The game takes place in a house with three rooms and a yard. If you're playing against an actual person he'll have to cover his eyes while you're looking for a hiding spot. The house looks spooky from the outside but the three rooms are extremely sparse, containing only one piece of furniture each! Where in the [expletive] are you supposed to hide?! Apparently there are invisible locations that suck you in like a portal. But it's not enough to push against them.
No, you need to hold the button while moving the joystick in an arbitrary direction to get the spot to register. It makes no sense at all. Even when you know exactly where to look, accessing a hiding spot is a futile exercise in button mashing and joystick wagging. Could this game be any worse? Well, throw in an off-key rendition of Yankee Doodle Dandy and you have your own personal hell. Some marginal games help you appreciate good ones, but Sneak n' Peek helps you appreciate the bad ones too! Add it to your collection today! © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
In terms of graphics, Snoopy and the Red Baron is impressive. You can easily make out Snoopy with his little scarf and goggles, and his doghouse even models damage in the form of bullet holes. The Red Baron's biplane looks equally good as it scales in and out. The scenery features a big blue sky and rolling hills, and several pleasant musical tunes play in the background.
Unfortunately, once you get the hang of this game, it becomes too easy. The Red Baron simply isn't aggressive enough. Even on the most difficult skill level, you'll be playing until your thumb gets sore. It's the ultimate downfall of an otherwise impressive title. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
The steering controls are a bit quirky, but being able to slow down (using the fire button) helps. In later stages, you'll need to pass over each cell twice, with the first pass only altering its color. Solar Fox is one of those addicting games that'll have you hitting the reset switch over and over again. There are even Galaga-inspired "challenge racks". On the downside, Solar Fox's graphics are only average, and its sound effects have an irritating quality. Still, this low-profile title is worth picking up. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
On the flip side, these aliens unleash the same type of deadly laser - and it can't be dodged. This adds some luck to the equation, but it's useful to know that the aliens can only fire once. You, on the other hand, can fire like a madman, and it's really not a bad idea! The only time you might want to hold your fire is when a funky "sizzloid" appears. Hitting that screeching thing causes other aliens on the screen to be obliterated, so it can be useful to let it travel down the screen a bit.
Solar Storm might not look like much, but the difficulty ramps quickly and by the time you reach 1500, it's just crazy. Sweetening the deal are bonus stages that let you move a cursor around a planet in the center of the screen, firing at ships flying above and below. Nailing five ships before the timer runs out earns you a free cannon.
Solar Storm's graphics are extra crisp, and the ominous sound effects grow in intensity. The two-player mode seamlessly alternates between the players, and the action never lets up. So give Solar Storm a try, and let's show these alien bastards how we do things downtown. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
For a 2600 title, Solaris is huge in scope. There are 16 "quadrants", each containing 48 sectors! That means there are 16 different maps to move between, each loaded with a variety of targets including enemy fleets, flagships, planets (friendly and hostile), wormholes, and blockades. There are even special "corridor" areas that challenge you to blast aliens and snatch keys while moving at high speeds. A lot of skill is required to hyperwarp between sectors and dock with repair bases.
In addition to blasting aliens, you can also rescue stranded troops on the planets. The graphics in Solaris are first-rate. The multi-colored aliens are flicker-free and glide along smoothly, even when attacking in groups. The planets look beautiful and the map screens are finely detailed. Solaris is an ambitious title, but Atari didn't give it the first-class treatment it deserved. For one thing, they reused the label from Star Raiders on it, which is pretty lame.
Next they included the most oversimplified, poorly written instructions I've seen in quite a while. The illustrations are just awful, and as a result, the rules of play are confusing. In fact, I suspect one recurring "bug" that I've encountered (getting stuck in a quadrant), might have something to do with my lack of understanding of the game. Solaris is a stellar effort, but you'll need to invest some time to appreciate everything it has to offer. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Once you snag the platform, you can freely fly around the entire screen. Moving off the right edge, you'll encounter wave after wave of enemies which appear three at a time and move in distinct patterns. They fire missiles, so shoot first and ask questions later (like "what was that thing?" for example). These "forces of evil" aren't hard to overcome once you recognize their patterns, and they drop a nice hunk of treasure behind when defeated.
As you progress through the various waves, you'll be introduced to a surprising variety of foes, and it's always interesting to see what the next wave has in store. Sorcerer's sprites are chunky but smoothly animated and multicolored. The action is fast and the controls are responsive. It's definitely a challenge, and Sorcerer holds more surprises than your typical 2600 cartridge. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Assuming the role of a nicely rendered Mickey Mouse, you begin on a screen with colorful mountains and raining stars. You can shoot the stars for points or catch them to earn "buckets". Once you've accumulated buckets you can move off the right edge of the screen, where you'll find yourself on a staircase with rising water. Your buckets will automatically bail out the water, but first you must clear out a parade of water-carrying brooms. Eventually these brooms will overwhelm you, causing the water to fill the screen and end the game.
The first screen has a handy meter at the bottom showing the current water level. The graphics are kind of fun, but the game never quite "clicks". Neither screen is particularly enjoyable, and after a while it just feels tedious going back and forth. Even the music is annoying, as it constantly "resets" whenever you fire a shot. I know it's designed for kids, but I can't imagine this holding anyone's interest for long. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Your astronaut looks more like a karate master decked out in a white outfit and red belt. I like how you can rapidly fire by holding in the button. Bombs rain down in droves but the collision detection is extremely forgiving. When you shoot an alien it turns into a little blue "ghost" that drifts down the screen.
One thing that makes Space Cavern almost interesting are the big-mouthed chompers that emerge from the edges of the screen and try to eat you. You fire sideways at them by pushing the joystick up (to shoot left) or down (to fire right). It's counterintuitive but feels satisfying to blow them away with a wave of energy. Upon your death you immediately respawn in the same place, even if another bomb is right over your head.
The most challenging part of the game is sorting through the 48 variations. The checkerboard reference chart is hard to make sense out of with row labels like "Electrosauri blast directors straight/random." Most variations are too hard or easy, but I think you'll find variation 19A provides all the Space Cavern action you'll ever need - and probably a lot more! © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Three rows of blocky, bomb-dropping aliens move across the screen, and you simply plug away at them with your cannon. In the variation I played, they looked like crystal skulls from the Indiana Jones movie. The animation is choppy and the collision detection is pitiful. The fact your missiles can cancel each other out doesn't enhance the overall experience - it degrades it by needlessly dragging out each wave. It's bad enough that the aliens and color scheme remain constant between waves, but even the difficulty stays the same! Space Chase doesn't look so hot sticking out of an Atari 2600 console, but it looks terrific in a trash can! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
The aliens are large, and there are six different varieties, each with its own distinct look. Periodically the red "mothership" slowly crosses the top of the screen, and at 200 points, it's hard to resist. Three shields along the bottom of the screen are handy to take cover under. It's fun to poke holes in the shields, but the invaders seem particularly adept at dropping their bombs through those narrow openings.
As each round winds down, the sound of the aliens marching quickens, adding to the intensity. That last invader is always the toughest to hit. Your shots move slowly, so it's necessary to "lead them" into your target. It's a little slow, but Space Invaders is a legitimate classic that packs a good deal of shooting satisfaction. Tip: Enable the secret "double-shot" mode by holding down the reset button when you turn the game on. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Since then, Space Jockey has become the designated whipping boy for lame Atari 2600 games, often mentioned in the same breath as "Sssnake", "ET", and "Swordquest". Moving a blimp-shaped "ship" up and down over a planet, you fire at balloons, planes, tanks, and helicopters that approach from the right. What does this have to do with space? Clearly the game doesn't take place in space. And why can you score points for shooting houses and trees on the planet below? It just doesn't seem right from an ethics point of view. I mean, when was the last time you scored points for shooting a frickin' tree?!
Space Jockey's gameplay couldn't be more simplistic or monotonous, and it never really changes no matter how long you play. In fairness, the game does have a few redeeming qualities. The objects are rendered in multiple colors and the animation is smooth and flicker-free. If you play a difficult variation, Space Jockey even provides a degree of challenge. And did you know that moving the joystick after a game causes the high score to be displayed? Sadly, that's the highlight of an otherwise extremely bland shooting experience. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Your goal is to destroy the base as many times as you can while avoiding the various things it tosses out. These things typically resemble zigzags and curly-cues, and are usually easy to avoid. A gauge on the bottom of the screen indicates the base's current strength, and many hits are required to wear it down. For the first dozen waves or so, you can simply navigate a gap in the force field and fire missiles down the base's throat.
Once you reach 60K however, the shield moves too fast to penetrate, so all you can do is sneak in a few shots here and there. The problem is, the base regenerates its energy as fast as you can drain it, and that really sucks. Space Master X-7's graphics and sound are average at best, and I didn't find its gameplay to be especially interesting. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The explosion effects are nice, and I like how you get sprayed with space dust after blasting a small rock from short range. Considering the amount of activity on the screen, the lack of flicker is extraordinary. The difficulty has been ratcheted up to arcade levels, but the tight controls are up to the challenge. You can skillfully navigate around the screen, and when you have to fall back on hyperspace, it usually transports you to a safe place.
Upon losing a ship the next one appears in an invincible state, allowing you to avoid a cheap death on re-entry. The collision detection is so precise there were times when I escaped a close scrape by angling my ship! Space Rocks has a convenient menu screen that lets you customize the game entirely with the joystick. Among the more interesting options is a two-player coop mode and the ability to substitute shields for hyperspace.
But the most critical option is the one that lets you disable the annoying "Magna-Mines". These mines are heat-seeking pests that will antagonize you to no end just as you're trying to wipe out those last few rocks. With the mines turned off, Space Rocks is pure arcade bliss. This game may lack originality but it's got just about everything else. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
The manual is a thick, 30-page booklet containing procedures, diagrams, and charts. A quick reference sheet is also included, and there's even a template to place over your console switches! The screen displays the instrument panel and a view out of the windshield. Activision allegedly worked with NASA to make this as realistic as possible.
You might expect such a realistic game with complex controls to be a very dull affair, and you'd be correct. However, after trying it out I have gained a certain appreciation for Space Shuttle. Not that I had enough patience to successfully complete a mission, but if someone spent enough time figuring this out, I think they could really derive some enjoyment. Just mastering the controls would derive some degree of satisfaction. Space Shuttle won't appeal to the casual gamer, but its quality and attention to detail is admirable. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Space War's concept of running out of ammo and having to reload provides a modicum of strategy to its otherwise vanilla gameplay. But where are the explosions? What's a space game without explosions!? The final straw came when my friend Steve started thrusting continuously up the screen and refused to stop, rendering the game virtually unplayable. There are a few single-player "docking" variations thrown in, but these afterthoughts are even more pointless. It's easy to see why Space War was one of Atari's first discontinued titles, considering its uninspired gameplay and minimal graphics. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Controlling a cannon on the bottom, you must unleash a steady stream of red missiles to wipe out the vermin and protect the fruit on the top. It's immediately fun and engaging, but the thrill doesn't last. Once the difficulty plateaus, skilled gamers can play this game almost indefinitely. The main problem is how the "master nest" always enters from the left side. Often you can blow it away as soon as it appears. Designer Larry Miller attempted to address this problem by making the nest temporarily invincible when it first enters. Unfortunately, this invincibility doesn't last long enough to make a major difference.
Another problem is the excessive number of "free lives" awarded. To earn one, all you have to do is protect the fruit at the top of the screen for an entire wave, and believe me, that fruit is never really in any danger. Consequently, even during a bad stretch your cannons are replaced as fast as you lose them. It's far from perfect, but Spider Fighter is still a blast for novice gamers. Note: Unlike most 2600 games, the A difficulty setting is actually easier. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
You begin on the lower floors of a huge yellow skyscraper with crooks appearing randomly in windows. Your goal is to scale the building and defuse the "super bomb" at the very top. You can fire your webbing straight up to quickly ascend, but shooting diagonally lets you swing from side-to-side. Nabbing bad guys earns points and more importantly replenishes your web fluid. Having your web cut by a dude in a window sends you into free-fall, but you can sling another web in mid-air to catch yourself. That's awesome.
Once you get the hang of the controls you'll be shooting web with pinpoint precision. On top of the building is a girder structure known as the "high voltage tower" (note Dr. Evil-style quotes). Here you'll find exploding bombs you can either diffuse for points or simply avoid. Near the top the Green Goblin hovers menacingly on his sled.
Sadly you can't actually fight the Goblin - only avoid him. The programmers really should have allowed you to defeat him somehow. Stage two offers a tall pink building that's far more difficult to traverse. Spider-Man is a winner. It's a unique title that requires equal parts skill and strategy. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Remaining hidden behind the wall is tough because if even your ear is exposed you'll be riddled with bullets. That's not a problem because the controls are tight and pressing the button lets you duck behind shorter walls. This game embodies all the excitement and suspense of stealth action without all the tediousness usually associated with it. Better yet, the walls are randomly generated so no two games are the same.
Beginning with stage two you'll also need to duck under the occasional bullet - a challenge previously reserved for action stars like Jean Claude Van Damme. There should probably be a bigger penalty for getting shot; you just restart on the left side. A countdown on the bottom of the screen beeps when time runs short, amping up the excitement and intensity. My friends are a cynical bunch but they had nothing but praise for Spies in the Night. It's pretty brilliant. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
The first screen places Spike on a winding mountain trail, where he can take cover behind orange boxes to avoid approaching hawks or polar bears. The hiding controls are anything but responsive, making this stage far more challenging than it's meant to be. But the second screen is where the real frustration sets in.
Here Spike must scale the side of a cliff while bouncing boulders and swarms of bees continuously knock him down. Spike moves at a snail's pace, so avoiding the numerous dangers requires more luck than skill. Sometimes a boulder will appear from out of nowhere just as you near the top of the screen, sending Spike all the way down to the bottom.
The final screen is a combination of the first two, set on a snowy mountainside with wandering snow monsters. While the game's visuals are fine, the abrasive sound effects really got on my nerves. Spike's Peak's controls will kill your wrist, and if you do manage to reach the peak, you'll be subjected to one of the most irritating "endings" you'll ever witness. Enjoy. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Considering how obscure Spitfire Attack is, I'm kind of surprised how smooth and polished the actual game looks. A first-person airplane shooter can be a pretty tall order for the Atari 2600, yet enemy planes scale in smoothly, ground targets pass below, and roads wind into the distance. The incoming planes look really good, and you can even see their spinning propellers when they get close enough! The audio effects of the planes buzzing by are realistic as well. In addition to blowing planes out of the sky you can strafe anti-aircraft artillery and churches on the ground. What's that? Those buildings are ammo dumps? I knew that!
The controls feel good but the game would have benefitted from a few gauges on the screen. I kept exploding after hearing warning beeps, only to learn it was my "low altitude warning system" kicking in. Spitfire Attack is moderately fun but the action is repetitive to-the-max and there's not much strategy. Still, with its smooth visuals, cool sounds, and crisp controls, this may be a worthwhile addition to the collection. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Along the way you'll collect bonus items like carrots, toothbrushes, coffee mugs, and sunglasses for bonus points. I don't know what a rabbit would do with a coffee mug, but he's sure going to look cool in those shades! With a name like Springer, you'd expect this bunny to be light on his feet, but in fact his movements are painfully slow.
The jumping controls are both confusing and hard on the hands. There's a very subtle difference between holding the joystick to the side or diagonally while jumping. In a nutshell, one will land you safely while the other will send you plummeting to your death. And falling even one millimeter will turn Springer into a steaming plate of Hasenpfeffer. Springer is a chore to play, and I'm surprised I even completed the first level. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
You can also adjust the number of laps and even set the track surface to be black, dirt, or ice. The computer presents a fair challenge, but going head-to-head is always more fun. So what's the problem? Well mainly I wasn't crazy about the joystick control. It's a shame this game doesn't support the Indy 500 controllers. But overall Sprint Master is still one of the better racing games for the 2600. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
The best part of Spy Hunter is the control. Originally this game was sold with a device that would give your joystick two buttons, one for front weapons (machine guns, missiles), and one for the back (oil slicks, smoke). I don't own this device, but I got by just fine by using the fire button on joystick #2. Spy Hunter's graphics are plain but clean, although the helicopter looks like a big floating tree. The Peter Gunn theme plays in the background, and there are two difficulty levels. I highly recommend this one. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age