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

Bally Astrocade Reviews T-Z

Tennis, Hockey, and Handball Tornado Baseball
Grade: C-
Publisher: Bally (1977)
Posted: 2009/2/18

screenshotThis collection of simplistic, two-player Pong-style games uses "paddle" controls, and thankfully the excellent Astrocade joysticks double as paddles! Typically Pong games have you moving rectangular sticks up and down, but in this game you move stick figures! But there's more to it than that.

Tornado takes Pong to the next level by adding the ability to move your player sideways (using the joystick), in addition to up and down. In Tennis (grade: B-) this effectively gives you the ability to "play the net", adding a new dimension to its otherwise standard gameplay. In Handball (F), players take turns hitting the ball against the same wall, but that's just confusing and pointless.

In Hockey (C-) you move two characters at once, and can move your forward player sideways. This has loads of potential, but that crazy "puck" just bounces randomly all over the place, and more often than not your forward deflects the puck away from the goal! You just end up playing defense and hoping the puck will accidentally ricochet into your opponent's goal. And playing to 21 points is a hardship.

Baseball (C-) is the real oddball here. At first glance, it looks like a throwaway title. You basically just pitch and swing, with the CPU automatically handling the fielding duties. Despite its shallow nature, you have to love how this game moves lighting-fast! Heck, you can play an entire 9-inning game in under five minutes! If only Bud Selig would incorporate "Astrocade rules" into Major League Baseball, I might start watching again! Tornado's audio is sparse, its options are limited, and you'll need a friend to play it. As my friend Scott put it: "It's not bad, but it's certainly not good!" © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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2 players 

Treasure Cove
Grade: B
Publisher: Esoterica (1983)
Posted: 2009/6/19

screenshotThe third-party title boasts one of the best title screens you'll see in a classic game (granted, there's not much competition). It features a huge sunken pirate ship surrounded by fish, a shark, and an octopus. Treasure is scattered over the sea floor, and a submarine lurks in the background. A series of harmonized tunes play over and over, and most have a nice swashbuckling vibe. The game itself isn't bad either!

Treasure Cove puts you in control of a diver who must fetch coins from the seafloor and return them to a boat on the surface. In the process you must avoid touching the multi-colored fish, turtles, octopus, crabs, and sea horses that swim across the screen. Each stage introduces a new form of aquatic life, and there are over 20 in all! It's fun to see what each new round has in store, but I find it odd how even the tiniest fish are fatal to touch. Beware of the deadly sea guppy! There's also a funny looking blue fish with a long nose that my friends affectionately refer to as a sea elephant.

Your diver moves slowly and has limited oxygen, but you can pick up the pace by holding in the fire button. Treasure Cove's gameplay is simplistic but encourages a degree of risk-taking. Be sure to stay near the middle of the screen, because new fish will suddenly appear a good inch or two away from the edge of the screen. Treasure Cove's colorful graphics features a blue sky and a green sea, with objects so detailed you can even make out your diver's scuba gear! The game moves along at a leisurely pace, but it's not a bad way to cool off during the summer. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3 lives
Our high score: 3,919
1 to 4 players 

Grade: A
Publisher: Riff Raff Games (2012)
Posted: 2012/6/12

screenshotThis limited edition, second-run Warlords clone is pretty remarkable. Lacking only in the originality department, this is actually superior to Warlords (Atari 2600, 1977) in a number of ways. The Astrocade controllers have built-in analog control, and the fact that the system supports four controllers makes it ideal for medieval destruction. War is designed for four players, but the CPU will happily fill in for missing players.

Each player assumes the form of the crown (or mask) in each corner surrounded by a wall. A nicely-rendered red dragon kicks off each round by unleashing a fireball from the center of the screen. You can either deflect the fireball or hold in the button to catch it. While it's in your possession you temporarily acquire some sort of STD that burns away at your castle wall.

You can't hurl fireballs at other players as fast as you can in Warlords, which makes it a little harder to pick on your neighbor. That becomes less of a factor however as additional fireballs gradually enter the fray. Chaos reigns supreme and seeing all those balls bouncing around is downright mesmerizing!

War is a tough game, but it's fun as hell. Heck, I even enjoyed playing it solo. One thing I would change is that the number next to each castle reflects the player number (1-4) instead of his current win total (only shown between rounds). It's easy to nit-pick, but it's hard to argue that War is one of those amazing homebrews that far exceeds anything originally produced for the system. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Grade: D
Publisher: Bally (1978)
Posted: 2024/2/4

Dodgem Zzzap/Dodge delivers two distinct styles of driving popular on 70's-era consoles. Dodgem is a 2D game where you steer around oncoming cars, similar to Street Racer (Atari 2600, 1978). Zzzap is a 3D first-person game like Night Driver (Atari 2600, 1978).

Dodgem is mildly fun as you weave your little yellow dragster around red cars that zig-zag all over the place. The pink backdrop is ugly, but at least you have a wide road to work with. As you accelerate you move further up the screen, giving you less time to react, creating a risk/reward dynamic.

In Zzzap the bottom of the screen is dominated by the big, colorful hood of your car. The idea is to stay within the white fence posts moving along the edges of the screen. There's no scenery but the illusion of speed is smooth and effective. Unfortunately I found this game too easy and was able to achieve a perfect score with no problem.

In both games your score is your distance traveled in a certain amount of seconds, which you can set up to 99. The collision detection is pretty loose, working in your favor. When a crash does occur large words are displayed like BANG, BOOM, POW, and... ZORK?

I like how the controls in both games mimic those of a real car, letting you turn the knob to steer and squeezing the trigger to accelerate. The steering has just the right amount of sensitivity. The engine and crash sound effects are also quite good. Both games also share a slick speedometer running across the bottom of the screen.

Zzzap/Dodgem is primitive but at least you get some variety. Dodgem might even make for some friendly competition with multiple players vying for best score. As for the other game, I just want to figure out why they called it Zzzap. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Dodgem 99 sec
Our high score: 4.58
1 player 

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