system Index M-R
Mat Mania Challenge
Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 1999/8/2

screenshotIt's almost unfair to rate this game, considering how far fighting games have come since the Street Fighter revolution. But I have to rate this based on how fun it is now, and certain games just don't age well. Mat Mania is an ambitious wrestling game with complicated controls. The primary moves involve kicking and punching, but kicks never seem to work. Once you stun your opponent with a series of punches, you can pull off more complicated moves like a pile driver or knee drop. You can also perform running attacks, climb the post, or fight outside the ring.

Considering the limited number of buttons (two), there are an impressive list of moves. The graphics are good and there's even a referee who does absolutely nothing, just like real wrestling! Although there are plenty of moves, the fights tend to dissolve into boring punching contests. A huge problem is the lack of a health meter; it's impossible to tell who's winning at any given time. Mat Mania may have been worth playing in 1990, but it sure doesn't have much going for it now. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Pro Wrestling (Sega Master System)
3 Count Bout (Neo Geo)
Street Fighter: The Movie (Saturn)
Space Invaders Revolution (Nintendo DS)
Art of Fighting 2 (Neo Geo)

Mean 18
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1989)
Posted: 2013/7/16

screenshotI'm not exaggerating when I say it took nearly ten years to acquire this rare cartridge. Why is Mean 18 so hard to track down? Oh I don't know - maybe because it's freakin' awesome? The game is exceptionally easy to play and its graphics are clean and attractive. There are no fancy hole previews, no alternate camera angles, no commentary, and no wind to be concerned with. It's actually quite refreshing to play a golf game that sticks with the basics and does them so well.

Before each hole you view a small overhead map and some minimal distance information. The tee-off screen offers a nice vantage point, and the three-press swing meter extends down the entire left edge of the screen. The distance to the hole is indicated on the screen, but you'll need to consult the manual to see the range of each club. Why the game can't display this basic information I have no idea, but you'll quickly memorize the distances anyway.

The swinging animation is smooth and it's fun to watch the ball sail. It tends to waiver in the air, adding drama as you apply "body english" to keep it on the fairway. On short approach shots the ball has a tendency to "spaz out" in the air, but it lands in the right spot. Getting the ball onto the green isn't hard and the putting is forgiving. Arrows that look like Lego blocks indicate slope, but they are rarely even a factor. My favorite aspect of the game is how you can play 18 holes in well under a half hour. With intuitive controls, an uncluttered interface, and a gentle learning curve, Mean 18 is everything you'd want in a classic golf title. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 91
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Golf (NES)
NES Open Tournament Golf (NES)
Turf Masters (Neo Geo Pocket)
VR Golf '97 (Playstation)
Tee Off Golf (Dreamcast)

Grade: C-
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 1999/7/25

screenshotMeltdown is an average light gun game that reminds me of Reactor for the 2600. You try to shoot particles bouncing around the screen before they hit your core blocks in the middle. It's kind of like a reverse breakout game. Initially the game seems pretty bad, especially with its boring graphics. But after playing for a while, I discovered some cool features. Missed shots form a temporary blockade, adding some strategy. There are several useful power-ups, including continuous fire. When you complete a level, you are given a passcode so you don't have to start over next time. This is critical because the early levels are too easy. The later levels are more hectic and fun, although the screen flashes brightly every time you fire, which could induce headaches (or epilleptic seizures). © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended: expert
High score: 15549
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Time Crisis (Playstation)
Reactor (Atari 2600)
China Syndrome (Atari 2600)
Super Breakout (Atari 5200)
Wanted (Sega Master System)

Midnight Mutants
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 2018/11/3

boxGuess whose mug is plastered across the box of Midnight Mutants? None other than that feisty "Grampa" from the old Munsters TV show. Atari really had their fingers on the pulse of popular culture in 1990! Kids were going wild over black-and-white comedies from the 1960s!

Midnight Mutants begins with a terrific animated intro depicting satanic activities in a creepy pumpkin patch next to a looming dark mansion. Wow! The game is played from an isometric perspective as you freely roam between contiguous screens in a country setting. You'll collect items, fight monsters, and explore creepy locations like a church, barn, cabin, lab, pumpkin patch, and sprawling mansion. The graphics are so good you'll want to wander around just to check out the scenery. The only areas I didn't like were the forest and caves which tend to be confusingly maze-like.

The controls feel stiff because you can only move in four directions. From the player's standpoint you cannot move diagonally, but from a spectator's point of view you can only move diagonally. Odd! The second button equips items and calls up Gramps for hints. Midnight Mutants is inscrutable if you don't know what you're doing. You need to collect the items in a particular order and there are arbitrary rules like only being able to pass through hedges at a certain spot. The manual offers plenty of hints but for my money nothing beats a YouTube walk-through to get you over the hump.

The first boss is a screen-sized ram skull which is downright alarming to behold. He's not as fierce as he looks however, and cheesy music tends to undermine the horror. Still, there's a nice variety of enemies in this game including bats, crows, spiders, ghosts, werewolves, plant-people, and an assortment of zombies. When you kill a zombie with an axe, its body splits in two as its head falls straight down. Love it! There's a lot to see and do in Midnight Mutants and plenty of secrets to uncover. It's clunky as hell, but this Atari 7800 exclusive does a fine job of catering to the horror crowd. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 29,350
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Nightmare Creatures (Playstation)
Mystery Science Theater 2600 (Atari 2600)
Scooby Doo Mystery (Super Nintendo)
Nightmare (Europe) (Odyssey 2)
Fatal Frame (Playstation 2)

Motor Psycho
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 2024/1/28

screenshotWith a name like Motor Psycho you'd expect intense motorcycle violence with drivers beating the hell out of each other with crowbars. But while there's plenty of "motor" to be found there's a disappointing lack of "psycho". This is more like Pole Position (Atari XE, 1982) with hills and valleys. You just shift gears, hug the corners, and try to make the next checkpoint before time runs out.

The left button accelerates and the right lets you jump. You can catch big air if you launch yourself at the pinnacle of a hill, sometimes far enough to leap-frog the next racer. Unfortunately more often than not you go flying off the road and crash.

There are four tracks but with minimal scenery they all feel like desert wastelands. The only thing on the sides of the road are arrows indicating upcoming turns. It did occur to me that the hills and valleys were somewhat novel for a 1990 racer. I like how you can tell when a big hill is coming up, letting you prepare to hit the jump button at the apex.

Any game that requires you to hold in a button the entire time will cause fatigue. There's no brake, which makes it difficult to remain on the road during turns. The trick is to downshift during each turn, which actually works like a charm. I found using the European Atari 7800 controller much more comfortable by the way.

Since you're racing the clock, the other motorcyclists are little more than random hazards. The problem is, making any kind of contact with these guys will cause your bike to explode! The ensuing explosion looks pretty ridiculous by the way, like cats fighting in a bag! The sound effects are glitchy and obnoxious. There's a fair bit of challenge to be had in MotorPsycho, but frankly I'm not crazy about it. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 441,850
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Pole Position II (Atari 7800)
Pole Position (Atari 5200)
Pole Position (Atari XEGS)
Moto Racer Advance (Game Boy Advance)
Excitebike 64 (Nintendo 64)

Ms. Pac-Man
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1986)
Posted: 2006/12/19

screenshotWhat's not to love about Ms. Pac-Man? It's one of the best arcade games ever, and this Atari 7800 version is surprisingly faithful. In terms of looks, this is a dead ringer, complete with the animated title screen, colorful mazes, and cute intermissions. The bonus items, which include a pretzel and various fruits, look especially appetizing. One thing I'm not crazy about are the ghosts' eyes, rendered in an indistinct, light blue. That color may have looked fine on a sharp arcade monitor, but on the TV they're hard to make out.

In general though, the colors appear more vibrant than most Atari 7800 titles. This version of Ms. Pac-Man is faster than most, and even in the very first stage she moves at a brisk pace. The controls are responsive but could be more forgiving; it's possible to get hung-up on turns if you're not exact with the controls. But the biggest flaw is the fact that you begin with five lives instead of three. If Atari was trying to emulate the original arcade game, why water down the difficulty with excessive lives? Even so, this game is a true classic, and it's as fun to play now as it ever was. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: cherry
High score: 28840
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Pac-Man Collection (Atari 7800)
Jr. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Better Pac-Man, A (Atari 2600)
Ms. Pac-Man (Lynx)

Ninja Golf
Grade: C+
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 1999/8/23

screenshotI wonder what the people at Atari were smoking when they came up with this one? Ninja Golf actually combines three different types of video game action: fighting, shooting, and golf. And believe it or not, it's not half bad! The graphics are very good. There's really not much to the golf aspect; you just need to aim your shot and time the distance. After you hit the ball, you run after it and fight other ninja along the way. You also need to avoid mud-throwing gophers.

The two buttons on your controller allow you to attack and jump. Attacking mainly consists of kicking, unless you have some throwing stars. Depending on where your ball lands, you may have to travel through various environments like sand pits, trees, or water hazards, which introduce new adversaries like snakes and sharks. When you finally make it to the green, you throw stars to defeat a dragon and finish the hole.

There are a few problems. First, fighting can be frustratingly difficult when multiple ninja are attacking from both sides. When fighters overlap, it's hard to tell what's going on. The limited number of moves make the action somewhat repetitive. Occasionally enemies seem to disappear from the screen for no apparent reason. Overall, Ninja Golf is no classic, but it gets by on its wicked originality. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 44810
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Great American Golf 2 (Philips CD-i)
Wicked 18 (3DO)
Ninja (Atari XEGS)
PGA Golf (Intellivision)
Golf (NES)

One-On-One Basketball
Grade: C+
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Posted: 1999/9/9

screenshotHere's a neat little one-on-one basketball game featuring Dr. J and Larry Bird. The guys look cartoonish, but they can still exhibit their patented fade away jumpers and slam dunks. I love these graphics. The half-court is well detailed, and the wooden floor looks great. The gameplay is simple and fun, although a bit slow. The only offensive moves are spin and shoot, and the defensive moves are limited to steal and jump. There is a nice menu of play modes to choose from, which makes it easy to customize your game. The computer opponent provides a worthy challenge. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Jordan vs. Bird: One on One (NES)
One on One Basketball (Atari XEGS)
Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (Super Nintendo)
Ultimate Basketball (NES)
Pat Riley Basketball (Genesis)

Pac-Man Collection
Grade: A
Publisher: Bob DeCrescenzo (2006)
Posted: 2006/12/19

screenshotWith Pac-Man Collection, Bob DeCrescenzo took the Atari 7800 Ms. Pac-Man engine and ran wild with it. It wouldn't be fair to call this a simple hack considering all the new material that's been added. First of all, you get an excellent rendition of the original Pac-Man (previously unavailable for the 7800), along with the ever-popular Ms. Pac-Man. Both are remarkably close to their arcade counterparts - minus the "waka-waka" sound effects (which apparently are hard to emulate).

There are several variations of each game that tweak the graphics, difficulty, and maze configurations in various ways. These include Puck-Man, Hangly-Man, Ultra Pac-Man, Random Mazes, and Ms. Pac-Attack. An extensive options menu lets you toggle a "fast mode" for a turbo-charged Pac-Man, and there's a "plus mode" that wreaks havoc on the general rules. In plus mode, ghosts will not necessarily become "scared" when you eat a power pill, and special beverage-shaped power pills render the ghosts temporarily invisible.

Other menu options let you adjust the number of players, starting level, and number of lives. Atari 7800 owners looking to take their Pac-Man game to the next level will find this well-conceived cartridge a nice addition to their collection. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 32220
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Jr. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Ms. Pac-Man (Lynx)
Super Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 7800)

Pete Rose Baseball
Grade: F
Publisher: Absolute (1989)
Posted: 2010/4/22

screenshotPete Rose had the makings of a perfectly good baseball game. The field looks terrific, and the pitcher/batter view looks like a real television broadcast. But is there a reason why the players' heads appear to be wrapped in bandages? It looks like a bunch of freakin' mummies out there, and last time I checked Egypt did not have a team!

King Tut can deliver four types of pitches at varying speeds, keeping the batter off-balance. Once the ball is hit, you only see a portion of the field at a time. The infield is split in half, and each outfield has its own screen. Those blue outfield fences with the distance marked on them look pretty sharp! The screen "flips" when the ball is thrown between areas, but it's not so bad.

What kills the game is the mechanism for fielding balls in the infield. Instead of automatically taking control of the nearest player, you need to manually select between the four fielders visible on the screen. Fair enough, but each player can only move within strictly-defined horizontal zones. As a result, when a grounder dribbles behind the mound, only first-basemen can reach it, despite the fact that the second-baseman is only a millimeter away!

Invisible walls are the order of the day, turning an otherwise respectable game into a complete joke. Isn't it odd how they can't get the basic fielding right, yet there's an infield fly rule!? The audio is another detriment, with droning static for the crowd and a repetitive "charge" fanfare. Pete Rose Baseball had a chance to be the definitive baseball game for the Atari 7800, but it failed to get the basics right. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Pete Rose Baseball (Atari 2600)
Baseball (NES)
Dusty Diamonds Softball All-Stars (NES)
Ken Griffey's Winning Run (Super Nintendo)
Tecmo Super Baseball (Genesis)

Planet Smashers
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1990)
Posted: 2008/7/23

screenshotPlanet Smashers is a prime example of the uninspired trash Atari was pumping out in its waning years. This may be the most worthless shooter ever concocted. You move a plane around the lower part of the screen while firing at generic objects that slowly float down. Although the "space semen" may raise an eyebrow, most targets are terribly uninspired (big eggs and little eggs - wow). There's no variety and minimal audio except for the incessant "choom choom" of your cannon fire.

Gauges at the bottom try to convey some semblance of sophistication, but it's all just an illusion. A special ship drops colored capsules, and collecting these in the correct order will expedite the end of the stage. Take it from me - it can't come fast enough! You can activate a "cloaking device", but it's hardly necessary considering you have five ships, each equipped with shields that can withstand several hits.

Planet Smashers just goes on and on, long after the player has lost interest. Each stage ends with a forgettable boss, and if you're lucky he'll put you out of your misery. The Atari 7800 controller doesn't help matters. Constantly tapping that side button is awkward at best and painful at worst. It only takes five minutes to realize Atari didn't put any effort into this game whatsoever. Planet Smashers is hard to track down because it's so rare, but even ardent collectors should save themselves the aggravation. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: hard
High score: 35975
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Space Ranger (Philips CD-i)
Ninja (Sega Master System)
Robotech (Game Boy Advance)
Beamrider (Colecovision)
BlastWorks: Build, Trade, Destroy (Wii)

Grade: B+
Publisher: Tynesoft (2009)
Posted: 2009/7/30

screenshotPlutos is a long-unreleased shooter recently resurrected by several Atari 7800 enthusiasts, and classic gamers everywhere should be overjoyed. There's a lot to like about this vertically-scrolling shooter, not the least of which is its support for two-player simultaneous action! There's no slow-down as both players blast away, each with his own score displayed at the top. The graphics are excellent. Shading is effectively used to give each stage a dark, foreboding look. The scenery features imaginative futuristic structures, but you never actually interact with it.

Rotating enemies spiral down the screen in bunches and move in unpredictable patterns. Your default weapon is fairly weak, but power-up icons abound, each of which is labeled with a number. I prefer the double shot (#1), although the wide shot (#2) is also effective. I try to avoid #3, which is a single straight laser beam. Unfortunately, an icon will often appear right on top of you, changing your weapon whether you want to or not. You'll want to collect the same number to upgrade your firepower, but after you max out you'll inexplicably be downgraded.

Each stage ends with an obligatory (and unremarkable) boss. I like how you can hold down the fire button to shoot repeatedly, but the lack of music makes Plutos bland in the audio department. When the game ends, a nifty high score screen ranks you in. I played Plutos with several friends, and every one of them was impressed as hell. If you appreciate classic gaming, Plutos belongs in your collection. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 32,500
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Power Strike (Europe) (Sega Master System)
Sirius (Atari 7800)
Monster Lair (CD) (Turbografx-16)
Raiden Trad (Super Nintendo)
R-Type (Sega Master System)

Pole Position II
Grade: C
Publisher: Atari (1987)
Posted: 2023/3/7

screenshotA lot of people wonder why I've always been so critical of the 7800 version of Pole Position, especially after fawning over previous versions like Pole Position (Atari XE, 1983) and Pole Position (Atari 5200, 1983).

Pole Position II does offer several improvements over the original. Its cars look "rounder" and the four tracks offer varying scenery. The Suzuka track features an amusement park and Seaside boasts a city skyline with a bridge. There are signs along the road with Atari logos on them. Car explosions look more dramatic, with tires flying. For the most part however, Pole Position II looks exactly like the first Pole Position, right down to the Atari blimp and intro music.

Certain aspects of this game are arguably worse. The steering isn't as sharp, making it much easier to slide off the raceway. Often two cars will block the road, and they don't tend to separate. That's a problem because the collision detection is so unforgiving, just getting within a few pixels of a car will send both up in flames.

The audio needs work. It always sounds like you're in low gear. The sound of cars passing is downright obnoxious; they sound like fire engine horns. In general the sensation of speed is underwhelming at best.

The best thing about Pole Position II is that you can play using a normal Atari 2600 joystick, although you lose the brake control. The default 7800 controller is just torture to use with any game where you need to hold in a button the entire time. This is a disappointing sequel. It actually feels like a step down. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: 2
High score: 55,080
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Pole Position (Atari 5200)
Pole Position (Atari XEGS)
Hang-On II (Sega SG-1000)
Fatal Run (Atari 7800)
Pole Position (Intellivision)

Realsports Baseball
Grade: C
Publisher: Atari (1988)
Posted: 2001/4/14

screenshotThis game is a huge step DOWN from the remarkable Atari 5200 version. First the good news. The graphics are attractive, detailed, and smoothly animated. A big scoreboard at the top of the screen displays the line score. The controls are well-designed and easy to learn. You can play a one or two player game. But the problems are many. It's tough to judge fly balls. Hits travel so quickly that there's virtually no time to react with your fielder. The base runners are too fast, and the cpu is too tough. The crowd sounds like a strong wind. Can't one team come onto the field at the same time the other team is coming off the field? Do we really have to wait for both? On top of everything, this game has been known to freeze up well into a contest. Yikes. This game has much more in common with the Atari 2600 version than the 5200 one. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Pitfall 2 (Atari 5200)
Kaboom! (Atari 5200)
NFL Quarterback Club (Sega 32X)
Realsports Baseball (Atari 5200)
Star League Baseball (Atari XEGS)

Rikki & Vikki
Grade: A-
Publisher: Penguinet (2018)
Posted: 2020/6/20

boxPlaying a brand new game on a vintage system is a real treat, especially one as expertly crafted as Rikki & Vikki. After an entertaining intro the game reveals itself to be a platform/puzzle hybrid. Each screen-sized level is strewn with keys, some of which are difficult to reach. One or two players assume the roles of cartoon foxes, working coop or alone.

The game has several clever original elements. Falling off the bottom causes you to fall in from the top, changing the way you think about each screen layout. Some levels have militant bunnies patrolling the platforms. You can pick up and throw blocks to knock these guys out, or stick the blocks against a wall to help you reach higher places. The two-button scheme uses one to jump and the other to grab/throw. The 7800 controller isn't the most comfortable controller (it may be the least comfortable) but the European version is a great alternative.

Rikki & Vikki is a quality title with crisp controls, excellent cartoon graphics, and a jaunty musical score. The stages are short and cleverly designed. They often appear harder to solve than they actually are. Each new set ups the challenge, but the game will help you out if you're struggling. There's a nice high score screen with lots of fanfare but sadly no save feature. Heck, there's not even a password. Still, Rikki & Vikki is a pretty terrific addition to the 7800 library, offering platform fun that's both thought-provoking and habit-forming. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 26,580
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Miner 2049er (Atari 5200)
Mario Clash (Virtual Boy)
Mr. Do's Castle (Atari 5200)
Puzzle Link (Neo Geo Pocket)
Off The Wall (Atari 2600)

Robotron 2084
Grade: C-
Publisher: Atari (1986)
Posted: 1999/7/23

screenshotRobotron 2084 is one of my favorite arcade games of all time, but this version doesn't measure up. If you're not familiar with this frantic shooter, you control a little guy who begins each level in the middle of the screen, surrounded by hostile robots that begin to close immediately. You run around blasting everything in sight and save (touch) humans for big bonus points. Gameplay is fast and furious, demanding good control. Unfortunately the only way to get this type of control on the 7800 is to use two joysticks, which is problematic unless they can be secured somehow. Another problem is that the animation tends to get choppy when things get hectic, making it difficult to tell what the heck is going on. Overall this is just a fair adaption of the arcade classic. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended: Int
High score: 66850
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Robotron 2084 (Atari 5200)
Robotron 2084 (Lynx)
Robotron X (Playstation)
Robotron 64 (Nintendo 64)
R-Types (Playstation)

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age