Atari 2600 L-N

Alien Brigade – By Atari

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Lady Bug - By Champ Games

As many games of its time, Lady Bug is a maze game inspired by Pac-Man but one that brings some unique elements to the formula. The goal of Lady Bug is to eat flowers and bonus items that appear garden laid out as a maze while avoiding dangerous insects who love to eat lady bugs. The garden does offer one little trick for the lady bug to use that helps it avoid those other insects, green doors that can be flipped to block the maze passages. The bonus items do more than just give extra points. Bonus items can increase the score multiplier, spell the word EXTRA for a reserve life, or spell SPECIAL to get access to the Bounty Harvest maze. The bonus veggie that appears at the centre of the screen not only grants you lots of points but it also temporarily stuns the other insects in the maze. Besides insects, you must watch out for poison skulls that sit on the maze. Touch these, and the lady bug is dead. Trick another insect into touching them, and dead they are. Lady Bug is a superb port for the 2600. The game has a title screen and displays beautiful graphics. Interestingly, flicker was effectively used as a way to introduce more colours to the screen and it does not detract from gameplay. This is evident on the maze which flickers to create the appropriate two colours needed for the walls and the doors. While the flowers only look like dashes, I have no problem accepting that compromise given how well the game plays and how good it looks overall. The game is also not too shabby in the sound department. This is definitely another gem for the system and a great conversion of the arcade original!

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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Lead – By Simone Serra

Take the lead or be left behind! That’s how it is with Lead on the Atari 2600. Lead is a very fast-paced vertical shooter with frenetic non-stop action that hardly lets you catch your breath in between stages. The game has four different stages: Fire, Dodge, Scramble, and Catch. In Fire the goal is to shoot all enemies down. The enemies change colors indicating the number of hits needed to totally destroy them. In Dodge you must avoid the incoming asteroids. In Scramble you must avoid incoming sentinels. Finally, in Catch you must catch the incoming satellites. The satellites flash when they are withing “catching” range and you better not fail because that brings things to and end. The first three stages have 100 elements to either destroy or avoid while the final stage has 60 elements for the player to catch. Smart bombs and power ups are available for the player to catch. Just keep an eye for these as things do move very fast! The more smart bombs you catch, the greater the power ups your ship gets. Four bombs get you upgraded missiles, eight allow you to safely touch the side walls, twelve gain you a shiled, and sixteen or twenty award you a point bonus. You have to decide whether you want to use the smart bombs or keep them for power ups. Lead also comes in 1K and 4K flavors on the same cart, with the 1K version offering only one stage and the 4K version offering only two stages. A menu lets you set sound and other options as well. This is a winner for the 2600!

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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Lock ‘N’ Chase – By M- Network

In a game of cop and robbers you expect to be playing a cop, right? Well, that’s not what you’ll find in Lock’N’Chase! Here you get to play the role of a robber who is collecting gold bars while avoiding the police! Lock’N’Chase was released in the arcades in 1981 and it is another of the many maze games that were inspired by the success of Pac-Man. It, however, is not a replica of that game but one that introduces new elements to the formula. The thief you control enters through the bottom of the screen and then runs around the maze collecting the gold bars. The cops chase him through the maze and they can be either diverted or trapped by creating horizontal and vertical barriers in the maze. Bonus items appear at the centre of the maze as do money bags of different values. Once all the gold has been collected, you need to direct the thief to an exit that opens so you can move to the next level. The folks from M-Network adapted Lock’N’Chase for the 2600 with mixed results. The maze has been simplified and the thief no longer enters the maze (he just appears in the middle when the game starts). The player can only create horizontal barriers but they work in the same manner. The exit does still exist and opens when the last gold bar has been collected. The bonus items look like simple coloured rectangles and the characters are also very simple with basic animation. What is impressive, though, is that the gold bars are indeed gold in colour while the maze is blue. Not something common for 2600 maze games of the time. Sounds are minimal also but the game is still quite fun.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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Mario Bros. – By Atari

Here is the game that first introduced Mario by his name, Mario Bros. Not only was Mario named but his brother was also introduced, Luigi, in this new platform game that has both characters dealing with creatures that clog up the plumbing in their house. Mario Bros. uses simultaneous two-player action to allow for either competition or cooperation. The players find themselves in the sewer under the house investigating the reason for the clogged plumbing only to find that Shellcreapers (turtles), Sidesteppers (crabs), Figherflies, and Slipice have invaded. It is up to them to deal with these nasties and clear the pipes. To be rid of the pests, Mario and Luigi have to jump from below to the platform where the creatures are moving. Shellcreapers can be turned over with one bump, Sidesteppers require two hits, and Figherflies need careful timing. No matter what pest you’ve turned around, be sure to promptly kick it off the platform so it doesn’t turn itself around and come chase you. Once kicked, a bonus coin will come out of the pipes that you can collect for points. If you find yourself overwhelmed with pests, you can hit the POW switch at the bottom level to turn all pests over but you have to be quick about kicking them off. You also can only use the POW switch three times only. Mario Bros. is a great game to play with a friend as the two-player simultaneous game is really the best way to enjoy this title. The 2600 version does a pretty good job of capturing the arcade action but does have very simple graphics.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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Mean Santa – By Tim Duarte & John K. Harvey

Were you naughty this year? Well, guess what? Santa has decided he is not leaving you any coal under the tree. Instead, he is going to rob you! Yes, that’s Mean Santa, a game inspired by the story of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The goal of the game is for the player to control Santa as he goes from house to house to steal the items in each house (be sure to avoid hitting the chimneys as you land on the roof). There are three levels of difficulty to choose from and these determine how many houses must be robbed to complete the level (5, 15, and 25 respectively for easy, medium, and hard). Once you’ve gone into all the houses, the final screen takes you to Christmas dinner where you must steal the turkey dinner while avoiding the dog that protects it. Steal the turkey and the game is over. Your “score” then becomes the time it took you to complete the game. Though the premise is simple, things are not so simple if you play in the medium and hard levels of the game. On these levels Santa must avoid erratic snowflakes in the sky and a nasty cloud that shoots lightning at Santa. These don’t kill Santa but stun him making him lose time. In the houses there are watch dogs that must be avoided while collecting the various items that appear in them (candy canes, wreaths, dolls, trucks and even AT-ATs). Mean Santa has colourful graphics but is lacking in the sound department. Only a few tunes of “Joy to the World” are heard when it starts and that’s it for Christmas music. Not a stellar title but still a fun game.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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Medieval Mayhem - By Spiceware

Medieval Mayhem is based on the arcade game Warlords and it ports that game to perfection. The story behind Medieval Mayhem is that a mischievous dragon named Scarlet has beguiled four powerful armies for a showdown. Your goal is to protect your king from the dragon’s wall-pulverising fireballs by deflecting or capturing these. Up to four gamers can play simultaneously or you can play against computer opponents. In either case, your other goal becomes destroying your opponents’ kings before they destroy yours. When the game starts, Scarlet launches the first fireball and then the players to handle the fireball as it bounces around either hitting the castles, and slowly destroying their walls, or being deflected by the player shields. Scarlet can throw in up to two more fireballs. As the castle walls get damaged and gaps open, the king inside becomes vulnerable to attack. Medieval Mayhem is a fantastic and beautifully executed port of Warlords the 2600. The game boasts gorgeous graphics that are bright and colourful. The castle walls have a nice brick-like texture, the kings’ crowns resemble those of the arcade, and Scarlet is just gorgeous! She is rendered in two colours and she is, without question, a dragon. The animation of Scarlet is quite impressive as she appears to move randomly on the screen. Even the shields the players control look great as they are not as blocky as you might expect. Sound is also well done as you hear the walls getting smashed by the fireballs or the explosion of king getting destroyed. Another remarkable aspect of Medieval Mayhem is the menu at the beginning of the game, which allows for selecting multiple aspects of the game. Medieval Mayhem is definitely a winner and one you should not hesitate to add to your collection.

Review by TrekMD

10/10

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Megamania – By Activision

It’s a nightmare! A nightmare in space...where no one can hear you scream. Wait, wrong reference. Megamania is an original game for the 2600 from Activision designed by Steve Cartwright. In the game the player controls a ship that looks like a hybrid of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise and a Klingon Battlecruiser as strange enemies come down from space and attack. These enemies come in form of various familiar objects such as hamburgers, cookies, bugs, radial tire, diamonds, steam irons, bow ties, and space dice. These appear in various waves that follow different movement patterns but, in all patterns, they scroll down until the reach the level of your ship and then scroll back to the top. You’ll need to be careful not to be hit by any of the enemies when they come close to the ship or you’ll lose a life. Also be watchful as some of these enemies fire back at you. You must clear all enemies in a wave to advance to the next wave and you must do so before your ship runs out of energy. An indicator at the bottom of the screen keeps track of your energy and your points. The more energy left at the end of the wave, the more bonus points you accumulate. Megamania is a fun shooter for the 2600. The game has cool graphics with nicely animated characters and free of flicker. The sound effects for the game are interesting and work well. Players have the choice of firing standard missiles or guided missiles, something that adds a strategy aspect to the gameplay. Now, go face this space nightmare and have some shooting fun!

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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Midnight Magic – By Atari

Midnight Magic is the second video pinball title from Atari for the 2600. This version of pinball features a more realistic table and even has four flippers for the player to control. In fact, this game is probably the first video pinball game to feature two pairs of flippers. As is expected, the table features bumpers, spinners, rollovers as well as various targets for the player to hit. The ball physics for the game are fairly good and more realistic than Atari’s previous pinball title. While the table may appear a bit simple in design, it is colourful and the different targets have been shaped to better simulate a real pinball table. Heck the bumpers are circular in shape, which is an accomplishment on the 2600. Something that I find rather cool about this game is the way the table changes colour as the bonus multiplier increases. Of course, things change back to their standard colour should the ball be lost. Control for the game is achieved using the joystick. Pulling back pulls the plunger and pressing the fire button shoots the ball. The paddles are controlled by moving the joystick left or right, though pulling down also moves all paddles at the same time. The bonus multiplier is increased by hitting the coloured targets at the top of the table. Hit all five and you’ll go to 2X, 3X, etc. I find Midnight Magic to be a fun pinball game on the 2600 and one worth having. This is as close as you’ll get to the real thing on the system.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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Millipede– By Atari

With the success of Centipede, Atari decided it was time to develop a sequel that maintained the same formula but brought new elements to the game. This led to the release of Millipede in 1982 in the arcades. The main enemy this time is a millipede who must be destroyed as it comes down the mushroom patch. This millipede does not come alone, though. He has tons of friends to keep you busy: earwigs, bees, spiders, inchworms, beetles, dragonflies, and mosquitoes. Earwigs make the mushrooms poisonous, bees drop mushrooms in a vertical line, spiders bounce around (and more than one can be bugging you), inchworms slow down every enemy when shot, beetles crawl around the player area and them move into the mushrooms to turn them into indestructible flowers, dragonflies drop mushrooms while zigzagging, and mosquitoes move diagonally on the screen. Shooting beetles moves all the mushrooms down one row and shooting the mosquitoes moves everything up one row. As if this weren’t enough, sometimes you will be attacked by waves of insects in swarms (i.e., dragonflies, bees...). Besides your arrows, you will find DDT bombs spread through the patch that you can use to kill everything near them. Millipede on the 2600 is a superb title that effectively captures the action of the arcade. The graphics are still blocky but they are colourful and really do a great job given everything that is going on at the same time. Game sounds are also well done and emulate the arcade sounds properly. Overall this is one excellent port that is not to be missed. Oh, and if you have a Trackball controller, be sure to use it for a more arcade-like experience.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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Missile Command – By Atari

Zardon is a planet of peace, a place with no crime, a place where violence is no longer seen. Sadly, Zardon is also rich in resources and the people of the planet Krytol want to make those resources theirs. These warriors will stop at nothing to destroy the Zardonian civilization to seize what the Zardonians have. Thankfully the Zardonians, though a peaceful people, understood that there could be external dangers to them and they maintained a very powerful defence system for the cities, a system of ballistic missiles located in three silos. You are the commander of the defence system and it is up to you to protect the six cities of Zardon from the Krytolian attacks. Use the antiballistic missiles to target and destroy the Krytolian interplanetary ballistic missiles and cruise missiles before they reach the surface. Watch out for missiles headed for your defence bases as cities are not the only thing the Krytolians will target. Missile Command is an arcade classic that Atari created and ported to the 2600 quite successfully. You, of course, control the defence system to protect the cities. To do so you use a targeting cursor that is pointed at the incoming missiles. You blastwave then destroys any missiles in its path. Cruise missiles come in two types, dumb and smart. The dumb cruise missiles just follow a straight path to the cities but the smart cruise missiles will avoid the blastwave from your missiles, making it necessary to target them carefully. Overall, the gameplay from the arcade has been well retained and the graphics, though blocky, are effective at emulating the original.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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Mouse Trap – By Coleco/CBS Electronics

Exidy, trying to capitalize on the Pac-Man craze, introduced a game called Mouse Trap to the arcades in 1981. In the game the player takes control of a mouse who is eating cheese in a maze as it is pursued by six cats. Contact with the cats is deadly but the mouse can turn things around if he eats bones that are on the maze that turn it into a dog (only after pressing the doggie button) that then hunts the cats. In addition, there are doors that can be opened or closed to change the shape of the maze (good for escaping cats). Besides the cats, a hawks appear randomly that will chase and kill the mouse even if it has become a dog. The only way to avoid it is to enter a doorway in the middle of the maze to exit at one of the four corners of the maze. Bonus items appear randomly in the maze for extra points. The 2600 conversion of Mouse Trap had to make various compromises: there is no hawk, there are no bonus items, all the doors move at the same time, the cats are down to three, and the doorway in the middle of the maze is gone. Despite all these changes, the basic gameplay remains the same as in the arcade as the goal is to eat all the cheese while avoiding the cats. The graphics for the mouse are cats are nicely done and animated but the bones look horrible. Sounds are minimal also but do the trick. Overall a nice effort but somewhat lacking.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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Mr. Do! – By Coleco/CBS Electronics

Mr. Do! is a game by Universal that will remind many of Dig Dug, Namco’s popular digging game. This game, however, is not a direct copy and, rather, introduces some unique and different elements. In Mr. Do! the player controls the titular character who is a clown as he digs tunnels in the ground to collect cherries while avoiding monsters. These monsters are red and look like dinosaurs but some also come in the shape of letters that spell the word EXTRA. Killing those to spell EXTRA grants a life. Mr. Do is not without ways to deal with his enemies. Apples found in the ground can be pushed to crush enemies and he has a power ball he can throw at them to destroy them. The catch is that the power ball will bounce around forever if it doesn’t hit an enemy, leaving Mr. Do defenceless. Mr. Do! on the 2600 is a port of mixed quality. The game looks pretty good and, though the cherries and characters are all rendered in one colour, they are easy to recognize. Game sounds are also pretty good for the 2600 and emulate the arcade sounds well. The problem with the game is that, unlike the arcade, you cannot really dig tunnels on the ground like you can on the 2600 version of Dig Dug. As you dig the soil just disappears leaving the playing field wide open. This allows the monsters to head directly for Mr. Do instead of having to run through tunnels to reach him. This hurts the gameplay and makes me wish someone would hack the game to fix this issue. Despite this issue the game is enjoyable and a fairly good port.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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Mr. Do’s Castle – By Parker Bros.

The success of the original Mr. Do! led to the development of its first sequel in 1983, Mr. Do’s Castle. The game portrays Mr. Do once more but this time he is not digging anywhere. He is now collecting cherries in a castle filled with platforms and ladders. He is equipped with a hammer that he can use to knock the blocks containing the cherries. Once a cherry is knocked down, a hole is left that can be used as a trap for enemies. You see, Mr. Do is not alone in the castle, unicorns pursue him and will stop at nothing to kill him. Mr. Do can only be rid of them by dropping blocks on them or by collecting three keys found in blocks that then temporarily make them susceptible to Mr. Do’s hammer. During this time the monsters also turn into letter monsters that spell EXTRA. Collect all the letters and earn an extra life. Mr. Do’s Castle was highly popular, an was ported to various systems including the 2600. This time Parker Brothers got the license and created the game for the system. The port retains all the elements of the arcade, including the different types of unicorns (red, yellow, and green) and even the music! Yes, the in-game music that so defines this game is here. The game graphics have been simplified but they work well and Mr. Do is even rendered in two colours. This is not an easy game but it certainly is a good title on the 2600.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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Ms. Pac-Man – By Atari

After the disaster that was Pac-Man for the 2600, Atari clearly learned their lesson and they did not skimp on resources when it was time to bring the Beauty Queen of video games home. Ms. Pac-Man is, of course, the sequel to Pac-Man and one that took the original formula to a new level. In Ms. Pac-Man the player controls the titular character as she munches pellets on, not one, but four different mazes! Inkly, Blinky, and Pinky are back and they are joined by Sue, a female orange ghost. As in the original power pellets allow Ms. Pac-Man to chase and eat the monsters and bonus items, mostly shaped like fruits, also appear. The different here is that the bonus items move about the mazes rather than being stationary in the middle of the maze. Another difference in the mazes is that there are two exits on the sides and that there are plenty more corners where Ms. Pac-Man can be trapped. In porting Ms. Pac-Man to the 2600, Atari really made a superb effort that worked out into an excellent game. Ms. Pac-Man looks like herself and even has the bow over her head. The ghosts have four colours, the bonus items are fruits, pretzels, etc., and the mazes come close to their arcade counterparts. And yes, all four mazes are here! The opening tune characteristic of Ms. Pac-Man is also here, though the other sounds have been modified. The intermissions are missing but, given how good everything else is, it is an understandable compromise. Ms. Pac-Man cannot be missed in any 2600 owner’s library.

Review by TrekMD

10/10

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Muncher - By Rick Skrbina

You are an astronaut who is exploring space. Unfortunately, your ship’s engines fail and you find yourself crashing on the surface of an alien planet. You survive the crash but your prolonged survival is in question. If you are to live long enough to be rescued, you must collect all the food that was on your ship that has splattered all over the surface of this alien world. Unfortunately, the locals are not very friendly. The aliens of this planet do not like having you around and they will chase you on the planet’s surface to be rid of you. Should they touch you, death is certain. This is the story of Muncher, an original homebrew title for the 2600. In the game, you control the astronaut (who comes in the shape of a valiant square!) as he runs around the playing field. Control is simple as you move in the direction you push the joystick and get speed boosts by pressing the fire button. You gain points by collecting the food but lose points if you spend to much time on areas that have already been cleared. There are nine game variations to choose from to increase the challenge. While the game graphics are simple (a reminder of those early 2600 games), the game is indeed addicting and fun to play. Sound is also fairly basic but it does the trick. You have to use your imagination a bit when playing Muncher but there is nothing wrong with that. Do we not do that with many other 2600 games?

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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My Golf – By HES

The Atari 2600 had two different golf titles released by Atari. Neither game was particularly impressive as they were early titles for the system. Enter HES in 1990 with My Golf, the one original title the company made for the system and one that makes you wonder why did they not make more original games for the 2600! My Golf is a particularly impressive golf game for the console. The game boasts gorgeous graphics showing the golf field, holes, water bodies, and trees as seen angled from above. The player appears at the bottom of the screen (outside the field), rendered in multiple colours as he holds the golfing club and swings it in a very nice animation. This is truly well done and it is remarkable for a 2600 game. A total of 18 holes are available and the player can even select from 16 different clubs. Once the club is selected you determine the force to be used with the swing (a power bar shows how much force you are applying) and get to it. Game sounds are minimal but they are exactly what the game needs. Golf, after all, is a fairly quiet game. Up to two players can enjoy My Golf as well, which adds to the play value. My Golf is a very impressive 2600 title and highly recommended. It is probably one of the best sports title for the console.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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Night Driver – By Atari

In 1976 Atari released a racing game to the arcades with black and white graphics that used an overlay to display a car as it races on a road that is pitch black. The only visible items on the road are side posts that delineate the road. The goal of the game was to drive the longest distance possible without hitting the side posts in a limited amount of time. The game was one of the first first-person perspective racing games available and it took advantage of the “night” aspect to use minimal graphics. When the game was ported to the Atari 2600 various changes were made to take advantage of the capabilities of the system. The graphics are now done in colour and, unlike the original, it has the car drawn in. Besides these changes, there now are incoming cars that have to be avoided and both trees and houses appear on the sides of the road. The game offers eight different variations that alter whether or not gameplay is timed, the roads are random or not, and the speed at which the car moves. The player can still control the car’s speed using the buttons on the paddle controllers but the difficulty switches alter the maximum speed and whether or not incoming traffic will honk its horn to warn the player. Night Driver is an early title for the 2600 and it has been surpassed by other driving games for the console but it still retains a certain charm. The graphics for the car are horrible but the incoming cars look fairly good. The trees and houses look out of proportion, though. A graphical hack would not hurt Night Driver.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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