The puzzle game genre as a whole arguably didn’t really hit its stride until the 16-bit home console era rolled around. But there were numerous attempts prior to that “golden age” to provide mind-bending puzzles for gamers at home.
One fascinating example was Atari Video Cube, a three-dimensional colour puzzle loosely based on the famous Rubik’s Cube. In fact, in a subsequent reprint of the game, Atari acquired the Rubik license and rereleased it as Rubik’s Cube — much to the chagrin of Atari 2600 collectors, who note that it is the exact same game, released with a different part number.
I really like this game. It melts my brain a bit, but I enjoy it a great deal. If you’re looking for an interesting way to flex your mental muscles a bit, this remains an enjoyable challenge to wrap your grey matter around even today!
Mattel’s “M Network” label brought over a variety of classic Intellivision titles to Atari’s 2600 platform.
One of these games that seems to have always proven quite popular is Astroblast, originally known as Astrosmash on its original host platform.
It’s a fairly simple fixed shooter in which you blast space rocks into smithereens while attempting to protect your planet… but hoo boy, is it ever addictive!
It’s that time again: the time when we strap ourselves into a small triangle and blast some space rocks into increasingly smaller space rocks until they disappear.
Yes, it’s Asteroids again, this time in its Atari 2600 incarnation. This was a well-regarded port at the time of original release, and noteworthy from a historical perspective for being one of the first games to make use of “bank-switching”, allowing for higher-capacity cartridges that made use of more data. Asteroids for 2600 is twice the size of earlier 2600 games at a mighty 8K!
It also offers “66 video games”. Can’t say better value than that, can you? Even if there’s actually only 33 video games, and they’re all very similar to one another…
With a few exceptions, Mattel’s “M Network” label was established to port a number of well-received Intellivision titles to Atari’s 2600 platform.
Due to the disparity in capabilities between the two platforms, however, this porting process wasn’t necessarily completely straightforward. The Atari controller had considerably fewer buttons than the Intellivision’s weird monstrosity, for one thing — and the system itself was much less powerful.
Still, while technically inferior to its Intellivision counterpart, Armor Ambush for Atari 2600 (known as Armor Battle in its original incarnation) is an enjoyable take on the two-player tank battle genre — and offers a few interesting twists not seen in Atari’s classic Combat.
One of the most interesting things about retro platforms like the Atari 2600 is that they still play host to tons of undiscovered treasures just waiting to be explored, decades later.
Many of these treasures — usually in the form of unreleased or prototype games — have been unearthed and shared with the world through the Atari Flashback Classics collection. And a great example of just that is Aquaventure, a game about diving beneath the waves in search of hidden booty.
This game was seemingly complete and ready to release, so one can only guess at why it never ended up on store shelves!
An all-time classic of the Atari 2600’s library is launch title Air-Sea Battle, a simplistic but enjoyable fixed shooter with a variety of different ways to play.
Air-Sea Battle is an excellent example of what you could expect from early 2600 titles that promised “27 video games” or similar. Those “27” video games would be a lot of variations on the same theme — but there’d sometimes be some surprising and enjoyable differences between them!
Air-Sea Battle shines as a two-player game, even today, but it’s still an enjoyable high score-chaser solo. Which is your favourite of the 27 variations?
Let’s check out what is regarded by some as one of the best flight simulators on the Atari 2600!
To be fair, this isn’t a particularly high bar to clear or anything, but Air Raiders is a solid, enjoyable enough game, so long as you pay attention to its unusual structure and mechanics. It’s also historically noteworthy as one of the only “M Network” Atari 2600 releases from Mattel that wasn’t a port of an Intellivision title.
It’s also nowhere near as well-known as some of the more established classics of the Atari 2600 canon, so that’s as good a reason as any to give it a bit of time and attention, hmm?
One of the most interesting things about the retro scene is how these old, supposedly defunct platforms still have plenty of people developing for them.
In some cases, these projects that began as homebrew affairs end up being official follow-ups to established classics, thirty or more years later! Such is the case with Adventure II, which was first released in 2005 as part of the Atari Flashback 2 console.
Mechanically, there’s not much new in Adventure II, but the interesting new map design and cranked up difficulty makes it a distinct experience in its own right!
Hey! Listen! Do you like Zelda? If so, then take a moment to give thanks to 1979’s Adventure for Atari.
Adventure is an early example of a top-down action-adventure, and has been cited as an important influence on the development of subsequent titles such as The Legend of Zelda. While it may look primitive today, its abstract graphics, simple sound and straightforward mechanics still do a surprising amount to stir the imagination, even today.
It’s also the first ever game to feature an “Easter Egg” — and it’s all because the programmer Warren Robinett, quite reasonably, decided that he wanted to actually be credited for his hard work!
One of my favourite things about working on this series is how I come across interesting bits of trivia during my research.
Did you know, for example, that today’s game, 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, was the work of Carol Shaw, an immensely talented programmer perhaps best known for one of my favourite games of all time: River Raid?
It’s not really all that surprising that someone who is good at programming worked on more than one thing in their career, I guess, but, hey, I found it interesting. And 3D Tic-Tac-Toe is a lot harder than it looks!