Fairchild Channel F Reviews A-D

Alien Invasion
Grade: B-
Publisher: Zircon (1981)
Reviewed: 2013/11/13

screenshotEvery classic system worth its salt needs a Space Invaders knockoff, and Alien Invasion serves that purpose for the Channel F. The game follows the standard formula with rows of pixelated aliens, three shields, and a mother ship that occasionally crawls across the top. Each row of aliens is unique in design, but their extreme blockiness and solid orange color fails to bring out their winning personalities. I like the green and blue checkered landscape below, which vaguely resembles the platforms of Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991).

You can hold down the fire button to shoot continuously, but you only fire one missile at a time and it moves slowly. Due to my super low expectations I was impressed that a brief explosion effect occurs when you hit something. The large aliens are easier to hit than miss, and the low difficulty makes the game feel tiresome after a few waves. The mothership is shaped more like an arrow than a saucer, and if the screen is almost clear you'll get several clean shots at it.

After each wave your bonus is tallied, and this time-consuming operation makes it appear that the CPU is struggling to perform simple addition! The audio is limited to a bunch of clicks and blips, making this sound more like a ping-pong tournament than an invasion. During one game I noticed an extra pixel on the screen, which had my mind racing, thinking it could be a secret easter egg on par with the dot in Adventure. Sadly, my bullets just wiped it away so I guess it was just a graphical glitch (*sad face*).

The two-player simultaneous mode works well. It's fun to trade shots at the mothership, especially since each player has their own color-coded missiles. Alien Invasion isn't the best Space Invaders, but just being able to play a decent version of the game on the Channel F feels like a small victory. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 11,140
1 or 2 players 

Baseball
Grade: B-
Publisher: Fairchild (1977)
Reviewed: 2013/6/25

screenshotI can't remember the last time I enjoyed playing such a pathetic game! Baseball is one of those rare titles that succeeds in spite of itself. All nine fielders are present, but aside from the bases there's not much of a diamond. The screen's white background makes it look like they're playing in the snow. The pitching controls are pretty slick. You have full control of the ball in flight, so you can curve, speed up, or slow down the ball as you please.

You swing the bat by pressing the button, and your timing does seem to affect where the ball is hit. Then there's the fielding. These fielding controls are so insane, you'll swear up and down that the game is broken. Your outfielders and shortstop move in unison - but only side to side. The good news is that you can pre-position your fielders.

The bad news is there's a hole in left field where no fielder can reach, and sure enough the ball is hit there quite often. The ball is "caught" when it touches a fielder, and it usually comes to a stop in the foot or crotch region. When a hit gets through, you'll need to watch the runners on base to see if it's a single, double, triple, or home run.

The bottom right of the screen displays two numbers: the outs and the number of runs scored this half inning. That's right, you can't view the actual score until the inning is over. At that point both players must hit their buttons at the same time in order to proceed.

Despite its awkward design, Baseball is fun and competitive, mainly because it moves along so incredibly fast. I swear I once retired three batters in less than ten seconds! My friend Scott noted "If real baseball was this fast it would be a lot more enjoyable. Oh who am I kidding - it would still suck." © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

2 players 

Bowling
Grade: A-
Publisher: Fairchild (1978)
Reviewed: 2016/9/20

screenshotThis game is remarkably entertaining considering how basic it is. Bowling presents you with a vertical "alley" with stubby pins. After selecting your game variation the ball "returns" along the left edge of the lane. It then moves side-to-side until you push forward to initiate a throw. As the ball rolls up the lane you can press sideways at any time to initiate a spin.

The pins disappear when hit and the noise that emanates from the fuzzy Channel F speaker does sound a bit like pins knocking into each other. Each player's progress is displayed along the side of the lane with symbols for strikes, spares, and open frames. Strikes are not easy to come by and you'll find yourself staring at a lot of splits.

Fortunately it's quite possible to pick these up. In fact, the game features a separate "split mode" with each frame offering a new configuration. This extra mode really ratchets up the replay value because you need to employ a new strategy for each frame. Bowling on the Fairchild is a solid title that goes beyond the call of duty, but the best part is you can play ten frames in under two minutes! © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: fast
Our high score: 166
1 or 2 players 

Desert Fox
Grade: C
Publisher: Fairchild (1976)
Reviewed: 2013/1/17

screenshotI'd call Desert Fox a second-rate Combat (Atari 2600, 1977) except for the fact that it came out a year before that game. Each player maneuvers a pretty sorry-looking tank around a nondescript battlefield of mines and barriers. The tanks look awful but the controls aren't bad. You can turn independently of moving, making this one of the first shooters (if not the first) to let you strafe!

You can fire rapidly, and since your opponent doesn't move when hit, you can often get in several shots in a row. The action is fast but shallow as you tend to trade shots with your opponent. The collision detection is suspect and I've seen shots pass right through a barrier. The audio is minimal and there's not even a sound when you fire. The two-player action is serviceable but bland.

Shooting Gallery is a single-player variation where you shoot as many "pigeons" (blocks) as you can in the fewest number of shots. Your "rifle" is an angled paddle placed in random locations on the left side of the screen. This isn't as bad as it looks (it can't be, right?).

You'll need to properly time your shots but the collision detection is very forgiving. It cracks me up how the manual provides instructions for calculating your "batting average." I was told there would be no math! Desert Fox/Shooting Gallery is shooting action of the least common denominator. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Drag Strip
Grade: C+
Publisher: Fairchild (1976)
Reviewed: 2015/6/27

screenshotConsidering how graphically-challenged it is, Drag Strip isn't half bad. Two boxy cars line up on the left side of the screen. During the countdown you'll hear powerful engine revving sounds emanating from the Fairchild's speaker. It's probably the best thing I've ever heard come out of the system! To race, you accelerate (twist right) while shifting gears (move joystick).

The scheme for shifting is the exact same one used in real life, which impressed the heck out of my resident car expert Brent. Your RPM meter is displayed on the bottom and shifting gears at just the right time is key. Once you grasp the controls the game is fun. You need to exhibit a great deal of coordination to earn a fast time, which is measured to the 10th of a second.

After crossing the screen a few times a finish line appears on the far right. It's too bad the times are only displayed after both cars have finished; a single-player mode would have been nice. Also, a restart option would have come in handy. Despite these minor issues Drag Strip is a simple racer you should not overlook. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: BSC 10,4
2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, VideoGame Console Library