The game has a nice tutorial, followed by a series of lengthy missions, most of which involve sinking enemy ships with torpedoes. It doesn't take long to figure out how to navigate, and the keyboard is used to view charts, radar, damage reports, captain's logs, and various periscope views. The problem is, your targets are usually halfway across the Pacific Ocean, and it takes forever to reach them. It's particularly painful when you need to navigate around islands.
The developers clearly put realism ahead of fun. Not only are ships named after actual WWII vessels, but your mission instructions are transmitted via Morse code! Unfortunately, Gato's sub-par graphics provide minimal pay-off. Once a wire-frame boat appears in view, it's only rendered from the side, even when it's speeding away from you.
When your torpedoes hit their mark you'll see a splash and bright flash, followed by a pathetic sinking animation (the ship goes down horizontally). Considering all the work involved to hunt down a single ship, that's pretty lame! Repairing damage requires you to rendezvous with another friendly ship, but that just prolongs the agony, and Gato is one game experience you'll prefer to end sooner than later. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The characters and monsters look like chunky blobs, the scrolling is jerky, and the animation is practically non-existent. The monsters essentially "hop" from one spot to the next, and your projectiles never even touch their targets. Enemy herds simply "thin out" as you shoot them, and it's unsatisfying to say the least. This couldn't hold a candle to the frenetic dungeon-shooting action of the original game. Your projectiles move remarkably slowly, making it impossible to keep the hordes of pixelated demons at bay.
And then you have the putrid audio track. Calling the sound effects sparse would be an understatement. If not for some mono-tones and static, you'd be playing in complete silence. The arcade version of Gauntlet may have been a demanding game, but I find it hard to believe that this was the best the XE could do with it. Mindscape had a lot of balls to release this garbage. I'm sure it completely disgusted many gamers back in the day. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The fact that you play as a bad guy on the run was a radical idea in and of itself. You drive a car freely around an expansive, scrolling, maze-like town with all sorts of neighborhoods and distinctive landmarks. There's a school, church, factory, airport, and even a golf course. There are telephone poles, different types of trees, and sailboats on the water. As if that's not enough, the time of day changes! As you cruise around you'll need to avoid the police while collecting dollar signs, diamonds, and other loot. Adversaries are marked by a "radar" cursor that slides around the edge of the screen. Keep an eye on your fuel because you'll need to stop at a gas station when it gets low.
Knocking off a white armored van will advance you to the next stage where you'll face more aggressive cops. The boys in blue tend to stick to your tail but you can take temporary shelter at your hideout location. Your score is the amount of loot you stash. Getaway won the $25,000 Atari Star Award and deserved every penny. This was decades ahead of its time. Note: This disc would not work on my Atari 800XL but it did run on my Atari XEGS. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Ghostbusters tries to mix skill and strategy while incorporating elements of the film. It looks great on paper, but playing the game is a repetitive exercise that usually ends in frustration. You spend most of the time staring at your hearse driving down a featureless road. Even wrangling ghosts becomes monotonous since there's minimal strategy involved.
After about a half-hour the giant marshmallow man finally appears to unleash his destruction. You'll need to quickly hit the "B" button on the keyboard to "bait" him. That's inconvenient, considering you've been just using the joystick up to that point. Next thing you know, you're staring at the "better luck next time" screen. By that time, you may be wondering if there will be a next time. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Considering the limitations of the system, the graphics are drop-dead gorgeous. The first stage takes place in a decrepit house with cobwebs, a rickety roof, and moonlit reflections. Someone illustrated this pixel-by-pixel and it shows. The craggy passages, sparkling water, and elaborate contraptions make each screen fun to explore.
The controls are a little touchy considering the degree of precision required, and you have to press diagonally to execute precarious leaps. There is definitely a lot of trial and error involved, but once you beat a screen you feel a true sense of accomplishment. The music, a melodic rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Goonies R Good Enough", is icing on the cake. It's a shame so few people have played Goonies, because this game is a treasure. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Things don't improve much when you hit the road. I instantly blew out my engine and was forced to push my car to the nearest gas station. How? By incessantly tapping the button. And here I thought video games were supposed to be fun! The poorly-written manual (which tries to cover three systems) explains how I needed to quickly push up and down to shift or blow out my engine. The problem is there's no gear indicator! After much teeth gnashing I figured out how to drive the damn car, but it was far from great.
The sparse scenery is limited to mountains and phone lines, and the cars look like colored blobs whizzing by. Police are out in force, and when you see your radar light blink you're as good as pulled over. The audio seems to be limited to buzzes and rubberband noises. In addition to blowing out your engine you're constantly running low of gas. It's really easy to overshoot the gas station even when pushing your car! Once I pushed my out-of-gas car over the finish line, only to begin the next race with - you guessed it - no gas! Seriously? I feel like the designers of Great American Cross Country Road Race took a decent racing game and did everything in their power to deconstruct the fun.
. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
The first level is surprisingly tough as your little construction worker must fill in missing girders and then rivet them into place. You can't pick up a girder while holding a jackhammer, so you'll need to hit the spacebar on the keyboard to release it (it took me a long time to figure that out). Wrenches, drills, and other tools scattered throughout the levels serve as bonus objects. On the second screen you collect toolboxes, and some of the precision jumps you're asked to make are pretty outrageous. Good luck making it to the third screen!
This game is fraught with peril. Wandering vandals and a raving witch doctor are fatal to the touch. Some objects that look totally harmless (like a box) prove to be deadly. Hazards abound like flying rivets and squashing machines, but gravity is your most deadly foe by far, as you can't withstand a fall from any height. Apart from the substantial challenge, Hard Hat Mack fails to distinguish itself. The game has no music, and the sound effects are limited to beeps. The variety of stage objectives is neat, but the excessive difficulty crushes the fun factor. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
When a ball is put into play, only half of the field is displayed at a time - a truly ill-advised design decision. Throwing from one side of the diamond to the other causes the view to "flip" between sides. While this scheme allows the fielders to be larger and better animated, it's detrimental to the overall gameplay. Making matters worse, the outfielders are tiny and move slowly. This was apparently done to convey distance, but balls tossed in from the outfield take an eternity to arrive.
On the bright side, Hardball's controls make it easy to toss the ball around the bases, steal, and substitute players. The audio is weak, and that creepy carnival music that plays during the title screen has got to go. Taken as a whole, Hardball does manage to provide a competitive baseball experience, but its experimental camera angles keep it firmly entrenched in the minor leagues. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
The four stages are supposedly inspired by the films Diamonds Are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, and For Your Eyes Only. Each mission has you navigating this sorry-ass "all-terrain vehicle" across a side-scrolling landscape, jumping over craters and shooting aircraft in the sky like a poor man's Moon Patrol (Atari 5200, 1983). Is it possible for stages to be both inspired and uninspired at the same time? In Diamonds you shoot frogmen underwater before landing on an oil rig. Next you're pitted against a bomb-dropping helicopter that can't be destroyed even if you hit it dead on!
The Moonraker stage requires you duck underwater to avoid exploding satellites overhead. The explosions are pretty much non-stop with enough obnoxious flashing to trigger an epileptic seizure. Normally I'd wish for a stage select, but I don't think I'd want to select any of these stages! What ever happened to that tantalizing train shootout screenshot from the Parker Bros catalog? Now that's something I'd like to play! © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
After locating your gun (which can be aimed at several angles), you climb into your space ship (which is half as big as you are) and take off. While flying around non-scrolling screens of black "space", a handy intergalactic map indicates your position and the location of planets. Your goal is to collect a "prize" from the planet. After entering the atmosphere of a new planet, you'll navigate around barriers in order to reach the landing pad, a la Gravitar (Atari 2600, 1988). On the planet surface, your character will manipulate abstract objects in not-so-obvious ways to obtain inexplicable prizes like a "snake plant" or "magical fountain".
In the early 80's, this game had a lot going for it. Not only could you freely explore outer space, but each planet was like its own mini game! Unfortunately, the puzzles are really, really abstract, requiring a lot of trial and error to solve. Journey to the Planet's brain-teasing gameplay is still mildly interesting, but attention spans aren't as long as they used to be. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
While swimming you stab (or avoid) approaching crocs while maintaining your air supply. You'll want to be either very aggressive or totally evasive. When you're going in for the kill you'll want to stab like a madman. The third stage puts you back on land where you jump over small boulders and duck under larger ones. It's pretty easy until they start coming two at a time, which really throws off your timing.
The climactic final stage shows your girlfriend being lowered into a huge pot. To rescue her, you'll need to leap over two natives and bury your head in her crotch. The second time around a monkey hangs out on the vines and tries to knock you off. He's a real bastard. Fortunately if he knocks you off the last vine you'll land safely in the water. Jungle Hunt for the XE is not quite as tight as the arcade original but it's close enough. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
You'll have to contend with apple-throwing monkeys but with a little skill you can jump over and duck under their projectiles. Better yet you can punch those [expletive] monkeys in the face with your boxing gloves if you can get close enough. Low hanging fruit rewards you with bonus points, and ringing a bell replenishes the fruit with higher value items. After a while I figured out that lingering on a screen and focusing on collecting fruit can really inflate your score.
The music is a little whiny but the controls feel responsive. Beginning with stage two there's very little margin for error so make sure your toes are hanging off the very edge of a platform before commiting to your jump. Even falling one millimeter will send your kangaroo into a death spiral, which makes no sense at all. Why was this Kangaroo for the Atari XE never released? Probably so it wouldn't upstage the Atari 5200 version, which it most certainly would have. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
In the epic story, you must rescue princess Mariko who is being held in the palace of the evil Akuma. In order to infiltrate the palace, you'll have to defeat a series of guards, one by one, before eventually facing Akuma himself. The fighters are large and fluidly animated, although admittedly slow by today's standards. Each guard has his own unique headgear and fighting style, and in general they get tougher as you progress. The keyboard controls let you punch or kick high, medium, and low. You can run but be sure to stop before you reach a guard or he'll knock you out with one punch.
The keyboard control could be more responsive - your fighter lags behind your commands somewhat. The fights require patience and skill, and can be lengthy because fighters recover health as time passes. While Karateka is basically just a series of one-on-one battles, there are a few surprises thrown in, such as Akuma's attacking hawk. And the ending(s) are truly classic. All in all, Karateka is a stellar achievement that stands as a showcase game for the Atari 8-bit system. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Unlike Tutankham, you have a "shield meter" which lets you absorb several hits per life. It's confusing at first when you see monsters pass right through you! You can fire left or right to fend them off. The default control scheme is fair but the dual-joystick and "backfire" options disappoint. Manning two joysticks is awkward and the backfire only seems to work when it wants to. Pressing the space key (or button on a second joystick) detonates a smart bomb, but I always forget to use them! You typically need to unlock several doors to reach the treasure at the end, but you can only hold one at a time.
When it comes to stage design I think the developers got a little too cute. Too often the game places that first key at the very end of the stage, forcing you to backtrack extensively. Worse yet, they went crazy with the portals, turning each stage into a complicated maze. It's hard to figure out where to go! Kings Tut's Tomb is fast and challenging but it should have been a lot less aggravating. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Fractalus had previously showcased flying over uneven terrain, but driving over it in Koronis was even more of a technical challenge, as your vehicle had to realistically tilt with each bump and dip. It's still a cool sensation to drive across the green jagged landscape, with mountain peaks slowly appearing through the distant haze. Your goal is to raid old abandoned space ships called "hulks", looting them for points or upgrades.
Standing in your way are guardian saucers that hover around the wreckage attempting to zap you. Taking them out is tricky because you can't move your crosshairs and fire at the same time. In addition, these saucers have an annoying tendency to linger offscreen. The control scheme is cleverly designed to be driven entirely via a joystick controller. Pushing the crosshair against the edge of the display makes you move in the direction. Holding in the button transfers control to the lower screen.
When you return to your ship to inspect your loot, the analysis screen incorporates a robot rendered in mind-blowing color and detail. Seriously, that was top shelf for 1985. You can disassemble the parts you collected to earn points or use them as upgrades. This is where things get hazy. I can't tell what all those symbols on the parts mean and the manual isn't much help. I can appreciate Koronis Rift as a sophisticated space adventure but I think they went a little off the deep end. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
The game is certainly challenging due to holes that consist of islands in water! With one behind-the-back viewing angle it's hard to tell where the land ends and the water begins! The manual offers hole diagrams but I prefer to wing it. Fortunately the game doesn't charge a penalty stroke when you hit it in the drink. There's no concept of fairways, roughs, or even greens. The game just puts you in putting mode when you're close enough to the hole.
The swing meter is ingenious but unforgiving, divided into two halves: power and snap. For power you just hold the button down until the meter is full - no problem. Then the snap meter kicks in, which lets you set your accuracy with a very small margin of error. A little late on the trigger you'll watch your ball veer way, way out of bounds. You can consult the manual to see how far each club hits, but after a round or two you'll get a feel for it.
I finished my first nine holes 24 over. During the second nine however I was only five over. That said, I still don't fully understand the slope indicator, which looks like a line with a shadow. And I definitely don't get that wind indicator, which is a single pixelated line! The putting could be more forgiving, as the ball tends to "pop out" of the cup if you hit it a bit too hard. Still, I love the raw simplicity and steady pacing of this game. You can play 18 holes in 30 minutes!
The swing and ball animation are silky smooth, and it's so satisfying to watch you shot land softly next to the pin in the far distance. Everytime I play Leader Board I want to bump up the grade by another letter. It's easy to dismiss an archaic sports title like this, but you may be surprised just how fun it can be.
. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
The object is to collect a number of "chests" while avoiding pursuing guards. You can drop down from any distance without sustaining injury, but this also applies to your adversaries. It's easy to become surrounded, but you have one special ability that can bail you out of almost any situation: the ability to drill holes. Guards will blindly fall into these, allowing you to run right over them. You can also drill holes to create escape routes.
A typical game of Lode Runner has a lot of close calls that require quick thinking. It's pretty exhilarating to scurry up a ladder or drop through a hole just as guards are converging from all sides. Some stages will have you scratching your head trying to figure out how to reach buried chests. In terms of graphics, the characters are very small, but their animation is remarkably lifelike. I also like the game's unusual color scheme.
Lode Runner is a quality title, but it tends to drag on for too long. Not only do you begin with five lives, but you receive extra lives on a regular basis. This is also one of the quietest games I've ever played, with no music and sparse sound effects. There are no passwords, but there is a level select. It may not look like much, if you're looking for a thinking man's platform game, Lode Runner will deliver the goods. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.