If you enjoy Dodge 'em (Atari 2600, 1980) Side Trak is similar in concept. It's fast-paced and exciting to switch tracks at the last moment to avoid collision. But the most striking aspect of Side Trak is its background music, boasting a stunning rendition of Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train, complete with voice sample ("all aboooard!!"). If you're a collector, that's probably all you need to hear.
Chugging around the tracks to pick up people is fun for a while. Unfortunately whenever you make a turn you inadvertently reconfigure the track, so the next time around your train will make unexpected turns. You can get turned around very easy, and it feels as if you've lost control! I'm goin' off the rails on a crazy train! You can override the track configuration by holding the stick in the direction you want to go but it's very hard on the hands.
Clearing a single screen in this game is no small feat because the screen completely resets when you crash - even if only two or three passengers remain. I'd think I'd enjoy this game more if I didn't feel like I was fighting with it. That said, playing a long-lost game with a killer soundtrack is a treat you don't get too often. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
Sky Jaguar's scenery looks nice, particularly the craggy, red-desert canyon, but it scrolls in a jerky manner. Gameplay involves shooting rapidly while avoiding incoming missiles, but since there's no rapid-fire, you'll need to constantly press the side buttons -- which is absolute murder on your hands. A double-shot power-up eases the pain slightly, but not much. Sky Jaguar is playable, but really doesn't have much to offer. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Like Centipede, the snakes split in two when shot, but instead of leaving mushrooms in their wake, they leave a little green brush. These brushes really impede your movement, so you'll want to clear them out whenever you can. One original aspect of Slither is how you can move around the entire screen as well as fire both upward and downward! This really opens things up and gives the game a unique flavor of its own.
Complicating matters is a fluttering blue pterodactyl and a flying Tyrannosaurus, which play the same basic roles as the spider and flea in Centipede. Slither's action is challenging and fun, but the quality is lacking. The pterodactyl movement is so choppy that it barely even qualifies as animation. As you might guess, the collision detection is abysmal when you're near that thing. Next, the idea of "invisible snakes" is dumb and they look more like glitches on the screen.
Finally, each level begins with a short rendition of "When the Saints Come Marching In", which is both inappropriate and just plain bad. Slither is nowhere near as polished as Centipede, but it does manage to offer the same style of relentless shooting fun. Also, it's one of the few titles that properly takes advantage of the roller controller. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Complementing the ample eye candy is a lively, harmonized musical score. The bass-heavy "echo" effects in the cave screens are also noteworthy. The controls however leave much to be desired. Overcoming many hazards requires performing long jumps by stopping momentarily, hopping straight up, then pushing the joystick up again just as you land. It's not the least bit intuitive, but it's critical if you want to make any progress. Would it have killed the programmer to use one of the two unused buttons for this function? I mean, really!
Making matters worse is the unforgiving nature of the game. Simply touching a tuft of grass will cause your Smurf to instantly keel over! But despite glaring flaws that would doom a lesser game, Smurf still manages to be entertaining and addictive - probably because it's so tough!
The obstacles seem to be randomized so you can't simply memorize the screens. The ability to "duck" from bats and birds was novel for its time, but in later stages those things behave like homing missiles! Smurf is half idiotic and half brilliant. When all is said and done, it's about a wash. Even so, die-hard Smurf fans can safely bump the grade up by a letter. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The left button is used to thrust and the right one fires. If you find this scheme uncomfortable (like I did), you can blame the poorly-designed controller (like I did). Since many enemies zero in on you like heat-seeking missiles, it's not a bad idea to keep moving. Between stages you dock with harnesses that augment your firepower forward, to the sides, or to the back.
Space Fury is fast and challenging, and the colorful, star-shaped explosions look nice. There's also a cool musical motif that plays before each stage which has an intergalactic ring to it. What brings Space Fury down to earth is its choppy animation and loose collision detection. When a lot of objects are on the screen the frame-rate drops and the quality of play falls with it. It's a little inconsistent, but as a fast-paced shooter Space Fury is enjoyable enough. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
After a few yawns, you'll be wondering when this game will end! Fortunately a "deluxe mode" is also included which adds some much-needed pizzazz. This time the aliens come in an assortment of colors and sometimes even split in two when shot. Blinking mother ships hover along the top of the screen and drop bombs that create wide explosions. Barriers allow you to seek shelter, but it's not easy to poke holes in those things.
Brief intermissions between waves depict an invader carrying a red mothership up the screen while "S.O.S.!" appears on the side. What the hell is that supposed to mean? There are glitches as well, including one where the aliens can drift off the right side of the screen and make a total mess of the score display! I know the Colecovision needs a decent Space Invaders game, but this, my friends, is not the answer. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Space Panic doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and it plays like Dig Dug in slow motion. Sure it's challenging, but that's mainly due to the flaky controls. For some reason you can't dig when in close proximity to a ladder, which severely limits your options. There are some pleasant musical effects, but the graphics are downright boring. I've heard some gamers defend this, but Space Panic did not appeal to me at all. The instructions contain an extra piece of paper with "Additional tips", a sure sign that customers were having difficulty grasping the concept. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The further you position yourself up the screen, the faster you go, creating an exciting risk-reward dynamic. After blasting a car you'll want to quickly swerve to avoid its smoldering wreckage. A red truck occasionally pulls up alongside you, outfitting your car with extra weapons like oil, smoke, or a heat-seeking missile.
It's possible to equip multiple weapons, and that's where the Super Action Controller comes into play. A standard controller requires you to use the keypad to unleash special weapons, which can be awkward in the heat of battle. The Super Action Controllers however have those big-ass Fisher Price buttons on the grip, allowing you to easily dispense your weapon of choice.
Considering its age, Spy Hunter has a lot of depth. The road periodically branches and enemies are randomized so no two games are the same. You can even transform into a speedboat for a high-speed shootout on the water! The Peter Gunn theme that blares in the background adds a gangster flavor.
There are subtle graphical touches like the "muzzle flash" of your machine guns, and when you bump a car on the bridge it breaks through the guardrail and splashes into the water! Details like that make all the difference. I played this Spy Hunter so much that it gave me a blister! That's a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The gameplay involves climbing a building, hanging from girders, then stomping on critters that crawl on each level. I love the crunchy noises the bugs make when you "squish-em" although Sam's high-pitched, chipmunk voice is kind of a turn-off.
Squish-Em Sam could have gotten by on novelty value alone, but in fact it's a very enjoyable game. Besides killing bugs, you must also avoid falling objects like bricks, hammers, televisions, fire hydrants, and the obligatory kitchen sinks. Sam's graphics are only average and the bugs look pixelated, but its addictive gameplay makes it worthwhile. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
You can thrust freely around the screen, and in the center is a cannon surrounded by three concentric, rotating force fields. You can blast away at these, but the cannon will retaliate with red plasma balls that pursue you like heat-seeking missiles! They're hard to shoot down, but largely due to the awkward, inexact controls.
The collision detection is suspect, and your ship's momentum seems to defy physics. It's tempting to eliminate each shield completely, but that only causes them to regenerate. Lingering in a single spot for too long causes the cannon to unleash a single devastating blast, so keep moving. Star Fortress is sloppy but its severe challenge makes it mildly addicting. Hell, even destroying one cannon is a monumental achievement. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The second stage involves shooting towers on the surface of the Death Star - a scene which I don't recall from the films. Not particularly fun, it's hard to shoot the towers and also avoid running into them. Still, it's nice how the tower tops "shatter" when blasted. The climactic trench stage is well done, but frankly not much better looking than the Atari 2600 version. Oh well, at least you can hear the Star Wars theme and R2 beeping in the background.
Upon blowing up the Death Star, you just see a quick flash and a lame message announcing, "The Death Star is destroyed". The game's main issue is the control; the cursor is slippery and difficult to aim with precision. Visually however, this game is a dead ringer for the arcade, and probably the best home version I've played. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The flying saucers are huge but hard to hit due to their unpredictable movements. The ships in the water are easier targets, but since they're moving you'll need to "lead" your shots. Rough scaling is used to convey incoming missiles and trash can-shaped mines, which suddenly go from being medium-sized objects to screen-sized death! If you keep turning until they're off the screen, you'll be out of harm's way. That's 80's physics for you - out of sight and out of mind!
The action is relentless, but the game struggles to keep up. The animation gets very choppy as objects fill the screen, degrading the collision detection and causing controls to become less responsive. You'll try to compensate by tapping buttons like mad, which takes its toll on your hand. At least Subroc is exciting. I like the distinctive waves and there are even boss encounters. The only other game comparable to this was Battlezone (Atari 2600, 1983). Subroc was cutting-edge in its time, but games that sacrifice control for graphics usually don't age well. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
I must admit this screen looks pretty cool, except that the players are wearing the ugliest uniforms imaginable (purple and orange?!? What were they thinking??). Unfortunately, the programmers must have spent 90% of their time on that screen alone, because the fielding screen is repugnant! Sure you can see the entire field and there's a nice-looking diamond, but the fielder movement is painfully choppy and the player graphics are completely static.
The ball movement is equally horrific, featuring THE worst physics I've EVER seen in a baseball game. In addition, the control scheme is overcomplicated and more of a pain than anything else. Even the sound effects are annoying. What should have been a ground-breaking sports title is really only good for a laugh. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
You need to use the oversized Super Action Controllers, which have about 73 buttons, levers, and spinners (give or take). They're actually quite ergonomic if you're an alien from the Zorgon system with three heads and nine arms. The game comes with two thick manuals. One is the instructions, and the other is a playbook that's thicker than a real playbook! Setting up a simple pass play is a mind-boggling experience, requiring you to enter about five numeric codes.
Then you hike the ball and things get complicated. Your players don't move on their own, so you'll need to individually position your receivers and blockers one at a time. Adding insult to injury, these guys move so slowly that you might mistake this for the Senior Citizen Football League! In the meantime your linemen are all standing around like a bunch of statues.
The act of throwing a pass requires you to press a non-intuitive combination of buttons - in conjunction with rolling the spinner! The ball moves with no regard to physics, and the animation is horribly choppy. There's only one reason to play this with friends, and that's from the hilarity derived from relentlessly mocking it. Super Action Football may just be the most ambitious and least playable football game ever conceived. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
It sounds like a fine translation, but something's missing, and it took me a while to put my finger on it. Oh yeah - where the heck are the explosions!? I'm sorry, but it's not nearly as satisfying when you bomb a cannon and it simply disappears. Give me some random pixels or an asterisk at least! Other issues include erratic collision detection and a low level of difficulty. With only one skill level, I played this until my hand hurt. Super Cobra is respectable, but I really wish Parker Bros. had gotten off of their lazy asses and applied more polish to this one. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum