Although your firepower is considerable, your closely-packed formation makes you a large target, so it's hard to avoid incoming projectiles. Not to worry however, as ships are replenished at the end of each round in a short sequence where you guide bonus ships into formation.
For the first few rounds, Tac-Scan is fun, if only because you have five freakin' ships firing at once. You just don't see that in Atari 2600 games. But as the rounds progress and the action speeds up, the visuals become more and more choppy. Eventually you're forced to just shoot like a madman and hope for the best. The instruction manual claims no one at Sega could survive the seventh round, but I suspect that's because Tac-Scan becomes unplayable by that point.
I also love how the manual boasts about how there are "no options to fool with". Yeah, thanks Sega for sparing us the ordeal of customizing the game to our tastes. I've seen the Tac-Scan arcade game, and its cool scaling vector graphics are a far cry from this insipid title. Tac-Scan for the 2600 is a mind-numbing experience at best. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Too bad you can only fire one missile at a time, and it's so friggin' SLOW. The pink enemy tanks flicker badly, and their movements are unpredictable. They only shoot one shot at a time, but they can ram you. The first stage is set in a maze, the second stage is more sparse, and the third stage is completely wide open. The graphics are blocky but make good use of color. Tanks But No Tanks is a fun little game. It combines the elements of a maze game and a shooter very nicely. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Be sure to play the advanced variations (3&4) because the beginner variations are slow as molasses! The game requires some good reflexes, and you'll need a responsive joystick. The control is tricky because you move much faster vertically than horizontally. Tape Worm's control and graphics could be better, but its interesting gameplay makes it worth a try. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Tapper's graphics are pretty darn good as Atari 2600 titles go. The patrons are single-colored and blocky, but the bartender, drinks, and kegs are multi-colored and finely detailed. The bonus stage (with the Hamburglar-looking dude shaking up the cans) looks particularly impressive. A harmonized soundtrack plays throughout the game, but it's slightly off-key and does get on your nerves after a while. Unlike the arcade version, there are no tips to grab, but the dancing girls do make an appearance between stages.
Tapper would be a must-have 2600 title if not for one major flaw - you can only throw two beers at a time. To compensate, the game "remembers" when you try to throw a third, and automatically tosses it at the next opportunity (unless you move your bartender first). This is a reasonable compromise, but it can throw off your rhythm. You'll get used to it, but it does put a damper on the action. The one thing that truly impressed me is how all four stages are reproduced here - including the space cantina! All in all, this is a very respectable version of the fun arcade hit. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The first is a simple set of platforms with blinking dollar signs and red tape. These items blink so rapidly that you end up picking up every damn thing whether it's good or bad. An elevator moves you between floors but it only appears intermittently, which is irritating. The second screen offers a different set of platforms connected by ladders, and the layout reminded me of Porky's (20th Century Fox, 1983). The instructions give the impression that three men pursue you, but in fact it's just one guy in a trench coat who alternates between three colors. Pretty cheesy!
If you touch the guy when he's green an investment icon appears like a sun (solar), derrick (oil), or flask (research). Unfortunately he has an annoying tendency of suddenly turning black (IRS Agent) and taking half of your money. A date on the bottom of the screen progresses from January 1 to December 31, at which time the game mercifully ends. Tax Avoiders is a novelty title with "bargain bin" written all over it. Repetitive, random, and sloppy as hell, this is what happens when a bunch of bad ideas come together. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
The game's playfield consists of eight stacked "lanes" that you can move across and "hop" between. The idea is to snatch up snacks that glide across the screen while avoiding bombs. Mouth-watering food items include hamburgers, ice cream cones, root beers, popsicles, and... turnips? How in the hell did they sneak in there? The game begins slowly, but once you reach the "crazed wave" (around 30K) the action becomes positively frantic. There's a slight bit of strategy involved in deciding whether to aggressively pursue an item several lanes away or just let it go. Overshooting a lane is the primary cause of death, so you'll need a responsive joystick.
I like how point values pepper the screen as you snatch up items. Taz is okay but could have been a lot better. Instead of that fancy title screen, why didn't the programmer add more graphics to the actual game? A little scenery (like a desert landscape) would have been nice. Taz is represented as a little whirlwind the entire time, but it would have been awesome if he stood still when you released the joystick. Taz isn't much of a game, but I guess it'll do if you're in the mood for some shallow fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
The speed of the ball is constant and the angles are weak, resulting in endless volleys. Hitting the ball with the very tip of your racket lets you hit it at a wider angle, but the risk is greater than the reward. More often than not you'll totally miss the ball in a desperate attempt to break up the monotony. Playing the net offers absolutely no advantage whatsoever.
Competing against a friend is mildly amusing, but playing the CPU is a tremendous bore. Sometimes it will lose a point by letting the ball bounce twice, probably because it just wants to get the game over with. One feature that was a big deal in 1981 is how the game keeps score just like the real sport, with deuces, ad-ins, and all that good stuff. It was respectable for its time, but Tennis has not aged well and tends to induce sleep. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
You play as Leatherface, a chainsaw-wielding masked psycho out to fillet as many people as possible before running out of gasoline. The screen scrolls sideways as you search for helpless victims while avoiding obstacles like wheelchairs and cow skulls. The gameplay is somewhat nauseating, as you're constantly getting hung up on scenery, causing you to freeze in place for seconds at a time. When close to a victim they will inexplicably disappear and reappear on both sides of you, perhaps to mimic some kind of struggle.
The graphics are lousy. Leatherface looks like Frankenstien with a lumpy appendage. The women resemble Fisher Price toys and their screams are conveyed via ear-piercing tones. When you kill one they transform into an indiscernible blob.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre may have novelty value but its play value is minimal. I will give the game some credit for having both a title screen and an ending. Upon running out of gas, you're shown an animation of a girl kicking Leatherface in the butt! I suppose that cute ending is meant to make up for a games' worth of brutal, gratuitous violence. Fair enough. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
I'm not sure anything could have prepared me for The Hobbit's elaborate title screen. This high-resolution image manages to incorporate Bilbo, 13 dwarves (give or take), a spell-casting Gandalf, and even a fire-breathing dragon! Clever use of color-cycling was used to create the whirling spell and flame effects. I was totally pumped when I saw it, but my high hopes would soon come crashing to the ground.
Calling The Hobbit's visual style "abstract" would be an understatement. The main character (Bilbo I presume) is rendered as a blue square. This is not so objectionable considering that Adventure (Atari 2600, 1980) also featured a square as its main character. Unfortunately, thanks to a poor design decision, the dwarves are also rendered as blue squares. Gandalf is a gray square... I think. The ring is a yellow circle... or don't I wish! Nope, it's a God-damned yellow square!
The dungeons are remarkably blocky. What resolution was this game programmed in, 12x10?! And what's with all the flashing rooms? I swear this game gave me epilepsy. Some may claim The Hobbit is 95% complete, but I find that hard to swallow. I was constantly hounded by orcs in the form of flickering brown squares. After you grab the ring you turn invisible, but the fact that you can't see yourself makes the game pretty much unplayable.
After stumbling around blindly for a several minutes you start to wish the developer had not expended quite so much effort on that fancy title screen, which undoubtedly consumes 95% of the game's memory. I'm also starting to think that gray square isn't even Gandalf, because that bastard just killed me and that did not look like an accident!
It seems like everything in the game makes the same beep sound. I wish the programmer would have at least mixed in a few "boops" to spice things up a little! Apologists will make endless excuses for The Hobbit, but the game is a cautionary tale. This is one lost treasure that should have been cast into the fires of Mount Doom 30 years ago. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
This Planet Sucks is one of the best-looking homebrews you'll ever see, with sparking colors and detailed objects. Your lander begins in the mother ship which moves side-to-side slowly across the top. You'll want to time your deployment carefully, waiting for a gap to appear in the rocks and aliens crossing the middle of the screen. The fire button ignites your thrusters, slowing your descent.
The hard part is picking up the people. These folks are not very bright and tend to run frantically back-and-forth on their narrow platforms. If you make contact with them before landing they become incapacitated and cannot be rescued. Since you must land slowly to avoiding crashing, there's little room for error.
This type of game could be very tedious yet This Planet Sucks is not. The controls are extremely precise, allowing you to hover in place while waiting for rocks to clear out. Sometimes you really need to thread the needle, and it's exciting to perform a bold maneuver, escaping by the skin of your teeth. After 20 years I think I'm finally beginning to appreciate this one. It's good! © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
In later stages there are switches on the walls that open new areas. Controlling your ship takes skill, because you must constantly thrust to counteract the effects of gravity. Pushing the joystick up thrusts, and pulling back activates a protective shield. Your ultimate goal is to pick up a pod at the bottom of each cavern and transport it out safely. When you finally locate it, the real challenge begins!
It attaches to your ship via a cord, and swings precariously as you attempt to transport it through the narrow caverns without smashing it against a wall. It's a balancing act that requires excellent technique, and completing each mission is very satisfying. The crude graphics are large and blocky, but the animation is smooth and the control is flawless. The 24-level challenge is immense but rarely frustrating. There are even five levels of difficulty. Don't miss the best game to come along for the 2600 in a long time! © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
The arcade version was known for its rapid-fire shooting action, but in this version you can only fire two slow shots at a time. The "boss" aircraft only requires one hit to destroy, and there are no bonus paratroopers to rescue. Still, the graphics aren't half bad (especially the helicopters in the 1970 stage), and the game is challenging enough. Fans of the arcade game will be understandably disappointed, but those who take the game for what it is might enjoy it. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
When you destroy the last one however something interesting happens. In what appears to be some sort of drawn-out explosion animation, the game actually is spawning a new set of adversaries. In this case five pulsating purple sponges. The process repeats several times as you destroy waves of saucers, birds, and other random shapes.
Unfortunately the mind-numbing shooting action is hampered by glitchy visuals, bad collision detection, and nonstop explosion sounds. I was so bored it took an unexpected bonus level to jar me from my stupor. The idea here is to navigate narrow red caverns to dock with some puckering orifice on the far right. Succeed and you'll earn a free ship, but is that really a reward? I did the Time Warp, but I don't want to do the Time Warp again. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
The characters are large and extremely chunky. I can live with that, but the controls are another story. When you press the attack button you expect a weapon to stick out, but instead your warrior just gyrates in place as the enemy passes right through you. What the hell is going on?!? While performing a "special move" your character morphs into an incomprehensible jumble of pixels, sliding up and under your target. Eventually the monster disappears, but it's never clear how or why that happened. Worse yet, you usually sustain heavy damage in the process.
Occasionally a fairy flutters across the screen but I don't know what its significance is. All I know is, I can't kill it! After button-mash through several screens I find myself staring at a blood-soaked "GAME OVER" screen. There's no score in this game. I feel bad about my lack of progress because according to the glossy manual there are 64 screens (!) over eight sprawling stages (!!) and a slew of monsters to go with them. I suspect there's a decent game in this Titan Axe cartridge somewhere, but I can't find it, and it's not for a lack of effort. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately, once you start actually playing the game, the carefully-designed control scheme goes out the window. The computer opponent is impossible to defeat, and he'll have you pinned in a heartbeat. On the other hand, when playing against a friend it's extremely hard to pin him, and the bouts go on long after the wrestlers have exhausted their strength. Still, I did have a good laugh watching the stiff-looking fighters toss each other around the ring. Title Match is an ambitious game, but it's not very fun to play. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Jumping between contiguous screens, you must avoid rats that scamper over the floors. This brings up a host of issues. First off, the stiff jumping controls are dreadful. Trying to jump through the narrow holes in the walls (and ceilings) is a royal pain, and your barbarian often pauses for no apparent reason (aside from poor programming of course). Why is a muscular barbarian afraid of a few puny rats anyway?
Periodically a warning buzzer indicates that a bat is approaching the girl. Fortunately, she's armed (with what, I don't know) and switching to her screen lets you shoot down that nasty thing. Once Tomarc secures the sword (key, whatever) he just needs to reach her screen to automatically free her and rack up bonus points. I like the dual-character idea, but Tomarc the Barbarian's lack of polish prevents it from being anything special. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
After launch, you immediately need to pull up on the joystick to avoid crashing into the water. Once you attain an altitude of 5000 feet, the combat portion of the game begins. Your plane is equipped with machine guns and three types of missiles. You'll not only need to jockey for position with the bogeys, but also shake off guided missiles.
Your cockpit is loaded with indicators and displays to monitor enemy fighters, weapons, fuel, wing position, and flight paths. The visuals are superb. Enemy bogeys scale nicely into view, you can see ripples in the water below, and the sky color cycles from blue to red to black as day turns to night. If you run low on fuel or supplies, you can execute a landing sequence back on the carrier.
I have to warn you - there's a serious learning curve required to play, but Tomcat is undoubtedly the most realistic game I've ever played on my 2600. My only complaint is the clumsy control scheme, which uses one joystick, the select switch, and reset switch to cycle through displays and options. I think Absolute could have simplified things by utilizing the difficulty and black/white switches, and maybe a second joystick. Still, Tomcat F14 is too good to be ruined by clumsy controls. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
The graphical depiction of the cleaning isn't bad, but that nursery rhyme-style song has got to go. When the action begins you move your "tooth protector" side-to-side over the teeth. He's got a big creepy smile and looks a heck of a lot like the Kool-Aid guy. Moving along the top of the screen is a baddy who drops "snack" cubes, and your protector can deflect these back. Hitting the baddie will kill him and earn you points, but he's quickly replaced.
What's interesting about this game is how you can angle your deflections by moving your protector as you hit a cube. If you're moving fast you can carom it at a pretty sharp angle. The instructions suggest using a trak-ball, but that just makes things harder since it takes longer to move across the screen. Sorry, the paddles are not supported. With each wave the baddie unloads more squares and the challenge ramps in a hurry.
Periodically you'll hear a warning buzzer signaling that the baddie is about to swoop down and grab you. It's a terrifying situation so be sure to quickly move to the far side of the screen to avoid his clutches! Tooth Protectors isn't a bad little game, but it may lead people to believe that Kool-Aid prevents cavities, which is probably not the case. Collectors will want this game for its novelty value alone. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Your goal is to reach the white "door" at the top of the screen, and then escape out the bottom. That takes you back to the building screen, where the helicopter lands and "releases" the rescued people. Actually, it looks more like the helicopter is shooting blocks. In general, the graphics really suck. Your firefighter looks like a static blob and the blocky stages look like crap. The jumping, flickering flames look more like a graphical glitch, but at least they tend to be unpredictable. Your water cannon looks more like a trickle with three blue dots!
Control is good, and dousing the flames is fairly satisfying. The best aspect of Towering Inferno is how it encourages you to take chances. Should you extinguish those last few flames, or just try to dart across the room? Aggressive play is rewarded with more points, but can also get you burned (pun intended). When you complete a whole building, all you're treated to is a simple flashing screen - weak! In terms of difficulty, Towering Inferno is on the easy side. It's a sloppy game but definitely unique. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
The idea is to paint all the toys their proper color before a timer expires. Each day in December offers a new "wave", often adding a new variety of toy into the mix. A nice intermission screen explains how newly introduced toys are to be painted. Some can be painted a solid color, but most require multiple colors, and sometimes the order in which you apply the colors makes a difference! Quick thinking and good technique is required to paint the toys in the most efficient manner.
The controls are excellent, and the fire button allows you to dash - a move that's often handy but sometimes risky. Toyshop Trouble is outrageously fun to play, but it's the toys themselves that steal the show. Not only are there the obligatory fire trucks, trumpets, and trains, but also more modern toys like Tonka Trucks, Godzilla figures, Lincoln Logs, and even AT-AT Walkers from Star Wars! And when I saw those beautiful Atari 2600 joysticks, I couldn't believe my eyes.
The multi-colored toys are artistically rendered in a high resolution, and Toyshop's audio features authentic choo-choo whistles and melodic holiday music. Completing the entire month of December poses a serious challenge, and as icing on the cake, there's even an Easter Egg buried in the game. The only thing missing is a two-player co-op mode! With so few holiday-themed games available, Toyshop Trouble is like a Christmas miracle! © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
There are six events including sprint, long jump, javelin, hurdles, hammer, and high jump. If you've ever played the 1500m race in Decathlon, you'll appreciate the fact that all of these events are very short. Custom controllers were created specifically for this game. You alternately tap the two white buttons to build speed, and press the red button to perform an action (like throwing a javelin). The controllers are cool, but when push comes to shove, joysticks are the way to go. If nothing else, you'll get better scores.
Another thing that distinguishes Track and Field is its sheer difficulty. A minimum event score is displayed at the bottom of the screen, and if you don't qualify, the whole game abruptly ends. Even when playing on the novice setting, reaching the sixth event is a major achievement. In the two-player game, when one player gets knocked out early, the other must play out the remaining events against the CPU. Track & Field is highly entertaining and even thrilling at times. Difficulty notwithstanding, modern Olympic video games could learn a thing or two from this. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Treasure Island has a few nice visual flourishes like ships propelled through the water by tiny oars. That's a nifty effect, but why do these same oars appear alongside whales and sharks?! Enemy ships resemble rubber duckies but there's a cool explosive flash when you hit one, sinking it into the depths. The ability to adjust your cannon would be a good idea if you could keep the [expletive] thing steady!
It doesn't help that the water currents are pushing you around and you need to press the stick right while pressing the button to shoot. What am I seeing on the horizon? Is that a jet fighter in a pirate game? Are those two moons?! You get six ships but you'll go through them fast because it's hard to tell when you're losing them. I played Treasure Island longer than I expected because the instructions hint it's possible to actually reach the island. I never got there but I'm sure the ending is totally amazing. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
I was really digging the controls until I realized the disc is NOT harmful to enemies on its return trip! I have no idea what the developers had in mind, but I think they missed a golden opportunity. Your character can also enter openings on one side of the room and emerge on the other, but I never found this to be useful or necessary. You can sustain several hits before your game comes to an end. I find it odd how enemy discs are deadly to the touch, and yet you can run clear through the enemies themselves and suffer no damage!
Unlike the Intellivision version, this version of Tron Deadly Discs features smooth graphics and comfortable controls. Unfortunately, one major element - the large, menacing boss - has been completely omitted from this version. As a result, this edition feels second-rate. In addition, an astute reader noted that it takes far too long for the serious challenge to kick in. With no variety in the stages, Deadly Disc's gameplay quickly becomes monotonous. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The illusion of movement is smooth and convincing, and navigating hallways is surprisingly quick and easy. The "heads" are impressively large and scale nicely. Sound cues indicate when they are approaching, which adds a bit of suspense. Unfortunately, having to constantly check your position on the map screen (by holding the button) is a real chore.
The first few four stages are easy, but once you reach the "blind" mazes, the difficulty goes through the roof. Tunnel Runner may have gotten by on sheer novelty value in 1983, but in retrospect, its shallow gameplay is not very fun. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
It's a lot like Enduro (Activision, 1982) as you dodge cars that approach one by one. When you accelerate the road remains static as blocky cars rapidly scale into view. They're hard to avoid at top speed, so you'll want to tap the button to regulate your speed. The game demands twitch reflexes, so why aren't paddles used to steer? You'll need to pass 30 cars to extend the 90-second time limit, and that's not easy. Sometimes you'll be tempted to "hide out" in a corner and let cars whiz by, but the CPU quickly catches on to this strategy and sets you up for a head-on collision.
At first glance Turbo's graphics look pretty shoddy. The city skyline in the distance doesn't look bad, but that static gray road looks pretty blah. Sparse scenery scales by including white buildings that look like Legos. The light posts look pretty cool though, and the evergreen trees look nice in the snow stages. As you progress the scenery changes abruptly and frequently, and you'll even pass through a dark tunnel.
The enhanced Turbo is more polished and forgiving. It irons out the glitches of the original and incorporates realistic physics. There's a definite sense of momentum and I like how your car slows as you roll over the shoulder of the road. Turbo for the 2600 is fast and furious fun, proving once again that good gameplay will overcome mediocre graphics every time. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Tutankham's mazes feature dozens of monsters and treasures, but they're so puny that it's hard to discern what they're supposed to be! The snakes and scorpions look okay, but that triangle is supposed to be a Jackal? Uh-huh. Your explorer is a static stick figure, and he's a nightmare to control. Your movements are jerky, you can't move diagonally, and you're constantly getting caught up on the ill-defined passageways. If it makes you feel any better, the creatures tend to get stuck as well!
Unlike other versions of Tutankham, this game scrolls vertically. That doesn't sound like a big deal until you realize you can only fire sideways! When shot, creatures briefly transform into an asterisk, and that looks pitiful. Poor collision detection runs rampant, so be sure to apply those smart bombs liberally! I find it amusing how the first dungeon's "treasure" is the word "MAP". The sparse sound effects mainly consist of alternating beeps. Tutankham for the 2600 is an embarrassment, and King Tut would be spinning in his sarcophagus if he ever found out his name had been slapped onto this choppy mess! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age