system Index A-E
Ace of Aces
Grade: D+
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 1999/9/24

screenshotAce of Aces is part flight simulator and part air combat. Despite its realism and attention to detail, this gameplay remains slow and tedious. Still, the game has plenty of depth. After choosing your mission, you stock your plane with missiles, bombs, and fuel supplies. The main view displays many gauges to indicate your position and status. There are five views to switch between, including a bomb bay that lets you see directly below the plane. Animation during dogfights is choppy, but the control is reasonable. I found myself spending too much time trying to fly in the right direction, switching between the cockpit and map views. Once a target is in range, the radar makes it pretty easy to locate and destroy it. People with enough patience to master the controls will enjoy Ace of Aces, but most will consider it a dull affair. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

If you like this game, try: B-17 Bomber (Intellivision)
Ace Combat 2 (Playstation)
Tomcat F14 Fighter Simulator (Atari 2600)
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception (PSP)
Final Approach (Atari 2600)

Alien Brigade
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 2001/12/18

screenshotThis hard-to-find title is probably the best light gun game available for the Atari 7800. Your mission is to shoot aliens and brainwashed soldiers while protecting civilians. Alien Brigade controls well, and you can easily select your weapons (including grenades) by shooting boxes on the top of the screen. Stages include a training camp, a river resort, underwater, and the alien cave base. Each stage has plenty of bad guys running around and the presence of civilians is sure to keep you on your toes. I really enjoy the rapid-fire, bullet-spraying action.

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.

High score: 164000
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Operation Wolf (NES)
Crossbow (Atari 7800)
Freedom Force (NES)
Point Blank (Playstation)
Commando (Atari 7800)

Grade: A+
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Posted: 2017/12/8

screenshotAs good as the original Asteroids arcade game was, this is even better. Guess it shouldn't come as a surprise considering Atari had already released the game for several different systems. The graphics aren't as sharp as the original vector graphics, but they do offer more eye candy. Not only do the asteroids appear three-dimensional, they are spinning on their axis! Those white ones look like miniature Death Stars.

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.

Recommended: intermediate
High score: 28,740
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Suicide Mission (Atari 2600)
Joust (Atari 7800)
Asteroids (Playstation)
Rockaroids Deluxe (Vectrex)
Stargate (Atari 2600)

Astro Blaster
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari Age (2014)
Posted: 2015/1/21

screenshotI love the concept of resurrecting old arcade games that have otherwise faded into obscurity. I don't remember Astro Blaster from the arcades, but my friend Scott says he does recall playing this 1981 Sega coin-op. When I first turned the game on I was startled by its amazing voice synthesis. "Fighter pilot needed in sector wars... play Astro Blaster!" I can't emphasize enough how cool this voice is. It sounds like the guy who used to do movie previews ("In a world...") speaking over the intercom of a space station.

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.

High score: 15,490
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Allia Quest (Atari 2600)
Berzerk Voice Enhanced (Atari 2600)
Space Duel (Atari 7800)
Megamania (Atari 5200)
Attack of the Time Lord (Odyssey 2)

Astro Fighter
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari Age (2016)
Posted: 2017/12/8

screenshotWhen I was growing up the wall of arcade games at the local bowling alley was a source of endless fascination. I watched all the heavy-hitters rotate in and out: Frogger, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Missile Command, Vanguard, Phoenix... you name it. Yet the most unpopular game remained a permanent fixture. A simple space shooter with monochromatic enemies, Astro Fighter lacked the sex appeal of the cutting-edge arcade games. I remember one kid making disparaging remarks about Astro Fighter before my friend Sean came to the game's defense, tossing in a quarter and touting its virtues. Funny the stuff you remember.

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.

Recommended: normal
High score: 5,520
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Missile Command (Atari 5200)
Astro Battle (Bally Astrocade)
Demon Attack (Atari 2600)
Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)
Star Battle (Bally Astrocade)

Baby Pac-Man
Grade: A
Publisher: Bob Decrescenzo (2020)
Posted: 2020/9/29

boxI'm almost embarrassed to admit I had never even heard of Baby Pac-Man until I played this game. Apparently it was an obscure 1982 coin-op that attempted to merge Pac-Man with pinball. The idea was to play a Pac-Man game on the upper screen and at certain times you had the opportunity to earn bonuses on a miniature pinball table below. Baby Pac-Man never appeared on any home consoles for obvious reasons... until now.

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.

High score: 447,300
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Pac-Man Collection (Atari 7800)
Midnight Magic (Atari 2600)
Pinball Jam (Lynx)
Mazeman (Bally Astrocade)
Pinball (NES)

Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Posted: 1999/7/21

screenshotThis game was revolutionary when it first came out (on 8 bit computers) in the mid-80s. Ballblazer, a futuristic one-on-one split screen soccer-style game, was the first video game to let you play another human opponent from a first-person perspective. You move a small "rotofoil" around the 3D field, attempting to grab a floating ball and shoot it through moving goal posts. When your opponent has possession, you can knock it loose. The game is totally original and has an incredibly catchy theme song. If you prefer to play against the cpu, there are nine skill levels and the AI is impressive. The limited visibility and simplistic gameplay may wear thin after a while, but Ballblazer stands the test of time. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ballblazer (Atari 5200)
Ballblazer (Atari XEGS)
Battlesport (3DO)
Sensible Soccer (Jaguar)
Mega Man Soccer (Super Nintendo)

Barnyard Blaster
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 2023/3/7

screenshotThere's a word that comes to mind while playing this light gun shooter, and that word is nauseating. Barnyard Blaster has four screens that repeat over and over. There's a field with a scarecrow, the interior of a barn, and a fence lined with bottles and cans. After each of those is a "bonus" round with a farmer tossing glass bottles into the air.

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.

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High score: 12,285
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Point Blank (Playstation)
Wabbit (Atari 2600)
Rabbit Transit (Atari 2600)
Wanted (Sega Master System)
Crossbow (Atari 7800)

Grade: C+
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 2019/1/16

screenshotThe title screen for Basketbrawl depicts three gang members leaning against a brick wall listening to trash-can beats emanating from a boombox. Damn - Atari was pretty hardcore back in the day! Start a new game and you're presented with a list of options including difficulty, number of players, and game length. Basketbrawl is designed for quick 2-on-2 contests. I love the look of the court with its raggedy nets, cracked pavement, broken-down cars, and random thugs loitering around. There's even a knife-throwing psycho moving along the bottom edge of the screen! The two additional courts are set in a junkyard and on a rooftop at night (sweet).

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.

High score: 10,880
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (Super Nintendo)
NBA Basketball (Intellivision)
Double Dunk (Atari 2600)
NCAA Final Four 99 (Playstation)
Barkley Shut Up and Jam (Genesis)

Bentley Bear's Crystal Quest
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari Age (2017)
Posted: 2018/2/3

screenshotAs the owner of a Crystal Castles coin-op machine, this homebrew was something I just had to own. The arcade game featured a walking bear collecting gems in pseudo-3D mazes. Bentley Bear's Crystal Quest is more of a conventional side-scrolling platformer, incorporating elements from the 1983 game like skeletons, animated trees, honey pots, bees, witches, and vertical centipedes. Beware of the jumping skeletons - they have the highest vertical leap of any undead I've ever encountered in my life!

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.

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High score: 68,750
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Crystal Castles (Atari 2600)
Super Mario All-Stars (Super Nintendo)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Mario Clash (Virtual Boy)
Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 2 (Playstation)

Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1986)
Posted: 2006/12/19

screenshotCentipede may be the most addictive shooter ever created, and this stellar 7800 version pulls out all the stops. We're talking mad fun here. Not only does this wonderful translation feature the same beautiful graphics, sounds, and adrenaline-soaked gameplay as the arcade, but it includes two-player simultaneous modes! That's right, now you and a friend can either compete for score, or join forces in the mother of all exterminations. If you don't love that, you need to have your head examined.

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.

Recommended: adv
High score: 27269
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Centipede (Atari 2600)
Centipede (Colecovision)
Asteroids (Atari 7800)
Arcade's Greatest Hits: Atari Collection 1 (Playstation)
Centipede (Dreamcast)

Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Posted: 2007/7/6

screenshotI've always admired this innovative combat/rescue side-scroller, which is far more involved than your garden-variety shooter. This Atari 7800 version is substantially better than the one I played on my Atari XL computer as a kid. UN diplomats have been taken hostage in a hostile country, and you must fly a chopper in and out of enemy territory to save them. While the country is never identified, the barren desert and Arabian architecture suggests the Middle East.

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.

Recommended: ES
High score: 64
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Choplifter (Atari XEGS)
Choplifter (Sega Master System)
Choplifter (Atari 5200)
Choplifter II (Game Boy)
Space Ranger (Philips CD-i)

Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1989)
Posted: 2003/5/7

screenshotThis is easily one of the most exciting, action-packed games you're going to find for the Atari 7800. The gameplay is similar to Rambo or Ikari Warriors, where you move through vertically scrolling territory while shooting soldiers and tossing grenades into bunkers. You can shoot at eight different angles, but enemies always tend to hang out in hard-to-reach spots. Grenades can only be thrown forward, but they are effective. Instead of blood, enemy soldiers are splashed with yellow when hit, which looks dumb and makes no sense.

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.

Recommended: standard
High score: 98700
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ikari Warriors (NES)
Commando (Atari 2600)
Commando (NES)
Guerilla War (NES)
Ikari Warriors (Atari 7800)

Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 1999/7/3

screenshotCrack'ed is a strange game with a poorly-designed control scheme. Your job is to protect eggs in nests scattered around the screen. You shoot advancing predators using a cross-hair to aim. If an egg is taken, you can shoot the predator before it gets off the screen and save the egg by catching it. The problem is, this is a light gun game with no light gun support. You have to move the jerky cursor with the joystick, and it's aggravating as hell. It's too bad, because there are some nice-looking screens including a haunted house and an underwater level. Predators include birds, mice, fish, and even ghosts. There's even a tough bonus stage where you throw eggs at a rooster. Unfortunately, the poor control undermines the gameplay. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended: normal
High score: 10900
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Point Blank (Playstation)
Crossbow (Atari 7800)
Missile Command Trak-Ball (Atari 2600)
Haunted House (Wii)
Go Fish! (Atari 2600)

Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 1999/7/3

screenshotAtari light gun games aren't usually anything to write home about, but this one isn't half bad. In Crossbow you protect your friends as they wander across the screen by destroying various projectiles which approach them. There are numerous other harmless objects you can shoot for bonus points. The difficulty is fair, and the light gun is pretty accurate. The screens have medieval themes including castles, bridges, deserts, and volcanoes. The scenery has plenty of detail and animation, but due to the limited number of colors it can be difficult to see certain objects. You can choose the order in which you play the stages, which raises the replay value. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
High score: 211500
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Point Blank (Playstation)
Time Crisis (Playstation)
Crossbow (Atari 2600)
Time Crisis 2 (Playstation 2)
Gunfighter: The Legend of Jesse James (Playstation)

Dark Chambers
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 2020/1/25

screenshotDark Chambers closely mimics the formula of Gauntlet (NES, 1987), except for all the fun and exciting stuff. You're a tiny green elf desperately seeking to escape whatever dungeon you find yourself stuck in. The 26 levels aren't particularly large but due to their maze-like designs and your slow movement they seem endless.

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.

Recommended: standard
High score: 90,950
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Dark Chambers (Atari 2600)
Wizard of Wor (Atari 2600)
Gauntlet 4 (Genesis)
Mystery Quest (NES)
Swords and Serpents (Intellivision)

Desert Falcon
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Posted: 2019/1/16

screenshotThis Atari exclusive could be described as Zaxxon (Colecovision, 1982) in the desert; an isometric shooter with strategic elements. Harmonized Egyptian music plays as you guide a giant falcon over a landscape of pyramids and towering obelisks. You can rapidly fire arrows at burrowing scarabs, flying fish, and mini-sphinx. You can even scuttle around on land to collect treasure and hieroglyphs. Collecting three symbols imbues you with a mystical power activated via the right button.

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.

Recommended: Intermediate
High score: 42,230
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Desert Falcon (Atari 2600)
Infiltrate (Atari 2600)
Desert Speedtrap (Game Gear)
Marine Fishing (Dreamcast)
Go Fish! (Atari 2600)

Dig Dug
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Posted: 2008/4/7

screenshotThis is a great version of one of the more timeless arcade classics. The star of Dug Dug is a little astronaut-looking guy with an air pump. As he tunnels under the ground, he can defeat his adversaries (including fire-breathing dragons) by pumping them until they pop, or score the big points by dropping boulders on their heads. The biggest thrill is to time your boulder drops to take out multiple baddies at a time. And don't underestimate the value of those bonus vegetables in the center of the screen. Never has eggplant been pursued with such zeal!

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.

High score: 32670
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Dig Dug (Atari 5200)
Dig Dug (Atari 2600)
Dig Dug (Intellivision)
Mr. Do! (Atari 2600)
Dig Dug: Digging Strike (Nintendo DS)

Donkey Kong
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 2012/7/27

screenshotIf you enjoyed the Colecovision Donkey Kong you're going to freak out over this Atari 7800 edition. It's a remarkably faithful rendition of the arcade hit with all the subtle details and death animations fans crave. The visuals are far more richer and vibrant than on the Colecovision. The first stage incorporates flaming barrels, and while holding the hammer you can also bash barrels on the girder above you. I love how those point values appear right there on the screen.

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.

Recommended: Advanced
High score: 31,500
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Donkey Kong (NES)
Donkey Kong (Colecovision)
Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)
Donkey Kong Junior (Colecovision)
D2K Arcade (Intellivision)

Donkey Kong Junior
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 2012/7/27

screenshotIn this interesting sequel Donkey Kong is being held captive and his son must spring to the rescue. Donkey Kong Junior's innovative vine-climbing mechanics are fun and allow for plenty of technique. The graphics are noticeably richer than the Colecovision game and crisp controls let you maneuver with more precision.

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.

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Recommended: Standard
High score: SLN 32,100
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Donkey Kong Junior (Colecovision)
Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)
Donkey Kong Junior (Atari 2600)
Donkey Kong Junior (Intellivision)
D2K Arcade (Intellivision)

Double Dragon
Grade: F
Publisher: Activision (1989)
Posted: 2001/3/13

screenshotCompared to the Nintendo version of this classic fighter, this edition is pathetic. It's not surprising that this was made by Activision, who also inflicted so much pain with the Atari 2600 version. The background graphics are dull. The simple, looping music will drive you mad. The fighters look blocky, but at least they don't flicker. There are about six moves, but the controls are not responsive at all, and only the flying kicks are particularly effective. The backgrounds, which were somewhat interactive in the NES version, are plain and static. There aren't even any barrels to pick up and throw. Sure you'll find a few weapons, but the knife looks more like a big cucumber. In the late 80's, when side-scrolling fighters were the rage, the Atari 7800 faithful missed out in a big way. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
High score: 12650
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Double Dragon (Sega Master System)
California Games (Atari 2600)
Kaboom! (Atari 5200)
Ikari Warriors (Atari 7800)
Last Bronx (Saturn)

Dungeon Stalker
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari Age (2016)
Posted: 2016/12/17

screenshotRetro-gamers will recognize this as a remake of Night Stalker (Intellivision, 1982), a likeable maze shooter that pitted you against spiders, bats, and robots. While fun, its arcade style was undermined by hand-cramping Intellivision controls. Thank goodness Dungeon Stalker lets you effortlessly traverse the same rocky corridors using your favorite joystick. The maze has the same asymmetric design with a safe zone, spider webs, and dead ends. Your character is agile enough that he can often hug the wall to let projectiles pass by. Just be sure not to touch any explosions.

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.

High score: 23,600
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Dark Cavern (Atari 2600)
Night Stalker (Intellivision)
Berzerk Voice Enhanced (Atari 2600)
Ms. Night Stalker (Intellivision)
Swords and Serpents (Intellivision)

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age