The snakes look like dotted lines, and shooting them yields unpredictable results. Sometimes they become smaller and sometimes they split, but mostly your shots just go right through and nothing happens at all. There are other creatures as well that resemble pixilated blobs. The control is awkward, to say the least. Sssnake looks more like an unfinished project. It's gotta be one of the sssloppiest games I've ever seen. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Controlling a cowboy on a galloping horse, you slowly move up and down the left side of the screen as groups of cattle approach from the right. Using your lasso, you must snag each one before it passes, and if you can't quite reach a group in time, you can still "nudge" them ahead to buy extra time. It's a pretty ingenious concept.
The game ends when three cattle pass, but you'll earn a free one every 1000 points. Complicating matters are cow skulls that trip you up and stationary black cows that you really need to keep an eye out for. It seems like every time you play Stampede you get a little better. And let's face it, any game that awards you a "free cow" is a winner in my book. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Blasting them is easy and fun, and you'll also need to shoot down their missiles (or guide them off the screen). Once you've destroyed enough ships, a portal appears that whisks you off to the next stage (much like Star Voyager). I like how your score is displayed between waves, which also provides you with a short breather. The waves are manageable until you reach around 1000 points, at which time the missiles come in almost as fast as you can shoot them down.
Star Fire is really shallow but I like its bold, frenetic pace. The music on the title screen is wild. I can't decide if it's a brilliantly complex composition or just random noise. Another interesting aspect of the game is its familiar spaceship designs. It doesn't take much imagination to make out Tie Fighters (including the Vader model), Star Destroyers, Slave I (Boba Fett's ship) and even a Death Star. Rest assured, however, any similarities between this game and Star Wars are purely coincidental. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Instead of being evenly distributed on the surface of the planet, the blue crystals mysteriously "appear" whenever you change direction, which is a serious crock of [expletive]. But what I hate most about Star Fox is how you inexplicably cannot move side-to-side while flying low on the screen. The instructions provide this half-assed explanation: "The energy crystals have ionized the gases to such an extent that your horizontal drives will be useless: you may not be able to move left or right at low altitudes." Give me a break! Why don't they just admit that the programmer stinks!?
To pick up a crystal, you must position your ship directly above it before landing, but your ship doesn't want to stay there, so you end up wrestling with it. The whole game is pointless and shallow. I love how the instruction manual attempts to build it up with lines like this: "Star Fox by Mythicon has a high level of computer intelligence built in. Your enemy is very smart and always knows where you are." Wow, I hope this cartridge doesn't suddenly become self-aware and try to take over the world! Quick - shut that damn thing off! © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
The game keeps you on your toes. Whenever you hyperwarp to a sector, you have to avoid asteroid collisions along the way by dodging or shooting them. When you warp to your star base, you actually have to "dock" with it by centering it in your crosshairs, and this requires some skill. There's only one type of enemy ship, but it looks pretty cool.
Only one enemy appears at a time, and you can only destroy it if it's directly in your crosshairs. One thing that bothers me about Star Master's graphics is the erratic movement of the stars. Instead of smoothly moving towards the outer edge for the center of the screen, they move in an odd manner. Another flaw is the confusing evaluation system. Still, I'd take this over Star Raiders any day. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Your mission is to wipe out 10 to 40 alien ships, depending on the difficulty level, but much of the game is played by staring at crosshairs as stars pass by. At the start of each game, you switch to your Galactic Map, locate the enemy's location, and warp to their sector.
This Galactic Map is so lame. It's a blocky four-by-four grid, and the only indicators are your position, your base, and the alien fleet. What's the point really? The first-person shooting action is more respectable, thank goodness. Every few seconds one or two ships appear, zipping around while scaling in and out. It takes some practice to target in on these guys.
Of the three alien ship styles, one looks like a Tie Fighter (Star Wars), and another looks like a Cylon Raider (Battlestar Galactica). The sound effects are confusing. During battle you hear constant explosions, but can't tell if they're from you being hit, an alien getting destroyed, or missiles colliding. Taking hits damages your shields, computer, photon torpedoes, or engines.
I do like the various ways in which the damage manifests itself (shields flicker, left torpedo stops working, etc). If your shields get damaged, you'll want to repair them immediately or risk instant death. You always have the option to turn off your computer or shields to save energy, but energy is usually the least of your worries.
Star Raiders isn't much to look at with its choppy, flickering graphics and blocky displays, but it is certainly challenging at the higher levels. At the end of each game you get rated from a "Cook" all the way up to a mystery rank. Star Raiders is okay, but for better first-person shooting action, try Star Master, Star Voyager, or Phaser Patrol. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
There are some other incredibly lame variations in which you just try to avoid oncoming squares - umm I mean "asteroids". And the "lunar lander" variations are truly pathetic. You simply move your little ship to the asteroid and push the button. Incredibly, there's no gravity, and hence, no challenge! What an embarrassment! No wonder Atari yanked it from their lineup. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
You view the action from just behind your ship, and flying saucers sneak up from the rear as meteors approach from the front. Shadows on the surface help you determine your position relative to these hazards. Taking a hit will temporarily send you out of control, possibly crashing into the trench below, which ends the game. Although you can fire forward, there isn't much to shoot, and targeting is difficult. Flying low in the trench automatically puts you into "bomb mode".
Gameplay is mainly a matter of dodging projectiles while occasionally plunging into the trench when a vent comes into range (a series of beeps will warn you). While its gameplay is simplistic and no score is provided (you either win or lose), Star Strike did manage to hold my attention for a little while. I was intent on beating this thing at least once, and it took some perseverance. Win or lose, you're treated to a short ending sequence. The difficulty switches allow you to configure four skill levels. There's not much to Star Strike, but the challenge might just keep you coming back for more. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
You trigger the secondary weapon by pressing the fire button on the second joystick (I like to use my toe for that one). Your lasers are far more powerful than your photon torpedoes, but consume ten times more energy! Once you expend all of your energy, the game ends. After shooting down each group of enemy ships you have the opportunity to fly through a portal and replenish your energy.
The graphics are fairly minimal, but the colors are vivid and the explosions are amongst the best I've seen on the 2600. There are two skill levels along with a two-player cooperative mode. Star Voyager is a heck of a lot of fun, and seriously underrated in my opinion. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
You can blast passing Imperial vessels, but it's hard enough to avoid colliding with them because they appear from out of nowhere. If you're looking for a cheap way to inflate your score, just wait for Vader's shuttle to cruise by - it's worth a cool 3,000 points (compared to a paltry 100 points for the others). Periodically a "hole" appears in the shield, a temporary gateway to the second (and final) stage. Here, the Death Star is presented as an ugly, gray, blocky monstrosity -- with a red dot in the center.
Avoiding a roving laser, you must wear down the outside of the Death Star to expose its core. It's Star Wars meets Breakout, and it's not a pretty sight. After shooting the core, you must dodge a series of fireballs before the Death Star finally explodes. The explosion isn't bad (by Atari 2600 standards) but then it's back to the beginning for another uneventful round. Playing Death Star Battle is a shallow experience, lacking any sense of strategy or fun. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The moon of Endor is a set of contiguous vertically-scrolling screens, and a bunker is located at the top of one of them. Enemies like AT-ST walkers, stormtroopers, and speeder bikes move down each screen. The stomping sounds of the walkers and whizzing sounds of the speeder bikes are amazing. Your only means of attack is to toss rocks. It's kind of lame, but still satisfying when enemies go up in flames.
Your rock supply is limited to nine but can be replenished by hovering over rock piles. That's easier said than done because controlling your glider is a source of endless frustration. It's hard to gain altitude when you're too low and hard to lose altitude when you're too high. The thing just seems to have a mind of its own.
One remarkable aspect of the game is your ability to commandeer walkers and speedbikes - usually by accident. The bikes tend to veer all over the place (as in the movie), but it's always fun to use an AT-ST to take out other walkers. When an alarm sounds that means you can fly into the bunker to blow it up and complete the stage. I can understand why Ewok Adventure was never released, but if someone could have devised a decent control scheme this would have been one heck of a game. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
In Arena, this orb shoots electrical charges and floats between these so-called Jedi. Actually, these competitors look like more two fat guys cooped up in boxes, protected by a four-layer shield. Using a paddle controller, you swing your saber from side to side - too bad it doesn't stick out far enough to touch anything!
Jedi Arena's control scheme is counterintuitive (to say the least). You use your saber to block the orb's charges, and press the fire button to initiate charges toward your opponent. Blocking is easy enough, but aiming your shots is awkward - I could never get a feel for it. Every now and then the orb goes nuts and starts shooting charges in all directions. It's a big, confusing mess. Jedi Arena is a real dud and a complete waste of the Star Wars license. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Not particularly responsive, the cursor has some kind of delay mechanism that's really annoying. The Tie fighters are nicely rendered; however, their missiles look more like big fuzz balls. You'll need to neutralize these, but that's less fun than targeting Ties. Eventually the ominous purple (?) Death Star moves into view. Next, you find yourself flying over the surface of the Death Star, trying to shoot the tops of pillars without running into them (what movie was that from?) Your crosshair not only aims, but also guides your ship - which is somewhat awkward.
The final stage places you in the Death Star trench, avoiding barriers and incoming missiles long enough to blast the exhaust port. It looks surprisingly good, with wire-frame 3D visuals that convey both depth and speed in a convincing fashion. Once you shoot the port, you're treated to a rather unspectacular explosion, before starting over on a harder level. Star Wars: The Arcade Game has two levels of difficulty. Casual gamers may not be impressed, but Star Wars aficionados will certainly appreciate this ambitious cartridge. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Your scanner indicates their position and should one of these hulking behemoths reach the right edge, the Rebel Alliance is toast. Fighting a walker is a high-tech game of cat-and-mouse. They can be destroyed by shooting one 48 times. That's right, I said 48 times. The walker's color reflects its level of damage, and the use of yellow and fuschia tends to undermine the sense of realism.
Every now and then a flashing pixel indicates a weak point, making it possible to destroy the walker with one well-placed shot. Unfortunately the spot only appears momentarily and is hard as [expletive] to hit. Walkers unleash laser blasts that are really hard to avoid. Fortunately you can land to repair your ship (twice per ship).
Should you manage to keep a ship intact for two minutes the rousing Star Wars theme kicks in and you're awarded with 20 seconds of invincibility (yeee-ha!). The game offers expert variations like "solid walkers" where you can't fly through the AT-ATs (although you can fly through their legs). The "smart bomb" variations cause AT-AT missiles to chase you around and it will drive you nuts.
I'll stick with the default variation which is hard enough, thank you. What I like best about Empire Strikes Back is how it conveys the tension and suspense of a real invasion. I actually got a blister playing this game. It seems shallow on the surface but Empire delivers satisfying twitch gameplay and relentless challenge. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Adding challenge is a droid at the top of the screen who suffers from a terrible case of spastic colon syndrome. He frantically drops bombs while moving from side-to-side, and unfortunately he's out of your shooting range. The first wave spawns one egg-shaped creature at a time, but as waves progress new shapes (like linked squares) appear in greater numbers. I like how the waves become increasingly chaotic.
New aliens are composed of four parts that fly in from different angles, and sometimes you can gauge where they will materialize for a quick kill. I usually opt for the hardest variations in Atari 2600 games, but the medium difficulty on Stargunner kicked my ass. In the hard level, the only points I could score was for colliding with aliens! Stargunner is pretty shallow but I enjoyed its quick games and twitch gameplay. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
This ambitious sequel takes the concept to the next level and really cranks up the difficulty. Special items give you the ability to do stuff like toss snowballs and even double-jump! Hard-to-reach gifts provide "glory seeking" opportunities that net big points. The animation is smooth and I love how the snowman changes facial expressions when standing still.
The music is slightly muffled but the fact that it plays a different Christmas tune for each screen is pretty remarkable. Each level is like a puzzle, and some can be a little onerous. My disdain for invisible mazes is well documented, and I also dislike having to deliberately melt to squeeze through certain passages. There are a lot of narrow platforms that are hard to stay on.
It's no cakewalk, but clearly a lot of thought went into each screen. The manual is pretty sweet too. Stay Frosty 2 is an exceptional technical achievement and a good choice for players who prefer their snowman games extra hard. Note: To properly enjoy after the holidays, move the right difficulty to A to disable the music. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
The first game, Stay Frosty, is an interesting platformer where you control a melting snowman. Each screen presents a bunch of small fires you need to extinguish while collecting ice cubes to maintain your solid form. The crisp controls and sharp graphics are commendable, but the action is a bit easy and repetitive.
The second entry, Tossing Cookies, is a bit of a throwaway title (pun intended) played on alternating screens. In the first screen you guide Santa around on his sleigh as he collects cookies, and on the second screen you toss them at reindeer. The graphics are rough, and the lack of a score limits the fun. Perhaps there's some kind of special ending when you complete all 12 rounds, but we'll never know.
The next game, Elf Dash, is my favorite. You control an elf in an out-of-control toy factory consisting of six floors and several constantly-moving elevators. You must collect candy canes, presents, ornaments, and other seasonal icons while avoiding patrolling tanks, teddy bears, and of course the obligatory AT-AT Walkers. If you complete the game within eight minutes, the remaining time serves as your score - a pretty neat idea!
Grandma's Revenge is an irreverent take on the "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" song, and it has an Indy 500 vibe. Controlling a marauding sports car, you run down waves of reindeer, causing the screen to become cluttered with blocky road-kill obstacles. It's pretty crazy, and fun power-ups can cause your car to become huge or transform it into a snowmobile.
The final entry, Cold War, is a two-player snowball shootout where both players control a pair of snowmen. I like the idea, but the unconventional control scheme is hard to grasp. None of these games really stand out, but they're all pretty inventive and you can't beat the variety. If you're looking for some Christmas fun, Stella's Stocking definitely has some holiday cheer in store for you. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
You can speed up, slow down, or move side-to-side, but the lack of diagonal movement makes the animation look choppy. The enemy cannons look rough, but at least they explode nicely. Enemy shots travel fast and are difficult to elude. Fuel towers can replenish your fuel supply, but these are also vulnerable to shots fired from the cannons.
If you make it to the "triumphal arch" at the end of the stage, you'll advance to stage two. This time, you face a squadron of bombers that fire wiggly lines, and it looks even worse than the first stage. All in all, Strategy X is low in quality, but there's something addictive about its gameplay that kept me coming back for more. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
The screen displays a mixed-up character with the head, body, and legs of six random Strawberry Shortcake characters. We're talking about all your favorites, like Purple Pie Man, Lime Chiffon, and Huckleberry Pie. You need to combine the correct character parts in a certain period of time.
The characters are large and colorful, and each has its own cute little theme song. Would a young child enjoy this game today? It's not beyond the realm of possibility, but the thrill wouldn't last. Once you memorize all the body parts, the game loses its replay value. Plus you can't blow up anything. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
I use the term "car" loosely, as these are the worst looking automobiles I have ever seen. Next, the "Slalom" variations let you ski through blue gates, and some precision is required as you "whoosh" from side to side. In "Dodgem" you drive your car up the screen while avoiding green blobs. Did I say the cars in the first variation were the worst I had seen? Make that second worst, because these cars look positively atrocious. I'm starting to think the programmer had never actually seen a real car.
"Jet Shooter" lets you fire slow-moving missiles at descending planes, but there's no challenge to it. "Number Cruncher" was always the most popular variation in my household, mainly because the games were so short. The idea is to catch falling digits with a guy in a wheelchair. In "Scoop Ball" you catch "plus" signs and deposit them into pieces that fit. The fact that it's not completely mindless gives it a leg up on the other variations.
These games tend to be awfully repetitive, and after playing one variation you're ready to move on to the next. Up to four players can participate, but the concept of "stacking" two players on each side doesn't work well. The one-player modes are a joke, as the CPU opponent just sits there. Street Racer's six-games-in-one combo may have been a decent value at one time, but this game has aged about as well as fake wood trim. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
A three-layered rotating shield eventually appears on the bottom of the screen, protecting a small Mexican woman. Okay, that object is supposed to be the "stronghold", but it's not very imposing. You can poke holes in the shield, but keep in mind that if you eliminate an entire layer it will regenerate. When the woman lines up directly beneath you, she'll unleash a huge blast in your direction. Wow, this lady is pissed!! You'll also need to contend with red drones and rotating blue number eights that float around the screen.
The action is pretty frantic as you scramble around while hoping one of your shots will thread the needle and take her out. She tends to follow your movements so you can use this to your advantage. Each wave is the same, but a little harder. There are 16 variations, but even the easiest will give you a run for the money. A variety would have been nice, but gamers looking for a challenge may find this appealing. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The "action" begins slowly. Heck, it takes a while before a sub even appears! A Defender-style scanner on the bottom of the screen indicates when subs are about to enter view, and there's something to be said for sinking a sub just as it appears on the screen. The game ends when ten subs cross safely, and the pace gradually picks up as you go.
Adding some much-needed spice are yellow "bonus subs" that periodically cross the very bottom of the screen. They're worth big bonus points, but much like the mothership in Space Invaders (Atari 2600, 1980), they tend to distract you from the job at hand. If you could only drop one charge at a time Sub Scan would be excruciatingly boring, but in fact you can drop four at a time, allowing you to "spray" them around to some extent.
The controls could be better and I often ended up tossing in the wrong direction. One unexpected visual highlight occurs when the game ends. Your ship is inexplicably ripped in half, as if some kraken emerged from the depths to suck you down into Davy Jones's Locker. Or maybe I've just been watching too many pirate movies. Sub Scan has no variations and the difficulty switches have no effect. It's bland to be sure, but I think you'll discover that a certain amount of technique is required to net a high score. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Despite the pixelation the ships are brightly-colored and even generate a little wake in the water. The controls are responsive and unique for a 2600 game. When you move up and down the screen scrolls slightly, so you never see the complete picture from your "periscope" view. You can fire a pair of torpedoes at a time, and they're spaced apart, so timing is critical. It's fun to watch the ships sink into the depths, and it's especially satisfying to sink two at once!
Gauges indicate engine temperature, fuel, torpedo status, sonar detection, and depth charge detection. To be honest I don't really have a firm grasp of what all of these mean, but it's that subtle complexity that makes the game so intriguing. Submarine Commander demands frantic shooting and quick maneuvering at times, but you need to know when to let things cool off. When you're out of fuel, a wild laser sound effect lets you know your game is over. Fast, fun, and unique, Submarine Commander is probably one of the more underappreciated Atari cartridges. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The first screen pits you against a truly hideous beast called a "Hexuplex". This green monstrosity roves around the bottom of the screen, deploying killer "aerobots" that try to ram you. The best strategy is to keep your distance from those things so you can get a clean shot at them. I also noticed a pixelated pattern across the top of the screen that looks like an ominous figure looming over you. After blasting so many aerobots a hole appears that lets you descend into the depths. It really sucks that you can't kill that ugly Hexuplex!
The next two stages take place in side-scrolling caverns where you shoot chomping creatures. There's not much to see but I like how the cave walls are lined with human skulls. Between stages an "electro gate" appears, and you must time your descent to avoid its charges. Subterranea looks and sounds nice, but it's not particularly fun. By the time the screens started to repeat, my heart really wasn't in it anymore. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
The opening event, hurdles, is not the joystick waggler you might expect. Instead you hold the joystick right, tapping up to hop the hurdles. It plays very well but why is my athlete decked out in black pants and dress shoes? Two swimming events let you propel yourself through the water by pressing the fire button in a rhythm. You get a satisfying boost with a well-timed kick off the wall. Skeet shooting is a simple aim-and-shoot affair that might be a bit too forgiving.
The 100 meter dash requires you to jiggle the joystick (you knew it was coming). Fortunately the race only lasts about 15 seconds so the chances of breaking a joystick (or shattering a wrist) is well under 20%. Gymnastics is the single dud of the bunch, mainly because it's so much more complicated than the others. One-third of the instructions are dedicated to it!
The competition winds down with a rowing event that lets you move the joystick in rhythm with the oars. The tournament concludes by displaying the top three countries, but some overall scores would have been nice. Still, Summer Games is an impressive technical accomplishment and a lot of fun. And I love the idea of playing an entire Summer Olympics in under ten minutes. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
The insipid gameplay has been left intact, and the players look slightly worse as they are now rendered in a single color. They do move faster - faster than the ball in some cases! In fact, it's more effective to have your outfielder run around the bases tagging runners out than to throw the ball! Throws don't go sailing over basemen's heads as often as they did in Realsports Baseball, but batted balls are still hit to the same spots over and over.
Unlike Realsports, you have the additional annoyance of having to wait for the batters lounging to and from home plate These guys are so slow that it's comical. My buddy Scott and I were literally rolling on the floor laughing as we watched these guys literally crawl to the batter's box. You could heat up a pizza in the oven in the time it takes for one of these slackers to step up to the plate! The CPU opponent is nearly invincible, and playing against a human opponent is just plain unpleasant. There's a nice title screen, but it can't hide the fact that Super Baseball is repackaged garbage. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
In retrospect Super Breakout isn't as great as I remember. For one thing I don't think its graphics even measure up to the first game. The playfield is more narrow and instead of a smooth gradient there are only four colors over eight rows. I'm not a big fan of those black dividing lines either. The audio is definitely its strong suit, as whenever you press reset it selects a different sound type to be used. Some remind me of the twang of a guitar string, others are soft, and others are harsh like sheet metal. The metallic sounds are so futuristic that you'll feel like you're back in the eighties for crying out loud!
The first variation is your basic Breakout - one ball and one paddle. Why was this even included? The "double" variation is the main event, with two balls and a pair of stacked paddles. Playing this feels like juggling! Scoring is doubled when two balls are in play, so would it make sense to lose a single ball on purpose when you're just about to break through?
The third variation is called cavity. Here you begin with one ball but can dislodge two more stuck in the wall. This one has an all-or-nothing quality. It's dull from the start, fast when you release the balls, but you tend to lose them in a hurry. The progressive variation features multiple walls gradually bearing down upon you. It's pretty intense but for some reason this particular variation didn't function correctly on my "heavy sixer" unit, rendering the controls unresponsive. I've never seen that before.
Overall Super Breakout is decent but there were many missed opportunities. Couldn't they have fine-tuned the control so you're not at the mercy of the predetermined angles? Where are the four player, coop modes, and breakthru modes? Atari got a little lazy with this one, shipping something that was not as super as it could have been. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Every ball put into play is treated as a grounder, although home runs occur if the ball travels off the screen. Things get complicated when you need to take control of the correct fielder, which requires a complicated combination of button and joystick movements. It's not insurmountable but the learning curve is steep. Couldn't they just select a fielder for you? It is fun to throw the ball around the infield and tagging out a runner is especially satisfying because he disappears with a *zap* - like he was vaporized!
Be sure to set both difficulty switches to A which allows you to control the lead runners. These guys are slow so it's rare to stretch a hit into a double. Stealing a base is nearly impossible but at least you can lead off. The graphics are substandard - even for a 2600 title. Brent marvelled how the numbers are so sharp and well articulated, yet the field is an unadulterated mess.
Scott speculated that M-Network devised a special algorithm to make the graphics extra blocky just for this game! That diamond is jagged as all hell and the fielders resemble men's room symbols. At least the flicker is kept to a minimum. Like most M-Network titles this game lacks a single-player mode. Super Challenge Baseball isn't as super as it used to be and the real challenge clearly lies in grasping the controls. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
On defense, the safety assigns each teammate to rush or cover a receiver. It's actually quite ingenious when you consider all the possibilities. Interceptions are possible, but there are no kicks, punts, or running out of bounds. The game's most famous (or perhaps infamous) feature is the ability for the defender to run off one side of the screen and reappear on the other. It's pretty silly, but sometimes the only way to catch a breakaway receiver.
It's also not uncommon for the guy with the ball to "fake out" the defender - leaving him in the dust! Super Challenge Football plays very well, but the lack of crowd noise makes the game far too quiet. The down and quarter indicators are displayed in the center of the screen, but these are awfully small. A single-player mode would have been nice. But all things considered, Super Challenge Football is a lot of fun, and it's one of several quality football games for the 2600. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Your tiny chopper moves in leaps and bounds, making it hard to squeeze through narrow passages with any precision. The fire button alternates between the missiles and bombs, but you can only fire one at a time. You need to be dead-on to nail your tiny targets, and this really undermines the all-important destruction factor. When you blow up a cannon a pixelated 100 (points) appears, and guess what - you can blow that up! You can blow up a score! That sounds like something Chuck Norris would do!
There are eleven stages but not much to see. The section with the floating oranges takes forever, probably because they only appear one at a time. During advanced stages rockets begin to launch and the audio effects are alarming. But overall Super Cobra is a marginal translation that fails to capture the essence of the arcade. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
The standard mode is easy enough to work through the 11 stages (with continues), but on advanced you'll be lucky just to make the high score screen with 10K. Navigating the narrow caverns requires finesse and taking out cannons demands pinpoint timing. Each stage offers a unique challenge and I love the use of color in this game. I had my young nephew try this and even he appreciated the look of this game. The multicolored explosions are satisfying even if they sound like trash can lids banging together. Blowing up depots lets you maintain your fuel supply but frankly I never felt as if it was in jeopardy.
In addition to its excellent gameplay Super Cobra Arcade offers a slew of bells and whistles. You get limited continues, gamepad support (Genesis controller), a pause function (b/w switch), and the ability to save high scores via the Atarivox attachment. Super Cobra Arcade comes in a glossy box and includes a slick comic book-style instruction manual. Crafted with the highest standards, this is a first-class title every 2600 fan should cherish. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
The play-calling scheme is rather complex, and you'll need to consult the manual to select formations and receiver patterns. Once again, the incompetent folks at Atari really let us down with regards to the remarkably cheap instruction booklet. If you're not going to include a quick reference sheet for plays, at least list the offensive and defensive formations on adjacent pages! As it is, the two players not only need to constantly pass the instructions back and forth, but they need to flip through the pages as well! The action on the field is pretty decent. The ball moves in a nice arc, but completing passes to those tiny receivers is tough.
The game incorporates kick-offs, punts, and field goals, making it the most comprehensive football game for the system. Yes, you can actually see the football sailing through the uprights! Heck, you can even have a player in motion at the line of scrimmage! The black and white console switch serves the purpose of a pause button, and that's really handy. The single player mode boasts four skill levels, including a novice setting where the CPU selects your plays for you. Extremely ambitious and fun to play as well, Super Football really pushes the system to its limits. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Much like Adventure (Atari 2600, 1980) you move between contiguous screens, and you can even take "short cuts" through the subway. The problem is, Superman's screen layout is confusing! One reader contended that "even a young child could figure it out." Really? I've seen a map of the game, and the screens are wired together in a manner that defies logic. It's possible to move down off one screen, and move back up only to find yourself on a third screen. It doesn't help that they all look the same with those blocky building backdrops.
The characters look pretty good. They're large and rendered in multiple colors. When you get a few large objects on the same screen however they start to flicker like crazy, making it very hard to pick up or drop items. Classic gamers will appreciate Superman's old school charm and it's always a challenge to beat your best time. Still, the poorly-designed screen layout too often made me feel like I was on a wild goose chase. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Two players guide blocks around the screen. Each block leaves a wall behind it, and you win when your opponent collides with a wall. Although it's sometimes possible to cut the other guy off, winning is largely a function of not dying before the other guy does. Twelve variations include diagonal movement, an erase option, and "wrap around", which allows you to move off one side of the screen and re-enter on the opposite side.
The best option is "speed up", which gradually increases the pace of the game. The computer opponent is a complete idiot, but Surround is mildly amusing with two players. And let's not forget the "video graffiti" variations that let you paint blocky pictures on the screen. It's hard to believe this was once considered entertainment. Surround was one of the first Atari games to be discontinued. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
In the first stage you swim in an ocean with a volcanic island in the background. The smoke rising from the island looks nice, and I like how the island looms closer as you swim towards it. Unfortunately, that island is a lot farther away than it appears. You'll have to push against the top of the screen for what seems an eternity as you slowly swim toward the thing. You'll find supplies floating in the water, but you must avoid the occasional shark and some green thing that resembles a snake. If they touch you, you die instantly and have to restart this brutal ordeal from the beginning. It's awfully laborious, and there's little strategy involved.
But if you thought that was bad, wait until you play the unforgiving second stage, where you aimlessly wander the island in search of a temple. The instructions recommend "mapping" your journey, and I can see why. The island is a maze of paths that all look the same with invisible death traps all over the place. You can go into "search mode" if you want to be extra careful, but then it takes an eternity just to walk across one screen! You can move reasonably fast, but instant death is around every corner. Only by noting the exact trap locations on each screen will you possibly survive.
Lacking the intestinal fortitude to continue, I quit in disgust at this point. No, I never saw the third stage, but if the instructions are any indication, I didn't miss a thing. Basically it's one of those much-maligned first-person mazes with invisible walls (yuck), one-way walls (ugh), and transporters (arrgh!!) all over the place. Once again, you're forced to map your progress - not my idea of a good time! Then again, it's an appropriate ending to an absolutely abysmal excuse for a game. I can't believe the 2600 Connection gave Survival Island four out of five stars in 1993. What the [expletive] were they thinking?! © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Occasionally you'll encounter a flickering force field you can deactivate by shooting its "switch", which takes the form of a block placed in a random spot on the screen. To be honest, it's hard to tell if you shot the switch in time or ran into the force field. Poorly defined, blocky creatures scale in from the distance, but they're easy to shoot thanks to your rapid-fire gun. Unfortunately, you'll want to minimize your shots because they drain your energy.
Should you reach the end of the maze, you'll encounter a boss that you'll need to pump some serious lead into. Once again, it's difficult to tell if you defeat him, since the game abruptly switches over to a new maze. I wasn't thrilled with Survival Run, but it might be more interesting to play with the special controller the game was originally packaged with. According to the instructions, the "Cosmic Commander" required four "D" size batteries, and featured light and vibration special effects. If I ever get a hold of that beast, I'll update this review. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
While it was never released by Mattel, Retrotopia thankfully resurrected it in 2000. The joystick allows for three types of attacks (overhead, right, left), and three types of blocks. You can advance and retreat using the fire button. According to the manual, "once players get familiar with the moves, long and challenging battles are possible". I have to agree - the game is confusing at first but it's not bad once you get a handle on the controls. Sword Fight is an innovative title unlike anything else I've played on the 2600, and collectors should definitely try to pick up a copy. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Your tiny character can quickly scamper down hallways, but it's far too easy to get hung up on the corners. Scattered throughout the mazes are rooms, and entering each one switches the game to a full screen view. Here you'll see treasures and items lining the top and bottom of the screen, and a monster lurking in the center. These creatures are hardly intimidating, and some look downright goofy. While in these rooms, the control is atrocious. Your character moves sluggishly, and inexplicably pauses every few steps.
There's no strategy involved in avoiding the monster, which moves in the same stilted manner. Worse yet, to grab an item you must press against it for a few seconds - not fun when you have a monster bearing down on you. Adding insult to injury, the exits are unmarked and can only be located by pressing against the walls. These sequences alone are sufficient to downgrade the game to an F. The maze section isn't bad, and I do like the idea of using items, but these room encounters are simply too painful to endure. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
In light of those events, I think it's safe to say the project was a resounding failure. So I don't feel too bad about trashing this horrendous game. It's designed to be used with a comic book, an idiotic idea if I ever heard one. You control a man who looks a lot like Mr. Rogers in a light-blue sweater and light green pants. Wandering aimlessly from room to room, you will find many useless, boring objects.
Some rooms provide challenging mini-games with some of the most heinous graphics and gameplay ever. That's about it. This is some ill-conceived garbage. The sad part is, this was supposed to be the sequel to Adventure, one of the most beloved Atari 2600 games of all time! But these Swordquest games are only of value to collectors. Steer clear. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
The method for manipulating items is the same as in Earthworld, but it doesn't matter because you don't care about those worthless things! You just want to play those mini-game challenges! And boy oh boy do we have some stinkers here. Whether you're catching birds with a Mexican blanket, or shooting turkeys with a slingshot, the medieval fantasy theme really shines through.
Of course, these are just my interpretations of the poor graphics. I'm sure other people could come up with even more imaginative stuff, but you get the idea. This game is one of the absolute worst, and should be the object of much ridicule. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
As the third and final chapter of the short-lived series, Swordquest Waterworld was only available via mail order from Atari Age magazine. The poor schmucks who ordered this hunk of junk ultimately got the last laugh, as it has since become a super-rare collector's item. In Swordquest Waterworld you explore seven item rooms and three action stages. Not even gaudy color schemes can hide the fact that the rectangular item rooms are super boring. Some even have invisible walls - the bane of my existence!
Black objects litter the rooms. There's a doll, shoes, chair, pineapple, necklace, crown, and other random shapes. The goal is to place the correct combination of items in certain rooms. These reveal numbers that reference words in the included comic book, spelling out a secret message. The game also dispenses clues in the form of item pairs on the bottom of the screen. I honestly tried to solve the puzzles but scribbling down the clues is a real pain in the ass because so many of the objects look similar.
The trial-and-error gameplay gets old in a hurry and the "action" stages don't help. In one you must swim past sharks, and it sucks how you always get nailed just as you're reaching the right edge of the screen. In another stage you hop between ice floes, and it's frustrating because you need to be so exact. In the third stage you get knocked around by a school of red squid. In 1983, Swordquest Waterworld may have held some degree of mystery, but now it feels like a pointless exercise. Where the hell is Kevin Costner when you need him? © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
On a positive note, the user interface is well constructed, with a nifty menu system that makes it easy to navigate the game types and adjust your skill level. A few of the game variations are playable, but none are particularly enjoyable. In terms of audio, Sync plays impressive layered melodies during the menu screens, but the audio during the games is very repetitive. As for the AtariVox support, a robotic voice utters some gibberish whenever you make a successful move, but that gets annoying after approximately five seconds.
My friends really hated Sync, and Scott lamented it was "so bad it gave me cancer". I suspect he was exaggerating, but there's no question that Sync lacks that addictive quality desirable for any rhythm-based title. Everyone raved about the cartridge label and manual however, which look extremely attractive and professional. Clearly some talented people were involved with this project, but I'm afraid they need to find some better material. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age