Atari 2600 A-B

Alien Brigade – By Atari

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 Acid Drop – By Salu

Acid Drop has the honour of being the very last game released for the Atari 2600. Having been released in 1992, this game came out 15 years after the original release of the console, which was known as the VCS back then. Acid Drop is a puzzle game that can best be compared to Sega’s arcade game Columns. In fact, the game is essentially a clone of that arcade game! At the start of the game you are given the option to select your starting level, anywhere between level 1 to level 30. Each level increases the speed of the game. The goal is to take falling pieces with multicoloured parts and arranging them so that three (or more) pieces of the same colour match and disappear from the playing field. You can stack the similarly coloured blocks either horizontally or vertically. No diagonal stacking can be done, which is something different from what could be done on Columns. As the pieces fall, any mismatched pieces start accumulating until the entire field is full which ends the game. Keep an eye out for a special brick that will make several lines of bricks vanish from the playing field. This brick causes the “acid drop” that gives the game its title. Acid Drop is a very addicting game that will keep you attached to the 2600 for a long time. Beethoven’s Fur Elise plays through the game (so, this game is one of the few with in-game music) but the rendition of the piece isn’t the most beautiful (it even has some off-key notes).

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Alien – By 20th Century Fox

This is Alien, join Ripley as she hunts for alien eggs that have been spread all through the hallways of the Nostromo while avoiding the adult aliens that hunt you down. Remember, in space, no one can hear you scream. This is the premise of the game Aliens, which is based on the hit 20th Century Fox science fiction thriller that began a franchise that is still alive and kicking. Unfortunately, the game bears more of a resemblance to Pac-Man than it does to anything in the Aliens movie franchise. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is a bad game. Aliens is a clone of Pac-Man and it actually does a better job than Atari’s own Pac-Man (even the siren sound makes it here). You control a human figure (looks like a guy, so it can’t be Ripley) through the maze the represents the halls of the Nostromo. Dots (yes, dots) represent the eggs that have been laid in the hallways of the ship and you must clear them while avoiding three aliens that are chasing you. Two items help you survive the aliens, a flame thrower and pulsars. The flame thrower appears as a bonus item toward the top middle of the screen. Grab it and you’ll have a four seconds of flames to use against the aliens (makes them run away). The pulsars make the aliens change colour and makes them vulnerable to your touch, making them vanish and reappear in a cage at the bottom of the screen. Clear the halls and you go to a second screen where you must make it to the top to collect a bonus item. You only have eight seconds and you have to avoid the swarms of aliens there. A very good and enjoyable game for the 2600.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Alien 8K - By Nukey Shay

Alien 8K is a hack of the original Alien title by 20th Century Fox that adds another 4K to the game which allows for several enhancements that make the game tie better to the movie and also improves the game graphically. The gameplay remains the same. Once more you are in control of a character who is onboard the Nostromo and must run the hallways of the ship to clear all the alien eggs that have been laid in them. Clear all the eggs and survive the aliens to move onto the second screen where you have to move to the top to get a bonus object only able to move vertically while avoiding the hordes of aliens there. So, same game, right? Yes, pretty much but with some really nice changes. Now the ship hallways have a black background, which is usually better for maze games. The aliens start off as large eggs that chase you in the maze but, as you advance through the game, the aliens then become facehuggers, then chestbusters, followed by adult aliens. Unlike the original game, the aliens on this hack actually bear a resemblance to the adult aliens! You can still find the original alien design running around on the second screen of the game but that is also far improved as you have aliens in all stages appear. The game now has a nice title screen as well. Game sounds have not really been changed but there was no reason to, really. I’m not sure the 2600 could produce the sound made by any of the aliens (whether they are facehuggers, chestbusters, or adult aliens). This hack really takes the game up a notch and is highly recommended.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Amidar – By Parker Bros.

Amidar was a Konami arcade game where the player control one of two characters, a gorilla or a pain roller, on a maze to paint all the sections that complete said maze. The game was adapted to several home systems, including the 2600. This version does capture the gameplay of the arcade, though it does have to make some compromises due to the limitations of the hardware. You start off controlling the gorilla, who is a yellow glob and looks nothing like a gorilla, on a maze while being pursued by a bunch of warriors. All you want to do is paint and all they want to do is stop you. You can turn the tables on them by painting the four corners of the maze which turns the warriors into chicken (imagine that!) who are now vulnerable to your touch. Catch them and get bonus points but we quick about it because they don’t stay chicken for long. You can also activate short bursts of invulnerability where pressing the fire button lets you pass through the warriors unharmed. Again this only lasts for a few seconds and it can only be done four times in each maze. Finish painting a maze and you’ll move into the next, this time taking control of a paint roller that is being chased by pigs! Were you expecting something logical? Amidar may not have the most beautiful graphics but it most certainly captures the fun of the arcade. The game is addicting and you’ll just want to keep on playing. Definitely a worthwhile title on the 2600.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Army of Darkness – By David Weavil

Army of Darkness is a game based on the movie of the same title. You play the role of the lead character, Ash, who has been sent back in time to protect the Necronomicon and keep it from falling into the hands of the Deadite Army. You are the last line of defence in a Castle under siege by that very army. The castle gates have fallen and you must keep the Deadites from crossing the drawbridge and entering the keep. If even one Deadite makes it across, the game is over! There Deadites will attack in four waves: 31 blue Deadites, a Giant Skeleton, 31 red Deadites, and an Evil Ash on horseback. The Skeleton and the Evil Ash are stronger enemies that require multiple hits to be taken care of. Army of Darkness is a hack of another 2600 game called BiFrost and it retains the same gameplay. Essentially this is a vertical shooter that lets you move horizontally to attack the enemies as they approach. You enemies will arrive in pairs or triplets and may move fast, slow, or just randomly toward you. You must hit all enemies before they reach you as the game will end immediatley once that happens. The game graphics are simple but they work well for their intended purpose. Sound is minimal but there is one awesome bit of sound when the game starts: Bruce Campbell says " Hail to the King Baby." The game is simple but it is fun to play and it does offer a challenge.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 AStar - By Aaron Curtis

If you like puzzle games, then AStar is for you! Inspired by a calculator game called Dstar, the idea of the game is to collect all the items that are spread through maze levels. While this may sound simple, collecting all the items is indeed challenging because of how you can move in the playing field. You see, you can only move in a straight line and you cannot change direction while moving. In fact, you don’t even stop unless you hit something a wall or a small block within the playing field. You control the small block to assist you as you try to collect fruits and other items that appear in the mazes. In order to win, you must collect all the items within a minimum number of moves for each of the mazes. The number of moves you’ve taken is shown at the bottom of the screen by a counter. Should you exceed the required minimum, the counter changes colour indicating that you are losing. You may still finish the maze but it doesn’t count as a successful completion of the maze. AStar boasts colorful mazes as well as beautiful items to collect (cherries, strawberries, ice cream cones, etc.) that are rendered in two colours. The character you move around to collect the items is none other than Pac-Man, which is an interesting choice but fitting this puzzle game. Sound is also pretty good with a nice title screen tune and simple but effective sound effects during the game. AStar is AtariVox enhanced to save the game state. In other words, the game knows what puzzles you’ve solved successfully and lets you start at new ones when you return. Overall, a very nice game for the 2600 and one puzzle lovers should really enjoy!

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Asteroids – By Atari

Some games need very little in terms of introductions and Asteroids is certainly one of those games. Based on the highly successful vector arcade game by Atari, this 2600 version bring home the fun of the arcade along with 66 different variations of gameplay to keep you stuck to your console. Of course, the game does not have vector graphics and instead has “filled up” asteroids and ships but there is no confusing this game with anything else. As in the arcade, you control a ship that is stuck in the middle of an asteroid field and the only way out is to blow up the asteroids until they are gone. Your ship may have unlimited ammunition but the asteroids also seem to be in unlimited supply because as soon as you are done clearing a wave, more appear and in greater numbers. Hit the asteroids with your lasers only to have larger asteroids split into medium sized asteroids than then split into smaller ones before you can totally blast them away. Of course, you also have hyperspace and shields to help you survive the asteroid field. Of course, you have something else to worry about. Some nasty aliens are trapped in the asteroid field also and they are out to get you. Make sure to blast them before they destroy your ship. Though Asteroids has been surpassed in quality by homebrew programmers (look for Space Rocks), this game remains a classic and one worth having in your 2600 game library.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Astroblast - By M-Network

Mattel’s answer to Atari’s Asteroids came in the form of a game called Astrosmash on the Intellivision. In 1982, the game was ported to the Atari 2600 under Mattel’s M-Network brand and the name of the game was changed to Astroblast. The goal of the game is to shoot as many of the falling space rocks as possible while avoiding being hit by them. In Astroblast the player controls a moving laser base at the bottom of the screen (on what looks like a planetary surface). The laser base move left to right only and has unlimited ammo. The goal is to play as long as possible to get the highest score possible. At the start of the game you get 10 lives, which may sound like a lot but you’ll find out that those go by fast as the pace of the game picks up. Falling from the sky are not only the space rocks but also spinning bombs, guided missiles, and UFO bombs (the latter only after the score reaches 20,000). The spinners are of particular interest because, should they get to the ground, they will make your laser base explode. The space rocks fall down in two sizes (with larger ones splitting when hit) and at varying speeds. The smaller rocks give more points but they also take away more points if they reach the ground. Yes, this game gives and takes away points! While destroying any of the falling objects scores you points, any objects that reach the ground (other than spinners) cost you points. Astroblast has blocky graphics but they work well for the game. Action is fast and addictive. Your final score is your peak score and it is shown once the game ends.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Atlantis – By Imagic

Imagic could certainly do magic with their programming of games for the 2600 and Atlantis is certainly a superb example of that. As the title implies, you are in charge of protecting the city of Atlantis. The city is under attack by the Gorgons who are sending their sky ships to destroy the great civilisation. You have three guns at your disposal on three different sections of the city that you can use to attack the descending Gorgon ships. These guns are also vulnerable to attack, so be watchful of suicide attacks! The guns at either side are able to fire diagonally while the gun at the central core can only fire vertically. Keep this in mind as you’ll need to know what gun to use to target approaching enemies. Atlantis was clearly inspired by Missile Command but it looks far more impressive. The graphics are gorgeous, colourful, and well drawn. The enemy ships are multicolored and the city designs are pretty impressive. Something different from Missile Command is the fact that you have unlimited ammo. In addition, this game actually has an ending that inspired a sequel, Cosmic Ark. At the end of the game, when you lose, you can see a ship escape into space with the remaining survivors. This was pretty much a first for the 2600 and video games in general. Not only is the game beautiful visually but it also has good sound effects that really complete the experience. Atlantis is a must-have for anyone with an Atari 2600.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Blinky Goes Up – By Jan Hermanns

Blinky has somehow ended up at the bottom of a dark dungeon, a dungeon can only be escaped by moving one way - up! The dungeon is full of dangers since falling anywhere other than on a platform is deadly. Not only are the dungeons a challenge but there are also three enemies looking to kill Blinky as he tries to escape: Tooby, Bolly, and Shooty. Tooby is like a slinky worm that moves left and right on platforms, Bolly is a bouncing ball, and Shooty is a horizontally moving line. As Blinky goes up the platforms, gold nuggets can be found on these. Pick up four of these and Blinky earns an extra life. Blinky Goes Up is a unique vertical platformer for the Atari 2600 that is challenging and gives you that “I need to try out one more time” kind of feeling. You control Blinky, of course, as he runs and jumps from platform to platform. The length of your jumps is affected by how fast Blinky is running at the time of the jump, so keep this in mind as it is an important strategy point. On some passages, Blinky needs to do “airwalks.” This means that you have to let him run over the edge of a platform and start falling before you press the fire button to jump. The graphics of Blinky Goes Up are simple but they do the trick. Blinky and Tooby as well animated and sounds are “just right” for this game. Overall, the game is highly addictive, fun, and challening. A must for your 2600 game library.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Boing – By First Star Software

Boing! is a game that was clearly inspired by Q*Bert. In the game the player controls a Bubble around a playing field of 36 steps (organized as six rows of six steps). The Bubble must jump over all the steps to change their color (turning them “on”) while avoiding the Bubble Eater and a Pin who are trying to stop it. The Pin’s path is pretty set as it will move down a given row and will not change paths. The Bubble Eater, however, moves about freely and chases the Bubble. Should either the Bubble Eater or the Pin touch the Bubble, a life is lost. You can even use the Pin to your advantage and get the Pin to kill the Bubble Eater for you if you plan things right. When the game starts, things are fairly simple as all you have to do is turn on all the steps in the playing field. As the game advances things change and you may need to change the steps in a particular sequence or you may even end up having to avoid jumping on a step twice as that will reverse its colour. Boing! may not have an original premise but the game does play fairly well. The playing field is isometrically drawn; however, the graphics are rather simple. The characters aren’t as dynamic as those in Q*Bert nor are they that impressive to look at. One thing that I don’t like so much is the contrast between the playing field and the background on some of the levels. The colours change with each level and sometimes it is difficult to see things because of the contrast. Overall an OK game that could have been better.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Boulder Dash - By First Star Software

Boulder Dash was originally released on Atari computers and has been adapted to several systems since and generated several sequels. It’s most remarkable port, however, is the adaptation to the Atari 2600. In Boulder Dash you play the role of Rockford, a miner who’s goal is to collect diamonds through a set of caves while avoiding the dangers in them and trying to do so as fast as possible. Rockford must dig through the soil in the caves and avoid the falling rocks or becoming trapped by them. Fireflies, butterflies, amoebas, and slime await him in the caves, each representing a different challenge. Fireflies move in a clockwise manner and are explosive, capable of killing Rockford on touch. They can be killed by throwing a stone on them, which also leads to an explosion. Butterflies behave similar to fireflies but move counter-clockwise. When they explode they leave behind nine diamonds. Amoebas are not directly dangerous to Rockford but they can trap him or block his way. Thankfully, amoebas make fireflies and butterflies explode, so this can be used to the player’s advantage. Slime affects how boulders move when dropped on it and the effect is random. The 2600 port of the game comes as close to the original game as it is possible with the system. The game features all 16 caves and intermissions of the original and offers five difficulty levels. Game sound is as close to the original as it gets and even the physics have been programmed to work as in the original. It is hard to believe that this is an Atari 2600 game! Only 250 copies of the game were made so getting a copy may be difficult. Believe me, though, it is well worth it.

Review by TrekMD

10/10

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 Boxing - By Activision

Activision’s Boxing was the first boxing game for the Atari 2600 and it is interesting to see how Bob Whitehead approached the sport when creating this version. You look at the ring and boxers from above. The boxing ring is rendered in yellow as a fairly simple square with corner posts on a solid green background. Each player is rendered either in black or white and what you see are essentially the boxers’ heads, shoulders, and arms with boxing gloves. When the game starts you get to select between fighting against the computer or against a friend and then the round starts. Each round lasts two minutes and the goal is to get the most points possible within that time period. You get one point for each long jab, 2 points for each close up power punch, and 100 points if you manage a K.O. Boxing has simple and straightforward gameplay but is certainly fun whether played against the computer or a friend. The AI is not a bad boxer! The game does have simple graphics but the animation of the boxers is nicely done. The punches fly fast and you can see their heads move back as they are hit. You even see their noses getting pushed into their heads! Things really get exciting in the last few seconds as you and your opponent are trying to get all the points possible to stay ahead and win! Despite the 2600 getting boxing games with better graphics later on, this game still remains one worth playing. Maybe someone ought to do a graphical hack of Boxing to enhance how it looks while leaving the gameplay untouched.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Breakout – By Atari

Some games do not age well and Breakout is an example of one such game. When Breakout was introduced, it did have a great appeal but, as the years went by, the basic idea of Breakout was evolved by other gaming companies that left this game far behind. In Breakout the player takes control of a “bat” with the paddle controller with the goal of smashing through a multicolored brick wall until all the bricks are gone. Finish clearing the bricks and a new wall appears. Smashing is done by using a ball that moves about the screen and that you have some level of control over as you hit it with the bat. For all intents and purposes, that’s all the game is about. To add some variation the game does allow for up to four players and it has twelve different games: standard, steerable balls, catch, invisible wall, three timed variations, a timed + invisible ball variation, and four “breakthru” games (the ball just breaks through the bricks on the wall non-stop). Breakout has simple graphics, simple sound, and simple gameplay. That means that it won’t hold anyone’s interest for too long as the game becomes repetitive and boring. The strategy is pretty much the same and, even with the variations, it is not enough a challenge to keep anyone playing for a long time. Though Breakout can certainly be considered a classic, and one that started its own genre of games, it will not appeal to all players.

Review by TrekMD

5/10

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 Burger Time - By M-Network

Having secured the rights for Burger Time, Mattel not only released versions for their own Intellivision but for other systems as well, including the Atari 2600. The premise of this port is the same as in the arcade, the player guides Peter Pepper through several platform mazes in which ingredients for making hamburgers (buns, burger patties, and lettuce) are spread. He must walk over these ingredients until they fall down to plates at the bottom of the screen. Peter is not alone, however, as there are several living food characters who chase him around the mazes in order to stop him. This particular port changes those characters a bit and now includes a Hot Dog, an Egg, a slice of Cheese, and Breadsticks. Peter can defend himself from these characters in three ways: he can drop an ingredient over them, give them a ride on a falling ingredient, or use pepper against them to temporarily freeze them in place. Peter’s supply of pepper is limited but he can gain more by picking up bonus items that appear in the maze. Though this port captures the essence of the arcade, this game is lacking in several respects. Gameplay is slow and Peter moves like a snail. Controls don’t respond very well and collision detection leaves much to be desired. The graphics are also on the weak side. The Egg is nothing more than a white square and the mazes and burger ingredients are all in one colour (the ingredients gain their colours when they fall on the plate). Sound is pretty good, however, as the game has the arcade tune and sound effects are recognisable. There’s also a two-player option and even a pause feature.

Review by TrekMD

4/10

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