Fairchild Channel F Reviews E-P

Galactic Space Wars
Grade: C
Publisher: Zircon (1980)
Reviewed: 2013/11/13

screenshotThis first-person space shooter feels like a scaled down Star Raiders (Atari 2600, 1982) so strap yourself in! The black screen features moving stars that convey the illusion of movement in a less-than-convincing manner. The lower left side displays a pair of coordinates, and your goal is to reach sector 0,0. Occasionally an enemy ship (a clump of white pixels) moves into view, and you'll want to center it on the screen before taking a shot.

The collision detection is loose to say the least, but it usually works out in your favor. When you blast an enemy the screen turns yellow and you hear a fuzzy, obnoxious beep. Different point values are awarded depending on the type of enemy. If you aren't quick enough, you'll incur damage and be subjected to all sorts of irritating noises. Score is kept for both you and the aliens on the lower right, and you'll want to be ahead when time expires.

For a bare-bones space shooter, Galactic Space Wars provides some decent twitch shooting action, and as a bonus you get a Lunar Lander mini-game. Unlike the slow original, your lander drops like a bag of bricks so you need to immediately thrust to prevent a crash. With a little practice you'll be landing that bad boy in under 10 seconds. Galactic Space Wars was better than I expected. You won't love it but you probably won't hate it either. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 48-34
1 or 2 players 

Grade: D
Publisher: Fairchild (1977)
Reviewed: 2013/1/17

screenshotHere's a competent maze game marred by an incomprehensible user interface. Maze lets one or two players guide blocks through a randomly-generated maze that's ideal in size. You can usually "eyeball" the maze to figure out the right path, but while you're doing that your opponent may already be off and running.

The game has several variations, but the game is only fun when the maze is completely visible. The invisible variations will make you miserable. Feeling your way around is a chore, especially when bumping into a wall results in an annoying buzz sound.

One nice feature is the option to include a free-roaming, computer-controlled "cat". This makes the game playable solo and adds spice to the head-to-head action. Unfortunately, configuring a game requires entering a confusing sequence of keyboard and joystick commands. Even when you get it right, after one round it usually reverts to one of those dreadful "blind" variations. That's your cue to move on to another game! © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grade: A
Publisher: Blackbird (2004)
Reviewed: 2013/1/29

screenshotThis astonishing Pac-Man translation has got to be the high water mark for the Fairchild Channel F. Remarkably faithful to the arcade original, Pac-Man kicks off with an attractive title screen that introduces the ghosts, each of which is a different color. The main screen features a maze with a layout that's identical to the arcade.

The background is white (instead of black) and the opening tune sounds distorted though still easily recognizable. The maze over-scans my television a bit, so the upper and lower regions are just barely visible. The game plays like a dream and the controls are very comfortable.

The collision detection is less forgiving than the arcade, so if you're camped out by a power pill, don't wait too long to snag it. Upon getting caught by a ghost you're treated to the classic death animation and sound effect. Pac-Man is a heck of a lot of fun to play on the Fairchild. I hear there's another version with full intermissions, but as far as I'm concerned this one already goes well beyond the call of duty. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 11270
1 or 2 players 

Pinball Challenge
Grade: F
Publisher: Fairchild (1978)
Reviewed: 2015/6/27

screenshotIf Pinball Challenge was Fairchild's attempt to rip off Breakout (Atari 2600, 1977), they went about it the wrong way! For one thing, you don't call it "pinball" when it has absolutely nothing to do with pinball. Just about any other name (including gibberish words) would have been more appropriate.

The controls are abysmal. You push the joystick left or right, and if you hold it long enough your paddle moves faster. Why couldn't they use the analog "twist" controls instead? The butt-ugly screen layout is composed of three thick colored lines. The ball moves in a jerky manner and the paddles flicker annoyingly.

The best part of Pinball Challenge is when you get the ball trapped at the top and witness the console struggle mightily to tally your score. The CPU just can't keep up! The variations are odd and most make no sense. One player moves the paddle left and the other moves it right? Players alternate hits? A second paddle appears just under the wall? If anything, these ill-advised alterations make me think even less of this piece of garbage. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 705
1 or 2 players 

Pro Football
Grade: D-
Publisher: Fairchild (1978)
Reviewed: 2016/9/20

screenshotThis primitive football title begins with a rousing rendition of the Notre Dame fight song! Wait what? Last time I checked Notre Dame was a college team! Okay, just work with me here! Pro Football requires more suspension of disbelief than a Keanu Reeves movie for crying out loud. Calling its graphics "abstract" would be a major understatement. You are literally controlling X's and O's on the screen!

You select from nine plays but the players always line up in the same formation and that sucks! To select a play you not only push the joystick but have to twist the controller to register it. Is that really necessary? Once you get the hang of it you'll be able to run your X between gaps in the O's, but you only have four downs to travel the entire length of the field.

The passing is ineffective because the ball moves slowly and is easily picked off. If you do complete a pass it feels like a monumental accomplishment. You may want to yourself a favor and quit while you're ahead. In its defense, Brent said he liked Pro Football better than the new Madden, so there's that. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, VideoGame Console Library