Publisher: Imagic (1984)
This Defender clone has so-so graphics and mediocre gameplay. A side-scrolling space shooter, your ship can drop bombs as well as fire lasers. Your mission is to protect cities on a planetary surface, giving the game a Missile Command flavor. The cities are surrounded by shields, which weaken after sustaining enemy hits. You can recharge them by transporting energy from "energy depots". Although it's probably the most original aspect of Nova Blast, the process of transferring energy is tedious and not the least bit fun. The rapid-fire shooting action is better, but the bomb controls are weak and trying to hit your target can prove frustrating. Overall, Nova Blast is too generic to hold my interest. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 5
Our high score: 15500
Publisher: Sierra On-Line (1984)
Here's an oldie-but-goodie I fondly recall playing on my Atari 1200XL back in the early 80's. Oil's Well is a vaguely Pac-Man-like game that feels awkward at first but turns out to be surprisingly entertaining. The screen consists of an underground maze filled with dots and creatures moving side-to-side. You control a little Pac-Man shaped "mouth" connected to an oil refinery at the top of the screen.
As you wind down into the maze, pipes extend to keep you connected to your starting point. If any creature touches your pipe you lose a life. You can't reverse direction, but you can quickly "wind up" at any time by holding in the fire button. It's like pressing the button on a vacuum cleaner that sucks in the electric cord. As you venture into the deeper parts of the maze you'll need to keep an eye out for critters and be ready to hit the button.
Then again, there's usually a bomb (that looks suspiciously like a power pill) near the bottom of the maze which freezes all enemies. This adds an exciting risk-versus-reward dynamic. During later waves the underground maze is replaced by a little town of buildings. The scenery looks a lot more interesting but the dots tend to be squirreled away in hard-to-reach nooks. I suspect most gamers have never heard of Oil's Well, but it's kind of an ingenious little game. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 9360
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
In the early 80's my local 7-11 announced that they were building an arcade addition onto the store. It was pretty exciting to the kids in the neighborhood, but parents were up in arms, fearing drug dealers would somehow overrun the place and send the property values plummeting. When all was said and done however, that so-called "arcade" turned out to be about the size of a closet, only able to accommodate two machines.
One of those was Omega Race, a poorly named shooter with sharp but colorless vector graphics. There was no "racing" involved, although I suppose the rectangular arena vaguely resembles a "track" of sorts. The big gimmick is how your triangular ship can carom off the walls, allowing you to find just the right shooting angle while remaining a moving target. Staying in motion is key because your geometrically shaped adversaries are pretty good shots.
Omega Race embodies the same reckless, halfway-out-of-control gameplay you get from thrusting around in Asteroids. This Colecovision edition not only duplicates the fun gameplay of the arcade, but spices things up with color, customization options, and even a two-player simultaneous mode. The "fast bounce" option makes the walls more elastic, but also makes your ship harder to control.
The "tunnel" and "astro gate" options make the vanilla playfield slightly more interesting, but these passages are really too narrow to make much of a major difference. The two-player mode would have been fun had it been cooperative, but instead you just bounce around shooting at each other, which is kind of lame. For the single player however, Omega Race is a worthy challenge, if somewhat forgettable. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3 (tunnel and laser gates)
Our high score: 78550
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Pepper II borrows heavily from both Pac-Man and Qix, but has enough originality to be interesting. You control an angel that moves around mazes, "zipping" up different areas. It's a bit like playing Qix -- on tracks. You are pursued by sets of eyes, which you can turn the tables on by zipping up an area containing a pitchfork. This causes you to become an invincible "demon" for a short period of time. One cool feature is the ability to move between four different maze screens, which you can complete in any order. Pepper II features good control and fun music ranging from the Alfred Hitchcock theme to Zip-a-dee-doo-da. It may be derivative, but Pepper II is definitely a good time. NOTE: No, there was not a Pepper I. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: STP 141,180
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Activision (1983)
This is basically the same game as the classic Atari 2600 version, a few subtle differences aside. First of all, the sound effects are slightly improved. The trees and bushes in the background are more detailed, but the treasures actually look worse
(what the heck IS that thing??). But the most noticeable change is Pitfall Harry himself! He definitely looks "thicker" in this version. Apparently he got lazy after his Atari success and let himself go a little. I'm not saying that the guy is overweight, but he's picked up at least 20 pounds! Otherwise, the game plays like every other version of Pitfall. Too bad they couldn't improve upon the graphics for this Colecovision edition. Even the scorpion looks exactly the same. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 5576
Pitfall II: Lost Caverns
Publisher: Activision (1984)
Pitfall II for the Atari 2600 was an amazing sequel, turning a side-scrolling jungle romp into an expansive journey with waterfalls, rivers, balloons, and mineshafts. The Colecovision edition more or less captures the same spirit, despite a few notable flaws. First, Pitfall Harry looks ridiculous decked out in his blue sweatshirt and green pants. That angular blue haircut looks like a plastic helmet
for crying out loud. Creatures like bats, scorpions, and frogs abound, but they look less detailed than their 2600 counterparts.
The controls are responsive but the hand-cramping Colecovision controllers make it hard to finagle your way up and down ladders. Considering he's a world-renowned adventurer, maybe it's time Harry learned how to duck. I can't tell you how many times I met my demise when a bat wing brushed against my forehead. Sometimes when I find myself on a high ledge, I can't resist the urge to jump. It's a risky move, as the chance of colliding with a flying creature is pretty high. Pitfall II's music is catchy but doesn't quite have the punch of the Atari version.
The scoring system is highly unconventional. Instead of three lives you play indefinitely. Your score is docked whenever you touch a creature, rapidly counting down as you're transported back to the last checkpoint. The only thing Harry likes more than adventure is getting paid, and there's nothing more satisfying than grabbing a gold bar or diamond ring and watching your points rack up. Pitfall II may be less of a technical marvel on the Colecovision but it's still a lot of fun. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Epyx (1983)
Here's a racing game with a cool gimmick - you need to stop every few laps to repair your car and also refuel. Your view is from overhead and slightly behind you car. You never see the horizon, just a winding road with green grass on both sides. The oncoming cars are large and detailed, and bumping into them wears out your tires, as does hitting the walls.
Eventually your tires start to change color, and if you let them turn red, they can bust -- ending your game. That's where the strategy comes in - should you pull into the pitstop now, or can you squeeze in another lap?? The highlight of this game is the remarkable pitstop screen, with four members of the pit crew (two for tires, one fuel, one flag) which you control individually.
It takes practice to get in and out as quickly as possible; it's a nice bit of realism. The game offers a plentiful number of tracks, but since there's no scenery, they all look the same. Pitstop really isn't very hard as long as you keep your wheels in good shape. The longer races (9 laps) can get pretty monotonous. You may also want to try playing this with the Colecovision steering wheel controller. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: semi-pro single
Our high score: 53,000
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
One look at Popeye's crisp, cartoon graphics and you know you're in for some good-time arcade action. This likeable platformer challenges you to collect hearts tossed by Olive Oyl from the top of the screen while avoiding Bluto and other hazards. The graphics are absolutely terrific. The first screen depicts a generic set of platforms, but the level of detail is extraordinary. Olive's name is written in cursive
(no small feat for an old-school game) and there are little touches like textured bricks and a daisy growing next to Popeye's house.
In the second screen Popeye collects musical notes against a building backdrop, and in the third he scuttles around a huge pirate ship. As for the characters, Bluto and Olive are rendered with colorful detail, so it's surprising that Popeye is solid white. The gameplay is more original than you might expect.
Popeye lacks the ability to jump, but this turns out to be a refreshing change. The stages are designed so you can't linger in a particular area - you'll need to use the entire screen. Keep an eye on Bluto because he has the ability to reach up (and down) to grab you from a different platform. A few times he surprised me and literally made me jump in my chair!
When you eat spinach you can turn the tables, but it's annoying how Popeye freezes momentarily, giving Bluto a head start. There are a few minor collision detection issues. For example, why is it so [expletive] hard to hit that punching bag? Popeye's harmonized musical score is superb, and the sound effects are arcade-perfect. Add in three levels of difficulty and you're left with a must-have title for Colecovision fans. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: 32,350
1 or 2 players