Atari 2600 V-Z

Alien Brigade – By Atari

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 Vanguard – By Atari

Vanguard was released to the arcades in 1981 and it was one of the first multidirectional scrolling shooters and the first introduce the ability to fire in four different directions. The story of the game takes place within an asteroid the Gond call home. The Gond have been terrorizing all the space colonies and you’ve been sent on a mission to infiltrate their asteroid and rid the galaxy of the Gond forever. The asteroids is divided into various “zones” that the player must traverse to reach the Gond leader at the City of Mystery. The zones involve horizontal and vertical areas, each with different enemies and obstacles for the player to avoid. To give the player an idea of where they are within the asteroid, a map screen appears at the beginning of each zone. Through the zones, there are power pods that the player can touch to gain invincibility for 10 seconds, allowing the ship to hit enemies and avoid damage from cave walls or other objects. Though your ship has unlimited firepower, it does have limited fuel. You just destroy enemies or targets within the tunnels in order to replenish your fuel. Atari’s port of Vanguard for the 2600 does manage to capture the gameplay of the arcade but has to make graphical compromises. Despite some blocky environments, the colourful graphics look nice and work well. The intro music for the game (the theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture) is gone but the Flash Gordon music (Vultan’s theme) does make it when power pods are used. Control has been simplified for the 2600 but it works fine and there’s even an autofire option to assist (that makes things easier). Overall, a nice port of the arcade game.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Venture – By Coleco/CBS Electronics

Venture was an adventure game released by Exidy to the arcades in 1981. The game became popular and it was ported to various systems, including the 2600. In the game the player controls a character who is shaped like a happy face called Winky. Winky is armed with a bow and arrow and he explores various rooms and hallways in dungeons in search for treasure. The hallways are protected by creatures called the Hallmonsters. These creatures are indestructible, unstoppable machines that frenetically travel through the hallways to catch Winky. Upon entering any room, Winky will come face to face with various types of monsters or even traps. He must reach the treasure without being touched by any of these creatures and he may kill them using his arrows. Winky has to be quick when collecting treasure, though, for if he takes too long a Hallmonster enters the room to catch him. Be watchful of where you kill monsters in the rooms because they don’t just disappear when killed. Their corpses stay in there and slowly degrade and a corpse may block your exit. Venture, in the arcade, has three levels, each with four rooms for a total of 12 rooms the player must enter. Unfortunately, the 2600 version is a severely watered down port of the original. Only two levels are available to play through. The rooms maintain their original arcade shapes but the monsters have been simplified and are not really animated. In addition, game sounds are simplistic and there is no music. Winky’s bow and arrow are nothing more than a yellow dot. Completed rooms also fail to fill up as in the arcade so you must remember where you’ve been. This game really could have been better.

Review by TrekMD

5/10

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 Venture III – By Batari

Coleco’s version of Venture was disappointing because of how watered down the game was compared to the arcade. To make it worse, the game only had two levels from the arcade which really took away from the entertainment value of the game. To address some of these limitations, Batari hacked the game to create Venture III. In Venture III we now have all 12 rooms from the original arcade game. Winky now has the three complete levels to explore and to collect treasure. Level one has the Wall Room, the Serpent Room, the Skeleton Room, and the Goblin room; level two has the Two-Headed room, the Dragon Room, the Spider Room, and the Troll Room; and, level three has the Genie Room, the Demon Room, the Cyclops Room, and the Bat Room. The game graphics have been slightly tweaked with colour changes but are, for the most part the same. Having the third level added to the game does make a difference as the challenge is increased with the new rooms and the different monsters in them. Unfortunately, not all the game limitations were addressed with this hack. The rooms still do not fill up like in the arcade game and there is no music. Sound effects are the same as for the original game, which means they are fairly basic. Winky himself also looks the same. Despite this, I’d rather much play Venture III over the original port just because of that added third level.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Video Pinball – By Atari

Sometimes a game doesn’t look very good and one assumes it won’t be fun to play. One such game is Atari’s first pinball game for the 2600, Video Pinball. This, of course, is a simulation of a pinball table for the system. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a pinball table that is wider than it is tall and this is one of the issues with the visual aspect of the game. The table itself is rather plain with very little in terms of colour or moving parts. The bumpers are just squares with numbers in them that reflect the bonus multiplier. There are two spinners that are nicely animated and yellow diamonds on the top of the table. Two rollovers appear on to the upper section of the table. One of these rollovers has the Atari logo and the other a number. Hitting the former four times gives you an extra ball, while hitting the latter gives you bonus points once the ball is gone (1000 points times the number of times it was rolled over with a maximum of 4000 points). Hitting the three diamond targets serves a bonus multiplier. Another special target appears in between the two lower bumpers. Hit it for 1000 bonus points. What makes Video Pinball an enjoyable game is the control mechanism. Yes, you have the flippers but you’ll find that the ball doesn’t need to be hit much by them. The trick here is learning how to nudge the table without tilting it. Master that and you’ll rack up lots of points which, after all, is the goal when playing pinball. Even when you master nudging, you can increase the difficulty by turning the difficulty switch to A. Check it out to see what happens.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Wabbit – By Apollo

You are Billie Sue, a farmer who has planted crops of carrots on various fields. Unfortunately, she is having trouble with one particular field that requires her attention. This one field is surrounded by wabbit holes and Bille Sue must do what she can to stop these big rodents from carrying away her carrots. The wabbits just keep darting into the field, picking the carrots one by one. Billie Sue doesn’t have a gun but she has this lot of rotten eggs she got real cheap and they make great weapons to scare off the wabbits. She will stand watch and throw eggs at the wabbits for as long as it takes to stop them. Wabbit is a vertical shooter with a different story for the 2600. No space, no aliens, no weird creatures. Just a farmer protecting her crops. The game has some really beautiful graphics with a multicoloured and a nicely detailed Billie Sue, a well rendered crop of carrots, nicely animated wabbits, a picket fence, a house, and a bright sun. Beautiful graphics, however, a good make don’t necessarily make. Wabbit starts off just fine as a cool shooter. Controlling Billie Sue is great because she moves about quickly and she throws those eggs with ease. The wabbits move quickly but you can target them and hit them but, as the game advances, their speed becomes so ridiculous that you are just throwing eggs like a nut trying to hit them. You have no power ups or anything to help you deal with the faster moving wabbits, so something that starts out fun becomes frustrating quickly. It is unfortunate because it does look great. So, this is a game to play on brief spurts but you won’t be playing it for long.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Wall Defender – By Bomb

You are the defender and your mission is to protect the great walls from alien attack. Aliens come at you from all around and they don’t shoot at the wall, no. What they are doing is kamikaze attacks to weaken the walls and get to you. As the defender you can travel all around the outermost wall and use your laser beam to destroy the incoming invaders. Move quickly and stop them because if 10 aliens manage to hit the wall, it will collapse and take you with it unless you’ve moved to the next inner wall. You do get a warning after seven hits...the wall flashes so you are ready to jump should it be necessary. Wall Defender is a game with an interesting take on the invading aliens theme. Rather than a ship at the bottom of the screen, you travel in a sphere within walls. You can only move on the outermost wall and must use bridges to get to an inner wall as the aliens hit and destroy each outer layer. Though 10 hits destroy the walls, surviving a wave of attacking aliens without any hits, restores walls. The walls look like a maze set in the middle of the screen, garnering this look because of the multiple bridges that connect the walls. Though the graphics are simple, the gameplay turns out to be pretty addicting. The aliens have simple designs but they are rendered in multiple colours and are nicely animated. There are multiple alien designs and there’s an indicator at the bottom of the screen letting you know what’s coming. I was surprised by Wall Defender and I suggest you give it a spin.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Warlords – By Atari

King Frederick was a good king to his people. He was loved by many but none loved him more than his wife Queen Christina. When the time came to start a family, the King and Queen had quite the surprise as the Queen delivered, not one, but four baby boys: Dominick, Marcus, Felipe, and Restivo. Sadly, as the four boys grew into men, they became vicious and fought each other making the king banish them to a forbidden land. There, they brothers became warlords. The territory was divided equally, fortresses where built and their war began anew. Fireballs and lightning balls thrown at each others’ fortresses and it is up to you to help determine who the winner will be. Warlords was released to the arcades in 1980 and ported to the 2600 in 1981; however, Carla Meninsky (the game’s programmer) has stated that the 2600 version was developed before the arcade version. Warlords has gameplay similar to Breakout as the player has to use their shield to bounce the ball in the direction of the other players. Whoever is left standing is the winner of the game. Warlords doesn’t have the most gorgeous graphics but the gameplay makes up for that. Up to four players can compete at once, thanks to the design of the paddle controllers. Game variations allow for two players to also control two shields at a time, alter the ball speed, and alter whether the shields function with either ricochet or catch. Children games are also included. As excellent as Warlords is, if you want an even better gaming experience, you have to check out Medieval Mayhem. That take on Warlords is the ultimate expression of the game on the 2600.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Wing War – By Imagic

Wing War is the only Imagic game to not see release in the North American market. Released only in Europe, Wing War is a game the combines adventure elements with the action elements of Joust. The player controls a flying mystical dragon as it emerges from an underground den. The goal is to collect various elemental crystals (fire, air, and water) with the goal of combining them to form Super Crystals that enhance the dragon’s power. Dragon eggs that are randomly found during the game also need to be collected as these represent extra lives. The dragon faces various enemies in his search for crystals: spiders, bats, swarms of killer bees, fire demons, Griffins, hydra-headed monsters, entangling ropers, rock demons, dragonflies, and others. Each of these enemies has to be destroyed by throwing fireballs at them (some enemies take one hit, others take 2 or even more). Once destroyed, these change into the elemental crystals which must be picked up. Water and fire crystals must be kept separate using an air crystal (or they’ll destroy each other), so the sequence they are picked up in matters. They have to be taken to the den to combine into the Super Crystal that then increases the dragon’s firepower. Another element of strategy to the game is that the dragon has a limited number of fireballs (10) and can only sustain 10 hits from enemies before it dies. Each new dragon has the same limitations. Wing War is a surprisingly good game with a sufficiently large world to explore and enough action to keep you entertained. The graphics are well done and, though sounds are simple, they do the trick.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Wings of Death – By neotokeo2001

Welcome to the Dragon Planet, a world where dragons rule and where they’ve established their society. You are the Mighty Dragon Overlord, ruler of the planet and the biggest and baddest of all Dragonkind. You reign is in peril, however, as the Power Sprites have been stolen and are now floating through the skies for any dragon to pick. Only the dragon with the most Power Sprites can be in control of the Kingdom and you are most certainly not willing to give up your position of power. So, you fly into the skies in search of the Power Sprites. You must collect groups of six Power Sprites and take them into the upper atmosphere so they can be transported back to safety...back to where no other dragon will dare steal them. You will not go unchallenged, though, as other dragons are up in the sky searching for the very same Power Sprites you seek. You must use your fire to attack them and prevent them from taking what is rightfully yours. And watch out for white dragons...those guys are feisty and they do fir back! Wings of Death is a hack of the Acitivision’s Seaquest for those of us who love dragons. The game plays exactly like Seaquest but all the sprites have been changed to fit the more fantastical environment of a world of dragons. The sub has been turned into a large dragon with flapping wings, the fish have been turned into smaller coloured dragons, and the attack subs are now attacking white dragons. Instead of divers, you collect floating “gems” that appear randomly on screen. The playing field has also been changed to fit the game concept better. If you enjoy Seaquest, you should enjoy Wings of Death.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Winter Games– By Epyx

Epyx is well known for its excellent sports titles for home computers and game consoles. As a follow up to their successful Summer Games title, they decided to release a game based on winter sports, titled Winter Games. Initially released to the Commodore 64, the game was later released to the Atari 2600 and other home consoles. I must say that this game follows the same excellent steps of Epyx’s other 2600 titles. The game opens with a title screen that has an Olympic torch and plays the musical theme of the games. This is followed by a country selection screen that allows up to eight players to participate. Once the countries have been selected, the events start. There are seven different events in Winter Games: slalom, bobsled, ski jump, biathlon, speed skating, hot dog, and luge. Each of these events has its own method that the player must use to succeed and each and every event is challenging to master. In slalom there are 36 gates that you must ski through as fast as possible. Missing gates penalizes you 3 seconds per missed gate at the end of the event. Bobsled lets you control a two-man bobsled down a winding course. This is viewed from above and it works surprisingly well. Ski Jump is an event of precision that shows a split screen with the hill slope and a close up of your jumper. Biathlon is a combination skiing and shooting event down a hill. Speed Skating is a race on ice. Hot Dog is a ski acrobatics event where the more tricks performed, the more points you get. Luge is a bobsled event with just one person in the bobsled. Winter Games is another superb title with detailed, multicolored graphics, great sound, and excellent challenge for all.

Review by TrekMD

10/10

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 Wizard Of Wor – By CBS Electronics

Wizard of Wor was introduced to the arcades in 1981. The game is a maze shooter where one or two players (simultaneous play) must run around dungeons (mazes) to destroy various monsters in order to defeat the sinister Wizard of Wor himself. The Worriors, as the player controlled characters are called, are dressed in yellow and blue and they are armed with a laser gun and a radar scanner. The scanner is of particular help when some of the monsters become invisible and cannot be detected otherwise. These monsters are called Worlings and there are three main types within the dungeons: Burwors (blue), Garwors (yellow), and Thorwors (red). Burwors are the first to populate each dungeon and six of them appear together. Garworls are invisible most of the time. Thorwors can become invisible and are the nastier of the three. The Wizard’s own pet, the Worluk, is a winged beast that appears once all Worlings have been killed. Catch it before it escapes for double points for every Worling killed in the next dungeon. Once Worluk either escapes or gets shot, then the Wizard of Wor himself appears and he is one tricky bad guy. He teleports constantly so hitting him is not an easy task. Wizard of Wor on the 2600 is a very good port of the arcade game. The maze is well rendered and it changes colour as you progress through the game. The characters are all rendered in one colour (like the arcade) and they look pretty good. The Worlings do flicker a lot but considering there can be six of them on screen at once, that’s no surprise. This version retains the two-player option as well. All in all, a great game for the 2600.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Xenophobe – By Atari

Those nasty aliens...these Xenophobes are infesting all of your planet’s space stations. Without these space stations your world is in peril for it will be defenceless. Fear not for you are part of an elite team who has been trained to clear the stations of the alien infestation. Your mission is to teleport into each space station, clear out the alien pests, and collect any useful tech you can find. These aliens are nasty beasts and you must not let them get to you. Luckily, you do not have to complete this mission alone. One of your buddies may join you in the “house cleaning.” Xenophobe was released in the arcades in 1987 and ported to the 2600 in 1990. The game uses a horizontal split screen that allows two players to either compete or cooperate simultaneously, just like in the arcade. Because of this set up, both players can move within the space stations independently, which allows for clearing the space stations much faster. It also means that the death of one player doesn’t have any effect on the other player’s game. There are eight stations to clear of aliens, each with a different number of floor levels. All of them, however, have eight rooms per level with an elevator at their centre. Use the elevator to move between floors. To finish a mission you either clear all the aliens or you are transported off the station if the aliens overrun it. This happens if you take too long to clear the aliens. There are various weapons you can find on the stations and five different types of aliens. Xenophone is impressive on the 2600 with very good graphics and gameplay.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Yars Revenge – By Atari

Yar’s Revenge started its life as something else entirely. Atari had originally obtained a license to port Star Castle to the 2600. Howard Scott Warshaw began work on the game and started off creating something based on that arcade game. As programming continued, the game started to change until it became what we all know today as Yar’s Revenge. The name Yar came from then Atari CEO Ray Kassar, as did Yar’s world, Razak. The two games do share some elements in common as the main enemy in both games is behind a shield that has to be damaged until a gap allows the player to destroy said enemy. In Yar’s Revenge you control an insect-like creature called Yar who needs to destroy the evil Quotile. The Quotile hides behind a shiled barrier that Yar has to nibble or shoot through using his Zorlon Cannon. Once the shield has a large enough gap, Yar can direct the canon’s fire towards the Quotile but he has to get out of the way or he’ll be destroyed by his own weapon. The Quotile is also protected by a Destroyer Missile that tracks Yar’s movements. It move slowly but it will destroy Yar on contact. Yar can use a neutral zone near the middle of the screen to neutralize the Missile but it also renders its weapon inoperable. The Quotile can also transform into a Swirl that will target Yar and is capable of destroying it even within the Neutral Zone. Yar’s Revenge was the best-selling original title for the Atari 2600 and with good reason. Yar’s has seven different game variations to add replay value. It should be noted that at certain score levels, the shield protecting the Quotile changes colour and the behavior of the Swirl changes for added challenge.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Zaxxon – By Coleco/CBS Electronics

Zaxxon was an isometric shooter released by Sega in 1982 to the arcades. The game was well received given its unique isometric perspective, excellent gameplay, and excellent graphics. In the game the player controls a fighter plane that travels through a space fortress to destroy as many enemy targets as possible. The player can control the height of the plane, which is key to pass over walls and avoid enemy craft, and has use of an altimeter to determine that height. A shadow cast by the ship is also helpful to estimate altitude. A ship is lost if hit by any enemy or if it runs out of fuel (which can be replenished by shooting fuel drums). Coleco licensed the game to port it to their console but they also created a port for the 2600. Unfortunately, Coleco had to make significant changes to the game when it was adapted for the system. The isometric graphics are gone and they’ve been replaced with a third person perspective from-behind-the-ship view. The goal of the game remains the same but the graphics don’t really work well. It is very difficult to judge height of your enemies, despite there being shadows, and there is altimeter but it just doesn’t cut it. Everything is very blocky, objects are mostly rendered in one colour, and sounds are minimal. The game is just a far cry from the original but no other 2600 game plays in this manner. I suppose for that alone, the game should not be ignored.

Review by TrekMD

5/10

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