole took a long weekend, most of which was dedicated to reworking the title screen. How can they get away with such a shameless re-skinning? Easy. As it turns out, there is absolutely zero overlap between the curling and cornhole player demographics.

One notable feature of Realsports Cornhole is its awkward attempt at voice synthesis. The scratchy "in the hole!" sample comes across as being, well... open to interpretation. As a result my friends can't score without shouting "itchy hole!" incessantly. OMG. It's irritating, embarrassing, and frankly unsanitary.

You'd expect a cornhole title to tacitly endorse alcohol consumption, but not Realsports Cornhole. Nope - according to the manual it is a requirement. And if the preponderance of typos is any indication, the author not only talks-the-talk but walks-the-walk, though clearly not in a straight line.

I wanted to like Realsport Cornhole but I haven't seen such a blatant rip-off since the last 15 editions of Madden Football. That said, bump up the grade if you're a raging alcoholic. Not judging. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Realsports Curling
Grade: B

screenshotMy friend Brent helped me review Realsports Curling after he spent the bulk of the Beijing Olympics glued to the curling events. He explained how there's chess-like strategy to the sport, but each move must be executed perfectly - on ice no less!

We were expecting something rudimentary, but instead we got a realistic take on the sport with all the subtle nuances and even the proper terminology. The elegant glossy manual (which Brent coined "eight pages of excitement") demonstrates the developer did his homework. Heck, the cover even includes the image of curling legend John Shuster! I wonder if he knows.

The idea is to slide heavy stones down a lane of ice to get them closest to a bullseye. Realsports Curling adopts a split-screen view with the top half focusing on the bullseye and the bottom on the thrower. You must enter a series of inputs to execute a throw, followed by some optional broom sweeping which accentuates the rock movement. The physics is realistic, with the effect of a spin being very subtle.

The controls are well-suited to the Atari 5200 controller, especially when you need to precisely adjust your aim or the "weight" of your shot. They can be a little touchy though, especially when trying to aim. Graphically the game is unimpressive, with pale colors and indistinct shapes that make it hard to tell who's closest to the center. Still, this game proved a huge hit with my friends.

Nine variations support up to four players and there's even an option to watch the CPU play itself on a "relaxing afternoon when no real curling is on TV". That instruction manual blurb was meant to be tongue-in-cheek but it is really is fun to watch the CPU players compete.

Realsports Curling is an exceptional game that has its subject matter down. Brent confessed he had recently downloaded a curling game for his Switch and said this Atari game was 100 times better. If you really enjoy this sport, bump up the grade by a letter, because this is likely the best curling game you'll ever play. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Realsports Football
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1982)
Posted: 2001/12/27


screenshotConsidering how great Realsports Baseball is, this is a major disappointment. The graphics aren't bad. The side-scrolling field has hash marks, line numbers, and a nice scoreboard across the top. The six players on each team are single-colored but nicely animated. Entering plays with the keypad is somewhat confusing, and there are no deep pass routes. Your quarterback can run the ball or throw to one of two receivers.

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.

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2 players 

Realsports Soccer
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2015/5/9

screenshotRealsports games tend to vary dramatically in quality, and this one is flat-out awful. At first glance Realsports Soccer looks promising with its high-resolution field and lanky, multi-colored players. But trying to play it is an exercise in frustration. The players mill around slowly, although your selected player (in the lighter shirt) runs faster. The gameplay is terrible and the control is the main culprit.

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.

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1 or 2 players 

Realsports Tennis
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2015/5/9


screenshotAtari must have been hell-bent on incorporating their controller's keypad into every game. They completely ruined Realsports Tennis by forcing you to press numeric keys to aim your shots! The numbers 1 thru 9 correspond to areas on the court. Your player hits the ball automatically, and the higher the ball is in its bounce, the harder your return. You can't hit the ball out of bounds, so why would you ever want to aim anywhere but down the sidelines?

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.

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1 or 2 players 

Rescue on Fractalus
Grade: A
Publisher: LucasArts (1984)
Posted: 2000/11/20

screenshotAh yes - I remember how cutting edge this game was in 1984, when it came out. Rescue on Fractalus generates a mountainous, craggy planet surface on-the-fly using "fractals", which are special geometric algorithms that were supposed to revolutionize video games (never happened). Fractalus was the first game that let you fly over a mountainous planet surface, moving through valleys and over mountain peaks.

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.

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Our high score: 18889
1 player 

River Raid
Grade: B+
Publisher: Activision (1983)
Posted: 2000/10/5


screenshotRiver Raid was one of the finest games for the Atari 2600, and this version is quite similar. It's a fast-action canyon shooter where you destroy enemy planes, ships, and helicopters while maintaining your fuel supply. The objects look exactly like those in the Atari 2600 version, but this game has rough, craggy cliffs on each side and a few extra landmarks. A nice surprise is the addition of enemies including colorful balloons and tanks that shoot at you from the riverbanks. Although the tanks aren't normally within your range, you can sometimes catch them crossing a bridge you're about to destroy. It's a wonderful feeling to destroy both a tank AND a bridge at the same time. The control isn't as precise as the 2600, but this game is still a winner. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 15230
1 to 2 player 

Robotron 2084
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2001/12/27

screenshotOne of my favorite arcade games of all time, I was curious to see how Robotron would play on the 5200. Thanks to the handy joystick coupler (which holds two joysticks together), playing this version is a real pleasure. Initially I was concerned that the graphics were a little choppy, but after playing a few rounds, I felt like I was back in the arcades of 1983!

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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Our high score: 197350
1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, Moby Games