Atari 2600 Game Reviews: Demolition Herby through Dig Dug

demolitionherby_atarigameDemolition Herby (Telesys, 1982)

Demolition Herby is a virtual Amidar clone with some minor twists. I’m not a huge fan of Amidar in the first place so I wasn’t particularly taken with this second-rate knockoff. The main difference between Demolition Herby and Amidar is the ability to hit your enemies from behind. That could have been fun, but the enemy vehicles have a tendency to turn on a dime, causing the player to hit them head-on. The poor graphics also do not offer a very good indication of when the vehicles turn around. The game also features another of my many gaming pet peeves. To me, when an enemy has been killed or defeated, it should no longer present a threat to your progress. In Demolition Herby, if you hit an enemy vehicle from behind you can still lose a life by hitting the car as it flies in mid-air. This is a disincentive to really pouring on the speed and hitting a few cars in a row. Demolition Herby had potential and with a little more work could have been better than Parker Brothers’ port of Amidar, but as it stands it’s nothing special. Extra points, though, for its depiction of what looks like Dread Baron from Laff-a-Lympics on the cover. You guys remember Laff-a-Lympics, right, or am I just really old? Shut up. C+

More Info: Demolition Herby on Atari Age. For current listings of Demolition Herby for sale on eBay, click here

demonattack_atarigameDemon Attack (Imagic, 1982)

Demon Attack is, of course, an all-time favourite among many Atari 2600 fans. I really like it, but with some reservations. Mostly, I disagree with the common consensus that it’s a better game than the Atari 2600 port of Phoenix, the arcade game Demon Attack is ostensibly based on. I think Atari did a fine job with its version of Phoenix, which includes a boss battle that Demon Attack does not (at least on the VCS version). That aside, Demon Attack is fun, challenging and colourful, with some of the best animation available on any game for the system. It does start out a little slow, especially with only one of the on-screen birds firing at you. However, the real fun begins when the birds start dividing and proceeding to kamikaze you into oblivion. More seasoned players will probably want to start at variation five in order to get to this stage immediately. Demon Attack is a must-have, but don’t think of it as a substitute for Phoenix, which you should have in your collection as well. A-

More Info: Demon Attack on Atari Age. For current listings of Demon Attack for sale on eBay, click here

demonstodiamonds_atarigameDemons to Diamonds (Atari, 1982)

I’ll always have a soft spot for Demons to Diamonds. It wasn’t a childhood favourite – if anything I actively avoided it because for some strange reason it was marketed as a kiddie game. No, I was well into my adult years before I ever played this game, the result of a thoughtful Christmas gift. It was a plug-and-play unit that included all of the Atari- and Sears-produced paddle games. It was great playing old favourites like Warlords and Super Breakout again and I credit that gift for reigniting my interest in Atari and video games in general. Of the games I had never played, Demons to Diamonds caught my interest immediately. The game concept is simple: you shoot the red demons and every time you hit one a diamond appears on the edge of the screen that you can shoot for extra points before it flies across the screen and smashes on the other side. Complicating matters are the purple demons. Although they do not shoot at you, if you accidentally shoot one of them it turns into a skeleton that will drop bombs down on your ship. Trying to avoid shooting the purple demons provides the game’s primary challenge because the little buggers get everywhere. Naturally, difficulty scales up quickly and before you know it you’re playing one of the most insane games in all of classic gaming. Points off, though, for the godawful sound effects which come to be more grating as the game becomes more chaotic. B

More Info: Demons to Diamonds on Atari Age. For current listings of Demons to Diamonds for sale on eBay, click here

desertfalcon_atarigameDesert Falcon (Atari, 1988)

I’m just speculating here, but I think the reason the Atari 7800 underperformed was partly because of games like Desert Falcon for the Atari 2600. Confused? Hear me out. As you probably know, the Atari 7800 was compatible with 2600 cartridges. Desert Falcon, to my interpretation, was something of a signature piece for the 7800 on the basis of its stunning graphics and isometric gameplay. So you think Atari would have the common sense to leave well enough alone and not release a graphically-inferior version for the 2600 which, again, the 7800 could also play. But no. Instead, they pulled the same old marketing maneuver they did with the 5200: instead of having confidence in, and creating exclusive titles for, their new state-of-the-art system, Atari proceeded to duplicate 7800 games for the 2600, in the process creating consumer confusion. Keep to the KISS principle: keep it simple, stupid.

Unfortunately, Desert Falcon on either system fails the KISS test. It’s just overly complicated for a game that could have been perfectly enjoyable as a Zaxxon-style isometric shooter. Like Zaxxon, you judge altitude and line up your shots based on the size of the enemy’s shadows. However, in this game you also have all these stupid objects to pick up for points and to gain “super powers.” This leads to another problem: some super powers require you to pick up objects in specific orders in order to attain them. That would be fine for a dungeon-crawling adventure, but in a fast-action shooting game it’s something that requires too much thought and wastes precious milliseconds. At least with the 7800 version you have those awesome graphics – the ones on display here are garbage and I’m talking by 2600 standards. Pretty good music, though – not actually that much different from the 7800 version (helps they run on the same sound chip). D

More Info: Desert Falcon on Atari Age. For current listings of Desert Falcon for sale on eBay, click here

digdug_atarigame

Dig Dug (Atari, 1983)

Back when I was a lad I sold a Coleco Ms. Pac-Man arcade tabletop unit to fund my purchase of Dig Dug and I’ve never regretted it. It may be entirely possible that between the arcade version, the 2600 port as well as the 5200 and NES versions that I may well have logged more hours on Dig Dug in my lifetime than virtually any other video game. In some ways this review writes itself because it is so reflective of my opinions on so many arcade translations for the 2600, especially those by Atari itself: no, you won’t get the graphics of the original, but the gameplay is virtually spot-on. This is especially important to me in this instance because Dig Dug is one of my favourite games of all time in any format. And playing it today in 2016 the magic is not gone – it’s still the same great Pooka-exploding, dragon-crushing, vegetable-grabbing fun it’s always been. Dare I say the clichéd words? Yes – no Atari 2600 collection is complete without it. A+

More Info: Dig Dug on Atari Age. For current listings of Dig Dug for sale on eBay, click here

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