Woodgrain Wonderland is a look back at the Atari 2600 and its pivotal role in video game history. I started this out of a concern that this venerable console — and by extension the entire first and second generation of programmable video game consoles (including Intellivision, Colecovision and the Odyssey 2) — was falling out of favour among a classic gaming community focused on the NES onwards. It’s my position that the best Atari 2600 games are still fun today, and I want to make sure you know about them. There will be lots of features and reviews, with the centerpiece being my attempt to review every single commercially-released Atari 2600 game plus every homebrew I can get my hands on. Expect lots of content. Click here to see current Atari 2600 listings on eBay.
Attempting to review every Atari 2600 game ever produced is a big order and — as I’ve learned over the past year since I started Woodgrain Wonderland — is far more complex than I originally thought. So I’m adding these policies as a guiding document to what I’ll review, letter grades and homebrews:
What I’ll review. For the most part, if a player can attach a controller to an Atari 2600 console and play it as a more or less complete game, I will review it. What I’m talking about here applies mostly to prototypes. The McDonald’s prototype, for example, obviously does not fulfill the above criteria, but what about an obviously unfinished yet playable prototype such as Elevator Action? That brings me to my next point.
Letter grades. Prototypes that are playable but seem to be unfinished will receive a review but not a letter grade. This is because I feel it is unfair to grade unfinished prototypes on the same scale as games that were released commercially. I admit this requires some judgment on my part; in a lot of cases it’s clear from both historical documentation and gameplay whether or not a given prototype is a complete game. If it does qualify as such, the proto will receive a letter grade.
Homebrews. Homebrews are graded on the same scale as the mass market games released from 1977 to 1992. I do this for a couple of reasons. For one, most homebrews are available for purchase and are thus subject to critical review. For another, the average quality of most homebrews has been good enough to compete with the old mass market games. In some cases they’re better.
If you’ve noticed a few exclusions of games in the blog so far that are not covered by the explanations above, there are a few reasons for that: a.) I do not yet own the Starpath Supercharger or the Stella Gets a New Brain software so I have been unable to review the games associated with that peripheral, b.) I don’t yet have access to a game or c.) I simply missed it. My goal for the future is to fill in these blanks as circumstances allow me to do so.