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If you have the intestinal fortitude to stick with this game, you'll be in for a pleasant surprise. You can shoot two missiles at a time, and you have a rechargeable shield that actually moves with you (unlike Phoenix). Demonic creatures sometimes drop flaming balls that create little fires on the surface. But the real innovation of Satan's Hollow is the bridge that you can build on the right side of the screen. Bridge pieces periodically appear on the left, and you need to drag them to the right while shooting the targets above. Building a complete bridge takes you to a second screen featuring Lucifer himself!
Consistent with the rest of the game's graphics, he looks more like a stick figure than the prince of darkness, jumping around like a flea as he tosses pitchforks your way. He's really not hard to shoot, and you are rewarded handsomely for nailing him. Besides earning bonus points, you can now shoot FOUR missiles at a time, and this rapid-fire action makes for a great time. Too bad you lose this ability when your ship gets hit. There are nine skills levels, and I'd recommend number five. Satan's Hollow really had me hooked. And what other shooter lets you battle Satan from the comfort of your own family room? © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
What really surprised me was that the game is programmed in BASIC! I used to program in Atari BASIC back in the 80's, so I can vouch that it's not easy to squeeze a game like Space Cowboy out of it. The game features some outstanding graphics and smooth scrolling. The main character is a jailed outlaw who must escape from a futuristic prison by traversing an elevated walkway lined with cannons. The game utilizes a very cool isometric viewpoint, and the scenery is quite detailed and colorful. You can adjust your cowboy's speed as he runs the walkway and use his "jet boots" to dash across holes.
Unfortunately, your cowboy isn't animated at all - he's just a static sprite you move around. The game is fun for a minute or so, but then you realize it's strictly a one-trick pony. All you do is dodge cannon fire, and the placement of the cannons is totally predictable. To say this game is repetitive is like saying fish enjoy water. I was hoping for unique stages, but subsequent levels only added some additional hazards. Despite bringing back some nice memories, Space Cowboy's gameplay is undeniably awful. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Running down the left edge of the screen is a tall green "rocket" with six doors that slowly deploy rows of invaders. Real alien spacecraft don't look like that. Was Atari trying to be cute? I'm not sure what purpose it serves, but it doesn't improve the gameplay. If anything it hurts! Since you can pick off invaders as they enter the screen you never actually have to face the full armada. I also noticed a lack of barriers to take cover behind. It's a curious omission considering the Atari 2600 version has them.
This Space Invaders is still playable with clean graphics and smooth animation. Every row has a distinctive mutant design and periodically you'll hear a high pitched tone as the "mother ship" hovers across the top. It looks more like a boxy car from the 1970's, and where's the sound effect when you shoot it? Lame!!
Since your cannon is small and invaders are packed tight the game isn't very hard. To make things a little more challenging I tried the "homing" variations where aliens can fling bombs diagonally. During advanced stages however these shots come so fast and low you can't even move yourself into position to shoot anything! I'm beginning to understand why Atari went back to the drawing board for the Atari 5200 release of Space Invaders. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
You accelerate and shift gears to build up speed, but 200 MPH seems more like 20. The sensation of speed is non-existent, and with no roadside scenery there's nothing keeping you from riding on the grass. Eventually you'll catch up with the rest of the pack who look like a gang of Asian motorcycle chicks. Not only are they pixelated beyond belief, but their scaling animation is jittery as hell. You'll wreck if you come within a pixel of them, and these are some pretty big pixels we're talking about. Speed King wouldn't be bad as a type-in game from Compute magazine (remember that one?), but nobody should be paying money for this. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Traps include bombs, springs, and electrified water buckets you set up over doorways. Certain objects you come across will disable traps like umbrellas and pliers, but since you can only carry one item at a time you never hold anything for long. The audio/visual prowess of Spy Vs. Spy is remarkable. Its colorful rooms are pure eye candy and once that looping music gets into your head, you can't get it out.
But while the gameplay is highly original it's also rather difficult and confusing. Although it's possible to keep an eye on your opponent, it's not really practical. Once your paths will cross a quick brawl ensues, usually sending the loser to heaven in angelic form. The spy who collects four special items in a suitcase can escape, triggering a neat ending sequence of him flying off in a rickety airplane.
Rooting through furniture and checking behind pictures is easy enough, but since there's only one button you're constantly dropping items by accident. It's also very easy to trigger your own traps. Although generally smooth there are frequent framerate drops - something I would have never even noticed in the old days. Worst of all, your opponent can wait for you at the exit door, beat you up, and win the game after you did most of the work! Spy Vs Spy remains technically impressive, but one might argue it was always more fun to watch than to play. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Instead of scouring furniture for items you're searching trees and mounds of sand for rocket parts. Traps you can set up include pits, napalm, snares, and gasoline bombs. When a player assembles the rocket, he can win by escaping in a submarine with his lady friend. The Island Caper is hard to play. Assembling the rocket is a pain in the ass. You'd think dropping pieces on top of each other would connect them but they don't seem to want to go together.
Another problem is that all the island scenery pretty much looks the same. Quicksand is all over the place and you need to wiggle the joystick like crazy to escape it. When you come face to face with your opponent you engage in a "swordfight", but it takes dozens of hits to defeat your opponent because now you both have long life bars. Though time consuming, killing my CPU opponent in this manner was the only way I could defeat him. Unlike the first game, you don't come back from the dead. The Island Caper asks a lot of the player. It's not likely to win over those who didn't like the first game, and unlikely to appeal to those who did. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Instead of rigging furniture with booby traps, you're burying dynamite, sawing holes in the ice, and setting icicle traps. And instead of smacking each other with clubs, the combat is limited to hurling snowballs. That's pretty lame, as the snowballs don't do much damage at all. One new element is the need to maintain your body temperature by taking refuge in an igloo. I have as much nostalgia as the next guy (I actually take medication for it) but Spy Vs. Spy games are not what they used to be. This game just isn't much fun.
The white-and-blue scenery looks attractive but it's not very interesting. When you pick up an object, you can't tell what it is, and the lousy manual isn't much help. The escape sequence depicts a rocket taking off, and it's a lot less impressive than the airplane in the original game. The looping "music" is just plain annoying. Frankly it's more enjoyable to watch the CPU play itself, and that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Each player selects from two starting pitchers: "Curves" Cassidy and "Heat" Muldoon. You also need to choose between a "liners" and "sluggers" line-up, although I would prefer a "balanced" option. The intuitive, responsive controls give Star League an arcade flavor. Moving the joystick in the four directions lets you throw basic pitches, but things get interesting when you use diagonals to throw combinations of pitches!
You can swing with a press of a button, and I absolutely love the sound of the crack of the bat. Hitting the ball can be a challenge. It's hard to lay off the low pitch, and I can't hit Muldoon's fastball to save my life! When the ball is put into play, you control the nearest fielder, but the infielders often don't even flinch as ground balls roll through. The player on offense controls the lead runner, and once you get a feel for running the bases, you can really toy with (and piss off) your friend. Good luck tricking the CPU, which is remarkably adept at holding the runners on.
The game has a few shortcomings. You have the option of bringing in a knuckleball reliever, but only at the top of the eighth inning. Outfielders sometimes throw out runners headed to first base, which is not very realistic. It's hard to reach second base even after hitting the ball into a gap, and runners don't slide. The controls for getting situated on the mound require a lot of extraneous button tapping.
The game does have some nice bells and whistles, like a scoreboard shown between innings that displays paid attendance, an ad for a "Dutch Dougan" video game, and other scores from around the league. Star League Baseball isn't particularly deep but it hits the spot if you're looking for some simple fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
A small Death Star is visible on top which periodically unleashes a green laser beam that's impossible to avoid. Stretching across the center of the screen is a rainbow-colored shield, which might be effective if not for those ship-sized holes that appear in it every ten seconds! Flying through a hole treats you to a mercifully brief "hyperspace" sequence. The second screen is much like the first, only uglier. Now the Death Star is large and blocky, and firing at it removes chunks at a time.
After striking its core, the Death Star's explodes, sending a barrage of meatballs your way. Wow, this really sucks. Did the designers even watch the movie?! Of all the great ideas contained in the original trilogy, just about anything else would have been better than this. A Star Wars license is a terrible thing to waste. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Despite the simplistic aim-and-shoot controls it's really hard to hit anything. You also need to shoot down incoming missiles which look like fuzzballs (and not the kind that laugh it up). Your cursor has such limited range you can't even reach some of the missiles. The second part is the dreaded "towers stage" which you probably won't recall from the film. The idea is to shoot their glowing tops while trying not to crash into them. This 3D effect might have been turned some heads in 1983, but now this stage is just plain aggravating.
The final scene is where Star Wars Arcade nearly redeems itself. While navigating the Death Star trench you'll weave around barriers that appear in your path. The 3D illusion and responsive steering controls make this the highlight of the game. It culminates with shooting the exhaust port, which is surprisingly easy! Watching the Death Star shatter into all of six pieces is kind of anticlimactic however. Those who enjoyed this game at the arcades may want to temper their expectations before trying this lackluster home version. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Some of the athletes look a bit blocky, but you have to love the fluid animation. The diving event is the most spectacular graphically, with its deep blue sky and colorful stands of spectators. In the track events, it's neat how the crowd forms the pattern "USA" in the background. The gymnastics springboard event is surprisingly fun, and the skeet shooting is perfectly executed. The weakest event is the swimming freestyle relay which runs too long and is glitchy to boot.
The biggest problem with Summer Games is how you must constantly flip the floppy disk and sit through those blue load screens (beep beep beep...) It's especially obnoxious when it's just loading the worthless "medal ceremony" screens. I will give the game props for saving all world records (to disk) along with the player's initials. You can configure the game to use two joysticks, but when players are not going head-to-head, you still have to share a joystick, which makes no sense. Summer Games does show its age at times, but if you're looking for some back-to-basics Olympic action, you will love this. Note: An enhanced version of this game was later released for the Atari 7800. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Two things make Breakout a challenge. When the ball hits an upper layer of bricks it starts moving twice as fast, and when the ball hits the "ceiling" your paddle becomes a lot smaller. When both of these conditions occur you're basically hanging on for dear life.
The first variation is your standard breakout - one ball and one paddle. The second is progressive, where a series of walls gradually marches down the screen. This variation is the most unpredictable, as you might have as many as four walls bearing down on you. The third variation is called double, which provides you with two balls and two paddles. You'd be surprised how hard it is to keep them both in play.
The last mode is called cavity. This time you begin with two paddles and one ball but two additional balls are bouncing around inside the wall. Release those and in theory you could have three going at once. In reality it's nearly impossible to keep three balls in play for more than a few seconds.
After each game your score is displayed along with an evaluation like "fair" or "ace". I like this version of Super Breakout better than the Atari 2600 game. The controls feel smoother and the ball bounces at sharper angles. It may lack the futuristic sounds but a game like Super Breakout doesn't need any razzle dazzle to be fun. Note: Pressing shift + control + I reveals an Easter Egg. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Both can fire laser beams at each other, and these are deflected by strategically angled mirrors in the intersections. It's original in theory but in practice it's a confusing mess. And since both have huge health meters, the stage just goes on forever. Superman can carry people, but even after reading the instructions I have no idea where I'm supposed to take them.
After a few minutes the game mercifully switches to a vertical shooting mode. While trading shots with a cannon seems refreshing at first, it soon becomes repetitive and pointless. Eventually you find yourself in another mirror level, but this time in a cave. Superman doesn't make any sense and it's way too complicated. Heck, the instructions even include diagrams to illustrate how the various screens fit together. Some computer games are worth investing some time to figure out, but I think this is one mystery best left unsolved. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Mania, Video Game Museum, Retroist, Giant Bomb, YouTube, Moby Games