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Background

The Atari 2600 QuickTake reviews were short (one to several paragraph) reviews of Atari 2600 games, designed to give readers outline knowledge and brief opinions of games without going into greater detail. Wilson believed that players were better off playing the games themselves, to obtain their own intricate understandings and experiences.

The Reviews

Asteroids


A lot of times, a massive quantity of copies being left indicates that too many were printed, way beyond consumer demand. HOWEVER... this is a pretty darned good port! Have your finger quick to the trigger, 'cause you'll be rapidly firing off shots (well... two at a time) at multiple-colored asteroids, which should be an easy task given that the rocks generally go top-to-bottom... oh, and UFOs, which, with some luck, will crash into the asteroids and dispose of themselves for you. Gameplay varieties include a brief 2-second shield and a half circle flip, and feel free to take advantage of the teleportation scheme that allows your ship to disappear and reappear, although possibly into an inescapable situation.

A little bit more rotation of the 'roids would be nice, but all in all, Asteroids remains good, simple space shootin' fun to this very day.


Bowling


I played this in my friend's grandfather's basement a lot when I was a kid, but I won't let that bias my point-of-view. Sure, the orange floor is blinding, but it's fun to move your guy (who is at least a tad more fleshed out than your usual stick figure man) up and down, let it rip, and hope you beat your buddy's score. You can straight up lay the ball down the lane, give it a bit of a twist, or move it like you have ESP, making strikes and spares a sinch (TURKEY!). So, ugly to look at, but chat up a storm about the half-clothed broad you saw at the bar last night while aimin' for those gorgeous three strikes in a row, and you won't care a bit.


E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial


No matter how hard I try, I can never put it into words. You've heard all the stories about the cartridges buried in a New Mexico landfill, but... this is regarded as not only Atari's most colossal failure, even with all the stuff about not giving their employees proper credit for their manpower in making and releasing games and the unmoderated saturation of the market with crappy generalized titles that barely resemble the licenses they came from, and, well... look at E.T. This game alone (well, along with Pac-Man... more on that further down this page) is considered to be a driving force behind the Atari Debacle, which startled game players, makers, sellers, and industry prognosticators alike into thinking that console gaming may be a doomed cause...

What I'm about to describe doesn't sound terribly bad on the surface, even with all that in mind. You're E.T. You need to run away from FBI agents, fall into pits, and collect parts of a phone so you can call home. Nibble on Reese's Pieces to restore your energy, which I suppose rapidly falls due to E.T.'s low blood sugar. When to actually quit the game is up to you, unless you die. Fair enough. Except...

The pits are damned hard to get out of without fallin' back in. Plus they're all over. And that's the ballgame, folks. That's what E.T. is alllllll about. Falling into pits. ... You can guarantee that critics panned the crap out of this gameplay scheme, along with the plot elements that set it up. Combine that with the disappointment of the license, and... yeah. Maybe you were disappointed in Ninja Turtles for the NES, or, better yet... Back to the Future... oh, how people hate Back to the Future like they hate mosquito bites, walking on broken glass, and having to pay for the story of Xenu... but this... this game is so freakin' bad that in many gamers' eyes, you can't mention the movie without thinking about the game. And that memory of just how horribly and monotonous the game is sucks away any and all of the fun you may've had as a little boy or girl watching your favorite alien who doesn't eat cats and whistle with his mouth shut.

Word is Steven Spielberg wanted a game like Pac-Man. And oh, if he had only paid attention to what happened to our favorite yellow pizza with an empty slice mouth, he may have... shrugged his shoulders in indifference, because neither idea would've been anything short of a catastrophic disaster. Childrens' tears, teddy bear blood, and sick, sick puppies, E.T. for the 2600 is.


Frogger (Parker Bros. Version and Starpath Version)


Right behind Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros., Frogger has gotten some truly epic pop culture references. Remember the Seinfeld scene where George has to get the arcade machine across the street to preserve his high score, only for the thing to get smashed by NY City traffic? ... How could you forget? Classic George. It just never works out for the poor ol' balded fat guy...

The version I'm showing off here is the Parker Bros. version from 1982--look out for the 'official' '84 version from Starpath, because it's an upgrade (particularly graphically, but it's straight up truer to the arcade version and features some kickin' tunes) worth purchasing even if you have the PB cart. Of course, it would cost ya more, and it requires the Supercharger add-on (it's a cassette, in case you haven't seen those things for the Atari 2600 before), so... aw well, for practicality purposes, we'll stick with the Parker Bros. version. Inferior or not, it's still freakin' FROGGER!

As far as the gameplay goes, I'm sure 95% of you know this, but for the remaining five: You're a froggie who needs to cross a street of speeding trucks and cars before hopping across a river fulla creepies like snakes and crockies. Each section takes up roughly half the screen, and the graphics are appropriately colored brightly, but in the Starpath version, everything's brighter and more detailed, such as the woodgraining in the swamp logs and the size/coloring of the cars' wheels. In other words... you know how so many of the arcade classics for the Atari 2600 rely on addictive, reflexive gameplay to make up for super simplistic character models and lack of color variety? Well... this has ALL of that stuff going for it, and then some, especially if you've got the Starpath version. EGAD, MAN! Egad...

Get this and play it with your girlfriend. Or ask a girl if she would like to play Frogger at your apartment tonight, and hope she doesn't smack you.


Haunted House


Guide what looks like Meatwad from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, who has 9 lives... didn't know Meatwad is a cat... through a haunted 4-story, 24-room mansion, and gather all 3 pieces of an urn so that you can get the heck outta there before something spooooky happens! As this is a Halloweeny game, there are bats, ghosts, and spiders hangin' about, and door slams, thunder/lightning, and footsteps can be overheard in the darkness. You don't have to worry about not being able to light anything up anymore, and there's a key that can unlock everything (sure could use that in Castlequest for the NES). There are 9 difficulty levels (why 9s? why not 13s? Gawwwd!), so this is a decent time for most 2600 collectors. And while not the eeriest thing ever, for this console's standards, it's impressive enough.


Joust


Clench your lance and air-ride your ostrich past the platforms on screen by smackin' off your foes or bumping 'em like an avian bumper car (but look out for those hatchin' eggs and the actually non-randomly appearing pterodactyl). And do it two-player, if you wanna! Everything is pedestrian looking in its single-colored glory, but Joust is available on the Atari 2600, 5200, 7800, 8-bit, Lynx and ST home, so feel free to tell me if you think this was a properly ported arcade port. ... Besides, if it wasn't, it'd have a Pac-Man 2600 esque reputation.


Jungle Hunt


Jungle Hunt is one of the proudest members of the arcade-to-console line of Atari titles... even if the arcade version was called Jungle King, and the prototype, Jungle Boy. So King, Boy, and Hunt are all synonyms now? ... Anyway, the swinging vines move so crisply it's beautiful (also, points for the accompanying sound blip), and when you fall into the abyss, you really feel like you fudged up. Cross a crock-brimmed river in the second stage and dodge giant freakin' boulders (remind you of Zelda?) and evade spear-wielding cannibals before starting over on a rougher difficulty setting. Enjoy the depth of the jungle background, because, again, few titles for this system can get that effect across, either. Think of it as a lesser Pitfall as you wish, and it certainly isn't as colorful, but it's right there in the 'fun' column.


Kool-Aid Man


How would you like it if the Kool-Aid Man came bursting through your wall, and... WHO CARES!?!?!? HE WRECKED YOUR FRICKING WALL!!!!! Man, your parents are gonna be pis't. But really, you get that in the game's intro, which should be refreshing to anyone out there who actually cares about that sort of thing (I own at least one Kool-Aid Man comic, so I guess I'm supposed to). Get rid of all of the Thirsties before they suck up all of the pool's water by touchin' 'em while they're quencing their thirst (check for the straw). Touch one who ain't drinkin' the Kool-Aid (literally) and you're gettin' pushed back and there goes your time. Not a bad game. I mean, what else are you gonna do with the Kool-Aid Man presence? See who can shatter his glass body and drink him up the fastest?


Pac-Man


Everything you know about this port is RIGHT. Blue background, orange lines... ow ow ow ow ow. I don't care if you normally use black to represent emptiness or space... Pac-Man needs it, now USE it! The flickering effect the ghosts give off (as they take turns appearing on screen) makes it too demanding to keep track of ghost movement, and the maze pattern change is just... the original Pac-Man is meant to have a top-down feel, and this is just fried poo on a stick that, due to having a very popular name, sold 7 million units and became the highest-selling 2600 game. Of course, like an *NSYNC album in 2011, no one wanted to buy this by the Summer (only a few months since the March '82 release), and many, many copies remained unsold or returned. Those unsold copies alone totaled a cool 5 mil.

I know that they didn't have the stuff to properly mimic the arcade game, but if you're gonna make a port, make it good in its own right, utilizing the console's hardware to the best of capabilities. If this is the best they could do, they shoulda done nothing.


Moon Patrol


Arcade games made for the best 2600 games, given the simplistic, reflexive gameplay... that, and during the 2600 era, worries about losing graphic and sound quality from arcade to console weren't as much of a concern. Shoot out them stones, hop over pits (eurgh, now I'm reminded over E.T.), tree-like things and more, explode UFOs (hopefully they didn't come in peace but were just scared of us, 'cause I'd feel bad about that), and that's 'bout it. Graphics are a bit plain in terms of the rigid mountain scene and black night sky, but I find that the blue, green, and black meshes well and is far from an eyesore. Figure out when to jump and when to adjust your speed, and this one's a keeper. Oh, and look at the pic above for the cartridge art. Looks just like a 50s sci-fi b-movie, and you know I love that sort of thing. ;P


Yars' Revenge


Yarrrrrr!!! ... No, wait, it ain't a pirate game. And by Yars', does this mean... there are more than one of these red-eyed parasitic Satans!?!? No, wait, Yars's can be shortened to Yars'... English grammar rules... ... yarrrrrrgh...

A must-own for teh 2600, YR is actually named after the CEO of Atari, Ray (backwards... kinda like Alucard and Dracula) Kassar, and was created, of all people, by the E.T. dude (of course, E.T. came later... I can't imagine he would've had the opportunity to make this if it was released the other way around). Also gave us Raiders of the Lost Ark, prior to E.T. So, the order went: Great, Good, YARRRRGHHHHHH.

You play as a space bug who needs to obliterate the mechanical 'Qotile', startin' by blasting the psychedelically-colored shield between ya. Unfortunately for Yar (I'm assuming the title is a reference to his species), the 'Quotile' swirls out at ya, though it can be put to bed with practice. Your other ever-so-present enemy is a seemingly unshakable homing missile, though hanging out 'round the center of the game screen will do ye well. This crap is hard, but stick with it and before you know it, you'll be more concerned with your score and figurin' out that easy ending your other gaming geek buddies have been hinting about.

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