Bally Astrocade Reviews D-K

Dog Patch
Grade: B
Publisher: Bally (1977)
Reviewed: 2010/3/7

screenshotThis is one of those oddball titles that collectors should not overlook. Dog Patch is a simple can-shooting game with two riflemen positioned on each side of the screen. A square "can" is tossed up the middle, and both players try to shoot it off the opposite side of the screen. Thanks to the analog knob on the Astrocade controller, you can finely adjust your aim.

What's cool is that these shotguns actually spray bullets, as if they were sawed-off shotguns. That means you don't have to be perfectly on target to hit the can. Both players will often knock the can around in mid-air, turning it into a volleyball game of sorts. The more hits the can absorbs, the more points it's worth.

Dog Patch is surprisingly fun and requires good reflexes. There's not much to see, but the large, multi-colored characters are nicely detailed. You can play solo for score, but the real satisfaction comes from going head-to-head. My friends absolutely fell in love with this game.

The only blemish is the high-pitched, cringe-worthy sound effects, which will make you turn down the volume immediately. Still, Dog Patch is one of the simple pleasures of classic gaming. I suspect Dick Cheney would love this game, despite the fact that you can't shoot your opponent in the face. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 25 cans
Our high score: 212
1 or 2 players 

Football
Grade: D
Publisher: Bally (1977)
Reviewed: 2009/4/18


screenshotThis is a surprisingly sophisticated football game, and if not for its tedious play-calling system, it would be classic material. Designed for head-to-head play, Football also supports two-on-two action (four players), which is pretty remarkable! The action on the field is fluid and lively. After hiking the ball, you move the quarterback and can adjust his arm to throw at any angle (by turning the knob).

When the ball is in flight, you control two receivers while the defense controls two cornerbacks. It's fun to fight for the ball, although it can be hard to tell who came down with the thing! Still, with a little practice I found myself consistently picking up first downs. Each contest is played with four-minute quarters, and it's a shame you can't adjust that because it's way too long!

But Football's real Achilles heel is it's play-calling mechanism. Only the offense selects a play, which involves watching a cursor move slowly down a list of five formations. You move the joystick to when the cursor is next to your desired play, but get this - you always have to sit through the entire sequence - even when you pick the first play!

I suspect this time-consuming process was meant to provide a mechanism for disguising your selection, but it's not worth the aggravation! Even if the player on defense diverts his eyes from the other player, he can usually hear the joystick move! When playing a friend it was hilarious how he resorted to various coughs and unnatural body movements in order to hide his selection.

I was also amused by the two play-calling sheets provided. While one is clearly designated "for YELLOW TEAM" and the other is labeled "for BLUE TEAM", they are in fact exactly the same. There's a lot to like about Football, but the unwieldy play-calling system compromises the fun. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

2 or 4 players 

Galactic Invasion
Grade: A-
Publisher: Bally (1981)
Reviewed: 2009/4/18


screenshotNot only is this a well constructed Galaxian clone, but it actually eclipses the original in terms of frantic action. This may be the fastest, most relentless shooter I've ever played on a classic system! You move a cannon back and forth across the bottom of the screen while firing at a colorful alien armada. There are fewer aliens on the screen than in Galaxian, but they are larger and multi-colored.

Blue drones line the bottom row, red ones fill in the middle, and two yellow, triangular "bosses" are perched on top. When bosses descend they are usually escorted by two red ships, and taking out all three nets you big points. The action is fast and furious as the aliens typically peel off in groups of 4 or 5 at a time! And these guys are fast!

The orange-and-yellow explosions look sweet, and when you destroy a boss the point amount is briefly displayed (nice). When you clear an armada - don't blink - because a new one immediately appears in its place. Likewise, when one player dies in the two-player mode, the second player immediately picks up where the other left off! The fact that the action never lets up prompted my buddy Steve to declare, "This is not a beer-friendly game!"

But even the breakneck pace can't hide a few flaws. First, when the aliens drop bombs, their bombs materialize about 10 pixels below the alien, giving you less time to react. And while there are nine skill levels to choose from, the difficulty seems to remain constant as you play. It's not that big of a deal though, since even the lower difficulties are formidable. In retrospect, I'm glad Galactic Invasion wasn't a faithful translation of Galaxian, because this game offers a unique shooting experience all of its own. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: 4-3
Our high score: SLN 10416
1 or 2 players 

Grand Prix
Grade: C-
Publisher: Bally (1981)
Reviewed: 2009/2/8

screenshotLooking a lot like Indy 500 (Atari 2600, 1977), Grand Prix offers basic racing action with three tracks, along with a bonus demolition derby mode. Four players can compete at once, and each car looks slightly different to eliminate any confusion. Two driving modes are available, with "pro" incorporating some drifting action. You can configure each race for up to 99 laps, and if you're playing solo, racing against the clock is also an option.

It sounds like a surefire winner, but Grand Prix is actually pretty boring! The first track is a basic oval, and the third is a pointless circle, so only track #2 is the least bit interesting. You steer by pushing the joystick left or right, but why wasn't the knob used for that function? The cars are very wide, leaving little room to pass. You're constantly hitting another player or scraping the edge of the track, slowing the action to a crawl.

In terms of audio, the droning of engines and screeching of tires aren't anything to write home about. My friends were pretty pumped up about the demolition derby mode, but it turned out to be an unplayable mess. I appreciate Grand Prix's four player support, but I can't shake the nagging feeling that this should have been much better. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1/5 laps
Our high score: 30 sec
1 to 4 players 

Gunfight
Grade: B
Publisher: Bally (1977)
Reviewed: 2009/4/18


screenshotBuilt right into the Astrocade console, Gunfight is pretty freakin' awesome. This one-on-one cowboy showdown is not unlike Outlaw on the Atari 2600, but Gunfight looks much better and is far more sophisticated. The multi-colored gunfighters are large and their bullets really zip across the screen.

The knob on your controller adjusts the angle of your gun, and being able to adjust your aim independently of your movement really enriches the gameplay. You can shoot away at the scenery or ricochet bullets off the top and bottom of the screen. Both sides are limited to six shots, and should you run out of ammo, you'll be a sitting duck until the round timer runs out (so start dancing!). There's no single-player option, but the game is ideal for a quick shootout with a friend.

Gunfight doesn't have any variations, but it feels like it does. That's because the scenery changes between rounds, gradually incorporating cactus plants, evergreen trees, and moving covered wagons. The game is not glitch-free however, and in some instances stray pixels appear which can interfere with the gameplay. Oh well, you don't throw away a Cadillac just because it has a dent in it. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

2 players 

ICBM Attack
Grade: NA
Publisher: Spectre Systems (1982)
Reviewed: 2020/6/16

screenshotThis super rare cartridge was packaged with a special analog joystick. Without that controller ICBM Attack is a good-looking but nearly-impossible-to-play Missile Command (Atari 2600, 1981) clone. ICBM stands for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, often used to reference the imminent (or not) nuclear threat of the 1980's.

Cities line the bottom on the screen as a flying saucer makes passes overhead and drops bombs. The invader makes an ominous noise while slowly crossing the screen, but by aiming a reticule and firing you can neutralize him and his bombs.

It is possible to play ICBM Attack with the normal controllers; just not very well. You need to use controller one and two at the same time, as their rotary knobs adjust the X and Y axis independently. The first controller lets you fire from your left and right bases, and the second controller fires from the center.

I tried my best to grapple with the controls, keeping the cursor near the center and moving it up and down to catch the alien in transit. Fortunately the invader is a really bad shot with most of his bombs landing nowhere close to the remaining cities.

Even if you keep him at bay however the game inexplicably ends after ten waves. I wish I could play ICBM Attack with its original controller. It's not really playable in its current form, although it might be an interesting coop experiment. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 3382
1 to 4 players 

Incredible Wizard, The
Grade: A+
Publisher: Bally (1981)
Reviewed: 2016/1/19

screenshotIf you want to see what the Astrocade system is truly capable of, give Incredible Wizard a shot. It's basically the definitive home version of the classic maze shooter Wizard of Wor (Atari 2600, 1982). Wizards, dungeons, and monsters are usually associated with medieval times, since that's when they were most common. Yet the instructions here present the game as a futuristic shooter, with your warrior armed with some kind of laser rifle.

The first thing that grabs your attention is the musical interlude that plays between stages. This ominous, otherworldly theme has a resonating quality that will positively knock your socks off. I've never heard anything like it. Wizard's exciting gameplay is characterized by frantic shooting, crisp control, and ever-changing gameplay. Your gun actually has a kick-back when you fire, and creatures blow up in a satisfying manner.

The fact that you can't shoot through their explosions slightly limits your destructive capabilities, but it is possible to shoot two creatures at once if they're overlapping. Monsters crawl around each level to begin, but gradually speed up, eventually going buck-wild and putting you on the defensive. Many creatures can turn invisible, so you'll want to consult the radar display at the bottom of the screen.

Upon clearing a level you'll face the wizard's pet Worluck. He's not hard to hit, but the Wizard is another story, furiously dashing around with guns-a-blazing. The game also supports two-player simultaneous play. The Incredible Wizard absolutely rocks the Bally Astrocade, but honestly this would be considered top-notch entertainment on any console. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: SLN 7,379
1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Bally Alley, Video Game Museum, GameFAQs.com, Digital Press, YouTube, Atari Age