system Index A-B
Adventure II
Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari Age (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/7/19

screenshotAdventure II does a wonderful job of preserving the gameplay of the original Adventure (Atari 2600, 1982) while offering vast new worlds to explore. Once again you assume the role of the heroic "square", navigating mazes, slaying dragons, and unlocking castles in your quest for the gold chalice. Adventure II's graphics are outstanding. Not only are the manicured hedge mazes and majestic castles artistically rendered, but fountains flow and weeds sway in the wind.

The game offers a nice combination of open spaces and narrow mazes to explore, just like the original game. New locations include the "Ice Kingdom" with snow-covered evergreens and the "Dark Kingdom" with dead trees that cast looming shadows. The item-swapping bat of the first Adventure has been replaced by a hideous troll, and a Minotaur now patrols the hedge maze and will expel you on contact. These two are annoying, and I really, really wish you could kill those bastards with the sword.

The three dragons have come a long way from the "ducks" in the first game; they now look like seahorses. They're extremely aggressive, chasing you from screen to screen and requiring several sword "pokes" to slay. The 5200 joystick responds very well, but it's way too easy to get caught up on the edges of the scenery. You can't just "slide around" the mazes as you could in the original game.

The control scheme is basically the same, except an extra button is used to reposition the bridge or sword. The bridge really does look like a bridge this time, but it can be awkward to handle, partly due to the game's loose collision detection. Adventure II offers a generous 22 variations that let you adjust the difficulty, set the size of the "world" (small, medium, vast), and even select "alternate" mazes.

Adventure II is pretty tough, but should you meet an untimely demise, you can just press the #5 key to resume play. Upon returning the chalice to the gold castle, you're awarded a rating like "castle guard", "peasant", or "duck food". The sound effects are decent, but a little in-game music would have been nice, as the game is played in almost complete silence. The packaging and instructions are first-class, and there are even a few Easter Eggs hidden within the game. Adventure II doesn't tinker with the formula too much, and as far as most classic gamers are concerned, that's a good thing. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Adventure (Atari 2600)
Missadventure (Atari 2600)
Another Adventure (Atari 2600)
Epic Adventure (Atari 2600)
Mystic Castle (Intellivision)

Astrochase
Grade: F
Publisher: Parker Brothers (1982)
Reviewed: 2004/3/19

screenshotAstrochase begins with a beautifully animated sequence, showing an astronaut walking out to a landing pad and getting beamed aboard a flying saucer. The 3D looking scenery and celestial bodies look gorgeous. Granted, it won't turn many heads in 2004, but in 1982 it rocked my world. It's a fitting introduction too, because Astrochase is all style and no substance. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

When the actual game begins, you move a flying saucer around a cordoned-off section of "space", with a large planet Earth situated in the middle. You could move around freely, if not for the fact that you're constantly bouncing off big planets and tiny stars which litter the screen. It's like an intergalactic obstacle course!

Your goal is to destroy small "meteors" as they approach the earth in waves. You'll also need to contend with aliens that try to ram you. At least these aliens are considerate - they always line up perfectly so you can easily blast them. Your ship can fire in eight directions, but the squirrelly controls make it impossible to aim with any sort of precision. Combine that frustration with the fact that you're constantly getting caught up in the scenery, and it adds up to a thoroughly miserable experience.

Despite my overwhelming desire to stop playing, the game constantly awarded me with extra ships -- extending the duration of my agony. The music also sucks. It's one of those generic old tunes that everybody recognizes (but nobody knows the name of) and it seems terribly inappropriate. Astrochase is pure garbage. I've gotten more enjoyment out of games that refused to load. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 5
Our high score: 8282
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Earth Dies Screaming (Atari 2600)
Cosmic Ark (Atari 2600)
Killer Satellites (Atari 2600)
Space Frenzy (Vectrex)
Journey To The Planets (Atari XEGS)

Ballblazer
Grade: B+
Publisher: Lucasfilm (1984)
Reviewed: 2002/10/26

screenshotThis is one of two groundbreaking titles released by LucasFilm for the Atari 5200 and Atari computers in 1984 (the other being Rescue on Fractalus). Ballblazer is a futuristic, split-screen sports game that was well ahead of its time. It's a soccer-style contest played between two small hovercraft-like vehicles, and surprisingly, it's played from a first-person point of view. The graphics are smooth and effectively convey the feeling of zooming around a large, checkered playing field.

Each end of the field has a set of moving goal posts that you shoot the ball through to score. Naturally, longer shots are worth more points. When your opponent gains control of the ball, you try to jar it loose and regain possession. The sound effects are incredible, and the music is simply amazing. These remarkable tunes sound both ultra-modern and funky.

Ballblazer is an exciting game, and the action gets more intense as the clock ticks down. The control is outstanding - you can accurately aim your shots -- even from a distance. If there's one inherent problem with Ballblazer, it's that the camera angle is constantly changing with respect to the ball, and therefore it's easy to get disoriented. There are nine levels of difficulty available in the one player game. Ballblazer was later "updated" for the Playstation, but that awful game didn't deserve the Ballblazer name. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ballblazer (Atari 7800)
Ballblazer (Atari XEGS)
NASL Soccer (Intellivision)
Sensible Soccer (Jaguar)
VR Soccer (Saturn)

Battlezone
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2002/12/15

screenshotWhen I first laid eyes on Battlezone for the 5200, I was like "Wow - vector graphics just like the arcade version!" But it didn't take long for my excitement to dissipate. Sure, everything in this first-person shooter is rendered in wireframe (except the mountains in the background) but the game just doesn't play nearly as good as the arcade, or even its Atari 2600 counterpart for that matter.

The tanks scale smoothly as you approach, but turning looks rough and fired shots move extremely slow and in a choppy manner. The collision detection is also questionable, and especially aggravating when you're frantically trying to shoot enemies homing in on you. While the transparent square obstacles add a slight bit of strategy, they're more often just a pain in the ass.

The tanks look cool, but when shot, they fall apart instead of exploding. At least that's more than I can say for the UFOs, which simply disappear without a trace. When you get shot, your windshield cracks, and it looks dumb. All in all, this Battlezone fails to bring the arcade experience home. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 36000
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Battlezone (Atari XEGS)
Keystone Kapers (Atari 5200)
Battlezone (Atari 2600)
Tanks But No Tanks (Atari 2600)
Armor Attack (Vectrex)

Beamrider
Grade: C
Publisher: Activision (1984)
Reviewed: 2006/10/7


screenshotThis space shooter hasn't aged particularly well, mainly due to its reliance on a not-so-special visual effect. In Beamrider, your ship appears to be moving down a flat blue grid in outer space while blasting aliens moving between the lines. To be honest, the pseudo-3D effect was never all that hot - even in the early 80's. If you take away the grid you're left with a remarkably barebones vertical shooter.

To complete each stage you need to shoot a certain number of tiny alien spacecraft, indicated by a counter in the corner of the screen. You'll need to avoid incoming asteroids as well as enemy projectiles. Your basic shooting range only extends three-quarters of the screen, but you also have a limited supply of "bombs" that can reach the edge of the horizon. Be sure to save a bomb or two for the end-of-round "boss" ship that slowly hovers across the top of the screen.

Although small, the aliens scale in and out nicely, and some of the audio effects have a cool reverberating quality. The control isn't too bad, although the Atari 5200 joystick doesn't allow for concise side-to-side movement. You can hold in the fire button to constantly fire, and thank God for that! With three levels of challenge, Beamrider isn't a bad little game, but you'll probably forget about it as soon as you turn it off. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: 2224
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Beamrider (Atari 2600)
Beamrider (Colecovision)
Beamrider (Intellivision)
Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom (Atari 5200)
Asteroids (Playstation)

Berzerk
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2020/11/15

screenshotBeautiful in its simplicity, this futuristic shooter puts you in a series of electrified mazes patrolled by killer robots. These mechanical beasts look pretty ominous with their oscillating eyes. Fortunately they aren't very smart, often colliding with each other. It's not hard to lure them into a wall; in fact sometimes you can clear an entire room without firing a single shot!

The first few seconds of each screen are critical as you must quickly exterminate nearby threats. Avoiding one-on-one confrontations is generally a good idea because these robots are a bunch of deadeye dicks! If you're used to the Atari 2600 Berzerk, getting shot at diagonally may come as a surprise. Sometimes a laser bolt will just barely graze my skull. I call that "getting a haircut".

Clearing all robots nets you a cool bonus but you can't just take your sweet time or Evil Otto will chase you out of there. This bouncing smiley-face is invincible but experienced players will try to use him to smash the remaining robots. The controls could be better but it's not the game's fault. You'll need to baby-sit that flaccid, non-centering Atari 5200 joystick which sometimes keeps you drifting into a wall.

Between screens metallic voice synthesis delivers classic lines such as "Chicken! Fight like a robot!" That sounds exactly like something a robot would say! The fact that robots self-destruct means you can continue to score even after losing your last life. State of the art in 1983, Berzerk remains an impressive piece of work today. It's the perfect shooter for any occasion, and one of the more challenging games for the system. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 4340
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Berzerk Voice Enhanced (Atari 2600)
Berzerk (Atari 2600)
Berzerk (Vectrex)
Berzerk Debugged (Vectrex)
Insanity (Turbografx-16)

Blueprint
Grade: F
Publisher: CBS (1982)
Reviewed: 2004/8/17


screenshotDespite its pretty graphics, Blueprint for the 5200 is a complete bore - even worse than the 2600 version. Gameplay involves collecting odd weapon fragments hidden in a maze of houses, then assembling them on the bottom of the screen. Actually, this "weapon" looks more like a camel than a cannon. Once it's complete, you can use it to shoot the freaky-looking red creature chasing your girlfriend across the top of the screen.

Complicating matters are flowerpots that fall from the top and bounce across the bottom. Blueprint's attractive scenery and multi-colored objects put the 2600 version to shame, but the game itself feels like a chore. It's very slow and methodical, and the 5200 joystick doesn't do you any favors when it comes to traversing the maze.

You also need to remember which houses you've already visited, or else you'll end up with a bomb in your hands. Granted, you can dispose of these bombs by dropping them in the "monster pit" at the bottom of the screen, but it's still a pain. In my opinion, whenever a video game asks you to remember something, it's a blatant design flaw! Blueprint is quite original and it does incorporate some interesting concepts, but the whole is definitely less than the sum of its parts. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 16600
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Blueprint (Atari 2600)
Vaboom (Vectrex)
Pitfall (Atari 5200)
Astro Battle (Bally Astrocade)
Kaboom! (Atari XEGS)

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (1983)
Reviewed: 2002/12/31

screenshotRemember Gil Gerard and his little robot friend Twiki from the Buck Rogers TV show? Relax, they aren't in this game. Buck Rogers is no classic, but the 5200 version isn't so bad. You fly your ship over a planet surface, weaving between electric posts and blasting UFOs. The pseudo-3D scaling is relatively smooth and looks good, but navigation using the 5200 controller is no walk in the park. I do like how a counter at the top of the screen keeps track of your progress.

Each of the five levels ends with a confrontation in deep space with a mother ship that looks like a double tie-fighter. Holding down the fire button initiates rapid fire, which is always a good thing. Buck Rogers plays fairly well despite some occasional collision detection glitches. One aspect I hate is how the screen flashes and makes an explosion sound whenever you complete a stage - it looks like your ship blew up! In the end, Buck Rogers is playable but thoroughly forgettable. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 73513
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom (Colecovision)
Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom (Atari 2600)
Rescue on Fractalus (Atari 5200)
Space Ranger (Philips CD-i)
Pitfall 2 (Atari 5200)


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