Pacing the Cage

All about old-school video games. Reviews, lists and more.

Archive for the ‘Atari’ Category

Five quick-hit reviews

Posted by ptcgaming on May 4, 2009


“River Raid” (Atari 2600/1982/Activision)
Overall score: 3.5
“River Raid” to this day is one of my favorite Atari 2600 games. The graphics are outstanding for that console, the sound is exceptional and having to worry about refueling adds an extra challenge. Too bad that challenge gets a bit repetitive after awhile.


“Bases Loaded” (NES/1988/Jaleco-TOSE)
Overall score: 4
“Tecmo Baseball” and “RBI Baseball” might come close, but this was the best baseball franchise on the NES. The TV-camera batter/pitcher screen and great animation (including the “phantom glove” catcher) were great, as was the speech (any spoken dialogue was a gift on the NES). But am I the only one who thought this game was pretty tough?


“Keith Courage in Alpha Zones” (TurboGrafx-16/1989/Hudson Soft)
Overall score: 2

Even fantastic 16-bit graphics couldn’t prevent this from being the worst pack-in game for any console – ever. While the graphics are great, the┬ámusic on this Mario/Zelda/Gundam hybrid is too repetitive, and the gameplay is boring. There are some really good titles for the unappreciated (in North America) TG-16, but this sure isn’t one of them.


“F-Zero” (Super NES/1991/Nintendo EAD)
Overall score: 3.5
How they get the screen to keep up while racing that fast is beyond me. Nevertheless, “F-Zero” is fun and challenging at the same time. Of course, it’s best when played with a friend. The controls take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of them you’ll enjoy this one a lot.


“John Madden Football ’93” (Sega Genesis/1992/Looking Glass Technologies)
Overall score: 4.5

This is by far my favorite “Madden” ever. I remember the days before passing cones and football IQ, when passing windows ruled the world. I recall some intense Thurman Thomas vs. Barry Sanders battles, diving catches and cheesy touchdown dances. This game even looks great, and the players move and act like real football players do. This is the one game I wish I had held on to over the years. Sadly, I did not.


Posted in Atari, Genesis, Madden, NES, Reviews, SNES, TG16 | Leave a Comment »

Retro Game Review: Pong

Posted by ptcgaming on October 24, 2008

Say what you want about how this game looks, but you probably wouldn’t have many video games to play at all had this not been created.

Platform: Arcade
Released: 1972
Developer: Atari Inc.

Background: Anyone who spends hours on end playing Wii Sports, Madden or NBA 2K can thank Allan Alcorn. Why, you ask? Because Alcorn developed “Pong” (even though Magnavox had earler developed a similar game and won a lawsuit in regard to it. Atari’s “Pong” is more well-known, anyway). Without this barebones (by today’s standards) video game, who knows whether or not the gaming industry takes off into the 1980s and becomes the multi-billion-dollar industry it is today? The instructions were simple: “Avoid missing ball for high score.” It was so popular, home console versions were also developed.

Graphics: 1/5
Let’s not kid ourselves here. All “Pong” consisted of was a group of white lines and dots on a black background.

Sound: 1/5
Nothing more than a couple beeps and blips.

Controls: 5/5
You moved your paddle with those famous round “paddle” controllers that were also popular with the Atari 2600 console. So easy the drunkest guy in the bar could figure it out (and I think that was actually the idea).

Gameplay: 3.5/5
“Pong” was hard: not “Mega Man” hard, but difficult enough. Your timing had to perfect to hit the ball right, and the ball bounced around at some funny angles.

Overall: 2.625/5
You’re not going to find yourself spending entire weekends in front of the TV playing “Pong,” but I hope you get an appreciation for it if you haven’t yet. Sure, it’s nothing at all to look at, but it does give a great example of how far video games have come. What were once nothing more than a bunch of lines and dots on the screen has evolved into realistic-looking games that narrow the line between what’s real and what’s just a game.

Posted in Arcade, Atari, Reviews | 1 Comment »

Our Favorite Games: Pitfall!

Posted by ptcgaming on September 13, 2008

Platform: Atari 2600 Released: 1982

Anyone who came within a hundred miles of an Atari 2600 in the early 1980s has heard of Pitfall! It’s Activision’s adventure featuring Pitfall Harry and his journey through the jungle. You ran either left or right (your choice) dodging snakes, scorpions, rolling barrels and crocodiles as you tried to find all the hidden treasures before the 20-minute timer ran out. You could stay above ground to complete the game, or you could utilize the underground passageways that let you skip through multiple screens at once. Pitfall has sold around 4 million copies since its release, second on the 2600 only to the lackluster port of Pac-Man. This was just one of several great titles Activision developed for the 2600, such as River Raid and Commando, two other challenging but fun games. Pitfall’s graphics, animation and sound were top-notch for the 2600, and the game remains a classic today.

Posted in Atari, Favorites | Leave a Comment »

Retro Game Review: Ballblazer

Posted by ptcgaming on August 30, 2008

Soccer in the future may look something like this.

Platform: Atari 7800 ProSystem
Released: 1984 (original)
Developer: Lucasfilm Games
Background: Ballblazer was the first video game developed by Lucasfilm, originally for Atari’s 8-bit systems. It was a 1 or 2-player game in a 3D format. This was actually a futuristic “sports” game with simple rules: You took control of one of the rotofoils and attempted to grab the ball, or Plasmorb, with the invisible beam on the front. The idea was to put the Plasmorb through the opponent’s goal, which moved back and forth horizontally across the baseline – placing it got you one point, while shooting it got you two. As you score more goals, the goal gets more and more narrow. The game ends when the clock expires or one player scores 10 goals. One of the features of Ballblazer seen in many of today’s multiplayer games is split-screen action from two separate first-person views.
Graphics: 4.5/5
Keep in mind we’re talking about the Atari 7800 here, so you’re not going to get better graphics except for maybe Pole Position II or the 7800 version of Ms. Pac-Man, which is extremely close to the arcade version. One of the things you’ll notice when playing Ballblazer is there’s no screen flickering or anything like that.
Sound: 5/5
Hands-down the best music on any early Atari console game. I read somewhere a reviewer said it sounded like John Coltrane. It’s not, but the jazzy tune that plays during the game is one of a kind. The sounds when you fire the ball or bump your opponent’s rotofoil are very well executed, too.
Controls: 5/5
The controls are simple: The joystick moves you, the button fires the Plasmorb. When your opponent has the Plasmorb, you can press the button to try to steal it away.
Gameplay: 5/5
This game runs so smooth, you’d be surprised today it was being played on such an old system. And despite its simplicity, it’s a lot of fun. While you can play against the computer, it’s best when going up against one of your friends. There weren’t many (if any) split-screen multiplayer games with first-person perspectives around at the time, so this game offered a unique gaming experience.
Overall: 4.875/5
In a nutshell, this game is fantastic. I spent many hours when I was younger playing Ballblazer. I used to use a third-party controller on my 7800 that looked like the yoke for a fighter jet with a trigger button for your index finger. I always thought the 7800 was an under appreciated system, especially since it had to compete with the original NES and Sega MasterSystem. But Ballblazer showed gamers the best Atari had to offer at the time. With a company like Lucasfilm developing the game, would you expect anything less?

Posted in Atari, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

Is this really the worst game EVER?

Posted by ptcgaming on August 26, 2008

When talking about the worst video games of all time, this little nugget always seems to come to mind.

You’ve got to give Howard Scott Warshaw credit. For one infamous game he designed, Warshaw has endured more criticism than for the great Atari 2600 titles he created, including Yars’ Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It took four to five months for him to create Yars’ Revenge. He only had five weeks to create the video game adaptation of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.

The resulting product, which he defends, has been the butt of video game jokes for more than 20 years. We all know that names – “Worst Video Game of All Time” or “Reason for the Video Game Crash of the Early 1980s.” Many saw E.T. as a game where you aimlessly roamed about and fell into holes at random. And if that guy in the raincoat got a hold of your behind, you were in trouble. That other guy wanted to get you, too.

But is E.T. really that bad, or is it just misunderstood? To come up with the answer, let’s look at this as a puzzle and see if all the pieces fit together (no pun intended).

  • Landscape – The entire game is made up of six screens, all of which allow you to walk in four directions to an adjoining screen. Think of it as walking around a cube, with each side of the cube (top and bottom included) as a separate screen. That’ll get you over the “wandering aimlessly part.”
  • The idea – The game’s objective is pretty much the same as the movie. You must collect the pieces of the phone, call home and meet the spaceship that’s here to pick you up.
  • Gameplay – Pieces of the phone are located in selected “holes” or “wells” in the landscape. You fall into a hole, pick up the piece and hover back up to the main screen. When you find all the pieces, you must call the spaceship back (Hint: Call from the forest). Actually, the status bar at the top of the screen will tell you when you’re in the right spot. And don’t get caught by the FBI guy or scientist: The FBI dude will take your phone parts; the scientist will take you. You can eat Reese’s Pieces to regain energy, and Elliot can also help you in your quest.

Believe it or not, that’s pretty much it. If you know what you’re supposed to be doing, the game is pretty easy and can be completed in just about 10-15 minutes or so. If you have no idea what you’re supposed to do, then yes, you probably think this is the stupidest thing to be encased in plastic. If you break the game down, like I just did, it really sounds easy and not quite so dumb. E.T. also features different skill levels to make the game more of a challenge.

I know there are some of you who will still think this game is terrible even after reading this, but you should sit back and ask yourself, “Is it really as bad as I thought before?”

Want to see more worst of the worst? Just click here for a listing of some of the lowest-rated games of all time.

Posted in Atari | Leave a Comment »

Retro Game Review: Yars’ Revenge

Posted by ptcgaming on June 22, 2008

Screenshot from Wikipedia. To go old-school, click on the headline above to see an original commercial for the game. Looking at it today, it’s pretty darn funny!

System: Atari 2600
Released: 1981
Developer: Atari/Vatical Entertainment

Background:Yars‘ Revenge” was the best-selling original title for the Atari 2600 console. Though it was initially the port of another game, “Star Castle,” it looked nothing like it when released. In the game, your insect character, or “Yar,” had to shoot through a shield to destroy the “Qotile” hiding behind it. The “Qotile” would at times turn into a swirl and lunge after you. Meanwhile, an enemy torpedo followed you around, trying to destroy you. You could hide from the torpedo in the “neutral zone,” but you weren’t allowed to shoot from there. Upon destroying the shield, you could then fire a projectile at the “Qotile” to destroy it.

Graphics: 3/5
For an Atari 2600 game, the graphics in this game aren’t half-bad. Think about it: You can tell your character is some insect-like creature, and the “Qotile” isn’t just a block. And when it goes all swirly on you, it looks like a hurricane fast approaching you! There are also alternating levels where the shield is constantly shifting, making it difficult to just shoot a straight hole through the middle of it.

Sound: 2/5
Sound on the 2600 is very limited. This game follows that mold. There are the usual pings and blips, but nothing extraordinary beyond that.

Controls: 4/5
It’s the Atari 2600 for crying out loud! It’s a joystick and one button! Anyone who couldn’t learn how to play a game on this console has no thumbs! (Note: Sorry to those who don;t have thumbs.) The joystick moves the “Yar,” and the button shoots. You can move around to just about anywhere on the screen.

Gameplay: 4/5
The game seems simple at first, but if you play enough it gets harder. For example, the enemy torpedo gets faster as you progress in the game. Also, the “Qotile” will begin to do different things in swirl mode, making completing levels more and more difficult. There isn’t really any “end” to this game, so you just keep on playing until you’re dead!

Overall: 3.25/5
While the sound and graphics don’t say much when compared to today’s gaming platforms, the simplistic controls and play make this an addictive title, even though it will soon be 30 years old.

Posted in Atari, Reviews | 2 Comments »