system Index A-B
3D Bowling
Grade: A-
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
Reviewed: 2009/4/8

screenshotWhen the marquee title for a system is a bowling game, that's not a good sign. But it's the truth: 3D Bowling is one of the most sophisticated, playable games for the Arcadia 2001. The main screen is split into three parts. A rack of pins is displayed up top, a scorecard scrolls across the middle, and your bowler can be seen on the bottom, standing in the lane from a side-angle. I really like how he's holding the ball up in front of him like a professional bowler trying to concentrate.

The controls have a learning curve, but once you get the hang of them, they offer a fine degree of control. Not only do you line up your bowler and administer the curve, but by holding in the spin duration button you determine exactly how much spin is applied. You press the bowl button to initiate your roll, and press it again to release the ball. This is the only bowling game I can recall where you can actually step over the foul line - resulting in a penalty!

The ball looks a bit like a flat tire as it begins its trek, but when the game switches to a close-up of the pins, it looks much better. I suspect this close-up angle is what the "3D" in the title refers to. The ball is large and moves in a realistic manner, but the pins simply fall in place instead of knocking into each other. Don't hold your breath about making that split!

The collision detection is a little fishy, especially with regard to that pesky second pin from the left in the back row (sometimes known as "the phantom"). There's a lot of room for technique, and the computer does a good job of keeping score. You can view the entire score sheet at any time with the press of a button. 3D Bowling is genuinely fun, and best of all - you don't need to wear those damp, stinky shoes. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 158
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Bowling (Intellivision)
Nester's Funky Bowling (Virtual Boy)
Brunswick World Tournament Champions (Super Nintendo)
Virtual Bowling (Japan) (Virtual Boy)
Bowling (Atari 2600)

3D Soccer
Grade: D
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
Reviewed: 2017/2/28

screenshot3D Soccer is one of those rare games that's actually better than its controls. Apart from the mesmerizing title screen (not really) the 3D is not readily apparent. I guess the game's isometric (diagonal tilted) perspective offers a sense of depth? Despite a lack of instructions I somehow managed to set up a contest against the CPU. The players move with a fluid running motion, the ball has a shadow, and the lines on the field look sharp.

You simply touch the ball to take control and press a button to kick. I love the fact that instead of going out of bounds the ball bounces off invisible walls as if you were playing indoor soccer. Not only does this keep the action moving but it allows for some imaginative (read: accidental) goals. Still, 3D Soccer asks a lot of the player.

The diagonal scrolling is rough and it's hard to kick the ball at certain angles. Even when you do get off a good shot it tends to inexplicably sail "too high". What?! I was standing right in front of the [expletive] goal! The players move like they're running through molasses and the stiff Arcadia joysticks are hell on your hands. If I could hook up a PS1 controller to this console, we might have something here. I almost had fun with 3D Soccer but not without a high degree of discomfort. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Realsports Soccer (Atari 2600)
International Soccer (Atari 2600)
Goal! (NES)
NASL Soccer (Intellivision)
Pele's Championship Soccer (Atari 2600)

Alien Invaders
Grade: C
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
Reviewed: 2008/9/7

screenshotThe title screen for Alien Invaders tries to convey impending doom, but it's hilariously bad. As aliens are shown congregating over a city, the ominous background score sounds more like a second grader struggling through a clarinet recital! It's so stilted and off-key that you almost have to laugh. Although clearly a Space Invaders clone, Alien Invaders does have its moments. First off, there are a ton of aliens jam-packed into that formation at the top of the screen. If I were Carl Sagan, I'd say there were billions and billions of them! How can you even miss?!

Rendered in four colors, the aliens also tend to shift directions unpredictably and "wrap" around the sides of the screen. Your cannon floats across a platform on the bottom, and can seek refuge under three shields. A blocky city skyline looms in the background, although this goes away as the aliens descend. Unlike the original Space Invaders, mother ships continuously move across the top, and shooting one pauses the action for a brief "explosion" animation.

Alien Invaders is pretty fun to play, but only if you wait until a missile is visible on the tip of your cannon before you fire. If you simply pound the fire button there's an annoying delay before the next missile is armed. Maybe it's like that by design, but I kind of doubt it. The only thing that ruins this otherwise enjoyable shooter is its incomprehensible time limit!

That's right - every game is only about three minutes long, no matter how well you're doing! And since there's only one wave, you'll spend most of that final minute picking off the mother ships. Wow, the designers really shot themselves in the foot with that bone-head decision! It effectively reduces Alien Invaders from an intense shooter to a cautionary tale. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 303
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Astro Battle (Bally Astrocade)
Space Invaders (Atari 2600)
Alien Invasion (Fairchild Channel F)
Astro Invader (Arcadia 2001)
Space Attack (Arcadia 2001)

American Football
Grade: D+
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
Reviewed: 2008/9/7

screenshotIt's pretty sloppy, but I have to credit Emerson for at least attempting to create a full-featured football game. American Football is played on a side-scrolling screen with players that look like those generic "people" from the Odyssey 2 games. Some of this game's notable features include field goals, safeties, fumbles, and off-sides penalties. You get two run and two pass plays, but also have the option to run with the quarterback or activate a "decoy" receiver.

The overall design is ambitious, but the execution is lacking. You only control one player at a time, and his movements are terribly jerky. Players not under your control tend to stand around like a bunch of idiots. But American Football's biggest downfall is its convoluted control scheme. The keys on the keypad serve multiple functions, and having to constantly look down at the controller while a play is unfolding is unacceptable.

Worst yet, the keypad overlays have tiny text and the buttons are poorly organized. At the very least, you'd think they could have assigned "pass" to one of the side buttons, but no, those are left unused. You'll also want to turn the volume down because the constant "whooshing" sounds like a freaking hurricane is coming through! American Football is playable, but let's face it - most other football games of the same era blow this out of the water. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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2 players 

If you like this game, try: Realsports Football (Atari 5200)
10-Yard Fight (NES)
Electronic Table Soccer (Odyssey 2)
Football (Atari 2600)
Super Challenge Football (Atari 2600)

Astro Invader
Grade: C
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
Reviewed: 2013/8/6

screenshotThis obscure arcade shooter combines elements of Space Invaders and Galaxian. It begins with an impressively large mother ship whizzing across the top before depositing little aliens into a series of chutes. You move a cannon across the bottom of the screen, blasting these sitting-duck aliens as fast as you can press the fire button. It's a shame there's no automatic fire option, because this game is murder on your thumb.

The aliens don't provide any resistance for the first few waves, leading you to wonder what the point of this game is exactly. Once you reach about 5000 points however, they begin to dive bomb and the difficulty goes from non-existent to astronomical. It wouldn't be so hard if the aliens didn't "splatter" when they hit, as their wide explosions can engulf your cannon. Worse yet, diamond-shaped "nukes" periodically float down and will cost you a ship if they hit the surface.

Things get crazy in a hurry, so it's just a matter of persevering long enough to snag the high score. Rest assured that by 10K your thumb will be in agonizing pain. I do admire the frenetic pace of this shooter, even if the animation is a little choppy. With each wave, the mother ship deploys a different variety of alien of various colors and shapes. Astro Invader has a nice arcade vibe, but my thumb did not appreciate the vertical difficulty curve. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 11,140
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Astro Battle (Bally Astrocade)
Astro Invader (Colecovision)
Vector Vaders 2: The Director's Cut (Vectrex)
Alien Invaders (Arcadia 2001)
Space Raiders (Arcadia 2001)

Auto Race
Grade: C
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
Reviewed: 2017/2/28

screenshotArcadia 2001 instruction manuals are hard to come by so I was really happy to see an intuitive setup menu when I fired up Auto Race. You simply select the number of players, one of three routes, your speed setting, and number of laps. Then you hit start and you're off to the races. Your car slowly accelerates on its own. You press a button to brake, and that comes in handy for tight turns and to avoid the occasional pedestrian. Wait a minute - are those flailing pedestrians or turkeys?!

The scenery is limited to trees and box-like shapes representing the roofs of houses. The angular roads tend to zigzag all over the place but your car does have the ability to power slide. The choppy scrolling causes flashing along the edges of the screen but since your car remains in the center it doesn't really affect the gameplay. Once you reach the finish your time is displayed.

In the two-player mode you earn points by outrunning your opponent or having him crash. After each crash two scores are displayed labeled "MAG" and WHT". It took me a few seconds to realize that it was referring to the colors of the automobiles: magenta and white! There's not much to see here, but if you want to burn rubber the old school way, give Auto Race a go. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: 40 sec
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Auto Racing (Intellivision)
Enduro Racer (Sega Master System)
Hi-Octane (Saturn)
Golf (Arcadia 2001)
Wacky Races (Dreamcast)

Grade: F
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
Reviewed: 2008/9/7

screenshotThis comedy of errors belongs on the permanent DL. It only takes one look at that white grass and green diamond to know that this game is hurting in the worst way. The players are large and the ball moves smoothly, but that's the extent of the good news. You can't even throw a pitch until the second player presses the "signal to pitch" button on his controller. Ugh!! This ill-conceived design flaw makes every game about twice as long as it should be!

The pitches come in pretty fast, and you swing by pressing a button on the keypad. When balls are hit to the infield, the fielding is totally automatic, which is lame as hell! When a ball is hit to the outfield, a cut-away screen depicts a fielder in a large triangle. Apparently this is meant to show the ball heading towards the fence, but it looks atrocious and is completely disconcerting.

Once you have the ball, you can whip it between the bases pretty quickly thanks to the diamond-shaped graphic on the control pad overlay. Unfortunately, the programmers had to get cute and add "arcs" to each throw. As a result, the ball moves through the air like it has a mind of its own!

Baseball also has its fair share of glitches, including one that will not let your fielder relinquish the ball until all the runners have scored! Yeah, I know it's just a minor bug, but I like to nitpick! And then there's the audio. This game beeps so incessantly that it should come with ear plugs! My buddy Scott offered a five word review for this game: "Beep beep beep beep F!!!" © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

2 players 

If you like this game, try: World Championship Baseball (Intellivision)
Realsports Baseball (Atari 5200)
Bases Loaded 2: Second Season (NES)
Baseball (Fairchild Channel F)
Major League Baseball (Intellivision)

Grade: D
Publisher: UA Ltd (1982)
Reviewed: 2021/4/4

screenshotEvery classic system has to have an obligatory tank game since Combat (Atari 2600, 1977). It's the law in 50 states! Combat was one-upped by Mattel's Armor Battle (Intellivision, 1979), allowing you to switch between two tanks on the fly. If that blew your mind, Battle on the Arcadia 2001 might just make your entire head explode. Just try not to get any brain matter into the console slot; that is a pain to clean out.

The battlefields in this game feature Lego-like buildings and tanks scattered all over the place. Each player controls a tiny soldier who can climb into a tank of his color and assume control of it. Tank control is where the game begins hemorrhaging fun. Considering how nimble that little guy is, you'd think controlling a tank would be easy but it's super unresponsive. Turning is tedious and it takes forever to build up a head of steam. My friend Sudz suggested the developers did this intentionally to properly convey the sheer mass of these heavily-armored vehicles. Nice try Scott.

It doesn't help that you tend to get caught up on the Lego "buildings" or worse yet the invisible barrier bordering the screen. The constant struggle will take its toll on your thumb. It's a shame because Battle has some subtle underlying strategy. Instead of always going mano-a-mano, you can go after your opponent's inactive fleet instead! That makes the game go by much faster, and believe me, your thumb will thank you. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

2 players 

If you like this game, try: Armor Ambush (Atari 2600)
Armor Battle (Intellivision)
Armored Encounter/Sub Chase (Odyssey 2)
Seek and Destroy (Playstation 2)
Tanks But No Tanks (Atari 2600)

Grade: B
Publisher: Emerson (1982)
Reviewed: 2008/9/16

screenshotAt first glance, Breakaway resembles an ugly version of Breakout (Atari 2600, 1978). Its walls aren't exactly a rainbow of colors, but its unorthodox control scheme works surprisingly well. Your joystick-controlled paddle moves slowly by default, but holding down a keypad button gives it a nice boost.

In the basic variation you just deflect a ball against a wall, but others let you steer, catch, or slice right through the wall. A nasty glitch makes these games a lot more challenging than they should be. Many times when you press the button for a new ball it comes flying down so fast you have no chance to react! You'll lose a lot of balls that way, so it's a good thing you get five.

Before you dismiss Breakaway, check out its innovative head-to-head mode. Two players defend walls on each side of the screen, giving it a bit of a Warlords (Atari 2600, 1977) vibe. You can compete against a friend or the CPU, and it's a lot harder than it looks! You move your paddle up and down instead of left to right, but the programmers didn't bother to adjust the controls, so you'll have to hold your controller sideways.

My friend Scott discovered a technique that allowed him to press both the keypad (for speed) and side button (to catch) - in addition to the joystick. "Hey look - I can do both at the same time!" "Gee Scott, that looks really uncomfortable." "Yeah! And it hurts like a b*tch!!" We had some fun, but some contests seemed to end prematurely thanks to the game's unnecessary time limit. Even so, these head-to-head variations make Breakaway one of the more entertaining Arcadia titles. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 4
Our high score: 788
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Kaboom! (Atari 5200)
Breakout (Atari 2600)
Fireball (Atari 2600)
Pinball Challenge (Fairchild Channel F)
Warlords (Atari 2600)

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