system Index C
CGE Adventures
Grade: C-
Publisher: RGR (2013)
Posted: 2013/5/28

screenshotThis wacky homebrew was inspired by a bizarre incident that occurred during the 2010 Classic Gaming Convention in Las Vegas. According to accounts, a thief tried to make off with a spindle containing 100 podcast promo CDs. It turns out the thief was deaf, and this bit of irony was not lost on the designers of this game. CGE Adventures uses the formula of Adventure (Atari, 1980) as you navigate contiguous screens while collecting items and avoiding enemies. Items include a key, VIP pass, hearing aid, NES Zapper, and a bottle of "Studson Musk" cologne.

You play the role of the thief trying to locate the CDs and escape with the stack. You're pursued by a custodian, policeman, podcaster, and muscle-bound chef. The level of detail in these large characters is impressive, but the size of your thief makes it a struggle to navigate the narrow corridors and escape tight scrapes. My friends were confounded by the confusing screen layouts which tend to have a lot of dead-ends. The most detailed area is the casino, but the slot machines look more like rows of houses.

I realize the main character is deaf, but I don't like how the game is played in almost complete silence. The fact that the custodian constantly redistributes the items randomizes things for better or worse. In one game he deposited the stack of CDs right near the exit for me. The colorful intro and animated endings are fun, but the rest of the game feels like an inside joke (which of course it is). You won't see any showgirls, but Elvis does make an appearance, and that has to count for something. CGE Adventure is worth a look, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was designed by a bunch of guys over a few rounds of beer. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Casino Slot Machine (Odyssey 2)
Dark Mage (Atari 2600)
Vegas Stakes (Super Nintendo)
Mega Maze (Philips CD-i)
Castlevania Judgement (Wii)

California Games
Grade: A
Publisher: Epyx (1987)
Posted: 2001/6/16

screenshotFew were paying attention when this late-arriving 2600 title was released in the late 80's, and that's too bad because California Games is impressive. One to eight players can compete in four fun-in-the-sun events, including footbag (hacky sack), half-pipe (skateboarding), BMX racing (biking downhill), and surfing. The cart kicks off with a flashy title screen and a killer rendition of "Louie Louie".

The graphics are some of the best ever for the 2600. Objects and backgrounds are multi-colored, finely detailed, and rendered in high resolution. I was especially impressed by the waves in the surfing event. Each event poses a completely unique challenge, and players choose sponsors to identify their character. California Games is a blast to play. Who would have thought they could have pulled this off on the 2600? © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: Bike
High score: 17450
1 to 8 players 

If you like this game, try: California Games (Lynx)
BMX Airmaster (Atari 2600)
California Games (Genesis)
California Games (Sega Master System)
Winter Games (Atari 2600)

Canyon Bomber
Grade: C+
Publisher: Atari (1978)
Posted: 2023/3/4

sea bomberIt looks simple but there's more to Canyon Bomber than meets the eye. Two random aircraft fly back and forth above a canyon loaded with rows of colored blocks. Using paddle controllers each player releases bombs that slice through layers of igneous rock. Deeper rocks are worth more points.

Your bombs only penetrate several layers so you'll want to target the deep crevasses for maximum score. Depending on the game variation, blocks may remain suspended or collapse to fill the void. In most variations your game ends after six misses, so your timing needs to be impeccable. It's fun when your opponent is out of the game, yet you still have a few chances left to overtake his score.

Some variations offer unlimited bombs, and in those cases you'll want to set the difficulty switches to B. This gives you the ability to "cancel" errant shots, adding a new level of strategy. It's also worth noting that the aircraft randomly change for each bombing run, including planes, bombers, and helicopters. They move at varying speeds, which you need to take into account when calculating trajectory.

Canyon Bomber is a pretty average game but it has an ace up its sleeve. Its bonus "Sea Bomber" variations let you drop bombs into an ocean as ships move across the screen at various depths (it helps to think of them as subs). By moving a dotted horizontal line with your paddle, you set the "depth" where your charge will detonate. When you nail one of those low-lying ships, it's satisfying. Sudz argued that Sea Bomber could have been the headliner of this cartridge. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: 3A
High score: 280
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Marine Wars (Atari 2600)
Sub Scan (Atari 2600)
Piece O' Cake (Atari 2600)
Seawolf (Atari 2600)
Steeplechase (Atari 2600)

Grade: C
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
Posted: 2004/7/7

screenshotI'm sorry to say that this version of Carnival can't hold a candle to the arcade game, which I loved to play at the local bowling alley as a kid. A very unique game, Carnival lets you shoot ducks, owls, and rabbits in what appears to be an old-fashioned shooting gallery. You aim using a pistol on the bottom of the screen, and the targets "clank" nicely when shot. While you only have a fixed number of bullets, periodic bonuses add (or subtract) from your ammunition supply.

Carnival features bright and colorful graphics, but its gameplay is lackluster. For one thing, the targets are huge in comparison to the arcade game. Heck, it's hard not to hit them. The ducks that attempt to swoop down and eat into your bullet supply are easy to pick off. On the other hand, the rotating "pipes" at the top of the screen are frustratingly difficult to hit, and you'll spend an inordinate amount of time try to line up with them.

And what happened to the trademark "carnival" music? The lack of music is bad, but a more unforgivable omission is the absence of the memorable "shoot the bear" bonus stage. That was always my favorite part of the arcade game, and I really wish they had squeezed it in here. Heck, there's even a bear on the cover of the manual for Pete's sake! Carnival for the 2600 is still mildly amusing, but it pales to the real thing. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 34,840
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Carnival (Colecovision)
Carnival (Intellivision)
Shootin' Gallery (Atari 2600)
Wabbit (Atari 2600)
Defender II (NES)

Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1979)
Posted: 2004/7/7

screenshotIt's surprising how much I enjoyed playing Casino, which combines blackjack, stud poker, and a surprisingly addictive poker solitaire game into one handy package. Up to four players can join in on the fun using the paddle controllers. Casino's graphics are simple yet attractive with the cards laid out on a classy striped green "table", although the tiny suits can be hard to decipher.

The paddle controllers let you quickly and easily select your bet amounts and make decisions. It's important to note that these games are not just simplified versions of the actual games. In blackjack, you can split, double-down, and even buy insurance. Poker allows players to leave the game and return later with their previous bank total.

"Poker Solitaire" is another pleasant surprise. In it, you're dealt 25 cards and must arrange them in a five-by-five grid yielding the best poker combinations, and your score is not revealed until the very end. It may seem odd to be playing card games on the television, but it's nice not having to worry about shuffling and counting chips. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Variations: 4
Recommended: 3
High score: 1480
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Las Vegas Poker and Blackjack (Intellivision)
Las Vegas Blackjack (Odyssey 2)
Blackjack (Atari 2600)
Tiger Casino (Tiger
Royal Dealer (Intellivision)

Cat Trax
Grade: B-
Publisher: UA Limited (1983)
Posted: 2003/11/12

screenshotReleased in 2003 along with two other long-lost Atari 2600 titles (Pleiades and Funky Fish), Cat Trax may be the best of the bunch. Sure it's a conventional maze game at heart, but the graphics look sharp and the control is just right. You guide a cat around the screen with three dogs in hot pursuit. To be honest, you're only steering a cat head, and those dogs look more like mice. That's okay - it's fun to pretend.

Anyway, like any reputable maze game, there are tunnels on each side of the maze and bonuses (catnip in this case) that materialize periodically in the center of the screen. Instead of power pills, a green potion randomly appears which can transform you into a dogcatcher truck! While this graphical transformation probably wouldn't technically qualify as morphing, it still looks pretty darned cool.

Cat Trax is challenging thanks to the fairly intelligent dogs that tend to change directions unexpectedly. The upper maze corners are areas where you may easily become trapped, so for the love of God, stay out of there. There's nothing spectacular here, but the game serves its purpose. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 14,780
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Cat Trax (Arcadia 2001)
Funky Fish (Atari 2600)
Funky Fish (Arcadia 2001)
Mouse Trap (Atari 2600)
Go Fish! (Atari 2600)

Cathouse Blues
Grade: F
Publisher: Playaround (1983)
Posted: 2020/7/18

screenshotEver notice how when video games attempt to be "erotic" they come off as just plain creepy? Cathouse Blues begins by displaying a grid of nine red houses. One by one, seven "working girls" appear and enter random houses. I guess the game expects you to memorize which houses are occupied, but it's really hard, especially when you've been drinking. But enough about me.

The idea is to carry money to each of the houses while avoiding the wandering police so you can "score" (now we're talking). On the bottom of the screen is a bank and a jail. You just walk up to the bank to get your money from the "instant teller". I didn't realize they had ATM's back in 1983 but apparently they did! Holding the button allows you to run around but it's best to walk slowly so you don't attract the attention of wandering cops.

This game teaches you to be discrete. Entering a house with a hooker results in the worst sex scene ever. It looks like a girl humping a giant tadpole! You rack up points during these scenes by shaking the joystick vigorously. If you haven't rolled your eyes yet, now might be a good time. The cacophony of obnoxious sounds that come out of this game are really unpleasant. Every now and then a guy wearing a striped suit escapes from the jail and comes after you. Is he supposed to be their pimp?

After consulting the "literature" online I discovered he's a mugger who comes after you if you're holding over $100. You receive $55 for each ATM trip and it costs you $20 to enter a house. Hey, nobody told me I was going to have to do math! I was just looking for a good time! There's a heck of a lot going on in this game, none of which is particularly good. Cathouse Blues was intended to be sordid fun, and at least they got the sordid part right. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 193
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Route 16 (Arcadia 2001)
Rogue Trip (Playstation)
Bachelor Party (Atari 2600)
Bank Heist (Atari 2600)
Video Blackjack (Fairchild Channel F)

Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2023/2/6

box As an owner of a vintage Centipede coin-op I am intimately familiar with this one. This 2600 edition boasts an inviting title screen featuring a colorful centipede gyrating in a field of pink mushrooms above a pulsating Atari logo. It'll have you thinking "Wow, Atari really pulled out all the stops for this one!" Then you press the button to start the game.

The actual game screen looks like a complete joke! Instead of colorful mushrooms you get a screen of scattered red squares. Instead of moving some kind of cannon around the lower part, you're controlling a bigger red square. The centipede sections are actually round - thank God - but they flicker in an unsightly manner. The herky-jerky spider only has four legs, which is problematic for a serious gamer like myself who demands the utmost realism in every single game I play.

Well, as it turns out, graphics aren't everything. Once you start playing you'll find yourself immersed in rapid-fire mayhem, employing the same exact strategies you'd use with the arcade game. The pacing is frantic as a centipede quickly winds its way quickly down the screen, careening off mushrooms and dividing when shot. The spider terrorizes the lower reaches as scorpions scurry above, leaving poisoned mushrooms in their wake.

The sound effects are faithful to the arcade and add to the intensity. And while the graphics can be considered bad - even by Atari 2600 standards - it's nice how point values appear when you nail that bastard spider. There's only one skill level but it's just right and the difficulty ramps quickly. You'll find yourself hitting reset again and again.

You may be wondering if using the Atari 2600 trak-ball controller improves the experience, making the game feel more like the arcade Centipede. The answer to that question is yes, even if it's not as precise as I would prefer. Do I wish Atari had forgone the fancy title screen to make the game look better? Yeah, but in terms of sheer playability there's little room for improvement. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 49,156
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Centipede (Colecovision)
Centipede (Atari 5200)
Millipede (Atari 2600)
Centipede (Tiger
Sneaky Snake (Bally Astrocade)

Grade: D
Publisher: Sears (1977)
Posted: 2017/3/2

screenshotSee review of Surround (Atari, 1977). This is the same game under the Sears label. It's a bad name because there's really no chasing in the game at all! © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
2 players 

If you like this game, try: Punch-Out!! (NES)
Surround (Atari 2600)
Checkmate (Bally Astrocade)
Little Bear (Atari 2600)
Dishaster (Atari 2600)

Chase the Chuckwagon
Grade: D+
Publisher: Spectravision (1983)
Posted: 2000/6/3

screenshotChase the Chuckwagon is one of the most famous games for the system. Available only via an old Purina dog food promotion, this cartridge is extremely rare and highly sought-after by collectors. People who frequent flea markets dream about stumbling upon this game. Chuckwagon is also regarded as being pretty awful, but that's not entirely true.

It may be a derivative maze game, but it does feature multiple mazes, a bonus screen, a dog with a little wagging tail, and a nice-looking chuckwagon at the top of the screen. Not too shabby, although I still haven't figured out why colliding with the dogcatcher causes an explosion sound. Perhaps Spectravision was recycling the sound effects from another one of their games? © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: B
High score: 810
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Food Fight (Atari 7800)
Lock N Chase (Atari 2600)
K.C.'s Krazy Chase (Odyssey 2)
Rescue Bira Bira (Atari 2600)
King of Fighters 99 (CD) (Neo Geo)

Grade: D
Publisher: Activision (1980)
Posted: 2001/10/17

screenshotI don't care for checkers in general, but Activision's brand of checkers is far superior to the Atari version. There are four variations: easy, intermediate, expert, and two-player. Sorry, but I can't imagine pulling this game out with a friend over. The graphics are minimal but still better than those in Atari Checkers. I hate how the screen goes black when the computer is "thinking". Apparently this is done to save processor time. Although you can only move the cursor diagonally, I found the control to be responsive enough. Activision Checkers does the job, but nothing more. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Video Checkers (Atari 2600)
Othello (Atari 2600)
Frogger (Intellivision)
Backgammon (Atari 2600)
Nexar (Atari 2600)

China Syndrome
Grade: F
Publisher: Spectravision (1982)
Posted: 1999/11/20

screenshotChina Syndrome offers a few original concepts, but not enough to compensate for its other flaws. I've never actually seen the movie this game is based on, but it stars Michael Douglas and it has something to do with a nuclear reactor. The object of the game is to keep a reactor under control. The screen is separated into three sections, each with its own set of bouncing atoms.

Your job is to move your crosshairs around and catch the atoms before they multiply out of control. In later levels, obstacles appear around the screen to complicate matters. The difficulty is uneven. so the game tends to be either ridiculously easy or maddeningly difficult. And after 10 levels, China Syndrome comes to an abrupt end with the text "All Clear" -- just when it was getting interesting! © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

Chopper Command
Grade: A
Publisher: Activision (1982)
Posted: 2002/7/14

screenshotThe first time I set eyes on this game was at my friend Bill's house way back in 1982. My friend Andy and I headed over there one morning because Bill had recently acquired both Chopper Command and Defender (quite a coup back then!). At the time I was personally caught up in Defender-mania, so I wasn't particularly interested in this lame knock-off I had never even heard of. But my attitude changed as we compared the two games.

Sure, Defender had deeper gameplay, but those flickering, choppy graphics were borderline offensive. Chopper Command on the other hand was so easy on the eyes, with its solid, well-defined objects and smooth animation. And that tan desert background under the bright blue sky had to be the most gorgeous sight we'd ever seen on the 2600. Best of all, you could hold down the fire button for some serious rapid-fire action.

Taking out those darting planes and helicopters didn't require much strategy but it was great fun. Although your mission is to protect the caravans of trucks on the ground below, you have little control over their safety. Chopper Command has stood the test of time. Only recently did I come to realize just how challenging this game is. Even on the normal skill level it's difficult to last very long. Every 2600 fan should have a copy of Chopper Command in their library. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: 1B
High score: SDZ 39,900
1 or 2 players 

Chuck Norris Superkicks
Grade: C+
Publisher: Xonox (1983)
Posted: 2018/3/9

screenshotIt's impossible to attain a higher level of bad-assity than Chuck Norris. Celebrated movie star, martial arts champion, and part time Texas Ranger, Chuck actually fought Bruce Lee! Not many people can put that on their resume. I was somewhat dismissive of Chuck Norris Superkicks the first time around, and it's understandable. As you walk up a branching path with nice garden scenery you get penalized for walking on the grass! Head up the wrong path and a branch appears, requiring you to backtrack. That's bogus because everybody knows Chuck would karate-chop that thing in half before you could blink your eye.

There are seven battle stages but they all look like a green field with a little bit of scenery along the top. Little details mean a lot, and I like how your belt changes color as you progress. Your attacks vary depending on the stage. In stage one Chuck can block throwing stars with his arms (badass!) and defeat enemies with his thrust kick. Your punches and kicks only have a range of two or three pixels, so good timing is critical.

The game gains traction in stage four where you unleash your devastating Somersault Superkick (TM). This effectively lets you perform a gratuitous flip before kicking an enemy clean off the screen. My proudest moment came when I flipped over an oncoming star and kicked the guy who threw it square in the sternum. The fighters are small but easy to discern. It's safe to assume they are all communist, but why are they black? Sometimes it looks like Chuck is fighting Fat Albert.

One unique aspect of the game is that it's timed. When you take a hit, it runs off some time, and when the clock reaches zero it's game over. The final stage takes place in a dark candle-lit monastery against ninja assassins, and it had my heart racing so fast I thought I was going to break my joystick in half! Little did I know this game has no ending! Chuck Norris Superkicks is exciting if you know what you're doing, but otherwise it can be confusing as all hell. Note: This was later re-released as Kung Fu Superkicks after the Chuck Norris license expired. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 176,700
1 player 

Circus Atari
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (1978)
Posted: 2011/4/21

screenshotSo many classic systems feature a game with clowns bouncing on a teeter-totter, and scientists have never been able to determine why. Circus Atari brings back a lot of old memories. I recall talking my mom into driving me to the local discount store so I could buy this for $22, mainly because I wanted a game to play with my paddle controllers. The idea is to vault two clowns high enough to pop three rows of balloons moving quickly across the top of the screen.

The paddles provide precision control, and the fire button can be used to flip the teeter-totter at any time. The higher balloons are worth more points, and clearing the top row will earn you an extra life. Those square balloons look pretty awful, by the way. Of the eight variations, several incorporate moving barriers. While these barriers often deflect your clown directly back, they also tend to keep him bouncing around up top longer, so I guess it's a wash.

You have to feel a little sorry for the clowns in this game. Clearly they had no idea what they had signed up for. I'm sure they were happy just to get a job, but they failed to inquire about the very real possibility of death-by-concrete. I notice the clowns get a little nervous when they see me drinking a few beers and my response times are a little off.

It's a hard-knock life, but people find it hilarious when a clown splatters on the ground, legs still kicking. It's like a low-definition fatality! I enjoy the frantic nature of the game, but have you noticed how the action always tends to gravitate towards the right side of the screen? I don't like that. Few would consider Circus Atari a great game, but its fast action puts your reflexes to the test. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Variations: 8
Recommended: 1A
High score: MKG 3597
1 or 2 players 

Circus Convoy
Grade: A-
Publisher: Audacity Games (2020)
Posted: 2021/7/16

super action controllers boxCircus Convoy is a brand new Atari 2600 game by legendary programmers David Crane and Gary Kitchen who brought us timeless classics like Pitfall (Activision, 1982) and Keystone Kapers (Activision, 1982). Inventive and fun, Circus Convoy will thrill old-school gamers with the familiar sights of chomping crocodiles, toy airplanes, hissing cobras, and bombs with flickering fuses.

Remember the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where young Indy was running along those circus box cars? Circus Convoy is a lot like that. It's a platformer with a strong item manipulation element calling to mind Raiders of the Lost Ark (Atari 2600, 1982). The graphics are extremely colorful and sharp - a look that once defined Activision titles. The main character moves with fluid grace and I love the way his Rambo-style headband flaps in the wind. He even has a slide move like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

The action can be harrowing at times but the controls are right on point as you leap between trucks and slide under electric bars. Holding the button and pushing down brings up your inventory including items like bricks, bombs, fuel, and parachutes. A text description along the top of the screen offers helpful hints, but trial and error is the order of the day. It's kind of frustrating when the game won't let you use an item, but Circus Convoy is all about the thrill of discovery.

Your score is reflected by the number of stars you collect, and with each play you'll find yourself advancing a bit further. Navigation gets confusing once portals begin to appear, but you're always stumbling upon something new. Mini-games add variety and challenge your reflexes. There's even an innovative system to upload your high scores to the Audacity Games website. The game is tough to finish but even if you do you'll find it to be prime speed-run material. Circus Convoy is more than just a treasure hunt. Circus Convoy is a treasure in of itself! © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: D+
Publisher: Telesys (1982)
Posted: 2014/6/21

screenshotShallow but fun, Coconuts is one of those simple pleasures of the Atari 2600 not unlike Kaboom! (Activision, 1981). You simply move left and right while avoiding a monkey dropping brown objects from the trees above. Are we really supposed to believe those are coconuts? Digested coconuts maybe! Between rounds the monkey appears to be vigorously rubbing something in the leaves of the palm trees. An incontinent monkey is one thing, but incontinent and horny?

You control a dorky guy who is one of the larger characters I've seen in an Atari 2600 game. He's not the most masculine dude prancing around in his yellow hat, blue shorts, brown shoes, and umbrella. The first sustained hit removes his umbrella, followed by his hat, and then his pants. Just kidding - the game ends on the third hit. His movements are choppy and that flashing "leg" is hardly a convincing "walking" animation. The monkey is meticulously rendered with a smiling face, moving tail, and even a belly button. Heck, you can even see the whites of his eyes! I'm pretty sure this monkey is demonic, and frankly, I'm getting a little tired of taking his crap!

You'll sleepwalk through the first few waves, but once things pick up steam the action gets frantic. The monkey's timing is erratic and objects don't always fall directly from above. During later rounds I'm convinced luck plays more of a role than skill. Considering this is basically Kaboom in reverse, I'm surprised the game doesn't support paddle controllers. Coconuts may be the simplest game I've ever played (including Pong), but its manual is still better than Call of Duty Ghosts, Assassin's Creed 4, or any other modern game I've played as of late! © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: B
High score: 1670
1 player 

Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1979)
Posted: 2000/9/4

screenshotOf all the keypad-controlled Atari cartridges, this is probably the most entertaining, but that's not saying much. If you've ever played the board game Mastermind, you know the basic strategy behind Codebreaker. You need to solve simple code combinations using logical deduction (and guessing). Pretty lame, but at least the two-player game is playable. The last few variations offer a simple puzzle called NIM. Codebreaker is no prize, but I've seen much worse. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Variations: 20
1 or 2 player 

Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1977)
Posted: 2002/2/26

screenshotThis game is an enigma. In the 80's, all of my friends detested Combat, often poking fun at its plain graphics and simplistic gameplay. But now, twenty years later, everybody I know swears up and down that it's one of the greatest games ever made. To be honest, I was never a huge fan, but I can't deny its competitive one-on-one action. Each of the game's 27 variations challenges you to outshoot your opponent over a 2 minute, 16 second time period (nice round number huh?).

The tank variations have loads of options including different maze layouts, guided missiles, bouncing missiles, and even invisible tanks. The fact that a tank is relocated after taking a hit reduces the opportunity for "piling on" additional cheap shots. Most people agree that the "tank pong" variations are the best of the bunch, often resulting in wild and unpredictable matches.

The biplane and jet variations are less exciting, but still deserve a look. When you fly your plane off one side of the screen you appear on the other side, and clouds are also an option. The three planes vs. one bomber variation isn't fair though - that big ol' bomber has no chance! Combat is an archaic, simplistic game, but after all these years it's finally getting some respect. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Variations: 27
2 player 

Combat 2
Grade: NA
Publisher: Atari (1982)
Posted: 2002/7/14

screenshotThis long lost prototype was recently released at a classic gaming convention, but to be honest, there's not much of a game here. Yes, Combat 2 is playable, but it pales in comparison to the original. The game introduces a few interesting concepts, but definitely feels unfinished. It resembles M-Network's Armor Ambush, except there's only one tank per side instead of two.

A blue river with two bridges divides the screen in half, and the rest of the screen is scattered with green blocks. Depending on the play mode, you can either pass under the blocks (tree mode) or be forced to go around them (wall mode). Either way, you can shoot them to clear them out. Some variations let you lay out the blocks before the game, but this time-consuming task isn't worth the effort.

The controls differ from the original Combat in that your tank moves forward on its own, and you adjust its speed. It's not very effective since you can't go far without running into something. Tanks can sustain multiple hits before blowing up in a small mushroom cloud, and the game ends when a player depletes his tank supply. If you're looking for fun, look elsewhere. Combat 2 is awkward and shallow, and it's easy to see why this project was shelved. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

2 players 

Grade: D+
Publisher: Activision (1988)
Posted: 2006/1/27

screenshotWith its sloppy animation, minimal variations, and Xerox-quality instruction manual, you can tell Activision was just going through the motions with this one. Commando is a one-man-army game in the same vein as Ikari Warriors (NES, 1986) and Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (Sega Master System, 1986). This game is playable but far less thrilling than the aforementioned titles. As your commando forges up a vertically-scrolling screen, he engages enemies while advancing on a fortress.

Commando's graphics aren't bad, with well-defined soldiers and scattered palm trees. Your character is easy enough to control, and besides normal shots you can hold down the fire button to lob grenades. While detonated grenades make an audible "boom", the lack of a visual explosion is disappointing. The shoot-outs are mediocre as well, often playing out like mini games of cat and mouse. Bullets only travel a fixed distance (about half the screen) and you can actually outrun them! Please don't try this at home!

Enemy bullets also have the strange characteristic of not being able to travel in a straight line! The collision detection is suspect as well. I can only assume that the shot that passed through my head missed all vital organs. I hate the way enemy soldiers materialize out of nowhere, often right next to you!

In advanced stages you must avoid trucks that cross the screen, but the execution is so sloppy that it looks like an afterthought. Once you finally infiltrate the fortress at the end of each stage, it appears to explode just as you enter, and it's unintentionally hilarious! Commando's audio features a little marching ditty that repeats over and over. I usually like this style of game, but Commando feels like a half-hearted effort. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 18,500
1 player 

Commando Raid
Grade: B-
Publisher: US Games (1982)
Posted: 2006/1/27

screenshotFor a virtually unknown game, this shooter is surprisingly enjoyable. Commando Raid's screen is beautiful, featuring a picturesque sunset behind the silhouettes of four desolate buildings on a hill. During each wave, a pair of green helicopters fly across the screen, releasing paratroopers. Aiming a cannon situated in the center of the screen, you fire high-speed guided missiles at the helicopters and parachutes.

Paratroopers that reach the ground destroy your buildings and eventually begin tunneling underneath. Their goal is to burrow under your cannon, where they can detonate a bomb and end your game. It's a cool concept, and I like how you can see the tunnels forming under the ground. This also adds some subtle strategy since you'll want to pay more attention to protecting buildings with tunnels closest to completion.

Periodically a black bomber will fly across, dropping a large bomb. When you see this bomb, be sure to make it your top priority, because once it reaches the ground, it's game over. Better yet, try to nail that bomber before it can release its payload. Commando Raid's collision detection is questionable at times, but that inadvertently makes the game more challenging (and realistic?). I like this game. It's a good-looking shooter that mixes rapid-fire shooting with a touch of strategy. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: BB
High score: 35,510
1 player 

Communist Mutants From Space
Grade: A-
Publisher: Starpath/Arcadia (1982)
Posted: 2006/4/22

screenshotDespite the campy title, Communist Mutants From Space is a first-rate shooter. It was originally one of several cassette-based titles designed to be loaded via the "Supercharger" device. Fortunately, you can now conveniently find them all on the "Stella Gets A New Brain CD" (highly recommended). Communist Mutant's graphics are exceptional, with animated aliens that assume a variety of shapes, and a large, hideous mother alien.

The game resembles Galaxian, with its formation of alien "eggs" lined across the top of the screen, and a mother (who resembles a centipede) constantly replenishing them. As you might guess, it's a good idea to destroy her as soon as possible. Although the eggs look like simple squares, they transform into full-grown aliens that swoop down and drop bombs. The onslaught can become fairly intense, but you have two defense mechanisms at your disposal.

Pushing forward on the joystick activates the innovative "time warp", which slows the alien assault to a crawl without affecting your movements. Pulling back on the joystick activates a temporary shield, making you temporarily invincible. These are recharged each wave, and you can even use them in conjunction, so apply them liberally.

But the most impressive feature of Communist Mutants is its rich options menu - very unusual for a 2600 game! Here you can select the number of players (1-4 alternating) and difficulty level (1-9), as well as toggling the shields, time warp, guided missiles, and penetrating fire options. Space Invader's and its 112 game variations have nothing on Communist Mutants From Space! The game even displays the high scores! Mutant's single blemish is the excessive number of lives you're allotted. You begin with five, and then receive an extra life after each wave. Why didn't they make that adjustable? This proliferation of lives waters down the challenge, but overall this game is no joke. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: 4 (shields, warp, guide off, penetrate off)
High score: 11,030
1 to 4 players 

Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1978)
Posted: 2018/11/24

screenshotMy sister had the game of Memory when we were kids, consisting of a bunch of cards you place face-down on the floor. You try to match two cards per turn, learning their locations as you go. Concentration is an electronic version of the game, but is it really any better? You begin with a 16 or 30-square grid, depending on the variation.

What are those numbers flashing along the edge? Well the game is played with keypad controllers, so you need to enter a number to make your choice, despite the fact a joystick would have been far more intuitive. After painstakingly entering the digits via those super-tight little buttons, the squares you selected display an image.

The graphic detail is better than I expected, offering colorful renditions of televisions, automobiles, ladybugs, deer, and castles. There's a "ranger" that looks more like a skull wearing a hat. If no successful match you're subjected to an irritating, prolonged buzzing noise. A correct match triggers an obnoxious siren. Your ears just can't win.

Two players take turns, or you can take on the CPU. The CPU doesn't actually play but "scores" whenever you guess wrong. There's not really much concentration required to play this, but the name "Memory" was already taken. As with many of Atari's earliest titles, Concentration is best described as "unnecessary". NOTE: This was also sold under the name "A Game of Concentration". © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Condor Attack
Grade: F
Publisher: Ultravision (1983)
Posted: 2003/1/11

screenshotCondor Attack is an obvious rip-off of Demon Attack (Imagic), which was a blatant rip-off of Phoenix (Atari). But while Demon Attack and Phoenix have a lot to offer, Condor Attack is a piece of crap no matter how you look at it. The gameplay involves shooting at pairs of large, bombing birds. You'll also see a line of small birds across the top of the screen, but although they appear to be well in range, you can't shoot them!

Condor Attack is as poorly programmed as it is designed. The birds are dull and blocky, and always look the same. The animation is terribly choppy and the game runs at inconsistent speeds - not a pretty sight. Sometimes you'll shoot one bird and another will inexplicably explode!

The erratic graphics are accompanied by some truly obnoxious sound effects. Condor Attack is only challenging with both difficulty switches set to A, which makes your cannon HUGE. Despite its general worthlessness however, Condor's rareness makes it valuable to collectors. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: AA
High score: 1963
1 player 

Congo Bongo
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (1983)
Posted: 2001/6/16

screenshotLet's face it - the Atari 2600 was not designed to handle 3D graphics, and this game is barely recognizable as Congo Bongo. Surprisingly, it still gets by. The gameplay is faithful to the original, even if only two of the three screens are included. The first resembles a 3D Donkey Kong with its tiered mountain design. It's not pretty, but it does play quite well.

Your tiny explorer must scale the mountain while avoiding falling coconuts and affectionate monkeys. It's awfully tough to judge where those 2D coconuts are going to land. The second stage plays like Frogger and features nifty water effects and rainbow-colored hippos. The jumping controls are unforgiving, but the worst aspect of the game is Congo the ape himself. He bears a striking resemblance to Curious George - not very intimidating.

After you conquer both screens, your man walks over and lights poor Congo on FIRE! I could barely watch as that poor monkey writhed in agony! This game is sick! Oh - what a minute - the manual says it's only "play fire", so I guess that's okay. Despite that disturbing scene, Congo Bongo provides a worthy challenge. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: BB
High score: 23,680
1 or 2 players 

Conquest of Mars
Grade: B-
Publisher: Champ Games (2006)
Posted: 2014/6/21

screenshotThe original version of Conquest of Mars was a slick homebrew with an Achilles heel. Specifically its "laser gates" stage was practically insurmountable, ruining an otherwise impressive effort. The author advised me that the issue was quickly rectified in this "version 2". Atari veterans will recognize Conquest as a remake of Caverns of Mars (Atari XE, 1981), and they would be right.

In the first stage you blast fuel tanks and rockets while descending through craggy red passages. I find it interesting how video games let you gain fuel by blowing up fuel depots. Since when did this make any sense? I certainly wouldn't blow up the local Shell station when I need a tank of gas, and I'm not going to torch a nearby 7-11 when I want a Big Bite hot dog.

The second stage puts you on the defensive as you dodge a barrage of rockets flying up the screen. This stage is hard as balls, but if you keep shooting you'll have a chance. In the third stage you need to dodge laser gates which turn on in timed intervals. Unlike the original version I reviewed, the gate locations are marked by rock indentations, which makes all the difference. The stage is still tough but hardly impossible. In the next stage you plant a bomb and thrust up the caverns to escape as time counts down.

The graphics are blocky but well-defined and smoothly animated. The collision detection and controls are dead on. You fire parallel shots and can effectively strafe the ledges. Your ship's speed is determined by how close it is to the top or bottom of the screen. Conquest of Mars contains a lot of extra features lacking in Caverns of Mars, including different cave layouts, additional sounds, bonuses, continues, and an ending. I was never a big fan of Caverns, but this remake has a lot going for it. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: Pilot
High score: 27,770
1 or 2 players 

Cosmic Ark
Grade: C-
Publisher: Imagic (1982)
Posted: 2004/5/5

screenshotSome claim that Cosmic Ark was the first console video game sequel. If you've ever played Imagic's Atlantis, you'll recall how a flying saucer escapes the doomed city at the end of each game. Well, Cosmic Ark picks up where that game left off, chronicling the subsequent space adventures of those Atlantis survivors.

The game alternates between two screens. In the first, your mothership is situated in the center, and you shoot meteors approaching from all sides by moving the joystick up, down, left, or right. As a kid, I remember thinking this screen looked so lame. Not only do the meteors always approach from perfect 90 degree angles, but they slow down just before hitting your ship (to make the game easier no doubt).

After shooting about a dozen meteors, your ship descends on an alien planet with two small "beasties" scurrying along the surface. There are different sets of creatures on each planet, and despite their tiny size, they are exceptionally well-animated and imaginative in design. Your mother ship on the upper part of the screen deploys a small saucer (yep - the one from Atlantis) to pick up these strange creatures.

To perform the abduction, you hover over each one and hold down the fire button to engage your "tractor beam". It looks cool as they're lifted from the surface, but keep an eye out for lasers that shoot horizontally across the screen. You have a fixed amount of time to perform your mission before returning to the mothership.

Cosmic Ark suffers from uneven difficulty. In the standard mode, it's far too easy and you can play almost indefinitely. On the other hand, the "advanced" mode is nearly impossible. You'll need the reflexes of a cat to fend off the incoming meteors, and the laser beams on the planet surface require pure luck to avoid. I do find it amusing how when the game ends, the flying saucer once again manages to escape, just in case a third game was necessary (it wasn't). © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: 4B
High score: SDZ 1,860
1 or 2 players 

Cosmic Commuter
Grade: D
Publisher: Activision (1985)
Posted: 2015/4/1

screenshotCosmic Commuter borrows ideas from more classic games than you can shake a joystick at, so why are we not having fun? At first the game comes off as a Lunar Lander clone where you accelerate against gravity to set a spacecraft down softly on a planet surface. Then it turns into a side-scrolling shooter along the lines of Chopper Command (Activision, 1982).

The idea is to blast obstacles while picking up humans on the surface, not unlike Choplifter (Atari 5200, 1984). You end up shooting all sorts of nondescript objects while maintaining your fuel supply, calling to mind Megamania (Activision, 1982). After gathering up the commuters you return to your lander and take off to the next stage. Cosmic Commuter sounds like it has a lot going on, but the action is so bland my friend Chris unenthusiastically refers to it as "Space Bus."

What's particularly unsatisfying is how you earn one measly point for each object you shoot. What is the point? When a human is in the vicinity you need to pick him up right away or he'll simply disappear. Who thought this was a good idea? Though competently programmed Cosmic Commuter never gives you anything to get excited about. Like a typical morning commute, you feel like you're just going through the motions. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: 2
High score: 12,029
1 player 

Cosmic Creeps
Grade: D+
Publisher: Telesys (1982)
Posted: 2004/10/29

screenshotCosmic Creeps is a great-looking game, but holy cow, its gameplay is too freakin' confusing for its own good. In the first of two stages, you guide an astronaut from the bottom of an asteroid filled screen to the spaceship at the top. That's the easy part. The second, poorly-designed stage is where you'll spend all of your time.

It begins with a child running across the bottom of the screen with two aliens hot on his tail. As the kid works his way up the screen, you can fire missiles at the pursuing aliens from your ship above. Your missiles are so slow that you'll need to "lead" your shots. If the kid arrives safely (or gets caught), you trigger the next kid by pushing the joystick up. Your goal is to score 5000 points in this stage, but this isn't readily apparent unless you've read the manual.

The scoring system is equally confusing since the number on the screen only reflects points scored in the current stage. Your cumulative score isn't flashed until after the stage. Cosmic Creeps does feature some impressive high-resolution graphics, with sharp, multi-colored characters. The sound effects aren't bad either. Unfortunately, by the time you figure out what's going on, you've discovered Cosmic Creeps just isn't very fun in general. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 27,900
1 player 

Cosmic Swarm
Grade: D-
Publisher: Commavid (1982)
Posted: 2006/5/27

screenshotIn a misguided attempt at originality, Cosmic Swarm is a patchwork of elements taken from "good" games like Centipede and Asteroids. The result is a convoluted mess. Using the joystick you move a triangular ship freely around the screen. Large bugs crawl down from the top, depositing green boxes in random places before making a beeline for your ship.

The confusing control scheme uses the fire button to both shoot and rotate your ship. It's awkward, imprecise, and completely counter-intuitive. The boxes are deadly to the touch, so the game becomes progressively tougher as the screen becomes more crowded. To clear the boxes out, you must shoot one in transit directly from the bottom at a 90 degree angle. Got that? I didn't think so.

If you can execute that idiotic move, the boxes temporarily turn red, making them vulnerable to your shots. But wait - there's more. Every so often a "refueling ship" moves down the side of the screen, and unless you touch it, your game will abruptly end. The pieces don't come together very well in this game. Even when you figure out how to play, Cosmic Swarm is never particularly fun or exciting. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: AA
High score: 134
1 player 

Grade: C
Publisher: Activision (1983)
Posted: 2004/9/22

screenshotI must admit that I was far too harsh in my initial assessment of Crackpots. This simple game involves pushing flower pots off the top of a wall down onto approaching spiders attempting to crawl into windows below. It's a little slow for my taste, but Crackpots does have a few things going for it.

For one thing, the graphics are sharp. The spiders creep menacingly, and the colorful sunset in the background is pure Activision all the way. The best aspect of the game is the color-coded spiders, each of which climbs in its own distinct manner. Some climb straight, others climb sideways, and some zigzag. It's crucial to recognize these patterns early to avoid being overwhelmed.

Your character moves side-to-side rather slowly, making positioning important. It can be really satisfying to crush multiple spiders with one pot. It's a shame Crackpots only has one skill level because once you get the hang of it, the game tends to run long. Still, sharp graphics and thoughtful gameplay make this one worth a look. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 17,940
1 or 2 players 

Crash Dive
Grade: C
Publisher: Fox (1983)
Posted: 2004/2/9

screenshotCrash Dive is a pretty generic side-scrolling shooter for the most part, but it does contain a few nifty elements. First, your plane can fly above or under the water, and a neat splash occurs when you move between the two (although it's easy to mistake this for an explosion). Like Chopper Command you approach groups of enemies at a time. Adversaries include planes and helicopters patrolling the air, boats on the water surface, and a host of undersea creatures including squid, lobsters, stingrays, and sharks.

Only the aircraft and boats fire at you, so you'll want to eliminate those first. The birds are worth zero points, so don't even bother with them. Every few waves a treasure appears on the ocean floor, and this is where the real points are scored. Crash Dive's gameplay is not too exciting as you methodically destroy each wave and periodically touch your "friendly" refueling ship. Note that you can blow up this ship after you're through with it (a la River Raid).

The background features a bright blue sky and a colorful sunset. The "prize indicator" on the bottom of the screen is confusing since it also shows prizes you haven't picked up yet (?). It's not a stand-out title, but Crash Dive serves its purpose, although I haven't quite figured out what that is yet. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: AA
High score: 10,950
1 player 

Crazy Climber
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Posted: 2004/10/29

screenshotI first heard about this hard-to-find game through a magazine called AtariAge in the early 80's. Crazy Climber was an "exclusive" title available to AtariAge members only, although you still had to shell out 30 bucks for the friggin' thing! Allegedly based on a "hit" arcade game I had never heard of, the magazine gave it a glowing review (no surprise there). Crazy Climber involves methodically scaling a series of buildings while avoiding various hazards.

The game's control scheme is quite innovative, as you push up on the joystick to reach for the next ledge, and then pull back to pull yourself up. You'll want to use a nice arcade-style joystick since the constant rocking motion can tire your arm. The buildings have rows of windows that open and close randomly. If they shut on your fingers you'll fall, but you won't actually lose any progress.

Besides the windows, you'll need to keep an eye out for falling flower pots, girders, egg-dropping condors, and neon lights with electrical shorts. Reach the top of the building and you're picked up by a helicopter and awarded bonus points. Crazy Climber sounds better than it plays. To avoid costly mistakes you need to be patient and proceed slowly and cautiously.

Four buildings are included, but except for the colors they all look pretty much alike. Your climber is large and nicely animated so you can always see where his hands are, but that green and pink outfit has got to go. It never lived up to the hype, but Crazy Climber is still a solid, well-programmed game. It was never widely distributed, and as a result it's now very rare and highly sought after by collectors. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Variations: 10
Recommended: 2
High score: 103,600
1 player 

Crazy Valet
Grade: D+
Publisher: Brian Prescott (2000)
Posted: 2001/9/23

screenshotRemember those little plastic puzzles where you slid around the squares to assemble a picture? Well Crazy Valet is very similar. It's played with a bunch of white rectangles in a big box. Your goal is to move the single-colored square to the exit. I know this is only a puzzle game, but boy, these graphics are pretty bad. Are those really supposed to be cars? The rules are simple - vertical rectangles only move up and down, and horizontal ones only move side to side. There are 60 unique puzzles, and while the first few are easy, later levels require a lot of complicated manipulation. Your final score is the number of moves you make, so the lower the better. Crazy Valet is amusing in a Rubik's Cube kind of way - interesting at first, but soon begins to wear thin. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

Cross Force
Grade: B-
Publisher: Spectravision (1982)
Posted: 2004/9/22

screenshotSpectravision games aren't usually any good, but Cross Force is an exception. It's a wildly unconventional shooter where you move two "Spectrons" across the top and bottom of the screen. Pressing the fire button causes them to both shoot simultaneously, obliterating anything between them (hence the name I suppose). An indestructible "transport ship" regularly drops aliens into the center of the screen, and these tend to split in two when shot. The aliens take aim at both of your Spectron cursors, so you'll need to stay alert. In advanced waves the screen can become rather crowded, and it's satisfying to eliminate two or three aliens with one shot. The graphics are a little sloppy but they do the job. Cross Force is a surprisingly fresh shooter that will probably have you pressing the reset switch several times before it's over. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended: 2B
High score: 3580
1 or 2 players 

Grade: C
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 2006/3/29

screenshotAs one of the last few Atari games released for the 2600, Crossbow is basically a light gun shooter without any light gun support. While not exceptional in terms of gameplay, it does feature some very attractive stages. Played from a first-person point of view, you watch your "friends" individually trek across landscapes strewn with perilous hazards. Using a square crosshair, you shoot and neutralize obstacles and impending dangers.

The colorful stages include a desert crawling with scorpions, an ice cave with falling stalactites, a jungle infested with coconut-tossing monkeys, a volcanic area with falling cinders, and a drawbridge protected by an archer. Despite repeated attempts, I never achieved my ultimate goal of reaching the "main hall". According to the instructions, there's a fire-breathing dragon in there!

The problem with Crossbow is that each stage falls into its own predictable pattern. In the volcano and ice cave stages, you simply keep the cursor positioned over the person's head to protect him from the barrage of falling objects. On the desert screen, you just clear out scorpions that emerge from the left and right.

There are plenty of extraneous targets you could aim for, but little incentive to stray from the immediate area around the person. Still, Crossbow is challenging enough, and I like how you can change the order of the stages. It won't set the world on fire, but Crossbow is definitely respectable and a unique entry in the 2600 library. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: 1B
High score: 23,600
1 player 

Cruise Missile
Grade: F
Publisher: Froggo (1987)
Posted: 2001/5/15

screenshotAs one of the most despised Atari 2600 game manufacturers, Froggo was known to release just about anything to make a buck. In this infamously bad shooter, you guide a UFO over a planet while firing at various surface and underground structures. Your UFO bears a striking resemblance to the one in Laser Blast.

What exactly makes Cruise Missile so bad? Perhaps it's the poor control, which forces you to push the joystick in the direction you want to shoot. Perhaps it's the repetitive, uninspired gameplay. Or maybe it's the stomach-turning graphics and lousy sound effects. It's probably a combination of all of the above, but any way you slice it, Cruise Missile is one sorry game. Moreover, nowhere in the instructions is it ever explained why they named this thing "Cruise Missile" in the first place. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 3500
1 player 

Crypts of Chaos
Grade: F
Publisher: 20th Century Fox (1982)
Posted: 2005/1/8

screenshotI used to believe that even a primitive first-person dungeon crawler could still be enjoyable if you had enough patience and tolerance for "abstract" (read: bad) graphics. But Crypts of Chaos has disproven my theory. I tried to give it a fair chance, but I just couldn't get into this. Back in the early 80's, being able to freely explore 3D dungeons while fighting monsters and plundering treasure was a gamer's dream. Fox probably did the best it could with the technology available, but that doesn't make Crypts of Chaos any less painful to play.

As you slowly crawl down blocky hallways, the intersections, dead-ends, and stairs are represented by unintuitive colors and confusing screen designs. According to the instructions, there are 16 floors and four different maze configurations, but I never really had any idea where I was. The manual recommends "mapping" as you go along, which in of itself practically justifies a failing grade!

Periodically a tiny monster emerges as a pixel in the distance - even when you're facing at a dead end, oddly enough. The creature eventually materializes into a small, blocky creature that doesn't appear to be more than a foot in height. How small does a dragon have to be before it's just considered a lizard?

Then there's the awkward user interface that uses the same joystick to move AND select icons. For weapons, you can arm your sword (short line), wand (long line), or ring (smart bomb). Three other icons let you choose between grabbing treasure, turning away a monster, and making a U-turn. There was a time when I might have given Crypts of Chaos the benefit of the doubt, but those days have passed. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: B
High score: 1274
1 player 

Crystal Castles
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1984)
Posted: 2004/4/9

screenshotCrystal Castles for the 2600 is a respectable translation, but its gameplay feels sluggish compared to the quick, crisp arcade version. The game features a series of 3D castle mazes strewn with blue gems. You control Bentley, a gay bear (he wore red boots and a red sash in the arcade - c'mon now!). His job is to gather all the gems while avoiding walking trees, skeletons, ghosts, crystal balls, a swarm of bees, and gem-eaters resembling upright centipedes. Pots of honey provide bonus points, and a magic hat makes Bentley invincible for a few seconds.

It's a tall order for the 2600, but Atari managed to retain all the elements of the arcade. Naturally these castle designs are modest compared to the arcade, but at least they come in a nice variety. The characters are well animated and the flicker isn't too bad either. Is it my imagination, or does Bentley say a bad word when hit?

My main issue has to do with the control. The arcade game uses a trak-ball to whiz that bear all over the place, but the Atari 2600 trak-ball control is terribly slow, no matter how fast you spin it (the Wico trak-ball isn't any better). Making matters worse are the flat "gems" that are awfully hard to pick up. I had to settle for using a joystick, and that's a shame. On the bright side, the sound effects are faithful to the arcade, and there are eight difficulty levels. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: 1B
High score: 21,566
1 player 

Custer's Revenge
Grade: F
Publisher: Mystique (1982)
Posted: 2004/9/2
Rating: Adults Only

screenshotCuster's Revenge is easily the most politically incorrect video game I've ever seen. The game stars the legendary Civil War general whose "last stand" occurred at the Battle of Little Big Horn against the Sioux Indians. This adult video game allows Custer to exact his revenge by getting "busy" with an Indian girl tied to a post.

Decked out in only a holster and boots, Custer must cross the screen as arrows rain from above and cactus sprout from below (ouch!). If the general reaches the girl, you can pound the fire button to have him "score" in more ways than one. Custer's Revenge caused a great deal of controversy in 1982, but in truth, its blocky graphics are more hilarious than offensive.

The exaggerated body parts are comical and getting struck by an arrow causes Custer to literally jump out of his boots. Despite its titillating premise, the game itself isn't all that fun. The arrows and cactus appear at random, so there's little skill or strategy involved. A novelty item at best, Custer's Revenge is so outrageous you have to laugh. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: 3A
High score: 131
1 or 2 players 

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