Colecovision Reviews D

Dam Busters
Grade: F
Publisher: Coleco (1984)
Reviewed: 2000/8/4


screenshotDam Busters was a difficult game to review, even harder to play. The instructions read like a military operations manual, and come with plenty of extra "official" looking documentation (makes me sleepy just to look at it). The apparent objective of this first-person simulation is to fly a fighter plane over enemy territory and blow up dams. Each button on the keypad brings up a different view, similar to the scheme used by B-17 Bomber on the Intellivision. Unfortunately, the game takes place entirely at night, so there's not much to see except a bunch of white pixel "lights". The controls are extremely complicated and require hours to master. Dam Busters is one of those titles for people who love to pore over details. Personally I found it to be hopelessly confusing and dull. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

Defender
Grade: B
Publisher: Atarisoft (1983)
Reviewed: 2016/9/8


screenshotDefender was ground-breaking in 1981 and few side-scrolling shooters have ever matched its intensity. Even its sequel Stargate (Atari 2600, 1984) failed to generate the same level of excitement. I recall a Defender arcade machine at my local Highs convenience store when I was a child, but I rarely played it because I could never last for more than a minute or two. Thank goodness we had home versions to save us the public humiliation. Defender is tough!

As you fly over a jagged landscape you blast aliens that abduct humanoids from the surface and transform them into spastic mutants. The programmers were really on the ball when they made this. The scrolling is so smooth - a rarity for the Colecovision. Your sizzling lasers pierce multiple aliens at a time and when your ship takes a hit its blooming explosion is a sight to behold. Your ship doesn't shoot fire out of its exhaust, but hey - you can't have everything.

There are a variety of enemies distinguished by their own unique sound effects. Most dangerous are the pods which unleash groups of tiny red "swarmers". When the screen is crowded that's usually a good time to detonate one of your smart bombs via the right trigger. Hyperspace, always a last resort, is relegated to the "0" button on the keypad, which means you'll never use it.

What's not to love about this game? Well, the controls feel stiff and when you change direction your ship becomes immobile as it reorients itself. The single skill level is ideal for beginners, but the generous free lives and bonus smart bombs can drag things out for experts. Still, Defender is an undeniably impressive arcade port for the Colecovision. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 156,250
1 or 2 players 

Destructor
Grade: F
Publisher: Coleco (1984)
Reviewed: 2006/5/11

screenshotHave you ever heard of a "must-have" game for a system? Well, Destructor is the opposite of that. Trust me, this cartridge will do nothing but take up valuable space in your collection. Had Coleco not been so hard-pressed for another title to support their Driving Wheel controller, this dreadful piece of excrement would have never seen the light of day.

Destructor offers an overhead view of a small tractor you steer around a scrolling maze. The title of the game is utterly misleading, as the crux of the "action" involves finding crystals and hauling them back to your "starcruiser" (which resembles a psychedelic shack). You'll be pestered by wandering bugs, but these are easy to avoid. The instruction manual seems to indicate there's some underlying strategy involved, but it never became apparent to me.

The sprites look awful, the screen scrolls in a choppy manner, and unsightly artifacts litter the screen. The crystals and bugs seem to appear at random, giving you little incentive to wander far from your shack. The audio is equally horrendous, with all sorts of irritating beeps and blaring sirens. Once you gather enough crystals, you're off to the next monotonous level, which looks and plays just as poorly. Destructor is one of those games that's so pointless that you switch it off well before depleting your lives. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 18410
1 player 

Donkey Kong
Grade: B+
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
Reviewed: 2012/7/24

screenshotHaving Donkey Kong as its pack-in game was a huge coup for Coleco. In 1982 gamers were hungry for "arcade quality" graphics and this home version delivered big-time. The game also introduced two of the most beloved characters in the history of video games, with Mario and Donkey Kong meticulously rendered in three colors each.

The three screens are fine renditions of their arcade cousins, with only minor alterations. Die-hard fans will notice a missing girder here and there, but the elaborate elevator screen looks just as amazing as it did in the arcade. The controls are a little stiff, but tapping the joystick to scoot up and down ladders is a very effective technique.

The collision detection can be a little fishy, especially when you're trying to grab the hammer and you jump right through it. Is it even possible to grab that hammer on the left side of the rivet stage? While holding the hammer you become completely invincible - unlike the arcade. This game has been surpassed by subsequent editions on other systems, but let's face it - you can't take the fun out of Donkey Kong. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: STP 38,400
1 or 2 players 

Donkey Kong Junior
Grade: B+
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Reviewed: 2012/7/24

screenshotDonkey Kong Junior manages to live up to the legacy of its predecessor without feeling like a rehash. It introduces bold new concepts while faithfully preserving the charm and spirit of the original groundbreaking platformer. This time the tables are turned, with Donkey Kong being held captive in a cage. Coming to the rescue is the diaper-clad Donkey Kong Junior, who is nicely rendered in five colors. Mario now plays the role of the villain, and he looks like a little cowboy.

Instead of climbing ramps and ladders, the gameplay mostly consists of sideways vine-climbing in jungle environments. Enemies include chattering teeth and egg-dropping birds which can be defeated by dropping fruit on them. The second screen requires you to climb chains to unlock your father's shackles. A rope snaps as you unlock each padlock, and it's a neat effect you won't find in any of the other home versions.

Three of the four screens from the arcade are included, with the electrified level having been omitted. Each stage provides a fresh set of challenges, and the game is arguably harder than Donkey Kong. Brimming with innovation and vibrant visuals, Donkey Kong Junior is one of the more underrated sequels of all time. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 19,300
1 or 2 players 

Dragonfire
Grade: A
Publisher: Imagic (1984)
Reviewed: 2001/11/18

screenshotIf you enjoyed the Atari 2600 version of this game, you owe it to yourself to check out Dragonfire for the Colecovision. Imagic really went beyond the call of duty for this one. The first screen displays the exterior of a castle (with bridge), plus attractive, shimmering water in the moat below. You must enter the castle while avoiding fireballs coming from inside. If you get hit, you'll splash into the water below. In later stages, there's also a retracting bridge and an archer in the tower to complicate matters.

Once you make it inside, you see a 3D view of the treasure room, with a menacing dragon at the bottom of the screen. As you frantically run around collecting treasures, your prince actually scales in and out. My only complaint is that the treasure items that looked so nice in the 2600 version are plain and single-colored here. In advanced stages a troll patrols the treasure room, adding to the challenge. Dragonfire has ten skill levels, and although it's tough, the controls are perfectly responsive. This game has it all. There's even a nice title screen showing a princess in the tower and the dragon peeking out of the gate. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 8200
1 or 2 player 

Dukes of Hazzard
Grade: C-
Publisher: Coleco (1984)
Reviewed: 2006/6/25

screenshotHere's a very primitive first-person driving game that makes use of the Colecovision steering wheel controller. While ambitious as hell considering the system, Dukes of Hazzard is far too clunky in the control department to merit an average grade. The object is to elude Boss Hogg while chasing down a blue car driven by some lawbreaking redneck. You get a clear view of the road above your dashboard, and remarkably, there's even a working rear-view mirror!

Unfortunately the jumpy framerate and choppy scaling make it hard to steer with any degree of precision. You'll be swerving from side-to-side so much that avoiding head-on collisions requires more luck than anything else. It's such a struggle to remain centered on the road that the whole chase element becomes secondary. Graphical glitches don't help matters, including oncoming cars that appear to be approaching from the right, but then suddenly jump to the left. Regulating your speed using the H-shaped gearshift is also tricky.

The scenery is fairly impressive, with occasional trees, streets signs, intersections, and even a few single-story buildings in the downtown area. But the highlight of the game is definitely bridge jumping, which can only be done if you're exceeding 75 MPH. I can appreciate what Coleco was trying to accomplish with Dukes of Hazzard, but the technology wasn't quite there yet. It's a playable game, but the problematic controls wear thin after one or two plays. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: 1100
1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Console Classix , Colecovision.dk, Games Database