Atari 2600 Game Reviews: Mogul Maniac through Moon Patrol

MogulManiac_AtariGameMogul Maniac (Amiga, 1983)

I had heard a lot of good things about Mogul Maniac, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed. It’s a slalom ski game that is much the same as Activision’s earlier Skiing, except from a first-person rather than an overhead perspective. Although the first-person view adds some novelty value, Skiing is by far the more challenging and overall superior game. With Mogul Maniac, you will likely be hitting the most difficult game variations before you can even find a challenge worth the effort.

Part of the problem could be that the game is meant to be played with Amiga’s joypad (think of a very early version of the WiiFit board). Although Mogul Maniac can be played with a standard joystick, in the instruction manual Amiga really touts the joypad as the optimal way of experiencing the game, so maybe I’m missing something.

That still doesn’t help the graphics. Now, I realize that scaling on the Atari 2600 was almost always an ugly proposition – it’s simply not something it was built for. I typically tend to ignore poor scaling if the game is fun enough, but Mogul Maniac simply isn’t. I do like the “whoosh” sound the game makes when you round the poles, however.

Mogul Maniac isn’t bad, but if you want only one skiing game in your Atari 2600 collection, I would certainly recommend Skiing over it. C-

More Info: Mogul Maniac on AtariAge. For current listings of Mogul Maniac for sale on eBay, click here

MondoPong_AtariGameMondo Pong (Homebrew, 1997)

The fundamental appeal of Pong lies in its simplicity, so I have a hard time getting behind homebrews like Mondo Pong and JoustPong which attempt to put new spins on the basic concept. At the same time, I can see the appeal of doing so from a designer’s perspective – it’s pretty easy for a competent programmer to design a Pong variant for the 2600 (it was what it was originally meant to do, after all) and it’s probably considered great fun to work something new into such a tried-and-tested game.

Designed by Piero Cavino (who also designed the brilliant homebrew Oystron), Mondo Pong adds crazy, unpredictable balls to the standard Pong gamefield. The one-or-two-player game includes score limit options of 15 and 45 as well as “normal” and “hard” variants. There are always two balls at the same time so games will often speed by quickly regardless of the score option you choose. Mondo Pong is a nice novelty, but I’ll stick with Video Olympics, which includes all the “serious” versions of Pong imagined up to that point. C

Mondo Pong does not appear to be available through the AtariAge Store, so if you’re interested try your luck with eBay.

More Info: Mondo Pong on AtariAge. For current listings of Mondo Pong for sale on eBay, click here

Monstercise_AtariGameMonstercise (Atari Prototype, Developed 1984)

Hey, when I said I intended to review every game for the Atari 2600, I meant it. Prototypes, homebrews – if you can make an object move on a screen using an Atari 2600 controller, I want to at least acknowledge it. And that’s pretty much all Monstercise – a seemingly very-incomplete would-have-been entry in Atari and the Children’s Television Workshop’s Sesame Street game series – allows you to do. Unlike several games under that banner I’ve reviewed so far such as Cookie Monster Munch, Monstercise is not really a playable game. Cookie Monster shines a spotlight on different monsters on the screen and they’re supposed to dance or something. That’s the most I’ve been able to get out of it because there’s not a lot of information available. Like all of these Sesame Street titles, it looks good. Not much else to say.

More Info: Monstercise on AtariAge. For current listings of Monstercise for sale on eBay, click here

MontezumasRevenge_AtariGameMontezuma’s Revenge (Parker Brothers, 1984)

Montezuma’s Revenge proves that Activision did not have a monopoly on precision run-and-jump treasure-hunting platformers. But even more than that, it’s a game with a lot of STUFF: rolling skulls, snakes, giant spiders, lava pits, freaking laser gates and more that you must variously jump over, slide under and glide through with often pixel-perfect accuracy. It all combines into one glorious multilevel extravaganza that combines the best elements of the Pitfall games with some unique tricks of its own.

The “plot” of Montezuma’s Revenge is simple: find your way to the room of jewels in Montezuma’s fortress, in the process collecting a variety of objects – keys, swords, torches and enemy-thwarting amulets – that will help you in your quest. Unlike so many similar games, there are no rules as to how many objects you can carry – if you can find it, you can use it – and there is no time limit. Parker Brothers (or more accurately developer Wickstead Design) must have decided the game was hard enough without those traditional elements, and if so they were right. Montezuma’s Revenge features the perfect blend of challenge and gameplay depth for an Atari 2600 game, and it will probably become a title you return to again and again.

The graphics, while hardly Activision-quality, are nevertheless colourful and expressive. Very little sound, but what’s there is pleasant enough, with a happy little ditty that plays when you capture a gem or object and a short, sharp buzz when you die. You’ll probably want to grab some pencil and paper (remember them?) to map this bad boy out. Much fun to be had here. A-

More Info: Montezuma’s Revenge on AtariAge. For current listings of Montezuma’s Revenge for sale on eBay, click here

MoonPatrol_AtariGameMoon Patrol (Atari, 1983)

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Moon Patrol. It’s another one of those games where I hit a certain wall of success but can’t exceed that limit. On the other hand, it’s freakin’ Moon Patrol for crying out loud – a bona fide classic of the golden age of arcade video games translated admirably here to the Atari 2600. And we’re lucky to have it too; there seems to be a higher-than-normal number of shoddy rip-offs of the game available for the system (Gas Hog, James Bond 007 and Mission Survive all spring to mind), so it’s nice to have a port that – from the best I can tell – captures the gameplay of the original as well as the 2600 can be expected to do so.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, Atari 2600 Moon Patrol is the only Moon Patrol I’ve ever played. However, having looked at videos of the original and other ports on YouTube, the 2600 version does not seem too far off the mark minus the usual quibbles about graphical differences and whatnot. Speaking of which, this is a pretty good-looking game with few if any flashing sprites. A vaguely spy-movie-sounding 12-bar blues plays in the background but can be turned off with the left difficulty switch, although I don’t know why you’d want to because it’s actually pretty good.

The game offers three difficulty variations: easy, medium and hard – a good difficulty range for a post-1982 Atari cart, which often tended to eschew game variations and difficulty settings. The easy “teddy bear” variant isn’t the kid’s stuff most Atari games tagged in that manner tend to be; unlike its counterpart in Berzerk, for example, the alien spaceships actually shoot at you. The craters and rocks are generally a little more reasonably spaced than in the higher difficulty ranges. It’s actually a pretty good practice variation. The right difficulty switch toggles between a moon buggy with two gears in the “B” position and three in “A” although I really can’t tell the difference.

Moon Patrol is a quality cart that, while frustrating at times, offers a lot of long-term gameplay value. B

More Info: Moon Patrol on AtariAge. For current listings of Moon Patrol for sale on eBay, click here

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