The problem with game overviews is that half the readers don't agree with the writer. A title dismissed as a piece of garbage might be an old favorite or absolute gem to someone who looks for different game strengths than the writer does. That's why we're proud to present our two-member review board for Atari 2600 games. This was Adam's idea (although he probably didn't think I'd actually go ahead and start typing it), and most of the time he has utterly different opinions on games than I do. Apply or enjoy. Add to it, if you feel the urge, by dropping a line to either Adam or I. -- CF
HOME RUN -- This is really not bad, considering the unexplored code available to the first VCS wizards. As long as you forget what a real baseball diamond looks like, you can enjoy the mechanics of this game on their own terms. It has a very select group of fans...sort of a Great Underground Umpire. -- Chris
I haven't played it in a while. Next? -- Adam
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK -- I'm sick of reading old reviews about this game that claim it "bears no resemblance to the movie." It bears quite a strong resemblance to the movie, in fact. What did they expect, digitized stills of Harrison Ford? A Nazi rally, maybe? (Can't you just see it? They coulda used the crowd noise from Realsports Baseball.) Anyway, the most important parts of the plot remain intact in this, one of the 2600's best games; and Indy's penchant for patient exploration and his skills with whips and guns were incorporated nicely without being mere extras. Let's face it -- this game didn't sell very well because it was involved and took time, offering no immediate fast action. I consider it the proper sequel to Adventure.
I have only two complaints: When you win, you're treated to a terribly anticlimactic ending (in fact, it's the opening scene!); and the mesa in which the Ark is hidden -- one of very many -- isn't selected with enough randomness. -- Chris
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK -- Picture, if you will, a dark theater with a boy of 9 watching a man's face melt as he looks at those creatures that live in the Ark. Now, picture this same boy hearing that there is a 2600 game based on the movie. I had to have it. But alas, it never happened.
In the seventh grade, a guy in my class named Mark Gibson told me about the game. (This is a number of years after the game actually came out, by the way.) He told me that it was an impossible game to play, a game that he could lend to me so that I could see for myself. But, thanks to my mother, I no longer had an Atari 2600. (She sold mine for $20 with six games at a yard sale in 1983. Some kid got a hell of a deal.)
Anyway, when I finally got another 2600 in 1990, Raiders Of the Lost Ark, with no instructions, was one of the games that came with it. I tried it, and had no idea what to do. About a year later, a friend of mine named Chris Lammert got quite excited that I had the game; he showed me how to play. He knew how to beat it, but he never showed me the end. He got distracted by Mountain King.
Okay, fast-forward to now. Chris Federico showed me the ending, which is, of course, really the beginning. There is no way that I could beat this game; instead, I shall give you the impression I get from watching and playing this game (however futile that may be).
Indeed, I believe that this is one of the best games available on the 2600; I just can't play it well. Also, the replay value is not all that great. (But then, if you got months, or years, out of this game, like some people I know, you got your money's worth.)
The game's graphics are well-done. The way you select the inventory is well-thought-out. I can find little to fault in this game at all. It is just a difficult game that requires a player to think, rather than to just keep pressing that fire button! -- Adam
SURROUND -- Okay, I know I said it didn't matter whether or not you have good graphics in front of you if the game's entertaining, but this contest has zero cleverness. How long do you think this "game's" creator spent on the code? Ten minutes? Fifteen tops? You have two squares making trails. The trails are also squares. There are two sounds in the game: making a trail of squares, and running into someone else's trail of squares. There is one graphic in the cart, besides the generic all-purpose VCS score digits: a square. Sure, Disney stole the trailing idea and used it for Tron's cool Light Cycles...but come on! Can you imagine shelling out thirty beans back then for a piece of technology that makes squares on the screen?! There's ONE play-against-the-computer variation ...but it's easier than Pong, except with worse graphics. If the VCS had offered only gaming options like this one, we'd still be playing board games like Battleship today, because no video games would have sold, and there goes your first business boom. -- Chris
SURROUND -- I wonder, did Chris even give this game the ten minutes that he thinks the author gave it? I doubt it. I have to agree about this game in the graphics department; it has some of the worst the 2600 has ever seen. Data Age games look good in comparison. If the game play had depended, even in a small way, on the graphics, well...Surround would have been ruined.
Thankfully, Surround is one of the games that, to me, make up the reason a game is a classic. It is the reason I say that it doesn't matter how good a game looks, but how well it plays. Surround has what it takes; well, that is, if you play against another player. (If you play against the computer, I agree with Chris in every way; the game just sucks.)
BUT, try this game against a friend. It is one of the most addictive games I have ever played. (Even more addictive then a certain Russian puzzle game!) Sure, you are big blocks moving all jerky around the screen. Sure, there isn't much room for movement. Instead of taking away from the game, these things add to it. (Really!)
A small pet peeve I have: What is the point of the drawing part? I don't care how well you draw, there is no way to get a good picture out of this cartridge! I think the memory could have been used for something with more purpose. The game could have been given more depth. (A shooting variation of some sort?) -- Adam