system Index N-Q
Pac-Man
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1982)
Reviewed: 2003/5/26


screenshotPac-Man not only passes the test of time, it actually improves with age! I swear I have more fun playing this now than I did twenty years ago. Boy, I can't wait for another 20 years to pass - then it will really be awesome! Seriously though, this cartridge must have been a slice of heaven back in 1982. The maze, sound effects and gameplay are nearly identical to the original arcade game - down to the intermissions!

The gameplay is FAST, noticeably faster than the arcade, which makes it more fun and challenging in my opinion. Blinky is particularly aggressive. The wobbly 5200 controllers might cause you to miss a few turns at first, but they actually work well once you get a feel for them. The only fault with the graphics are the single-colored ghosts which look like they belong in the 2600 version. With eight difficulty levels, Pac-Man is always a good time. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 29210
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Ms. Pac-Man (Atari XEGS)
Pac-Man (Atari XEGS)
Pac-Man: Special Color Edition (Game Boy Color)
Jr. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)

Pengo
Grade: C
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2018/1/17

screenshotPengo is a cute maze game that features a red penguin shoving blocks of ice around the screen. Your goal is to squash yellow "snow bees" which look like Pac-Men with funnels coming out of their mouths. The blue-on-black visuals look appealing and the background music is pleasant enough. At its best the game reminds me of Dig Dug (Atari, 1983), as you wait for the proper instant to slide a block in the hopes of crushing multiple bees for big points. But since the bee movement is so unpredictable it's mainly a matter of luck.

Sometimes I'll just go down a line of blocks, sending each one across and hoping for the best. Fortunately the bees move slowly and some seem to have a serious death wish. Reading the manual reveals that lining up the three "diamond blocks" can earn you a bonus upwards of 10K. The problem is, it's so time-consuming you end up blowing your time bonus in the process. Pengo is likeable enough but the game suffers from technical problems.

Slowdown can be onerous at times, and that combined with graphic breakup leaves you with the impression Atari assigned this to a junior programmer. The 5200 joysticks work fairly well with Pengo, mainly because the action is so slow. The game also supports the trak-ball which is just a miserable option. Now you have to spin a ball like a madman while pressing a button just to move a block! No thanks! Pengo never really got much traction in the arcade and this home edition feels pretty run of the mill. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 33,340
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Pengo (Japan) (Game Gear)
Pengo (Atari 2600)
Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Peter Penguin (Europe) (Atari 2600)
Robotron 2084 (Atari 5200)

Pitfall
Grade: C-
Publisher: Activision (1984)
Reviewed: 2001/11/4


screenshotIt always surprises me just how little effort Activision put into the Atari 5200 versions of their games. For the most part, they are nearly identical to their Atari 2600 counterparts. In the case of Pitfall, only the trees and bushes in the background are enhanced - and only slightly at that! All other objects including Pitfall Harry, the scorpions, and the crocodiles look exactly the same as those in the 2600 version!

And if you thought this would be as fun to play as the Atari 2600 version, think again! The control absolutely stinks thanks to the non-centering joystick. You can imagine how frustrating it is to jump across the crocodile heads. Then there's the problem with letting go of the vines. That's right, you'll actually need to wrestle with the joystick just to release yourself. Control problems really hamper this game, so stick with the Atari 2600 version. NOTE: This cartridge will not run on the two-port Atari 5200 models. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 8710
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Pitfall 2 (Atari 5200)
Pitfall (Intellivision)
Super Pitfall (NES)
Pitfall (Colecovision)
Kaboom! (Atari 5200)

Pitfall 2
Grade: A
Publisher: Activision (1984)
Reviewed: 2001/11/4

screenshotThere aren't many adventure games for the Atari 5200, but this sprawling jungle romp is pretty much all you need! Pitfall 2 looks and sounds nearly identical to the 2600 version, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. You'll explore deep underground caverns, swim in rivers, and encounter all sorts of exotic creatures including monkeys, birds, and electric eels. From what I understand, there's an enormous hidden area that's exclusive to this 5200 version. Unlike the first Pitfall game for the 5200, there are no control problems to contend with. Pitfall 2 is fascinating and fun, but I must admit a "duck" button would have been a really good idea. The game employs checkpoints, and was one of the first to do so. Pitfall 2 is one Activision classic that truly shines on the 5200. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 65000
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (Atari 2600)
Pitfall (Atari 5200)
Super Pitfall (NES)
Keystone Kapers (Atari 5200)
Montezuma's Revenge (Atari 2600)

Pole Position
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2000/10/5


screenshotThis ancient racer really shows its age, but it still has charm. The dual buttons on each side of the 5200 controller are put to good use, as you're skillfully required to alternate between braking and accelerating to squeeze between other cars, especially on turns. The control is terrific, but the graphics are less than exciting. The illusion of speed is only fair, and the cars are very blocky. What's up with the blank signs on the side of the road? You get four tracks to choose from, although they all play pretty much the same. In order to qualify for each race, you need to complete a one-lap trial run. This lap is what determines your "pole position". The manual suggests using the track-ball controller, so I gave it a try. Steering isn't too bad, but switching gears using the keypad is awkward. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Malibu
Our high score: 40750
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Pole Position (Atari XEGS)
Fatal Run (Atari 7800)
Final Lap Twin (Turbografx-16)
Pole Position (Atari 2600)
Motor Psycho (Atari 7800)

Popeye
Grade: A-
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
Reviewed: 2001/11/4

screenshotIn this cartoon-inspired platform game, you play Popeye, trying to catch Olive Oyl's "hearts" while avoiding the evil Bluto. Bluto is pretty relentless, however, once per screen Popeye can grab a can of spinach and turn the tables on that big bully. Popeye is available on several consoles, but this is probably the best version I've seen. The characters are multicolored, well animated, and easy to identify (unlike the Colecovision version). All three screens are included, and each has its own musical theme. Even the control is solid. My only complaint is that the collision detection seems a little fishy at times. Otherwise, this is the next best thing to having the arcade game in your home. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 17140
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Popeye (Colecovision)
Popeye (NES)
Popeye (Atari 2600)
Popeye (Odyssey 2)
Popeye (Intellivision)

Q*bert
Grade: B
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
Reviewed: 2001/11/4


screenshotThe early 80's was an innovative time for arcade games, every month or so the arcades would be taken by storm by an inventive, new game. Q*bert was one such game, with a distinct look and personality of its own. Controlling an odd (but likeable) round character with a long nose, your goal was to traverse a pyramid -- transforming the color of its blocks while avoiding snakes and other creatures. One novel feature was how Q*bert would "curse" when he lost a life, thanks to some funny gibberish sound effects.

This 5200 game is one of the best-looking versions of Q*bert I've seen. The screen looks almost arcade-perfect, and there seem to be a lot more baddies than usual bouncing around the pyramid. But, leave it to the Atari 5200 controller to throw a monkey wrench into the fun! Because its non-centering joystick could be troublesome in a game like this, you have to move the joystick AND push a button (in concert) to jump!

That means you'll be holding down the fire button for most of the game -- which is not comfortable. Even with this fail-safe mechanism I still found myself heading in the wrong direction, especially when trying to escape from Coily the snake. Still, I think Parker Bros did the best they could with this. There are three skill levels. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 9350
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Q*bert (Atari XEGS)
Q*bert (Colecovision)
Q*Bert (Playstation)
Q*bert's Qubes (Colecovision)
Super Mario All-Stars (Super Nintendo)

Qix
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1982)
Reviewed: 2000/10/5

screenshotDespite some low-resolution graphics and so-so sound effects, this is still the best home version of Qix I've ever played. I've always liked this game because there's nothing else like it. You move a small diamond around the perimeter of a large square while a dangerous "helix" prowls the center of the screen.

Using your fast or slow "draw" buttons, you can move off the perimeter and start boxing out your own territory, with 75% (or more) of the screen being your goal. If the helix touches you while you're in the process of drawing, you're a goner. Although the slow draw option is more risky, it rewards you with twice as many points.

There are an endless number of strategies you can employ, allowing the player to show some creativity. In addition to your main enemy, lethal "sparx" patrol the perimeter, forcing you into harm's way. This game is tough, and the better you get, the more risks you tend to take. Qix must be played to be appreciated, and this 5200 version is highly recommended. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: skilled
Our high score: BSC 105,392
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Qix (NES)
Qix (Lynx)
Qix (Atari XEGS)
Tempest (Atari 5200)
Planet Patrol (Atari 2600)

Quest for Quintana Roo
Grade: F
Publisher: Sunrise (1984)
Reviewed: 2013/1/21

screenshotThis Indiana Jones-style adventure is ruined by poor controls and bad play mechanics. The graphics are probably the highlight of the game. You'll begin your quest standing in front of a golden pyramid bathed in moonlight. Inexplicably you cannot climb up the steps running up the center of the pyramid, but instead must painstakingly work your way up one of the sides. The Atari 5200 controllers do not respond to precise movements very well, so it's a real struggle. Occasionally lightning bolts shoot from the top of the pyramid, but you can duck to avoid these.

There are ten entrances, each of which leads to a series of rooms connected by slides. In each room you'll want to equip your Geiger counter to detect treasure. If it goes crazy, use your chisel on the wall. Sometimes you'll find gold bars (for points) and sometimes you'll discover a "map rock" required to open the golden vault. You need to work fast because the air supply is limited inside the pyramid.

I question that design decision, but the main problem with Quest for Quintana Roo is its nightmarish controls. Your character moves slowly and tends to get hung up on everything. To pick up most items you'll use the lower fire button, but collecting the map rocks requires you to use the keypad instead, which is confusing. Poor collision detection makes it hard to pick up objects, which is frustrating when poisonous spiders and snakes are converging on you.

It took me a while to get the hang of this game, but eventually I was able to bring the three map rocks into the vault entrance room. Despite following the directions precisely however, the game would not let me insert the rocks into the holes. Doing a search on the Internet seemed to reveal that no one has ever completed this game, so as far as I know it's just broken. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 4900
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Quest For Quintana Roo (Atari 2600)
Montezuma's Revenge (Atari 2600)
Crackpots (Atari 2600)
Spiders (Arcadia 2001)
Super Cobra (Atari 5200)


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