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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age