Atari 2600 H-K

Alien Brigade – By Atari

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 Halo - By Ed Fries

Master Chief would have never imagined himself as a nicely pixelated character on the Atari 2600 but here he is! The successful Halo has been adapted as an adventure-type game for the 2600, a feat made impressive by the fact that the game was written in 4K of memory. Despite its size, the games has a title screen showing Halo’s planetary rings while playing the game’s theme music! In the game, Master Chief must stop The Covenant from destroying all life in the galaxy by fighting alien enemies across different environments. Though Master Chief can only shoot left or right, his enemies are quite capable of firing in any direction which makes for an interesting challenge. Game controls have been done quite well, however, which helps in avoiding enemy fire. To further assist Master Chief in his mission, the game does offer some power ups that are of use. A shield can be picked up which protects Master Chief from one enemy hit (shields may appear when an enemy is destroyed), special boots give him extra speed, an additional firepower is available for the gun. The game also offers the chance to fight a “boss” before moving to the next stage. Overall the game is an impressive piece of work but it does have some limitations. The elements in the game do not become randomised, so it is possible to memorise patterns to defeat any one chamber. In addition, there is no scoring system for the Halo 2600, which may put off some players. For anyone expecting lush landscapes, you will not find them here. While there are tress and other objects in the chambers, these are rather sparse. Despite these, I can certainly recommend Halo to anyone as it is just plain fun to play.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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  Halloween - By Wizard

It’s Halloween night and you are stuck having to babysit for a local family. You’d rather be partying with your friends but little did you know that a different kind of party was heading your way. You see, a homicidal maniac called Michael Myers has escaped from a nearby mental institution and he has decided to come back home to visit the family...except his plans only end with bloodshed. It is up to you to protect the children in a two-story home from this maniac. To do this you must run around the house looking for the children while avoiding Michael’s attacks. Take the children to a safe room and leave them there. If you can, find a knife so you can fight this homicidal maniac. Be careful, though, because if you are not fast enough Michael will easily take off your head. Halloween is a surprisingly good game for the Atari 2600. The graphics may not look like much but there are some nice touches. The babysitter is rendered in multiple colours and she is nicely animated. Michael himself looks pretty good and it is quite clear he is holding a knife as he chases you. You’ll also see blood spewing from the babysitters neck if Michael shops her head off. Thankfully, Michael does move slowly and he has to be perfectly aligned with the babysitter if he is to kill her. As an added touch, some of the second-floor rooms have problems with the light and you must manoeuver as best you can in total darkness and with whatever flashes of light may show up. The theme from the movie is here, of course, to keep the proper atmosphere.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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  Haunted Adventure Trilogy - By Anthony W. Wong

As the title implies, this special Atari 2600 cartridge holds not one but three different ghoulish adventure games: Haunted Adventure - Boo!, Haunted Adventure II - Redemption, and Haunted Adventure III - Witch’s Flight. The first two games are hacks/mods of Adventure, while the third is a hack of Atari 2600 Superman. In Haunted Adventure you must find the still-beating soul of old man Graves to end the curse of Spirit Bay. In Haunted Adventure II you start off just like in the original Haunted House but, once you find the urn, you must help old man Graves’ spirit achieve redemption by saving him from a greater evil. This game not only plays inside the mansion but also around and under it! In Haunted Adventure III you help the witch Jono Care recover the magical urn so she can return her haunted friends to their proper resting place while avoiding the creatures released by the evil Charon who is intent on taking over the world. As you can see, all of these games are a continuation of the story of the original Haunted Mansion. These games do expand that world and have new levels, new characters, and as many as 100 rooms to explore! The game graphics have been enhanced, new sound effects have been added, and even a new randomization engine is used in the higher levels. The games even have a pause feature to let you catch your breath. Overall, this trilogy is excellent and not to be missed by fans of the original Haunted House.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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  Haunted House – By Atari

In the small town of Spirit Bay there is an abandoned mansion. The mansion belonged to a man called Zachary Graves, a mean old man who was not liked by the townsfolk. Many believe that old man Graves knew the secret of the magic urn that the first family of Spirit Bay had left behind. You see, the mansion is where the first family lived. The story says that the urn broke into pieces during the quake of 1890 and that the pieces are hidden through the mansion. To this day, not one soul has ventured into the mansion for it is believe to be haunted by the ghost of old man Graves. Some have even said they hear eerie sounds, door slamming, and heavy footsteps at the mansion. Will you be the first brave soul to enter the abandoned mansion to search for the pieces of the urn? Are you ready to explore the 24 pitch black rooms in the four stories of the mansion? You are? Well, make sure to bring your matches for there will be no light in this house otherwise. Haunted Mansion was one of the first adventure games of its kind and, to this day, remains a fun title for the 2600. Because of the darkness, you only see the eyeballs of your character as you explore the mansion. You will need to light the matches to have the visibility to find various objects in the house, like a master key (needed to move about the house), the urn pieces, and scepter that makes you invisible to the creatures in the house. Be sure to avoid the tarantulas, ghosts, and vampire bats or you will be literally “scared to death.” Fans of adventure games should brave this one. Oh, and.........BOO!

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 H.E.R.O. – By Activision

Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation, or H.E.R.O., follows the adventures of Roderick Hero (R.Hero) as he tackles a tricky maze of mine shafts in Mount Leone to rescue miners who have been trapped by increased volcanic activity in the area. It is your job to rescue all these miners by using R.Hero’s unique helicopter pack (a.k.a., Prop-Pack) to move about the mines while avoiding the many dangers within. Luckily, the Prop-Pack not only lets you fly inside the mines but it also comes equipped with six dynamite sticks and a microlaser beam. The dynamite will be key for tearing down walls within the mines. Just be sure to move away after you set the dynamite or the explosion will get you. The microlaser will help you deal with the vermin within the mines. These vermin include spiders, bats, moths, and snakes. The lava also throws tentacles that you cannot shoot and must avoid at all costs. Keep an eye out for a heat-resistant raft that helps you cross the rivers of lava but be careful when you jump off it! H.E.R.O. is a superb game for the 2600. Original in its gameplay, it boasts beautiful graphics with multicoloured sprites, good sound effects, and addictive action. The mines become progressively more challenging, with some of them being pitch black, so there is no getting bored. Unfortunately, H.E.R.O. was released during the North American video game crash, so it is a bit on the rare side. Nonetheless, it is definitely a title worth adding to any collection.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Hunchy 2 - By Chris Walton

We have all heard about him, the “monster” Quasimodo who lives in the bell tower of Notre Dame. We also know of Quasimodo’s rescue of Esmeralda, the beautiful gypsy girl, from a castle (in the arcade game Hunchback) for it was legendary. Well, Quasimodo is back to save Esmeralda but, this time, she is trapped within the walls of Notre Dame and he must climb through the rooms of the cathedral if he is to rescue Esmeralda. For Quasimodo to be successful, he must collect each and every bell within the rooms he visits as he climbs higher into Notre Dame. There are 14 rooms Quasimodo must clear, each room offering its own set of challenges to this daring “monster”. Though the game is inspired by Hunchback, it does offer a different format of gameplay while retaining many of the elements of the original. Instead of arrows being fired at Quasimodo, Hunchy 2 features missiles that randomly appear within the rooms in order to stop Quasimodo’s ascent. There are also cathedral guards who will do what they can to stop Quasimodo. Hunchy 2 is an addicting game that requires patience and strategy if it is to be beat. The player must be mindful of the time it takes to clear a room as there is a timer that must be beat if you want bonus points added to your score. The game also features something rather unique for a 2600 game, an ending sequence that can be seen if all 14 rooms are mastered. Though the graphics may appear spartan, they are clean and done well. Sound is limited but it is comparable to the arcade. Overall, Hunchy 2 is a very good platformer on the 2600 that you will not regret adding to your game library.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Ikari Warriors – By Atari

Released in 1986 in the arcades, Ikari Warriors has the player control one of two commando warriors, Ralf or Clark, while on a mission to reach the village of Ikari. Equipped with a machine gun and grenades you must cross the jungle while avoiding tanks, enemy soldiers, and helicopters that will stop at nothing to kill you. If you are lucky, you can use an enemy tank to get through the jungle, though it will only work over dry land. The tank can protect you from enemy fire but can still be destroyed by grenades (much like you can destroy tanks in the same manner). They also have a limited fuel supply that you’ll have to keep an eye on. You can resupply fuel and weapons if you find them lying around, though, so be watchful. The game also allowed for two players to work together in the game, something that was unique at its time. Ikari Warriors was ported to the 2600 by Atari but it required some compromises. There are fewer enemies on screen at once and, though the game does allow for two players, the players take turns rather than work together as in the arcade. The background graphics look pretty good and the warriors and enemy soldiers are rendered in various colours but the vehicles look like crap. The tanks and helicopters have horrible design and are monochromatic. The bottom of the screen has indicators for lives, bullets, and grenades and shows your score. Despite its limitations, this 2600 version retains the gameplay fairly well, which makes Ikari Warriors an enjoyable title.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Indy 500 – By Atari

Sprint was an arcade top-view racing game by Atari that had the player racing against three other cars in various selectable tracks. The game had black and white graphics that were very simple but that got the job done. When Atari decided to create a top-view racing game for the 2600, they pretty much cloned Sprint and called the game Indy 500. The game was packaged with special “Driving Controllers” that were nothing more than modified paddle controllers capable of turning 360 degrees. The controllers, while good, were never used by Atari for other 2600 games. Indy 500 can be enjoyed by one or two players. Indy 500 has 14 different variations in four different types of games: Race Car, Crash n’ Score, Tag, and Ice Race. In Race Car, the player either has to reach the highest number of laps within a given time period or has to reach 25 laps before the opponent in one of two different tracks. In Crash n’ Score, as the name suggests, the goal is to get points by crashing a white car that appears in two different tracks. One player games are timed and two player games are won by whoever gets 50 crashes first. In Tag, one of the cars becomes “it” and the other player has to tag it. The game ends when the score reaches 99. In Ice Race, as the name suggests, the player has to deal with icy tracks. This plays like Race Car and the goals are the same. Though Indy 500 has simple graphics, it is quite fun and it demonstrates that a game doesn’t have to have fancy looks be be enjoyable. The two-player games are more fun but you can still enjoy the game solo.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Indy 500 XE – By Gustavo del Dago

Atari’s Driving Controllers were sorely underutilised by the company as evidenced by the one title that took advantage of them. To help address this, Gustavo del Dago decided to do a hack of Atari’s Indy 500 to create Indy 500 XE. This version of the game is double the size of the original (4K) and includes 16 different tracks. These new tracks come in all sorts of designs and even include recognizable characters from other Atari games such as Space Invaders, E.T., Berzerk, and Sky Diver. One of the tracks even includes spectators! As in the original, there are four game types to enjoy: Race Car, Crash n’ Score, Tag, and Ice Race. In addition, two gaming modes (beginner and advanced) are available. Indy 500 XE also includes different car graphics for the players and in the advanced level of play changes the car design from the standard race car to a dragster to make sure you know that the car is fast! Overall, the graphics in this hack are similar to the original ones in the fact that they remain simple; however, the newer tracks are of higher resolution than the originals and some have you driving off one side of the screen only to appear on the other, something that takes some getting used to. Game control is responsive, vital for a racing game, and sounds remain as in the original. There is no confusing the sound of the engines as the cars accelerate. If you own the original game and the Driving Controllers, you owe it to yourself to get Indy 500 XE.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Ixion – By Jeff Lorenz

Ixion is a port of a rare arcade game of the same name that was discovered as an unreleased prototype for the Atari 2600 and originally created by Sega. In Ixion, the player controls a Vehicular Combat Robot (or VCR) while playing in the Robot Combat League’s elite competition. Your VCR must run over an arena floor while collecting glowing targets that spell out the word IXION in order to win. Of course, things are never that simple. The arena floor has gaping holes that must be covered before you can move your VCR. This means that your mobility is limited by the coverage of the floor. You can use a special weapon, called a Kailo Sphere, to rebuild the arena floor and have more mobility. This is a competition, though, so there are two other VCR’s on the arena with you that will do what they can to stop you. You must destroy them first to be a winner. Once you defeat your enemies and spell out IXION, the combat round finishes and you are taken to a bonus round where you must demonstrate your mastery of the Kailo Sphere. By using the spheres in the bonus round, you must rebuild the entire floor the arena before the time is up if you are to rack up the bonus points. The more tiles you restore on the arena floor, the higher the bonus score. Ixion is a fun and challenging game. Though the graphics are simple, they emulate the arcade original quite well. Some of the sound effects remind me of Dodge’Em but they are effective. Another very good port for the system!

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Joust – By Atari

What do ostriches and knights have in common? Absolutely nothing but you’ll see knights riding flying (yes, flying) ostriches in the arcade hit Joust from Williams Electronics. The game was originally released in 1982 and it has the player control a yellow knight riding an ostrich in a field full of floating rock platforms above a lava pool. The goal is to defeat enemy knights who fly atop buzzards. This is done by jousting, or colliding with your enemy at just the right height. If your knight is victorius, he turns into an egg that you must collect while his ride flies off. Fail to collect the egg quickly enough and a new knight pops from the egg who will challenge you again. Enemies come in waves that become progressively harder. There’s even a pterodactyl that appears to hunt down your knight. To add to the fun a second player can join in and cooperate with you. The Atari 2600 version of Joust manages to capture almost every element of the arcade game. You must flap the ostrich’s wings to fly, defeat knights, and even face the pterodactyl. The only thing that is different in the gameplay is that the eggs from defeated knights continue floating about rather than sitting on a platform. The graphics have been simplified but they are well done and there is hardly any flicker. You can even recognize the three different enemies (Bounders, Hunters, and Shadow Lords) based on their colour. Most of the arcade sounds are also well reproduced. Joust is an excellent port for the 2600 and another must have.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Jr. Pac-Man – By Atari

Remember the little guy who the stork dropped off for Pac-Man and the Ms.? Well, he’s grown up a bit and now he has his own game. Bally Midway released Jr. Pac-Man to the arcades in 1983, taking the original Pac-formula to a new level of play. In Jr. Pac-Man the player controls Jr. Pac-Man who is a smaller Pac-Man wearing a propeller beanie. He is chased through mazes by Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Tim and it is his job to clean up the maze of all dots. So far, it sounds the same as always, right? Well, the mazes are huge, spanning horizontally past the regular screen making it necessary for everything to scroll to follow Jr. The mazes do not have the escape tunnels, so the bonus items (which are toys like tricycles, kites, balloons, and trains) appear on top of the ghost pen. These move about the maze making any dot they touch larger and worth 50 points each. If Jr. does not eat the toys before they reach an energizer, the toy explodes taking the energizer along with it. The game boasts a total of seven mazes and some rather funny intermissions of Jr. making friends with a little red ghost called Yum-Yum. The 2600 version of Jr. has been altered by making the mazes move vertically (it seems they were turned sideways compared to the arcade) but pretty much every element of the arcade is here. There are no intermissions but the music from them has been included. The game is frenetic, as difficult as the arcade, and very impressive. The bonus items are sometimes hard to recognize but they are all here and Jr. definitely runs around wearing his propeller beanie. Overall a fantastic port for the system.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Juno First - By Chris Walton

Juno First is a homebrew title based on the shoot ’em up arcade game of the same name. Your role is to take control of a combat spaceship that must protect the Juno colony, Earth’s last defence post, from wave after wave of invading aliens. As a wave of alien ships moves toward you, you control the speed of motion of your ship. You can move sideways as well as forward and backward. At each wave you must destroy a set number of ships before you move into the next wave. As you attack the aliens, keep watch for sphere ships as destroying them releases an astronaut that you may pick up for bonus points. Though your ship has unlimited firepower, it does have limited fuel so you must complete each wave of alien ships before your fuel runs out. Not doing so results in the destruction of your ship. Also remember that if you enter hyperspace, the alien ships stop firing and you get more points for each ship destroyed. Juno First is a fast paced shooter that is absolute fun on the 2600. The game boasts an impressive title screen with music, a high score board, and multi-coloured sprites. The shield grid effectively conveys motion and speed (the animation is smooth) and it is absolutely cool to see the ship’s thrusters fire when you move both forward and backward. Sound is good and does emulate several of the arcade effects well. Make sure to watch the color of the sky as that lets you know whether you are in normal space (black) or hyperspace (red) or if an astronaut is detected (green). This game is also enhanced for AtariVox compatibility to save scores and added sound effects. Overall another fantastic 2600 game for the collection!

Review by TrekMD

10/10

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 Kaboom! – By Activision

The 2600 doesn’t have a lot of games that take advantage of its paddle controllers but here is an example of an original game that uses them well and that is tons of fun. Kaboom! is an original title from Activision written by Larry Kaplan and released in 1981. In the game the player controls a set of buckets that are used to collect bombs dropped by a “Mad Bomber” at the top of the screen. This Bomber moves about erratically and does so ever faster as the game advances. Should you fail to collect a bomb, you lose one of your buckets until all buckets are lost, ending the game. Live long enough to collect 1000 points and a new bucket will be given to you. Though the game has relatively simple graphics, it does have some nice touches. The bombs, as they drop, have animated flickering fuses; when you miss a bomb, all the bombs on screen explode in sequence and the Bomber displays a smile. He has a different expression if you get to 10,000 points that will surprised you. In addition, bombs that are collected cause a splash as they hit the buckets. The Bomber himself also looks great as he is rendered in multiple colours and even wears a mask on his face. Perhaps the most ironic thing is that the buckets look nothing like buckets! Control is smooth, which is of extreme importance in a game that truly tests your reflexes. Without a doubt, Kaboom! is a classic that every 2600 owner should have in their library.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Kangaroo – By Atari

The success of Nintendo’s Kangaroo inspired other companies to create games with similar gameplay. One such game is Kangaroo, released in 1982 by Atari in the arcade. In the game the player takes the role of a Mother Kangaroo who must rescue her son from the clutches of a band of bad monkeys. To reach her son, the mother kangaroo must climb through treetops while avoiding the attacks by the monkeys. The monkeys through apples at mom and have applies dropping from above as well. Mother Kangaroo is not defenceless, though. She comes equipped with boxing gloves that she uses to punch the monkey and their apples. She can also collect fruits that appear on the trees for bonus points and play a bell on the upper level of the treetops to make more fruit appear. Mother Kangaroo can also jump or duck to avoid attacks from the monkeys, which is important as the apes through apples at various heights. The arcade game has four different screens for players to enjoy. The 2600 port of the game may be not be much to look at but it does capture the gameplay very well. The trees lack the detail see on the arcade and are rendered only as simple ramps or ledges. The apples only appear as simple squares. Mother Kangarro and the monkeys, though rendered in one colour, look pretty good as do the fruits. If there is an issue with Kangaroo is that control is unforgiving and requires great attention as you can fall to death from any platform if you position Mother Kangaroo just an pixel too far. Overall, though, this is a very good adaptation for the system.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Killer Satellites – By Starpath

Decades into the future, a network of killer satellites that was placed in Earth orbit awakens. While originally intended as a defense against possible invaders, the satellites have become self-aware and have turned against their creators. Their goal, to eradicate all life on Earth! You live in a small town where scientists have developed an experimental rocket ship capable of destroying the satellites. You must pilot this ship and eliminate the satellites before they can destroy your town. Your ship is equipped with a powerful laser gun but you must be mindful of how you use it for this gun can overhead and leave you defenseless. You also have a limited supply of fuel, so keep an eye on the on-screen indicators. Should you run out of fuel before you destroy all the satellites, your ship will crash. Finish destroying the wave of satellites and the remaining fuel grants you a bonus. To help you track your enemies, a Global Radar Scanner gives you their general location. The scanner indicators change color as more satellites enter its detection range. As you advance through waves of attack, your airspace also becomes filled with meteorites that you must avoid. These cannot be destroyed with your laser but will destroy your ship upon contact. Killer Satellites has quite the beautiful graphics thanks to the SuperCharger. The rocket ship is solid red and does not flicker. You can see the rocket exhaust as you move and the laser shots are sharp. The satellites are rendered in colors and the town itself has multiple buildings under the protective shield. The problem with this game, though, is that when the screen gets filled with meteorites, moving about is quite difficult and slows down the action. It’s unfortunate you cannot destroy those meteorites.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 K.O. Cruiser - By Devin Cook

If you’ve ever played Punch-Out!! on the arcade, you are certain to have fun with K.O. Cruiser on the 2600. Though K.O. Cruiser was likely inspired by Punch-Out!!, it is its own game and the best boxing title for the system. Unlike other boxing games for the 2600, K.O. Cruiser is a first-person boxing game where you control a transparent outline boxer as he fights against six different opponents on the ring. Each of these opponents has a different style of fighting as well as different strengths and weaknesses. Your boxer can move around the entire ring as he confronts each fighter by throwing punches, dodging blows, and blocking hits. The six fighters you face are from around the world and they include Tomato Ken (a computer programmer) from California, K.C. Nova (a lady’s man) from Brazil, Wally B. (a drunk who loves pub fights) from Australia, Rod Ickle (a music punk) from Britain, Russ Tick (a smart farmer) from Kansas, and Major Concussion (a U.S. marine corps trainer) from Maryland. To win you need to knock out the opposing fighter or let the judges select you as the winner at the end of three rounds (each round is three minutes long). The bell saves noone in this game! The graphics of K.O. Cruiser are well done with fighters drawn in several colors. Their facial expressions when you hit them are usually hilarious and there are also visual cues to alert you when they are about to throw a punch. Sound is excellent as there is theme music on the title screen as well as for each fighter and during fights. Auditor cues and punches work well and are important parts of gameplay. With three skill levels to choose from, K.O. Cruiser is a knock out title for the 2600!

Review by TrekMD

10/10

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 Kung-Fu Master – By Activision

Kung-Fu Master was first released in Japan and developed as a game for Jackie Chan’s move Wheels on Meals. Considered one of the first beat’em up games ever developed, Kung-Fu Master has the player taking the role of Thomas as he attempts to rescue Sylvia, his girlfriend, from a gang of criminals. The have captured Sylvia in a temple and only Thomas has the kung fu skills necessary to rescue her. The temple has five different levels containing an army of enemies that will do everything they can to stop Thomas. Upon porting the game to the 2600, Activision made some changes to character names but everything else about the game was retained. Now you are just a Kung-Fu Master (no name) who must rescue Princess Victoria from an Evil Wizard who has captured her in his temple. Enemies that you’ll face in the temple include henchmen, knife-throwers, dragons, and other creatures that you have to either kick or punch until you reach Victoria. You move from one floor to the next by clearing all the enemies in any given level. You can also jump and crouch which is necessary to avoid the knives thrown at you and some other enemy attacks. Each level has a “boss” you must defeat to move to the next floor. These bosses are a Fist Figher, a Boomerang Thrower, a Giant Kicker, a Lighting Magician, and the Gang Master. Kung-Fu Master on the 2600 is an impressive port that looks great and plays well. Sure the sounds have been simplified but the tune from the arcade game plays throughout. Remember not many 2600 game have in-game music! Kung-Fu Master is another excellent title for the console.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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