Atari 2600 Game Reviews: Asteroids through Atlantis II

asteroids_1Asteroids (Atari, 1981)

What is there to say? This is THE game. The one-two punch of the release of Space Invaders in 1980 and Asteroids in 1981 represents the moment when the Atari VCS transformed from essentially an ambitious  Pong console to a fully-portable arcade system. From that point, the Atari 2600 was the go-to console for those seeking arcade action (if not arcade-quality graphics) while the Intellivision dominated the market for sports, strategy and head-to-head two-player games. Any Atari 2600 collection is simply not complete without Asteroids, and as you collect Atari carts you’ll probably wind up with multiple copies from lots bought on eBay and elsewhere. It’s little surprise to anyone that 2600 Asteroids differs significantly from its arcade predecessor, and by that I mean beyond the lack of crisp vector graphics. The broken asteroids do not fly out at the kind of near-unavoidable angles they did in the arcade; an effective strategy in many variations is to simply stay in the middle and blast the rocks on the left and right, a luxury the original did not offer. However, the 66 game variations still offer enough challenge to create a gameplay experience you will likely enjoy for years. If you want a game closest to arcade Asteroids, set your difficulty setting to “A” (which offers UFOs) and select a game variation with fast asteroids. Bottom line: Atari 2600 Asteroids is a legendary game unto itself, regardless of its differences from the arcade legend. A-

More Info: Asteroids on the Atari Age database.

For current listings of Asteroids for sale on eBay, click here

astroblast_2Astroblast (M Network, 1982)

What do you get when you combine Asteroids with slide-and-shoot games like Space Invaders and Galaxian and throw in a little Kaboom! for good measure? Pure twitch-action gaming nirvana, that’s what. What I always admired about Mattel’s Blue Sky Rangers was their ability to create fresh, fun material for the Intellivision that built on, rather than copied, common arcade tropes. Astrosmash was one of the better examples; Astroblast is the version for the Atari 2600. You start out with 10 lives (trust me, you’ll need them) and use either your joystick or paddle to blast asteroids, UFOs and sonars out of the sky. Astroblast is unique in that you actually lose points for missing the rocks, although your endgame score is determined by the peak score you achieved over the course of the game. Using your paddle is highly recommended as it offers precision targeting difficult to achieve with the joystick. A must-have. A

More Info: Astroblast on the Atari Age database.

For current listings of Astroblast for sale on eBay, click here

ateam

The A-Team (Atari Prototype, Developed 1984)

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a prototype that is almost an exact copy of another prototype. The A-Team is essentially Saboteur – a three-stage, multi-playmode Howard Scott Warshaw joint that unfortunately never saw the light of day – with A-Team characters and themes in place of the original’s science fiction setting. Even though it plays exactly like Saboteur (actually the final stage feels a little easier), The A-Team definitely feels awkwardly wedged into this abstract science fiction scenario. The A-Team licence would feel more appropriate in a militaristic scrolling shooter like Commando or Contra, a genre – to be fair – that had not yet been invented. I’ll go into Saboteur’s gameplay a little more when I get to that point in the alphabet. Suffice it to say that Saboteur is awesome and that makes The A-Team awesome as well, although my grade is deducted here because the transfer doesn’t quite work. B

More Info: A-Team on the AtariProtos.com (no profile available on Atari Age).

atlantisAtlantis (Imagic, 1982)

Atlantis is hands-down one of the best games available for the Atari 2600. Basically, you defend – Missile Command-style – the underwater city of Atlantis with your three cannons against a variety of Star Trek-y looking spaceships. It’s no Missile Command clone, however; instead of bombs raining from the sky, the ships fly in a zig-zag motion across the screen and only attack towards the bottom. The goal is to zap the ships before they get to that level, which is no easy feat. Like most Atari games Atlantis starts out quite easy but gets frenetic quickly. Despite playing the game for years, I have never been able to score beyond the 30,000s in the Game One variation. Atlantis is hard but worth the effort. A+

More Info: Atlantis on the Atari Age database.

For current listings of Atlantis for sale on eBay, click here

atlantis2Atlantis II (Imagic Special Contest Version, 1982)

Atlantis II was designed for a high-score contest described here on the Atari Age website. It’s essentially Atlantis but lower-scoring and even harder. Suffice it to say that you’d best get your original Atlantis skilz down before attempting this one. Expect to play it via emu as it is extremely rare. A

More Info: Atlantis II on the Atari Age database.

For current listings of Atlantis II for sale on eBay, click here

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