system Index M
Grade: C
Publisher: 20th Century Fox (1983)
Reviewed: 1999/7/17

screenshotOddly enough, this game has practically nothing to do with the 1970's TV series it's based on. In M*A*S*H, one or two players pilot a helicopter and attempt to rescue as many soldiers as possible without being destroyed by enemy fire. Scattered trees serve as obstacles, and touching one will cause you to lose control momentarily.

To its credit, M*A*S*H also features a cool bonus stage that lets you perform surgery on a patient. The object here is to remove as many pieces of shrapnel as you can in a limited time, and it plays a lot like the old board game Operation. Although its label is marked "one-player", this is clearly designed as a two-player game. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 5
Our high score: 819
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Backgammon (Atari 2600)
Out Of This World/Helicopter Rescue (Odyssey 2)
Choplifter (Sega Master System)
Twin Eagle (NES)
Rescue Mission (Sega Master System)

Grade: C+
Publisher: US Games (1982)
Reviewed: 2001/12/5

screenshotM.A.D. (Missile Attack and Defense) looks a lot like Missile Command, as you control a cannon situated between six cities at the bottom of the screen. Actually, the cities look more like random pixels. In any event, the object is to shoot down approaching kamikaze aircraft using a turret that can be positioned at seven degrees of precision. M.A.D. isn't very exciting to play alone, and as a result my initial review was rather harsh.

But after a perceptive reader pointed out the two-player mode, I gave it a shot with my friend Scott, and we actually had a pretty good time with it. One player guides the enemy aircraft while the other shoots them down, and players take turns trying to destroy each other's cities. It's actually possible for the loser to get a higher score, which doesn't seem right. Anyway, it's the two-player mode that elevates this game above the mediocre mark. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 6200
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Missile Command (Atari 5200)
Nova Blast (Colecovision)
Missile Command (Playstation)
Terra Attack (Colecovision)
Missile Command (Atari 2600)

Grade: D+
Publisher: Answer Software (1983)
Reviewed: 2009/12/12

screenshotThis oddball title tries to take the Pac-Man formula in a new direction, but fails to strike gold. I should point out that Malagai is not to be confused with Malachai - that evil kid from the Children of the Corn film (hey, it's an honest mistake). This game lets you guide a dude in a jet pack through a maze with three lurking "Malagai" aliens of slightly differing body shapes.

With their single eyes and tentacles, they resemble pixelated versions of those green aliens on the Simpsons. It's hard to believe this game came out long before the Simpsons were even invented! The top of the screen shows the order in which you need to "catch" the aliens. After touching the correct one, you race to the "airlock" at the top of the screen before a timer runs out. The game cycles through three different mazes.

Malagai's graphics are clean but blocky, and its sound effects are mainly limited to random beeps. Three skill levels are available, but the advanced ones require you to memorize which aliens you catch, which negates much of the fun. Who wants to think when they play Atari? Malagai is playable, but its mediocre graphics and derivative gameplay expose it as another unremarkable third-party title on a system already loaded with them. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 4,700
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Marble Craze (Atari 2600)
Jr. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Alien (Atari 2600)
Pepper II (Colecovision)

Grade: D+
Publisher: Spectravision (1983)
Reviewed: 2002/6/17

screenshotThis ultra-rare game is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen on an Atari 2600. The word "mangia" (pronounced mon' ja) is an Italian word meaning "to eat". Before learning this tidbit of information, I had been pronouncing it "man-gia" (what a dumb ass I was). This unusual game is set in a kitchen, where a mother is serving pasta to her kid. The characters are huge and detailed, but somewhat creepy-looking. Each time the mom returns to the table, she heaps more food on the kid's plate.

Playing the role of the kid, your job is to dispose of the food any way you can! Sure, you can eat it, but if you eat too much your stomach will expand and eventually explode. That's right - the game actually depicts the poor kid's stomach bursting into a pixelated mess! Can you believe it? I'm telling you, Mortal Kombat has nothing on Mangia!

Anyhow, to prevent this gruesome tragedy, you periodically toss some of the food to the cat in the window or the dog under the table. The problem is, these pets only appear intermittently, and you can only toss the food when mom's back is turned. If caught, she'll bring THREE helpings of food at a time, and too much food will break the table legs, costing you a life. Does this game sound like a twisted nightmare or what? The movie Seven comes to mind.

The controls utilize the joystick only (no fire button), and Street Fighter-like joystick "sweeps" are used to sling food. Sound effects include an irritating ring that blares whenever the cat appears. A nice Italian song is played between levels, but you'll soon get sick of it. Mangia's novelty value held my attention a while, but once you get the hang of it, it gets really long and repetitive. Still, I'll give the game credit for being original (and somewhat disturbing). © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 1233
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Food Fight (Atari 7800)
Chiller (NES)
ChuChu Rocket! (Dreamcast)
Mortal Kombat 3 (Super Nintendo)
Street Fighter Collection 2 (Playstation)

Grade: C+
Publisher: Tigervision (1982)
Reviewed: 2016/11/14

screenshotOne astute reader pointed out how I was overly critical in my original review of Marauder, which I gave an F. He was 100% right. Marauder may be a Berzerk (Atari, 1982) clone but there's more than enough innovative elements to set it apart. You move a guy between contiguous mazes while blasting robots. The characters are rendered from an overhead perspective, giving them the appearance of small blobs. Your main goal is to locate the "power cell" and destroy it for big points.

The screens are laid out in a new pattern each round, and I like how when you clear a room of robots it usually remains clear. Marauder boasts smooth animation and responsive controls. And get this: robots don't appear until they are in your line of sight! That's a pretty advanced feature! Too bad you can only shoot them when they're visible. Robots are aggressive but not fatal to touch and you can outrun their bullets! If you fire repeatedly, your shots cancel out just like Gorf (CBS, 1981).

When you find yourself in a crowd of robots I recommend going buck-wild with the fire button. As you plow through them it looks like you're knocking them out with your fists! You can actually see them falling back! Occasionally you'll find a "magic armor" icon that makes you invincible for a few seconds.

There's a lot of cool stuff in Marauder but some flaws as well. Upon respawning you are sometimes placed directly in front of converging robots, leading to cheap deaths. On the other hand, the game sometimes places you in the power cell room first, which makes for a really easy round. Balancing issues notwithstanding, you have to like how Marauder takes the Berzerk concept to a new level. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 10,860
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Berzerk (Vectrex)
Dark Cavern (Atari 2600)
Frenzy (Colecovision)
Amok! (Odyssey 2)
Berzerk (Atari 5200)

Marble Craze
Grade: A-
Publisher: Xype (2002)
Reviewed: 2002/12/3

screenshotThis new 2600 title offers some refreshingly original gameplay and a unique control scheme. It's based upon the old board game where you tilt a board on two axes in order to guide a marble through a maze. Marble Craze requires you to use two paddle controllers at the same time, and that's a first as far as I know. The controls feel pretty comfortable once you get accustomed to them, and bars on the edge of the screen help keep you orientated.

In each of the 18 stages you guide a large white ball around contiguous screens, trying to reach the end of the maze before a timer runs out. The first few mazes have walls, but the more advanced, wide-open stages require a great deal of skill. Scattered "power bars" provide bonuses such as extra time or bonus points. Marble Craze delivers some fine split-screen competitive action, but what's really charming is how it pays homage to classic Atari games.

Some mazes are taken from old 2600 games (the blue maze in Adventure for example), and you'll even find mazes in the shape of classic characters like Pac-Man, Space Invader, and ET. My single complaint is that it can be hard to determine which direction you need to go. But overall, Marble Craze's inspired gameplay is both fun and addicting. There's even a nice title screen. Xype continues its winning streak. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 5
Our high score: 260
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Marble Madness (NES)
Mega Maze (Philips CD-i)
Jr. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Better Pac-Man, A (Atari 2600)

Marine Wars
Grade: C+
Publisher: Konami (1983)
Reviewed: 2002/12/11

screenshotMarine Wars takes the tired formula of Atari's "Air-Sea Battle" and spices it up with all kinds of nifty features. Looking out over the sea, you'll see three rows of ships, and the ones further out look smaller, conveying a pseudo-3D look. A sophisticated control scheme allows you to line up your targets and even guide your missiles to a certain degree. An island in the distance helps you gauge your position. You can unleash three shots at a time, and the explosions are nicely rendered.

Konami added a few additional features that push this game above the average mark. There are night stages where you can't see distant ships. Other stages challenge you to shoot down pairs of planes on bombing runs. Your shots sometimes even collide with incoming missiles. Marine Wars is a tough game, mainly because your ship is such a large target. But since it takes three hits to destroy your ship, you effectively have nine lives. A pleasant surprise, Marine Wars is a demanding shooter that requires more finesse than most. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 5970
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Mission X (Intellivision)
Sea Battle (Intellivision)
Seawolf (Atari 2600)
Hover Strike (CD) (Jaguar)
Ocean Battle (Arcadia 2001)

Mario Bros.
Grade: C+
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2008/11/25

screenshotThis likeable platform game is the first to feature Mario by name, and it even co-stars his brother Luigi! Although played on a single screen, Mario Bros. still contains many of the elements that would be associated with Nintendo's Super Mario series. Turtles, crabs, and other creatures emerge from pipes on top on the screen. As they slowly make their way down, you can flip them over by bumping them from below. Once on their back, you can kick them off the screen for points.

When a second player assumes the role of Luigi, it becomes a head-to-head competition for points. It's a shame you can't "bump" the other player (as you can in the arcade), because this reduces the strategy. Mario Bros. on the Atari 2600 looks about as good as Mario Bros. can look on the 2600. Our heroes are rendered in multiple colors and the creatures only flicker slightly.

The number of objects on the screen at a given time does seem limited however, which reduces the challenge considerably. I also don't like the animation of turtles trying to upright themselves - what are they doing? Mario Bros. provides some amusing head-to-head action, but this scaled down version lost a bit of fun in the translation process. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 5
Our high score: 64100
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Super Mario All-Stars (Super Nintendo)
Mario Bros. (Atari 5200)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Mario Clash (Virtual Boy)
Mario Bros. (Atari XEGS)

Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man
Grade: C-
Publisher: M-Network (1982)
Reviewed: 2001/9/3

screenshotHe-Man was a hugely popular Saturday morning cartoon character in the early 80's. You may recall that his arch-nemesis, Skeletor, had a face that resembled a skull. The video game adaptation of the cartoon series made a splash on the Intellivision, but this 2600 version is not as good. Oddly enough, although the game's graphics are generally bad, the game's intro and ending screens are fantastic. When you first turn on Masters of the Universe, you witness a blonde, bare-chested dude transform into the muscular He-Man. Whoa!

The first stage places He Man in some kind of rocket ship flying across a stretch of barren land en route to Skeletor's castle. Henchman fire at you from the ground, and you can shoot down their missiles and drop bombs on these thugs. Once you arrive at the castle (which looks pathetic compared to the Intellivision version) you participate in what appears to be one of those bad Swordquest mini-games. The object is to reach Skeletor on the right side of the screen while avoiding two moving walls.

Skeletor fires missiles at you, but you can block his shots with your shield by pressing the fire button. Should you reach Skeletor, the game displays a nice ending screen, featuring a full-screen He-Man triumphantly raising his sword. Wow! Then it's back to the beginning, although at least M-Network was considerate enough to change the background color for each stage. In the end, Masters of the Universe remains an interesting title despite its weak gameplay. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 7800
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man (Intellivision)
Classic Games from the Intellivision (Playstation)
Raiden (Lynx)
Star Castle (Vectrex)
Laser Gates (Atari 2600)

Math Gran Prix
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1982)
Reviewed: 2020/5/20

screenshotboxSo now I'm going to ask everybody to raise your hand if you enjoy playing educational video games. Just as I suspected - not one damn person! Math Gran Prix was one of those virtue-signaling titles to help Atari justify their system as being good for kids. HA! This is not so much a race as a board game where you advance spaces by solving times-tables. For each move you can opt for a 2-space problem (Ex: 10 + 7) or a tougher 3-space move (ex: 8 x 19). Two players can compete or you can challenge the CPU. Not to brag, but I took on the CPU at the highest skill level and beat the crap out of him. CPUs really suck at math! These graphics look like ass. The cars look like martini glasses and the track is marred with all kinds of ugly graffiti. I noticed the little girl on the box looks positively overjoyed. What game is she playing? Tell me it's not this! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Flag Capture (Atari 2600)
Congo Bongo (Intellivision)
Track & Field (Atari 2600)
Escape (Arcadia 2001)
Phalanx (Super Nintendo)

Grade: F
Publisher: Sears (1978)
Reviewed: 2017/3/2

screenshotSee review of Slot Racers (Atari, 1978). This is the same game published by Sears under a very non-descript title. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
2 players 

If you like this game, try: Slot Racers (Atari 2600)
Casino Slot Machine (Odyssey 2)
Miner 2049er (Atari 5200)
Surf Rocket Racers (Dreamcast)
Supercross 3D (Jaguar)

Maze Craze: A Game of Cops 'n Robbers
Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1978)
Reviewed: 2017/2/14

screenshotMaze Craze is a technical marvel. This meager 4K cartridge not only packs a fast maze generation algorithm but also 256 (!) game variations. That's more than any other 2600 cartridge. You can toy around with Maze Craze alone but the game is ideal for quick head-to-head competition. It's not usually obvious which path is correct, so you'll just need to pick one and hope for the best. Imaginative variations really spice things up.

In "robbers" you must avoid wandering colored blocks or get knocked out of the game. Wounds mode allows you to slowly recover after getting caught. The aptly-named terror mode prohibits you from exiting the maze until your opponent is knocked out! "Capture" variations turn the tables by forcing you to catch the robbers before you can exit. There's even a blockade mode that allows you to create phony dead-ends to trick your opponent.

I'm not a big fan of the "invisible" variants that block out portions of the screen, but "peek" and "scout" features are available to help you find your way. Despite its overwhelming number of options, a well-designed selection screen makes it remarkably easy to find the right combination. Better yet, when the game is over you can just press the button to restart with a fresh maze. This game is so 80's, the cop and robber on the label look like Hall and Oates... if Hall had a mustache...? C'mon, work with me people! Maze Craze is classic fun that never really gets old. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Maze (Fairchild Channel F)
Flag Capture (Atari 2600)
K.C.'s Krazy Chase (Odyssey 2)
Combat (Atari 2600)
Meteos (Nintendo DS)

Maze Mania
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sears (1978)
Reviewed: 2017/3/2

screenshotThis is the same game as Maze Craze: A Game of Cops 'n Robbers (Atari, 1978), only released by Sears under a different name. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Maze Craze: A Game of Cops 'n Robbers (Atari 2600)
Lock N Chase (Atari 2600)
Route 16 (Arcadia 2001)
Cruis'n World (Nintendo 64)
Marble Craze (Atari 2600)

Mean Santa
Grade: C-
Publisher: Duarte/Harvey (2009)
Reviewed: 2017/1/25

screenshotMean Santa is a quirky holiday title that feels just slightly undercooked. Apparently Santa has turned sour on Christmas and is now in the business of stealing presents. Fire up the cartridge and you're treated to the first four notes of "Joy to the World". My friends assured me the rest of the song would be made available in the form of a patch! Your score is the time it takes to visit 15 houses, but it's a shame there's no visible timer.

On the first screen you guide Santa in his sleigh but he looks more like Snoopy. Where are his reindeer? Every few seconds a blocky house appears and it's a challenge to land on the roof without colliding with the chimney. Advanced stages add weather conditions like killer snowflakes and thunderbolts but they only stun you momentarily. A successful roof landing takes you to an indoor screen sprinkled with sharp, colorful items like candy canes, wreaths, dolls, trucks, and AT-AT walkers (yes!).

Collecting stuff is pretty easy but I like how you can complete a game in just a few minutes (unlike the Odyssey 2 version). Mean Santa includes an unlockable "snow mode" but personally I feel those blizzard-like conditions should have been the default. The lack of audio in this game tends to understate the festive holiday mood. Mean Santa is a strange game but it tends to grow on you over time. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Med
Our high score: 3:54
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Daze Before Christmas (Europe) (Super Nintendo)
Mean Santa (Odyssey 2)
Reindeer Rescue (Atari 2600)
Christmas Crisis (Philips CD-i)
Stella's Stocking (Atari 2600)

Medieval Mayhem
Grade: A-
Publisher: AtariAge (2007)
Reviewed: 2019/10/6

screenshotMedieval Mayhem is an amazing homebrew but sometimes my enthusiasm gets the best of me. This four-player battle game looks and plays a heck of a lot like Warlords (Atari, 1977), and is actually superior in some ways. Mayhem certainly takes the cake in terms of graphics. Unlike the "abstract" visuals of Warlords there are craggy castle walls, cool warrior symbols, and an amazing fire-breathing dragon (!) that unleashes a fireball to kick off each round.

The game is loaded with cool features, most notably multiple fireballs that are gradually introduced into the fray, ratcheting up the chaos considerably. When you throw a fireball it tends to leave at a random angle, and this prevents you from firing it with surgical precision as you could in Warlords. If you hold a fireball for too long it begins burning your own wall!

At the conclusion of each round a comical little knight marches onto the screen holding the lone survivor's flag. That's a nice touch but sometimes these cute intermissions slow things down. My friends complained that the paddle direction feels like it should be reversed for certain players, and I've noticed that too. And like Warlords, this game isn't much of a one-player experience but it's wild with four players. Medieval Mayhem can't top Warlords in terms of raw gameplay, but it has a unique, engaging style all of its own. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: War (Bally Astrocade)
Castle Crisis (Atari XEGS)
Piece O' Cake (Atari 2600)
Flag Capture (Atari 2600)
Spyro the Dragon (Playstation)

Mega Force
Grade: C-
Publisher: 20th Century Fox (1982)
Reviewed: 2013/8/28

screenshotMega Force is a bargain bin game based on some forgettable 1982 science fiction movie starring Barry Bostwick. This frantic side-scroller has its share of issues but it's not a complete waste. The fact that you ride a motorcycle that transforms into an aircraft is at least worth a letter grade. From the look of it, Mega Force most closely resembles Chopper Command (Activision, 1982).

The idea is to protect a white city on the far left side of a scrolling landscape and destroy the black city on the far right side (that's racist). Enemy aircraft tend to swarm and unleash tiny projectiles. If that's not enough, you'll have to deal with heat-seeking missiles launched from the surface below. The action gets a little crazy at times, but that's okay. The only thing that bothers me is how you can't destroy the missiles because your shots pass right through them.

The colorful scenery features a barren desert with red mountains and blue skies. The exotic-looking buildings look sharp, and there are some palm trees and small ponds. Mega Force is sloppy and confusing at first, but once I figured out what the [expletive] was going on, I developed a modest appreciation for this throw-away shooter. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 2BB
Our high score: 10,781
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Chopper Command (Atari 2600)
Cosmic Commuter (Atari 2600)
Missile War (Arcadia 2001)
Killer Satellites (Atari 2600)
Enduro Racer (Sega Master System)

Grade: C
Publisher: Activision (1982)
Reviewed: 2013/8/28

screenshotI am of the opinion that an effective marketing blitz was largely responsible for the success of this average vertical shooter. A stylized TV commercial for the game featured a zany rock band, colorful visual effects, loud music, and embellished clips of the actual game. Instead of shooting the obligatory space aliens (that's so 1979), you blast hamburgers, cookies, radial tires, bow ties, steam irons, and space dice?! This game is out of control!

Okay, let's regain our composure for a second. The truth is that these rudimentary, solid-colored objects aren't very detailed. In fact you'd be hard-pressed to identify them without the manual. And once the waves start repeating, the novelty wears off completely. Visuals aside, Megamania is pretty tough!

Objects move quickly and tend to change direction unexpectedly. Some will dart sideways, ramming you along the edge of the screen. You wouldn't last long at all if you didn't earn a free life every 10K. You can select between guided and straight missiles, but guided is the way to go, especially since it offers continuous fire. Megamania is not a bad little shooter, but it's not all it was cracked up to be. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1B
Our high score: 76,230
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Megamania (Atari XEGS)
Megamania (Atari 5200)
Demon Attack (Odyssey 2)
Mystery Science Theater 2600 (Atari 2600)
California Games (Atari 2600)

Merlin's Walls
Grade: D-
Publisher: Ebivision (1999)
Reviewed: 2001/12/5

screenshotFirst the good news: Merlin's Walls has an awesome title screen! The lettering looks totally wild, and the music is hands-down the best I've ever heard on the 2600! That song rocks!! Now for the bad news - this game sucks! It's a 3D maze game spawned from the depths of hell. The initial alarms went off when I first examined the well-written instruction manual.

In order to "achieve the desired 3D effect" while playing the game, you must either tilt your head or your television by 90 degrees. The manual has some imaginative and unintentionally hilarious illustrated suggestions for accomplishing this. You can turn your TV on its side, or set it on its back like a tabletop! It even suggests a sophisticated set-up involving a series of tilted mirrors. All this for one Atari 2600 game - and a bad one at that!

I finally settled for the easiest option - lying on the floor on my right ear. And you know what? It works - kind of. The corridors are painfully blocky, but I was able to make out halls and doorways (with some difficulty!). Sadly, I was never able to make it all the way through a single maze - even with the first one that's mapped out in the manual! Every hallway looks the same and it's a hopelessly confusing situation. In the final analysis, Merlin's Walls is more of a conversation piece than it is a game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin (Intellivision)
Bachelor Party (Atari 2600)
Scooby Doo's Maze Chase (Intellivision)
720 Degrees (NES)
Incredible Crisis (Playstation)

Midnight Magic
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Reviewed: 2001/9/23

screenshotThis is probably the best pinball game you're going to find for the 2600. Midnight Magic's table is small but colorful and finely detailed. There are bumpers, rollovers, drop targets, and two sets of flippers. Although the table looks sparse by modern pinball standards, there are enough targets to keep things interesting. It's a challenging game, especially on the "A" difficulty level. While I found Midnight Magic's gameplay to be somewhat fun and addicting, I was less impressed with the control. There's no nudge, and the flippers could be more responsive. Still, pinball fans will be satisfied with the overall quality. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 43970
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Pinball (NES)
Bumper Bash (Atari 2600)
Pinball Jam (Lynx)
Pinball (Intellivision)
Pro Pinball (Saturn)

Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1984)
Reviewed: 2001/9/23

screenshotThis worthy sequel to Centipede retains the same tried-and-true gameplay, but throws a lot more bugs into the mix, including periodic swarms of dragonflies. One cool new feature is the presence of DDT boxes scattered among the mushrooms. When shot, these emit poisonous clouds which engulf approaching insects. It's a brilliant concept and it really does add additional strategy.

Millipede is difficult but fun enough to keep you reaching for that reset switch. The graphics are slightly improved over Centipede, with less flicker and better-looking spiders. Unfortunately, the animation of the spiders and other creepy-crawlies is surprisingly choppy, and it adversely affects the gameplay. In a fast action game such as this, you must be able to tell what's going on at all times. Still, for frantic arcade fun, Millipede is tough to beat. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 99892
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Millipede (Atari XEGS)
Centipede (Atari 2600)
Centipede (Colecovision)
Centipede (Atari 5200)
Spiders (Arcadia 2001)

Miner 2049er
Grade: F
Publisher: Tigervision (1982)
Reviewed: 2012/3/20

screenshotAs a Miner 2049er veteran who has played the game on a number of systems, I speak with confidence when I say that this one sucks! Miner 2049er is a Donkey Kong-inspired platformer with some pretty elaborate screens that incorporate slides, transporters, and even TNT cannons. The game opens with a rendition of the "Clementine" song that's absolutely horrific. The bright graphics are not bad, but the gameplay is shameful.

Unlike every other version of this game, your miner moves at a snail's pace. That's a serious problem considering you need to walk over every square inch of platform to clear a screen. It's especially demoralizing after you've slowly worked your way to the very top of the screen, only to accidentally slide all the way back to the bottom.

The animation is pathetic and the sound effects are obnoxious. It's nearly impossible to jump over the wandering aliens (or whatever the hell they are). Upon losing a life the entire screen is reset, wiping out all of your progress. This game is a disgrace. If you want to experience Miner 2049er as God intended, check out the excellent Atari 5200 or Colecovision versions. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 1255
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Miner 2049er (Atari 5200)
Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)
Donkey Kong Junior (Atari 2600)
D2K Arcade (Intellivision)
Miner 2049er (Colecovision)

Miner 2049er II
Grade: F
Publisher: Tigervision (1983)
Reviewed: 2012/3/20

screenshotThe first Miner 2049er game for the 2600 pushed the limits of human misery, so you may ask why this sequel even exists. Easy money I'm afraid! This is the exact same game as the first, except with three new screen layouts. You'll get the same queasy feeling when you fire up the cartridge and hear that putrid, off-key "Clementine" song. When will the hurting stop?

The stage layouts incorporate an adjustable lift, a radioactive waste pool, and machines specially designed to crush miners (just my luck). But these gimmicks can't hide the painfully tedious and sluggish gameplay. I've had more fun cleaning a cat litter box! Fortunately very few copies of this game were ever produced, and only die-hard collectors will be the least bit interested in this. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 458

Mines of Minos
Grade: B-
Publisher: Commavid (1982)
Reviewed: 2015/5/27

screenshotI can't recall the last time I wanted to beat an Atari game as badly as Mines of Minos. It looks like a run-of-the-mill maze game but there's far more to it than meets the eye. You control a mining robot with crazy legs syndrome. He moves swiftly through the maze and I like the sound of him clanking around. You destroy wandering creatures by dropping mines as they pursue you - a highly original concept for a 2600 game.

The creatures range in design from one-eyed tentacled monsters to slithering Alien-like creatures. They tend to gang up on you and seem to regenerate as fast as you can kill them. Man, this game is so hard! When enemies die their bodies slowly disintegrate. You can walk right through their decomposing corpses but only after the "kill" sound has subsided. Don't go rushing in because you only have one life!

The smoothly-scrolling vertical maze is unremarkable but it does have Pac-Man-style side exits. I really like the idea of gathering robot parts to make extra lives, as this adds a treasure-hunting aspect. Also interesting is how the maze eventually begins to flood, making your life a lot more difficult. The literature states your goal is to blow up a command center, but where is it?

Well, as it turns out, if you hold IN the button while traveling through a side exit, you emerge in a whole new maze! This game is about five mazes wide! After finally locating the command center I realized the only way to destroy it was to sacrifice myself. Time to build some robots! Surprisingly deep and relentlessly challenging, Mines of Minos will put your joystick skills to the test. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 1BA
Our high score: SDZ 2,150
1 or 2 players 

Miniature Golf
Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1979)
Reviewed: 1999/11/6

screenshotThere aren't many copies of Miniature Golf floating around, and that may be indicative of just how bad the game is. I imagine most copies have long since been retired to the garbage bin. The sorry graphics, gameplay, and sound effects can all share the blame. Each of the nine holes are uninteresting, blocky monstrosities. The ball is a small block, and your putter is a big block. The occasional moving obstacle is - you guessed it - another big block. The poorly designed screens provide limited room to maneuver, so you often have to depend on ricochets, even when a shot is straight on. Miniature Golf's horrid graphics are complemented by practically non-existent sound effects. The physics used in this game is not of this universe, so the ball tends to move unpredictably. Even for a 1979 game, this is just an embarrassment. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Grade: NA
Publisher: Alan Smith (2018)
Reviewed: 2018/7/26

screenshotI consider all Adventure (Atari 2600, 1980) hacks to be loving homages to a timeless classic. Missadventure is a twisted take on the game that will throw even longtime fans for a loop. It offers a disconcerting dungeon layout with improved audio and visual effects. Its three variations are a lot harder. The idea is to guide a heroic square through blocky mazes while collecting items, unlocking castles, and battling tenacious dragons. But instead of pursuing a gold chalice, your goal is to transport a princess to an emerald palace.

Missadventure does a tremendous job of addressing the "duck" dragons of the original game. The five (!) dragons actually resemble "real" dragons, including a pink baby dragon! Items have also been tweaked so the sword looks vaguely like a sword and the bat looks more realistic with a flapping sound effect to boot. The world is far more expansive with caverns, forests, and an enticing underground cave entrance.

Still, I found it really hard to grasp the screen layouts. Certain passages don't line up correctly and when you re-enter certain rooms you'll find yourself in an unexpected location. The "tree" screens are especially annoying because it's hard to find your way out of them! You can't kill a dragon if another item is present in the room, which is kind of bogus.

That said, there are still many magical moments to be had. Once I was heading straight up to the black castle with the black key when the bat swooped in and swapped it out for a white one! I was pissed, but a minute later I grabbed the bat, still holding the key, and used it to unlock the black castle. You never know each game will have in store. Missadventure is too harsh for novices, but veteran players will have their skills put to the test. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Missile Command
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1981)
Reviewed: 2019/1/6

screenshotWhen Atari-mania swept my neighborhood in the early 80's Missile Command quickly became "the game". Andy and myself played it over Billy's house all the time, but Billy was kind of a jerk about relinquishing the controller. So when I heard my local 7-11 was starting to carry Atari games I called them up to inquire about Missile Command. Sure enough they had it for $22, which was quite a bargain! I was giddy with joy as I made that mile-long trek up the main road that sunny summer morning.

Missile Command's premise is flat-out brilliant. You intercept incoming missiles by creating explosions in the sky to protect six helpless cities below. A few compromises had to be made to port this arcade hit to the 2600. First, there's only a single missile base instead of three. This limits the strategy but arguably makes the game more playable. There are no planes or UFOs to shoot down, but you'll still need to contend with plenty of those tiny, elusive satellites. I guess the biggest limitation is how you can only unleash three anti-ballistic missiles at a time with the fourth eliciting a high-pitched squeal. This adds to the challenge.

A good joystick works well but ironically the game doesn't function well with Atari's own trackball. Just recently a helpful reader informed me that Missile Command works exceptionally well on a Colecovision with the Roller Controller (using the expansion module to play the Atari cartridge). That guy was right! The cursor control is quick and responsive, allowing me to achieve a new high score on the toughest variation.

Missile Command's sound effects are arcade-perfect, including the warning alarms and satisfying random tones when you earn a free city. I love how the color scheme changes as the waves progress, although that "pea soup" green stage leaves something to be desired. The explosions have a reflective quality that makes them look like mirrors! And that thunderous explosion at the end is pretty momentous. Missile Command on the 2600 may be a scaled-down version of the arcade hit but all the fun remains intact. Related Link: The Day I Uncovered THE SECRET of Missile Command. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 8B
Our high score: 58,925
1 or 2 players 

Missile Command Trak-Ball
Grade: NA
Publisher: Thomas Jentzsch (2002)
Reviewed: 2003/7/4

screenshotIt's somewhat ironic that the 2600 trackball controller doesn't support Atari's ultimate trackball game: Missile Command. Anybody who grew up playing this classic at the local arcade knows that it was NOT designed with a joystick in mind. Thankfully, Thomas Jentzsch has addressed this long-standing problem with his new "hack" of the game, and you'll be surprised how big a difference it makes. You can whip that cursor clear across the screen in a flash, yet position it with perfect precision. Not only is this version faster and more arcade-like than the original, but you can look forward to shattering your previous high scores with ease. It will be very difficult to go back to using the joystick after playing this. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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Recommended variation: 8B
Our high score: 29615
1 or 2 players 

Mogul Maniac
Grade: B-
Publisher: Amiga (1983)
Reviewed: 2014/2/26

screenshotThe Atari 2600 never ceases to amaze. Despite its modest hardware, the system can still manage to pump out a pretty convincing first-person skiing game. The tips of your skis can be seen on the bottom of the screen as you weave through alternating blue and red gates that scale smoothly into view. Mogul Maniac was originally designed for use with a "joyboard" controller, and that explains why the steering controls seem reversed. It's because in real skiing you would press on the inner edge of your right ski to turn left. Don't worry - you'll get used to it.

You can really get into a rhythm swerving side-to-side, and I love the whooshing sound effects. You can adjust your speed to some degree by pressing the joystick forward or backward, but like real skiing, it's inexact. The nine courses each have their own gate configurations, number of gates, and maximum speed. The "bunny trail" variations are a snore, but the fast ones (like #6) are challenging enough.

There's little scenery except for a lonely gray mountain in the distance. Despite its name there are no moguls to be found, or maniacs for that matter (unless you count the person playing, in which case your point is well taken). I like Mogul Maniac but wish the programmers had taken the concept a little further. It would have been pretty neat if they had a separate "downhill" mode with trees instead of gates. There's not a whole lot to Mogul Maniac, but what it does it does well. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 6
Our high score: 1:10.6
1 player 

Montezuma's Revenge
Grade: A
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
Reviewed: 2000/7/3

screenshotThis slick adventure game is absolutely superb in every respect. Its graphics are colorful and detailed, with no flicker to speak of. The control is best described as "crisp", and the gameplay is madly addicting. As an Indiana Jones-type explorer, you must traverse over 60 rooms of treasures, traps, and creatures. Be prepared to encounter snakes, spiders, and rolling skulls. You'll need keys to open doors, a sword to slay creatures, and a torch to light your way. Each room presents a unique challenge, and there are plenty of areas to explore and secrets to uncover. If you're looking for adventure on the 2600, it doesn't get much better than this. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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Our high score: 8100
1 player 

Moon Patrol
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2021/3/13

screenshotI have a serious attitude problem when it comes to the Atari 2600 version of Moon Patrol. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Atari Age magazine, who had the audacity to publish a screenshot of the beautiful Atari 5200 edition of the game. I was utterly mesmerized by its craggy lunar surfaces and industrialized backdrops. By comparison the 2600 game looked positively half-assed. You're driving a jumble of pixels driving over a flat, featureless surface. Could this lazy, substandard Moon Patrol possibly be any fun? Well, yeah, actually it is.

The gameplay is all about multitasking as you fire missiles upward at bomb-dropping aliens while blasting boulders ahead and hopping over craters in your path. Some craters are actually created by hovering spacecraft. The fact that there might be six or seven aliens congregating overhead is quite impressive for the 2600. You can unleash a steady stream of slow-moving shots that these aliens will gladly collide with. Time your jumps carefully, as they tend to be quite floaty. You are on the freaking moon for crying out loud! Focus, people!

Sometimes you're asked to perform a tricky sequence of shots and jumps, and during these trying times the collision detection seems unforgiving. The difficulty switches are reversed from what's stated in the instruction manual. Normally B is the default but I guess the programmer screwed up. In my experience you'll want to set them to AA for the most arcade-like experience. Moon Patrol may not look like much, but manages to be a good time in spite of itself. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Int AA
Our high score: 14,700
1 or 2 players 

Grade: C+
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Reviewed: 2021/3/13

screenshotMoonsweeper is not your garden-variety space shooter. You begin on the "galaxy screen", moving a ship side-to-side across the bottom. Fireballs rain down from the sun above as comets curl in from both sides. You can only fire straight up or at a sharp angle, and never with any degree of accuracy. When the occasional marble-like planet swoops by you'll want to hitch a ride on it, if only to escape the onslaught. There are four colored planets, each offering a different challenge level and associated bonus. Simply touching a planet transports you to its colorful surface via a slick (albeit brief) animation. This is where the action heats up!

There's a breakneck sense of speed as you skim across the planet surface, picking up miners while blasting red towers. Motherships occasionally appear up top, and pulling back on the joystick lets you shoot them down with special missiles that can reach the stratosphere. Should you miss however they will deploy these insufferable alien bastards that antagonize you to no end. If they can't hit you with an errant shot they'll just ram your intergalactic ass. These guys are the worst.

Unlike the stiff Colecovision version, Moonsweeper's graphics are vibrant with smooth animation and noticeably good sound effects. If you manage to gather six miners you can pass through accelerator rings to propel yourself back to the galaxy screen. Though awkward at times, Moonsweeper frequently reaches a high level of excitement, making it a worthy addition to any collection. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 6,030
1 or 2 players 

Motocross Racer
Grade: D-
Publisher: Xonox (1984)
Reviewed: 2020/8/19

screenshotAt a glance Motocross Racer has serious potential, boasting three unique stages of challenging racing action. You begin by speeding into the desert horizon while weaving around scaling cacti and rocks. As you approach the end of the stage a huge mountain looms larger and larger in the distance. It's impressive. The controls are simple enough as you swerve side to side, pushing up and down to control your speed. This stage practically dares you to travel at breakneck speeds.

The second stage shifts gears dramatically. Now you're viewing your bike from the side, making your way up a long, windy mountain trail. The controls are hard to grasp. It feels like the same control scheme as the first screen, yet from this angle it makes no sense. If you hit five obstacles it's game over, and wouldn't you know there's a big ole log sitting right in front of the finish line?

The third stage is where Motocross goes completely off the rails. This time you're racing sideways along a beach with a mountain backdrop. The controls inexplicably require pressing side-to-side to move your bike up and down. Even if you can wrap your brain around that, you'll be repeatedly rammed from behind by red bikes. I think I've had enough. It's a shame because Motocross Racer gets off to a promising start before its slow, painful descent into mediocrity. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Reviewed: 2000/6/3

screenshotThe super-rare Motorodeo lets players roll monster trucks through an obstacle course of ramps, cars, walls, and mud. Played on a split screen, it kind of reminds me of Excitebike (NES 1984). For a 1990 title, the graphics are pretty plain, with small trucks, single-colored obstacles, and no background scenery. At least your tires are round (small victory there), and the vehicles you crush actually model damage. Turbo power-ups let you catch big air which is terrific fun, but plowing through mud by moving the joystick back and forth is just arduous. Motorodeo lets you race for time or points, and the computer opponent is definitely a worthy competitor. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: easy B
Our high score: 455
1 to 2 players. 

Mountain King
Grade: D
Publisher: CBS (1983)
Reviewed: 2013/2/5

screenshotMountain King has depth and originality to burn, but poor controls make it a constant struggle. The object is to navigate mines located within a mountain and retrieve a golden crown. You can move in all directions as you traverse levels by jumping, falling, and climbing ladders. The screen scrolls in a slow, herky-jerky fashion that's not so easy on the eyes. You can fall from any distance, but there's a short recovery time for long falls.

In order to gain access to the crown, you'll need to acquire the "flame spirit". The flame is normally invisible but you can locate it with your flashlight. Or better yet you can listen for music to home in on its location. It's a well-executed concept. In the Atari 5200 edition the crown is housed in an elaborate temple, but here it's sitting out in the open - or so it would seem.

As it turns out, an "invisible force field" prevents you from approaching it from the side. It's possible to get hopelessly stuck in this force field, and novice players will have no idea what the [expletive] is going on when that happens. Transporting the crown to the top of the mountain is hard as balls, but only because of the awful controls.

Jumping requires you to hold the joystick diagonally, and there's no room for error as you squeeze between narrow ledges. You only have a minute to escape, and even when you get close a fluttering bat will steal the crown from your clutches. Mountain King has plenty of good ideas, but its controls are infuriating. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 32,890
1 player 

Mouse Trap
Grade: B+
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
Reviewed: 2008/7/1

screenshotAs a "thinking man's Pac-Man", Mouse Trap requires more skill and strategy than your garden-variety maze game. You guide a mouse (a mouse head actually) around the board while gobbling up "cheese" blocks and avoiding three aggressive felines. Bones serve as power pills you can stockpile, letting you transform into a cat-eating bulldog at the touch of a button.

Mouse Trap's graphics are simple but exceptionally clean and polished. The flicker-free animals move smoothly and the maze is rendered with bold, green lines. The only things that don't look so hot are the bones, represented by blocky X's. Some walls in the maze flicker, and these can be moved by holding down the fire button. This lets you change the maze configuration on the fly, sometimes trapping a pursuing cat in the process!

Mouse Trap's controls take some getting used to, but are pretty good once you get the hang of them. One thing that kind of freaks me out is how the mouse head is constantly moving his mouth. At first I thought he was just chewing on cheese, but now I'm convinced he's trying to tell me something! The game only has one notable sound effect, and that's a screech that's heard as your dog snags a cat. Hey, that sounds like a real cat!

I just wish they didn't reuse the same sound when a cat catches you. If you're in the process of transforming from dog to mouse when you touch a cat, it's hard to tell who caught who! Mouse Trap is tough, so don't leave any bones "on the table" when working on that final life. Four difficulty levels are available via difficulty switch combinations. Competently programmed and fun, Mouse Trap is a nice addition to the collection. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: AA
Our high score: 851
1 player 

Mr. Do!
Grade: B+
Publisher: Coleco (1982)
Reviewed: 1999/12/30

screenshotAt first glance, Mr. Do comes across as a blatant Dig Dug rip-off. However, closer scrutiny reveals a faster-paced game with a few ingenious twists. You control a clown who burrows through dirt and drops apples on his adversaries, but instead of a pump, you destroy enemies with your magic balls. Once you unleash a ball, it continues bouncing through the maze until it strikes something. Besides eliminating your enemies, you can also clear a screen by collecting all of its buried fruit. And oh yeah, if you can kill enough letter-shaped monsters to spell out "EXTRA", you get a free man. Mr. Do is hectic and fun, but less strategic than Dig Dug. The graphics and sound are above average, and the control is quite responsive. Mr. Do has four skill levels. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

Mr. Do!'s Castle
Grade: C-
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
Reviewed: 2010/10/27

screenshotThe original Mr. Do was good clean fun, but Mr. Do's Castle is positively user-hostile! The screen consists of six chunky levels connected by shifting ladders. There's not much to see but the green and purple color scheme is attractive. The action begins with a gang of "unicorns" climbing down from the top, which is totally bogus because everybody knows that unicorns can't climb ladders! They have hooves for Pete's sake! So much for realism.

Pressing the fire button causes Mr. Do to bang away with a hammer, but it looks more like he has a spastic appendage on his forehead. You can knock out blocks in the floor which causes less-intelligent foes to fall in, but the big points are earned by knocking blocks onto enemies walking below. That's a lot harder than it sounds, because once you knock out a few blocks it's hard to ascend the structure, much less position yourself to do any damage. The collision detection is harsh, so if you're not positioned perfectly you'll go from being Mr. Do to Mr. Done.

The music is a pleasant surprise, featuring a looping two-part melody that's catchy as hell. The graphics are not good, and if I didn't know any better, I'd think those unicorns were Sleestaks from Land of the Lost. Mr. Do's Castle is not fit for mass consumption, but gamers looking for a challenge will find themselves hitting the reset button over and over again. Not so much for the fun as for the sake of figuring this [expletive] thing out! Good luck with that! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: SLN 4,660
1 player 

Ms. Pac-man
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 1999/6/17

screenshotWow - this is an outstanding version of the popular arcade game. In fact, this puts the original Atari 2600 Pac-Man to shame. The graphics are surprisingly faithful to the arcade, and the control is dead-on. All of the mazes from the arcade are present, so the only thing missing is the intermissions. My only complaint is that the game is a bit on the easy side. An expert variation with smarter ghosts would have been nice. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 47430

Mystery Science Theater 2600
Grade: NA
Publisher: Hozer (1999)
Reviewed: 2001/5/15

screenshotHere's an innovative hack that combines a classic game with a funny TV show. The game is Activision's Megamania, and the show is Mystery Science Theater. You'll recall this show as the one that makes fun of really bad old "B" horror flicks like "The Crawling Hand" and "Robot Monster". Now, instead of shooting household appliances Megamania-style, you'll fire on bizarre creatures inspired from these old movies. Unfortunately, like the original Megamania, it's often difficult to discern what most of these things are supposed to be, although the humorous instruction manual will help you out. MST2600 is well conceived, injecting new life into a classic shooter. All it really needs is some of that cheesy old horror movie music. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 39820
1 or 2 players 

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