There are some really nice animations in this game. Aliens melt when shot. Limbs are blown off of soldiers. Water skiers hold their nose before falling into the water. You'll even see water-skiing aliens! My complaints are very minor. There is some slowdown when many objects are on the screen. Also, aliens don't bunch up enough to make grenades particularly useful. Alien Brigade is a nice addition to your Atari 7800 collection - if you can find it. It took me over a year to acquire a good copy. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
The shooting action is frantic and the controls are dead on. Thrusting around between criss-crossing asteroids is both death-defying and exhilarating. Should you find yourself between a rock and a hard place you can activate hyperspace, but keep in mind destruction upon re-entry is possible. The game lets you fire rapidly, but repeatedly tapping buttons on the Atari 7800 controller can be a recipe for pain.
Fortunately Asteroids also supports Atari 2600 controllers so you can pull out your favorite joystick and go to town. Did I mention the game has two-player simultaneous mode? You can compete against a friend, or better yet team up, sharing the same score. The programmers covered all the bases, making this the ultimate Asteroids for all-time. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
The game itself is one of those old-fashioned balls-to-the-wall space shooters. Similar to Megamania (Atari 2600, 1982), you move a cannon side-to-side blasting formations of pulsating geometric shapes. Holding down the fire button unleashes a steady stream of rapid-fire shots, but when you see the overheating warning you'll need to give your cannon a rest. Another original feature is the "warp" control that puts enemies in slow motion for 10 seconds. This can be used not only to pick off pesky targets, but also to allow your cannon to cool off. If your joystick doesn't have a second button, pulling back will initiate your warp (sometimes accidentally).
My friends have mixed feelings about the whole overheating element. Brent described Astro Blaster's gameplay as "stop playing for a second... stop playing for a second..." The overheating does disrupt the flow, but it also adds an important strategic factor and ratchets up the challenge. Astro Blaster is a lot more than meets the eye, and it's only on the Atari 7800. This cartridge is available from Atari Age. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Decades later I find myself looking at the game in a similar light. At a glance Astro Fighter seems downright bland as you fire single shots at alien ships slowly drifting down from the top. If you don't pick them all off before they reach the bottom, they reconstitute on top. Sometimes it actually makes more sense to ram that last ship than let it pass! While dropped bombs aren't hard to avoid, the diagonal shots are tenacious in this game! There are also some distracting comets worth 60 points a pop. Complete a wave and the next begins immediately, providing a different style of alien ships that move in their own distinctive manner. I personally prefer the "tie fighters" which are easier to hit because they tend to bunch up.
After every four waves there's a boss encounter in what appears to be the trench from Star Wars. The boss itself is just a spiked box moving side to side with the letters GS stamped on it. What does that stand for? The normal difficulty is calibrated just right, offering enough resistance to keep you hitting reset again and again. It's the challenge that makes this game enjoyable, so don't ruin it by playing the easy difficulty! My friend Chris said that if he owned an Atari 7800 he'd probably want this, and that's quite the ringing endorsement. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Homebrew virtuoso Bob Decrescenzo has cleverly adapted the game to the Atari 7800 by rendering the pinball portion as a video pinball game. The result is pretty awesome. I'm telling you - Baby Pac-Man is Pac-Man turbocharged for the 2020's! The pacing is torrid and the difficulty is through the roof! Fortunately the controls are up to the task, allowing Baby to turn on a dime while trucking down those electric lanes. He's running for his life with no power pills to bail him out... or so it would seem.
You can "earn" power pills via the pinball stages triggered by entering tunnels at the bottom of the maze. Like real pinball this mode is frantic and challenging. The rules are kind of hard to grasp but the physics feels right on and there are plenty of targets to shoot for. Lose that ball and you're back in the maze with only your wits to protect you. These ghosts are fast and relentless but tend to bunch up and can be faked out.
When you re-enter the table area you pick up where you left off, allowing you to make steady progress. That's important because earning a simple power pill feels like a major accomplishment. The game is not easy but it is habit-forming, and when you get into a zone you can rack up some astronomical scores. Baby Pac-Man is the most complex and challenging Pac-Man yet, and it never gets old. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
The one thing I can say in this game's favor is that the light gun works pretty well. It's fairly accurate and I didn't have to tinker with the brightness of my TV or anything like that. Note that light gun games only function with old CRT-style television sets. Don't bother trying to play this on an HDTV.
The screens feature colorful farm scenery but it all looks so generic! You'll take aim at watermelons, pumpkins, cans, birds, mice, and white rabbits. Who wants to shoot a cute little bunny rabbit? There's really not a whole lot of action because targets only appear one at a time. Point values are displayed for each hit, but they are totally random. A bird will net you 150 points with one shot, and for the next shot the very same bird might be worth 20 points.
Each screen begins with a line of bullets across the bottom. Use them all up and the stage comes to an end. You're then presented with an intermediate scoring screen along with an irritating rendition of Old MacDonald. I'd dock the grade a letter just for subjecting me to that horrible noise.
After every screen there's a "bonus stage" with a toothless farmer tossing bottles over his head. They are very easy to hit as soon as they leave his hand. What is the point of this and why do I have to play it so often? Did somebody really think this was fun?
There's little sense of progression. The game just keeps going until it tells you it's done, and believe me - that can't come soon enough. Don't get too excited by the prospect of a two-player mode, as it's turns-only. Barnyard Blaster is so by-the-numbers, it would be difficult to concoct a less creative light gun shooter. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.
The basketball action is surprisingly smooth. You only control one player but can initiate shots and passes from your CPU partner. The controls are responsive but a little confusing. Pressing the right button lets you pass, but to make your teammate pass it's the left. There's really no way to dunk. What makes the game satisfying is how you can shove opponents to the ground and steal the ball.
The more aggressive team usually wins. The lack of turbo is glaring but collecting a lightning icon has the same effect. Speed is key, so it sucks when your CPU player slows you down. The default time for a game is only one minute (for the entire game) so I'd recommend pushing that up to three minutes. The game is moderately fun and when playing solo it awards you with a score. What Basketbrawl lacks in polish it makes up for with its gritty urban style. Give it a shot. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
The gameplay is deceptively simple as you hop between platforms while flinging gems at enemies. The layered forest backgrounds and harmonized music are inviting, but... why is this so hard to play?? The default two-button scheme takes a lot of getting used to, with one button to jump and the other pulling double duty as both run and shoot. Trying to use a 7800 joystick will have you in a world of hurt. Thank goodness the game also supports a standard Atari 2600 joystick, where you push up to jump.
The stage designs demand a cautious, almost timid approach. New enemies are dropped on the right side of the screen, so you're always in stop-and-start mode, creeping forward to trigger them. Just getting past the first stage is a monumental accomplishment. Why? Because each stage is eight rounds long! It doesn't help that the first stage is littered with rocks that send you reeling back for no reason.
At first I didn't like Crystal Quest, but when I finally mastered the controls it began to grow on me. I like the way the difficulty ramps and gradually introduces new enemies. There are plenty of hidden goodies to discover including Super Mario Bros-style warps! The game has endless continues, so you can practice those tricky levels until you get it right. Crystal Quest is hard to play, but if you can come to terms with its unique style you'll find yourself using that continue feature. A lot. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
The visuals are faithful to the arcade except for the four-legged spider (who appears to be holding maracas) and the white border. The animation is super smooth and the mushrooms have a nice 3D appearance. The Atari 2600 trak-ball works okay, but a good joystick provides the best control. Centipede's gameplay is as challenging as ever, and four skill levels are included. Like Asteroids for the 7800, this may be the definitive home version of an arcade classic. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Getting the hostages to safety won't be easy. As you fly over enemy lines, you're greeted with roving tanks, jets, and guided missiles. You actually need to blast open enemy strongholds to release the hostages, and then land on the ground long enough for them to climb aboard. The longer you're on the ground, the more vulnerable you are to roving tanks. The hostages are all black guys, probably because pasty white people would have blended into the desert sand.
Choplifter can be a bit cheap at times, with tanks and jets that appear without warning, giving you little (if any) time to react. Should you return to headquarters in one piece, the hostages exit the chopper and you score one point for each. Yeah, the scores tend to be pretty low, with anything over 50 considered pretty impressive.
As for the graphics, the vehicles are large and detailed, and I like how the helicopter tilts realistically as you fly forward. The American headquarters looks more like a little schoolhouse, but the landing pad and that large fluttering flag look nice. There's only one skill level, which I would describe as "moderate". With appealing visuals, an intriguing premise, and intense gameplay, Choplifter is ideal for arcade fans looking for a bit more substance. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The graphics are pretty dull overall, but what makes Commando fun is the non-stop action. There are plenty of soldiers on the screen at any given time, and thankfully their bullets travel only slightly faster than they run. While you're dodging bullets I recommend shooting like a madman. The action really heats up when you find the automatic weapon, which lets you spray bullets by holding the fire button - very cool.
My main complaint is the lack of a two-player simultaneous mode. Another problem I encountered is not really the game's fault, but the lousy Atari 7800 controller. Playing this game absolutely KILLED my hand - I mean, I was literally in pain by the time it was done. But I guess that's the price you have to pay for some kick-ass shooting action on the 7800. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Keys are positioned in the most obnoxious locations, forcing you to take the longest, most circuitous route to reach each one. Shooting a monster progressively transforms it into a weaker form until it eventually dies. Whose great idea was this? You shoot a wizard and it turns into a ghost and then a skeleton and then a mage? That makes no sense!
And why are creature-generating portals shaped like potions of all things? For my entire video-gaming life I've been trained to pick up things that look like that! Likewise those juicy red "apples" turn out to be bombs, triggered by the second button. They're the best part of the game. Use one on a screen full of monsters and they instantly go up in smoke - along with their pesky portals. Just don't get too excited when you see a heart because guess what? That's an enemy portal!
I'd like to say the developers were attempting to defy convention but I suspect sheer incompetence played a role. Weapon upgrades are available and I think it goes without saying you never mess with an elf with a handgun! Dark Chambers suffers from a plodding pace and lack of difficulty. I was using my Proline controller and by the time I reached level J my wrist was absolutely killing me. This game is so foul it breaks the player down both mentally and physically! Not exactly a ringing endorsement. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Desert Falcon's blend of action and strategy seems promising but never gains much traction. It's hard to shoot anything because enemies tend to flutter around erratically. Stopping to hop around on the ground slows the action to a crawl, and accidentally brushing against any object will cause your bird to keel over dead!
It's hard to tell what effect power-ups are having, and certain kinds (like speed) are actually detrimental. The graphics are detailed but the colors are dull. Using the Pro-line 7800 controller is hard on the hands but fortunately you can hold in the button for continuous fire. Desert Falcon may have more depth than your typical shooter, but for an arcade game it's kind of exhausting. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
As is the case with so many well-designed video games, the risk versus reward ratio is perfectly balanced. The characters in this Atari 7800 edition look similar to the arcade (maybe slightly chunkier), and the memorable "banjo" music is perfectly reproduced. The vibrant colors stand in stark contrast from the washed-out look of so many other 7800 games. It's a shame the game doesn't take advantage of all the screen's real estate, instead being "cropped" on both sides. This makes the playing field feel slightly cramped, leaving the player with little room for error.
The game offers a generous number of lives (five to begin), but the difficulty level is high. The pace of the game is faster than the arcade, with creatures that are very aggressive from the start. Your score is not displayed when your game ends, so be sure to catch a glimpse before the screen goes black. Dig Dug on the Atari 7800 can't quite measure up to the arcade, but it's still a heck of a lot of fun. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The rivet stage might look easy at first with only one flaming "peep", but it doesn't take long for that thing to multiply. The elevator stage is very forgiving, so don't hesitate to snag those 800-point umbrellas. As in most home versions, the conveyor belt screen is missing, but it's not much of a loss.
The controls are responsive, and since only one button is required, you can kick back with your most comfortable Atari 2600 joystick. The sound effects tend to be a little abrasive, but that's not an uncommon complaint for the Atari 7800. The bottom line is that Donkey Kong is easily one of the best titles for the system. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
That's not to say this game is easy. There's very little clearance for leaping over chattering teeth, and even falling a short distance can be fatal. That second stage is absolutely crazy with all of its moving platforms, egg-dropping birds, and hanging scrotums. It's possible to vault from the trampoline to the moving green platform, but your timing needs to be perfect. There are no ropes on the "locks" screen, but otherwise this version has everything - including the electrified platform stage. The music is mediocre and the sound effects lack punch, but otherwise this translation is dead-on. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
You have a limited number of arrows (eight) so you're constantly having to reload by grabbing a new quiver. Touching the sword makes you temporarily invincible and a chalice rewards you with bonus points. Objects are nicely animated and that twitchy, hairy spider looks particularly menacing. In a nod to Wizard of Wor (Atari 2600, 1982), each level culminates with an encounter with a teleporting wizard. The action is somewhat repetitive and the game awards you with too many lives.
One cool bonus is how Dungeon Stalker incorporates voice synthesis and high-score keeping via the AtariVox peripheral. The voice has a gurgling quality, and the first time I turned it on my friend Scott said "Dave, you're console just threw up a hairball." The robotic voice punctuates the action with comments like "terminated" and "jackpot". That's cool but he won't shut up and you'll tire of hearing "out of ammo" and "more arrows" over and over again. I do really like the ability to save the top five high scores at every skill level. Dungeon Stalker won't win any awards for originality but I like how it takes an old favorite and injects it with new life. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age