Colecovision Reviews U-Z

Up 'N Down
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1984)
Reviewed: 2003/11/21

screenshotIt's a shame that Up 'N Down is so rare, because it's genuinely fun and there's really nothing else like it. Driving a Volkswagen Bug up a vertically-scrolling screen, you must collect a set of flags as quickly as possible -- while avoiding oncoming traffic. The view is from a slight angle, giving the game a pseudo-3D look that was pretty nifty back in 1984.

The diagonal roads are single-lane only, but you can adjust your speed and switch lanes where the roads intersect. When faced with a head-on collision, you can either jump over the oncoming car, or jump on top of it -- smashing it for points. Just be careful not to jump when approaching a turn, or you'll fly off the road and crash.

Complicating matters are inclines which require momentum to climb, and descents which speed you up. Later stages even have bridges that look surprisingly good. Obtaining all the flags isn't difficult because the roads loop, so when you pass a flag you know where to position your car on the next lap. Up 'N Down is a tough game that requires skill. If you can find a copy, it's a nice addition to your collection. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 14840
1 or 2 players 

Venture
Grade: C-
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
Reviewed: 2006/3/19


screenshotI always loved the "pure" brand of adventure this game delivers. Venture's oddly shaped rooms, variety of monsters, and imaginative treasures make it feel like a simplified version of Dungeons and Dragons. Your character is an orange smiley-face equipped with unlimited arrows. Too bad this Colecovision edition is crippled by some of the most horrid controls I've ever encountered in a video game. It's frustratingly difficult to find and maintain the correct angle - especially diagonals.

In addition, whenever you change direction, your character pauses momentarily, making you a sitting duck for swarming monsters. Almost every time I died, it was the result of wrestling with the [expletive] controls (no really - it was!). To illustrate the extent of the problem, I actually had to plug in another controller to make sure the first one wasn't broken! Other than that huge detail, this may be the ultimate Venture game.

The graphics are detailed and sharp, with each room housing its own set of interesting (albeit single-colored) monsters. A few even incorporate moving walls or simple "traps". Unlike other versions, the top of the screen displays the title of each room, such as "Goblin room", "Cyclops room", or "Demon room". One description that definitely belies the graphics is the "Dragon room"; those things look more like yapping winged dogs!

Venture's harmonized musical score is impressive, incorporating a unique theme for each room. I do wish Coleco had included more than twelve rooms over three stages however, because once they start to repeat, the fun factor dips precipitously. Other annoyances include the fact that "hall monsters" can appear practically on top of you after you leave a room. I also don't like how monster corpses (fatal to touch) stick around longer if you shoot them. These are minor quirks, but it's the awkward, hand-cramping controls that really ruin this one. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 70,800
1 or 2 players 

Victory
Grade: C+
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
Reviewed: 2001/11/18

screenshotVictory, a standard space shooter, resembles a slow-paced Defender. It requires the Coleco Roller Controller. Why? Apparently because of the four "action" buttons required to thrust, shoot, shield, and detonate smart bombs. This control scheme actually elevates what would otherwise be a mediocre shooter. Your mission is to prevent aliens from overrunning a planet, and you're aided by a Defender-like scanner.

The graphics are lousy, with aliens which look like simple shapes, and weak explosions that resemble flashing asterisk symbols. The animation is choppy and the collision detection doesn't always work very well. Still, Victory is fun in spite of itself. The shield and smart bomb controls add an extra level of strategy, and you'll also need to keep an eye on your fuel. Using the roller ball to aim your ship takes some getting used to, but it works. Not bad. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 195950
1 or 2 players 

War Games
Grade: A-
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Reviewed: 2000/8/4

screenshotMost movies make for horrible video games (and vice versa) but War Games is an exception. It's actually a fine game that effectively captures the spirit of the film. It's like playing Missile Command on six screens at once - with a time limit! You flip between 6 maps, each displaying a section of the United States. You'll see enemy missiles, planes, and subs approaching, and must direct your forces (missiles, planes, subs, and satellites) to intercept them.

Each type of defense has its own strengths and weaknesses. Missiles are fast, but limited in range. Planes have unlimited range, but move slowly. Satellites are the best all-around defense but are only available intermittently. As enemies begin to strike targets across the U.S., DefCon indicators begin to count down, increasing the tension level. The graphics are sharp and resemble those of the movie. Control is excellent, even with the Roller Controller. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 4
Our high score: 1370000
1 or 2 players 

War Room
Grade: C-
Publisher: Probe 2000 (1983)
Reviewed: 2000/11/12


screenshotGet a load of the manual for this game: "War Room is a simulation of the computerized war game scenarios played out at the highest level of the world superpowers. It is an extremely graphic and realistic representation of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and Russia". Give me a break.

War Room plays a little like War Games. You have to shoot down incoming enemy missiles while balancing resources between cities around the country. The graphics are pretty good, and the huge, scrolling map of the U.S. is especially impressive. Each city provides a resource such as food or raw materials.

You can collect resources from each city via a simple cat-and-mouse game where you control an Uncle Sam character trying to grab icons before the two Russian symbols touch him (reminiscent of the treasure room in Dragon Fire). Problem is, while you're running around like a chicken, missiles are headed for your cities. They're not hard to shoot down but they will overwhelm you. Apparently there's some subtle strategy to this game -- which I haven't figured out yet. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 13020
1 player 

Wing War
Grade: F
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Reviewed: 2003/1/4

screenshotI thought for sure I'd love this game, if only because it was made by Imagic and features flying dragons. But Wing War is just awful despite some very respectable graphics. You control a big white dragon that gathers crystals and battles monsters. Flying between contiguous screens, you can explore underground areas or soar through the clear blue sky.

Fantastic scenery includes volcanoes, beautiful lakes, and floating islands in the sky. By pressing the right button you flap your dragon's wings, giving you the same kind of control as in Joust. Pressing the left button lets you shoot fireballs. A nice variety of enemies include spiders, bat, griffins, demons, and hydras. Unfortunately these creatures are all tiny and single-colored, and most are more annoying than dangerous.

Your main goal is to carry crystals back to your lair, but these are easily jarred loose along the way. Sometimes the crystal falls out of your reach, forcing you to go back and track down a new one. That's the main problem with this game - you spend most of your time flying through the same screens over and over; trying not to touch anything. It's not fun at all - just slow and tedious. Since there's no ultimate goal, the whole game seems pointless. Wing War may be easy on the eyes, but once the novelty of the graphics wears off, there's not much depth. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 3025
1 player 

Zaxxon
Grade: A-
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
Reviewed: 2004/6/12


screenshotIn 1982, Zaxxon took the gaming world by storm. Its isometric viewpoint was revolutionary; compared to the "flat" graphics of other video games of the time. Your spaceship must navigate floating space fortresses fortified with walls, force fields, rockets, cannons, and fuel depots. At first it can be hard to determine the position of your ship, but by using the altitude meter on the left side of the screen (and watching where your shots go) you develop a feel for it.

Coleco was fortunate to get such a visually appealing game for its system; I bet this game single-handedly sold a few hundred thousand Colecovisions. Its graphics are faithful to the arcade, although slightly choppy. In terms of difficulty, Zaxxon is definitely above average. It's tempting to fly low and shoot everything in sight, but this puts you in the range of cannons. You gotta love a game that "dares" you to live dangerously - who can resist?

It should be noted that Zaxxon is one of the earliest games to feature a "boss" at the end of each level. It's a relatively large robot (Zaxxon himself) that appears briefly -- and is easy to defeat. One thing I don't like about this game are the "open space" sections where you have to shoot a series of approaching ships. Without the ground below as a point of reference, it can be awfully frustrating to determine if you're on a collision course with them. Otherwise Zaxxon is pure arcade shooting fun, and there's really never been another game like it. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 22,900
1 or 2 players 


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