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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age