Thanks to the 2 Warps to Neptune blog, fine purveyor of retro goodness, I have temporary possession of an Atari 7800 and a handful of games. See 80s Flashback: Atari 7800 (Part One) for some unboxing photos and to see how my daughters and I reacted games such as Pitfall!, Donkey Kong Junior, and BurgerTime.
This time around I take a quick run through the rest of the games that came with the relay. They fall into three categories: The Good, The Bad, and the Sluggish.
I’m including this in the good because it moves fast and has the potential to be fun. Plus, there are enough opportunities for free lives that I was able to play for a while. So what’s the story of Robotron 2084? I’m going to say that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you are the only person in the world who realizes that death-dealing robots are rampaging through the world. Otherwise, how to explain the busty blondes and staid businessmen who aimlessly wander around the screen while I sacrifice life after to life to rescue their clueless behinds?
This game would probably get an unqualified “Good” rating from me if you could shoot and fire in different directions at once, like in the arcade. Without that ability, it’s impossible to run away from bad guys while also shooting at them. One tactic to get around this is to hang out in the center of the screen and perform a Death Blossom, but once the bad guys who shoot me-seeking projectiles show up, that strategy falls apart.
I almost gave up on this game after a few quick deaths, but my 2-year-olds encouraged me to keep going. I made it to Wave 10 on Novice mode, so now my life is complete.
Ms. Pac Man
This game is a classic, and the Atari 7800 version is fairly nimble and arcade-like. I could play this one on a regular basis. ‘Nuff said.
This is another classic that seems to have ported over well to the 7800. My daughters approved of its fast pace and were shouting out encouragement and suggestions. When the centipedes started to drill down and the spiders began to frantically zig-zag across the screen, one daughter exclaimed, “Everybody’s getting busy!” While I didn’t see that happening in the game, it did keep my interest until my thumb got tired of button-mashing.
I’m not especially good at this game, but it is still a fun Space Invaders-ish experience. My girls enjoyed watching me fail at the game.
Daughter: Awww, Daddy, that not a hard game.
Me: I should be doing better?
Daughter: (commands) Yeah, you do better!
Me: Okay, okay. I’ll try again!
Then, when I was trying to get the second fighter to attach to my first one, I got this advice.
Daughter: You need to put them together!
Me: I’m trying, I’m trying.
Daughter: But you’re not doing it?
Me: No. No, I’m not.
Man, these girls are tough backseat game players!
Tron Deadly Discs
This is actually an Atari 2600 game and boy does it feel like it, from the basic graphics to the simplistic gameplay. You play as Tron, I presume, who runs like he’s stuck in a vat of honey and who is doomed to forever fling his memory disc at enemy programs. Each time he is hit, he changes color, until at some point (I didn’t keep track of the number) he changes color enough times to die. When you throw your disc, you have to wait a sometimes painfully long time for it to boomerang back to you. Given that limitation, I expected that the disc would at least hurt enemies coming and going, but no, on its way back to you it is harmless. Fail.
I have vague memories of this game being more fun on the Intellivision (which I played at a friend’s house), but that might be nostalgia giving it a rosy glow. The best thing that can be said about this game is that it allowed for this lolcat-esque conversation, which made me laugh:
Me: Ah, derezzed!
Daughter: Why you got derezzed?
I couldn’t resist whipping this up.
This game has potential. Jousting on flying ostriches who pop out an egg when you kill them? Sure, count me in. Unfortunately, it mostly involves me bouncing off of platforms, out of control, until someone jousts me before I can joust them.
I was never very good at Joust and I don’t have the patience to try to improve. One major complaint: I come up from behind and joust someone, and I still die because I’m lower than them? What did he do? Backhand me?
Pole Position II
I am horrible at this game. My 10-year-old nephew played it and had no problems. We shall speak no more of this.
Daughter: You didn’t win the level!
Me: I don’t know if there’s even an end to this level!
That pretty much sums up my experience with Xevious. It seems to be a spiritual predecessor to the more fast-paced and maneuverable 1941 and its sequels, but I found it incredibly slow and frustrating. Apparently there are multiple levels and end-bosses, but I couldn’t reach one.
When I asked my daughters to describe this game, one of them said, “Everyone was ‘shotting’ you.” That pretty much sums it up. This game gets pretty good reviews on atariage.com, so I guess “It’s not you, Xevious. It’s me.”
You dig in the ground and use your hose to blow up little critters, unless the critters gang up on you and then you’re the one that gets hosed.
The controls on the Atari 7800 are too sluggish for my taste. I waddled along and tried my best to over-inflate the bad guys, but they burst my bubble time after time.
I know, I know. This game has reduced me to bad puns.
Trivia: The makers of Wreck-It Ralph wanted Ralph to give a piece of fruit (from Pac Man) to a homeless Dig Dug, but Namco nixed the idea of an unemployed Dig Dug. The job ended up going to Q*Bert, and now my daughters know and love Q*Bert. Way to drop the ball, Namco.
This is a simpler version of Gauntlet, basically. For the full explanation, check out the Wikipedia entry for a game called Dandy. Or just take my word for it. It’s like Gauntlet except you move around slowly and each time you hit an enemy, it devolves to the next lowest type of bad guy until it disappears. You eat food, blow up enemy-spawning devices, and get a key to go down to the next level. For a lovely, scathing review, check out this one at atarihq.com.
That’s the end of my adventures with the Atari 7800. Even though some of the games were frustrating, I was pleasantly surprised at the staying power of games like Pitfall!, Ms. Pac Man, and Centipede. They’re still as good for killing time in 2013 as they were in the ’80s.
If you want to try your hand at these games in all their original, unemulated glory, head over to this post on 2 Warps to Neptune. A soap.com box could be winging its way to you before you know it.
Image credits as per captions except for the following: