Confrontation (Answer Software, 1983)
Unfortunately, I was unable to play Confrontation due to it being a two player game and being limited to playing it on emu. It sounds awfully interesting, though. According to AtariProtos.com, Confrontation was never commercially released but was available directly from Answer Software for a short time. It’s a chess-style game in which the goal is to move your four pawns horizontally to the other side of the board and remove them. Once the pawns are removed, you move your captain to the other side of the board. The first player to remove all of their pieces wins the game. The aforementioned link has a better outline of the gameplay, so I recommend giving it a look if you’re interested. Given the fact that the game is fully dependent on a two player experience I was unable to engage in, I’ve decided not to give Confrontation a grade. Hope to actually play it someday though.
Congo Bongo (Sega, 1983)
To hell with this game. Shame on Sega for releasing Congo Bongo as a commercially-available game in its existing state. I’ve played prototypes that were more ready for commercial release than this craptasm. In its arcade version, Congo Bongo was a platform game similar to Donkey Kong that became known for its innovative isometric gameplay and charming, cartoony graphics. The Atari 2600 port offers none of that. You could literally spend hours just figuring out the points where you’re supposed to jump or the areas you need to avoid falling into. It literally feels like you’re playing blind. I frequently use YouTube to help get me out of jams in modern AAA games but this is one of only a few times I’ve ever had to consult it for an Atari 2600 game. Unfortunately, it still didn’t help. I’m experiencing election disappointment today (if you’re reading this in the future – if there is a future that doesn’t resemble a Mad Max style dystopia – guess which election I’m referring to) so I’m gonna go ahead and be uncharacteristically mean: Sega, if you couldn’t even get your Atari 2600 cartridges right, there’s no wonder you lost the console wars to Nintendo and Sony. F
Conquest of Mars (Homebrew, 2006)
(Review added June 11, 2018) I’m pretty sure John W. Champeau’s main purpose in programming Conquest of Mars was to make the hardest Atari 2600 game ever, and if he didn’t succeed he came pretty damn close. Based on an Atari 8-bit game, Conquest of Mars will try your patience, but it’s so well-designed you will likely relish the challenge.
If I had to describe the game in a sentence or two, I would compare Conquest of Mars to other cavern-crawling shooters like Vanguard, Scramble and Super Cobra – albeit a little less shooty-wooty (although there’s plenty of that too) and a little more dodgey-wodgey. Throw in a sprinkle of River Raid and hot dog, you’ve got a wiener. There are up to six stages in COM depending on which difficulty you’re playing on; “novice” (the only one I’ve even come close to beating) features three, with every successive difficulty up to “commander” adding another.
The goal of the game is to traverse a series of treacherous caverns on the way to arming a bomb, which upon successful completion you are given a (very) limited amount of time to escape the caverns. Stuff you need to avoid or shoot include rockets (because they’re rockets), fuel (to replenish fuel) and some objects that I keep seeing as the Bitcoin symbol. The hardest level I’ve played so far has got to be the rocket level, an extremely fast affair that sends your ship hurtling down a tunnel at breakneck speed as you futilely try to avoid or shoot patterns of obstacles.
If I have one knock against the game, it’s that it sends you right back to the beginning of the level once you die. Homebrew developers and video game developers in general: please don’t do that. The controls and collision detection are almost too responsive, with the slightest twitch in the wrong direction sending you to certain doom. However, it’s that very difficulty which makes the game such a worthy investment for long-term play. Conquest of Mars is among the best homebrews for the 2600, and is available in cartridge form at the AtariAge store. B+
Cookie Monster Munch (Atari, 1983)
Like I said in my Alpha Beam With Ernie review, it’s pretty difficult as a young man turning 25 for the (redacted)th time to review an educational game intended for preschoolers. Luckily for me, I’ve always been a fan of Sesame Street and have been known to look up clips of the show from my youth on YouTube. What I can tell you is that Cookie Monster Munch is as bright and colourful as its source material, with a variety of music that puts many “grown up” Atari 2600 games to shame. Your goal is to guide the titular sweet-toothed monster around a maze collecting cookies which you then put back in a cookie jar. You are then treated to a delightfully-animated sequence in which Cookie Monster eats the cookies as the cookie counter counts them down. The game has a surprising number of gameplay options, including one in which you play the Cookie Kid collecting cookies for Cookie Monster’s birthday party before the Muppet eats them prematurely. That variation offers a mild challenge even for adult players. My only quibble regards the controls. Like all of the Atari/Sesame Street collaborations, Cookie Monster Munch requires the use of a special kids’ keypad controller. I don’t know if Children’s Television Workshop had some kind of educational objective in mind with these controllers, but I think the standard joystick would have been more intuitive. Then again, 2600 joysticks did have a tendency to break easily in hands lacking the coordination to handle them delicately. That aside, Cookie Monster Munch is a quality educational game with just as much ability to charm youngsters today as it did in 1983. B+
Cosmic Ark (Imagic, 1982)
Why yes, I do have to admit I’m a little biased towards the games I had in my collection as a kid. Mind you, I was lucky and was able to steer clear of most of the crud I’ve been exposed to since I started this blog. Cosmic Ark was a part of my collection, one-third of a particularly bountiful Christmas morning that also included Popeye and Super Breakout with paddle controllers. Good times. Anyway, Cosmic Ark is a very good game with brilliant graphics and deeper gameplay than initially meets the eye. An unofficial sequel to Atlantis (the little ship that escapes the underwater city at the end of that game serves as your rescue pod here), your goal is to first survive a meteor shower and then descend upon a planet to rescue some hapless creatures with your pod’s tractor beam. Rinse, wash, repeat. The first couple of rounds are fairly easy, but before long the meteors start coming at you faster, the creatures get squirrelier and harder to capture and the planets start utilizing their own laser defenses. As practice, I recommend playing the variations featuring only the meteor shower in order to develop the twitch reflexes necessary to succeed at Cosmic Ark. If it shares one fault with Atlantis it’s that it gets a little too frenetic a little too quickly. But hey, the challenge gives you your money’s worth. A-
Cosmic Corridor aka Space Tunnel (ZiMag, Puzzy, 1984)
I was fully prepared to hate Cosmic Corridor, but it’s really not bad. It’s not good by any stretch of the imagination either, but unlike so many games from obscure third party producers it’s not a disaster. With its tunnel setting and multi-directional shooting, Cosmic Corridor is a pretty flagrant ripoff of Vanguard but lacks that game’s directional turns and boss battle. That’s ultimately what prevents the game from reaching a higher status: there’s no sense of completion aside from screen colour changes (a common early video game trick designed to make it seem like you’ve progressed). Even a single-objective game like Asteroids offers the satisfaction of finishing a screen. However, Cosmic Corridor just becomes tedious. On the positive side, it does offer a variety of (very blocky – was this really released in 1984?) foes to shoot down and wall-bouncing missiles to avoid. The game features four levels of difficulty and six ships, which seems a little excessive in the easier variations. It’s an okay game and a rarity (it rates a six on Atari Age’s rarity scale) but if you want a Vanguard-style game you might as well just pick up Vanguard – it’s a better game and much easier to find. C-