Fairchild Channel F Reviews T-Z

Tennis/Hockey
Grade: B
Publisher: Fairchild (1976)
Reviewed: 2013/1/17

screenshotThis two-for-one sports title comes built into the Fairchild Channel F console. Tennis is your basic Pong clone, and it's not a particularly good rendition. The action is slow, never speeds up, and you can't even affect the trajectory of your hits. I wasn't expecting much more from hockey. The field is a rectangle with openings on each side, and there are four "paddles" (two forwards and two goalies).

I was expecting to only move up and down, but in fact your "forward" paddle has a full range of movement all over the field! That's right - you can walk right up to your opponent's goalie and get all up in his business! Better yet, you can actually twist the joystick to angle your paddle! As icing on the cake, you can independently control your goalie by pulling or "plunging" the joystick!

I was going to characterize this unprecedented degree of control as "4D" until my friend Scott pointed out that this game falls just short of letting you manipulate time itself. Is it hard to wrap your brain around this crazy control scheme? Yes. Does it add to the challenge? Yes. The collision detection could be better but the matches are action-packed. This isn't your father's hockey game! Oh wait... it might be. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

2 players 

Tetris
Grade: B+
Publisher: Peter Trauner (2004)
Reviewed: 2015/6/27

screenshotSo... did some guy dare his buddy to program Tetris on the Fairchild Channel F? How else could you explain this? Well, this certainly is Tetris - I'll say that much for it. Two people can play at once, with the scores running vertically down the center of the screen. Unfortunately due to the gaudy color scheme it's really hard to make out the left player's score. It doesn't help that my Channel F tends to bleed red colors badly.

The game itself plays perfectly well. The "next block" is displayed near the bottom, and completing a row raises the blocks on your opponent's side. The intuitive controls allow you to turn blocks by twisting the joystick. My friend Brent who is a Tetris grand master was actually quite impressed with this.

Honestly though, the Channel F may be the last console you'll want to play Tetris on. The colors are ugly, there's no skill level select, and the game is played in total silence. Still, you have to give the game credit for doing exactly what it set out to do. Tetris on the Channel F is a fine technical achievement and a perfectly functional version of the all-time classic. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Tic-Tac-Toe/Shooting Gallery/Doodle
Grade: D-
Publisher: Fairchild (1976)
Reviewed: 2013/11/13

screenshotThis cartridge is so primitive, it's difficult to imagine anybody shelling out real money for it. Then again, in 1976 any degree of interaction with your TV screen (apart from flipping channels) was considered a small miracle. This cartridge contains several tiny games.

Tic-Tac-Toe is up first, and there are no fancy variations or gimmicks to spice things up. Heck, at least Atari's 3D Tic-Tac-Toe (Atari 2600, 1980) incorporated some semblance of originality. As if plain Tic-Tac-Toe wasn't lame enough, it's saddled with a really awkward control scheme.

Instead of freely navigating the 3x3 board, you can only move the joystick sideways, letting the cursor travel row by row. As the final insult, you don't push the button to make your move - you pull up on the joystick. When the Video Game Critic has to consult instructions to play freakin' Tic-Tac-Toe, something is very, very wrong.

Up next is Shooting Gallery, and believe it or not, it's not terrible! The game positions a paddle on the left side of the screen at random positions and angles. You need to time your shots to hit targets moving down the right side, and it's often necessary to ricochet your shots. If you set the game to quick (2 minutes) and fast (speed 4) you'll have yourself a mildly amusing little shooter.

The next game, Doodle, is a simple drawing exercise where you "paint" by moving around a box. It's pointless in 2013, but during the bicentennial I'm sure it was considered a novel way to pass the time. You can turn the knob on the controller to change colors, or pull up on the knob to increase the size of your painting block.

Quadra Doodle takes the concept to the next level by having the computer first draw random geometric patterns on the screen - which you can draw over. This four-in-one cartridge is a true relic, but not the kind that Indiana Jones would risk life and limb for. You shouldn't either. Note: Shooting Gallery is also included on the Desert Fox cartridge. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Shooting 2min
Our high score: 20/44
1 or 2 players 

Video Whizball
Grade: B-
Publisher: Fairchild (1978)
Reviewed: 2016/9/20


screenshotSometimes referred to as "Drunken Air Hockey", Video Whizball takes Pong to a place I'm not sure it needed to go. Even after reading the instructions it took me a while to figure out what the hell was going on. Video Whizball (not to be confused with Audio Whizball, which does not exist) begins on a dubious note. The blocky arena is slowly rendered to the tune of some of the most grating sound effects ever heard (even worse that the van scene in Dumb and Dumber).

There's a blue square protecting the left goal and a green one on the right. Pressing in on the joystick throws a small square. Hitting your opponent makes him disappear for several seconds, but tossing a rock through his goal doesn't increase your score! Why not? Keep reading!

Large orange squares begin bouncing around the interior, sometimes with numbers on them. Hitting these square "boulders" pushes them toward your opponent's goal. The more you hit them, the more momentum they gain. Only when one of these large blocks breaks your opponent's goal line do you score.

Since the boulders have different values printed on them you tend to score in bunches. The game is interesting when there are four boulders bouncing around. I'm glad you can hold in the joystick to constantly shoot, because continously pressing in the joystick would be torture.

While the game is clever and innovative, it's easy to fall into a stalemate with the boulders stuck in the middle. Video Whizball isn't the kind of game I'd want to play twice in a row but it's moderately fun and certainly original. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, VideoGame Console Library