Certain obstacles like bacteria "break down" when shot, requiring several shots to eliminate them. Fantastic Voyage seems impossible to play until you realize that you're not supposed to shoot the blood cells, which resemble asteroids shaped like the number eight. If you weave around them instead, the game suddenly becomes a lot easier. Sadly, the instructions are not only hard to come by, but they are incorrect as well!
The manual mistakenly identifies the blood cells as clotlets, adding to the confusion. The graphics are well defined but kind of drab. An ever-present heart monitor adds drama, but why does it quicken as the patient nears death? I'm no doctor, but shouldn't it slow down? Fantastic Voyage is less than fantastic, but it is a playable shooter if you know what you're doing. Unfortunately, figuring out how to play the [expletive] thing is half the battle. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Each successive wave has new objects to collect like hearts, fish, and tanks. True to its name, the action is frantic and smooth. The controls are responsive and you can leap a country mile. As stages advance you'll have to deal with multiple or extra-wide sneakers. There are eight skill levels, and on high levels you'll need to carefully orchestrate your moves. Unfortunately, after each game the cart reverts to skill level one, which is irritating.
Another flaw is the poor collision detection as you move up and down ladders, making you practically invincible while climbing. The good news is, you can use this to your advantage! Try playing this game on level five, and see how far you can progress. Fast Eddie may be a generic game, but it's a generic game that can kick your ass! © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
You're allowed to gobble up anything except purple pickles, which are fatal if you consume six of them. Items approach in batches of three or four, and sometimes you need to "thread the needle" to avoid the bad pickles. After each wave you get a break as a "you're getting fatter" message appears. Consume six purple pickles and "BURP" appears, followed by "Closed", signaling the end of your game.
It's fun to munch on junk food for a while, but once you reach around 900 points the game goes totally off the rails. Items move so fast you're practically trying to avoid them! One false move and you can get smacked by a barrage of purple pickles. That's no way for a man to die. I should also mention the sound effects are some of the most grating I've ever heard come out of my TV. Just as in real life, Fast Food tastes great at first but you probably won't want to partake of it on a regular basis. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
In the water your dolphin must gather pink seahorses while avoiding life-draining jellyfish. To transform into the bird you leap out of the water a la Ecco the Dolphin (Genesis, 1992). That's fun. As a seagull you'll flap your wings using controls similar to Joust (Atari, 1983). Collect pink clouds and a star will appear. Snagging the star nets you a trident piece. Makes sense right? Right??
The controls could be better. Instead of gliding in the wind your bird tends to move in fits and stops. You frequently get knocked off the screen by a bird or jellyfish just as a star appears, causing it to disappear. At higher altitudes a dense black bird population will have you bouncing around like a pinball. Even at low altitudes there's a single crow that will home in on you like a heat-seeking missile. Over time the clouds turn gray, draining your life and turning the game into a war of attrition.
Fathom's graphics boast that slick "Imagic" look, making effective use of color gradients. New areas become available beyond an active volcano as you progress, but they're just more of the same. Completing the entire game requires saving the mermaid a total of seven times. I like Fathom's refreshing aquatic theme, but minor control issues put a damper on things. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
In the center of the screen you'll see a small landing strip with blinking lights next to it. Your job is to systematically guide each plane into the lighted area. Once a plane is in position you switch to the approach screen which displays two views of the plane; one indicating its altitude and the other its runway position. Using the joystick you adjust both at the same time to orchestrate a successful landing.
It's an ingenious concept but the controls could be better. Using a clunky black cursor to redirect each plane is clumsy to say the least. Switching to the approach screen requires moving the cursor over a red knob on the bottom which is error-prone and time consuming. It's cool how you can make fine adjustments to the plane on its approach, but it's also unforgiving. If the tip of the plane isn't positioned perfectly at the beginning of the runway the entire landing is aborted.
You'll earn 25 points for a successful landing but points are deducted for mistakes. The two player mode would have been interesting had it been coop, but it's alternating only. I found Final Approach to be somewhat laborious, but if you enjoy multitasking you should definitely give it a try. You will have your hands full! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately, in eight out of the nine variations you have more than enough water to put out the fire immediately and then rescue the victim on the first floor. It's way too easy. The only variation worth playing is number nine, where you have to handle seven buildings in a row, and you won't have enough water to douse them all. Fire Fighter's controls are confusing, and the game just isn't very fun in general. See Towering Inferno for some better fire-fighting action. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
I could delve even further, but there's no point because the story has absolutely nothing to do with this pathetic game. Fire Fly is utterly reprehensible in every way and practically unplayable. You control a free-moving blinking object that doesn't resemble much of anything. Moving from screen to screen, you shoot at evil pumpkins, demons, bats, and hydras.
I can name these enemies because I looked in the manual, not because I could identify those sloppy, pixelated objects on the screen. Fire Fly's control is atrocious, the animation is jerky, and the non-stop background noise is unbearable! Of all the games in my Atari 2600 collection, this may well be the most worthless. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
You control a juggler on the bottom of the screen who automatically catches up to two balls. Pressing the fire button causes him to throw them back, allowing you to take aim at those final few bricks. You can also hold in the button to have them bounce off of you instead. It's best to stagger the balls, since missing a single ball immediately ends your turn.
The game is especially hard in advanced rounds where you'll need to juggle up to six balls at once! Keeping multiple fireballs in play multiplies your score, and it's fun to watch the points tally continuously at the top of the screen - even after your turn ends. Five game variations are available but only two are worthwhile.
In Firetrap you'll break two balls out of a pair of circular enclosures, and in Cascade there are five balls to release! The other three variations add complexity but I found them slow and tedious. Stick with the basics however and Fireball is probably the most entertaining Breakout-style game you'll find on the 2600. Note: As with all Starpath titles, Fireball must be loaded from tape unless you can obtain the "Stella Gets a New Brain" CD. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Deeper fish are worth more points but require more effort to reel in. The fire button lets you reel in your fish quickly, and timing is key to avoiding the shark prowling along the surface, ready to snatch up anything in his vicinity. Fishing Derby's graphics are very good. The fish look like fish, the shark looks like a shark, and the rednecks look like rednecks. Fishing Derby doesn't offer much replay value for the solo player, but it does provide some terrific (and sometimes hilarious) head-to-head action. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Flag Capture is primarily a two-player game. Both players hunt around a grid - either taking turns or at the same time. Certain blocks reveal bombs that send you back to your starting corner. Others reveal clues like arrows or numbers indicating your distance from the flag. For two evenly-matched players Flag Capture can be fun.
The single player action is less compelling, as you're trying to capture the flag as many times as you can in 75 seconds. The variations that have the flag moving behind the scenes will drive you into madness. I wish this game were more pirate-y. Flag Capture is worth pulling out when you have a friend over, but mainly to show him the box art. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
To make progress you need to guide your ship indicator towards blue boxes scattered throughout the maze of caverns. Once there, several diamond-shaped objects materialize, but these are easy-pickings for your laser. Quickly move on to the next blue box or you'll find yourself pelted with colored rocks.
Flash Gordon is confusing as hell, partly because the top screen rarely seems to be in sync with the bottom. As you navigate your ship indicator through the maze it doesn't look like your ship on top is really moving at all! Instead it appears to be pushing against the side of the screen, making it vulnerable to collisions.
Occasionally a stranded astronaut will appear which you can snag for bonus points. Periodically a "shield" inexplicably appears around your ship in the form of two dotted lines. Wow, that looks terrible. Flash Gordon is not particularly fun or innovative, and like the instructions, it's difficult to comprehend. Note: A reader pointed out that this game actually has nothing to do with the Flash Gordon film, and is really just a port of the computer game Spider City. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The football is a little black square. When hiked, the quarterback can either run the ball, or pass and guide it down the field. Unrealistic for sure, but it works great. You can also punt, but there are no field goals (extra points are automatic). The play selection is limited, but there's plenty of room for improvisation.
Exhibiting incredible foresight, the programmer included a visible line showing where you need to get to for a first down. It took 20 more years for TV to invent that! By stripping down the game of football to its bare essentials, Atari inadvertently created a game more entertaining than many modern football titles. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Frankenstein's gameplay borrows heavily from Pitfall (Activision, 1982) as you traverse multiple platforms fraught with peril. There are pits, spiders, ghosts and even an "acid pool" that looks suspiciously like water. (Hint: You can drop through a pit and onto a log if your timing is right.) When you hop across the floating logs it feels a heck of a lot like Pitfall, and the scoring system is also similar as you're docked points for touching spiders.
Upon returning with a brick you're transported to a second screen where you have to fight through a swarm of bats. With each successive trip more obstacles are placed in your path and you're also racing against the clock. Flashing lightning and crashing thunder periodically alert you that the monster is gaining strength. The controls are responsive but unforgiving. If you walk to the edge of a pit, you will slide into it. You can only jump a fixed distance, and it takes a while to learn where to properly position yourself.
Even so, the game succeeds on the strength of its challenge, variety, and kick-ass ending. When the monster inevitably breaks loose, he stomps toward the screen with the help of some admittedly rough scaling effects. Eventually the display turns completely green - because the monster is mooning the screen! Disrespectful! Frankenstein's gameplay isn't terribly original, but its unique theme and entertaining quirks make this one worth tracking down. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Frogger's screen was divided into a road and a stream, but Freeway is just one big ten-lane highway. Your goal is to cross as many times as possible within a 2-minute, 16-second time limit, and you can only move up-and-down. It's simplistic for sure, but one thing this game has over Frogger is its two-player head-to-head action. The game requires good timing, and you'll need to anticipate traffic several lanes ahead before attempting a mad dash. Under difficulty A, hitting a car sends you back to the bottom of the screen, which makes the game riskier but more fun.
As you would expect from an Activision title, the animation is smooth and the graphics are pleasing to the eye. The well-defined cars and trucks slow down and speed up unpredictably. The sound effects include car horns and engines fading in and out. Freeway is super fun when played head-to-head, but the one-player experience is less than compelling. Overall it falls short of Frogger, but Freeway certainly deserves a spot in any Atari 2600 collection. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The jumping animation could be better, but the graphics look clean, colorful, and vibrant. This is every bit as playable as the arcade, and there are special features to boot. Setting the difficulty switches to B let you float off one side of the screen and reappear on the other - something you couldn't do in the arcade.
In addition to novice and expert modes, you can also try your hand at "speedy Frogger". This mode lets you take fast, consecutive hops, but it tends to make your frog more accident-prone. A harmonized tune kicks off each screen, but I wish you didn't have to wait for it to end before you could begin. Frogger is a competent but unspectacular title. If you're looking for a little more razzle-dazzle, check out the superior The Official Frogger by Starpath. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The second screen is set on the water surface, and it plays more like the original Frogger as you hop across ducks, whales, hippos, and lily pads. Keep an ear out for the ominous music which signals when a shark is on the prowl through the lily pads. Hopping on the mother duck transports you to the "sky screen", where you bounce off clouds and ride the backs of birds. It's a little far fetched, and I'm sure marine biologists will question if this scenario is even possible.
Frogger II's graphics are positively first-rate, with high-resolution objects rendered in vivid colors. When Frogger gets killed he becomes "fat", which is somewhat awkward attempt to render a "squished" frog. In terms of design, Frogger 2 is pure genius, but it's not quite as much fun as the original Frogger. You'll spend most of your time in the underwater screen, and fighting the current gets tiresome. Still, Frogger 2 is definitely worthwhile, and this Atari 2600 edition is vastly superior to the sluggish, dull Colecovision version. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The first screen is leisurely but the difficulty ramps quickly. I love how bonus point values appear right on the screen, making it extra satisfying when you escort the lady frog or snag a fly. Like the other Frogger, the difficulty switches determine if you can float off the side of the screen unharmed. But what really surprised me about this game is the music.
Several songs play throughout the game, and while they lack harmony, they are all catchy and fun. Since the game rotates through a series of tunes (including Yankee Doodle), you never get tired of hearing them. It's a shame The Official Frogger is so obscure, because it's one of the most impressive titles I've played on the 2600. The game originally appeared on the Starpath series of cassette games, and was later included on the "Stella Gets a New Brain" CD. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Pressing the fire button flicks your frog's sticky tongue, allowing him to snag the blocky but tasty flies buzzing overhead. Each fly is worth two points and the frog with the highest score by nightfall wins. The fly movements are erratic, and it's always satisfying to snag one just before your opponent can reach it. The scenery is blocky but conveys a cozy pond environment, complete with plants lining the edge and tree branches hanging overhead.
As the sky darkens the action becomes fiercely competitive. At the game's end, a fly pulls a "The End" sign across the screen, and crickets can be heard chirping in the background. My friends and I have a blast with this game, and there's a surprising amount of trash talk. Frogs and Flies also appeals to women, and is one of the few M-Network games that supports solo play. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
It's possible to take cover behind trees, rocks, and cactus, but these blocky objects aren't very useful and tend to impede your progress more than anything else. Enemy bullets are remarkably slow, so another effective tactic is running away from the bullets! Please kids, don't try this at home. Every now and then you'll notice a blue block on the screen. No, that's not a glitch in the program (good guess though) - that's a freakin' tank! Position your soldier on top of it and press the fire button to hop in.
There are two varieties of tanks. The heavy tanks are slow, but fire large mortars. Light tanks zip across the screen but require a little more finesse. The best part about the tanks is how you can jump to safety (and save your soldier's life) when it's about to explode (blinking red). Each stage ends with a black cannon you need to destroy to earn a hefty bonus. Front Line's graphics are blocky to the max, but that doesn't detract from the fun. Offering four skill levels of shooting satisfaction, Front Line will unleash the pixelated Rambo that dwells within us all. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Advanced stages feature a polar bear patrolling near the igloo - a nice touch. What really sets Frostbite apart is your ability to reverse the direction of the ice floe you're standing on by pressing the fire button. This adds a lot of strategy but it's not easy to use effectively.
The game does suffer from one major flaw, and that's how you become paralyzed when touched by a bird or crab. Watching a bird pecking your face as you're helplessly pushed off a floe is frustrating. Still, you have to love the challenge. Frostbite is deceptively simple, but gamers will need to really concentrate in order to wrap their minds around this one. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
These so-called "monsters" are evenly spaced out and cleverly disguised as square blocks. As you approach each, they excrete odd shapes that move erratically. If you make contact with a shape your fish turns to bones and sinks to the sea floor. Fear not however, for Funky Fish can shoot these objects, transforming them into - you guessed it - cherries. Once you've consumed a certain number of cherries, the monster becomes defenseless, allowing you to sit on him until he dies.
I wish I could say this game "looked better on paper" but how is that possible? Your slow trek between each monster is unbearable, and adding insult to injury, you can't simply move off one end of the scanner and re-emerge on the other side. Repetitive beeps further add to the misery. Funky Fish is available from AtariAge. Get your copy today! © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age