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!
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE–
Better get used to that sound! It’s Fantastic Voyage, an extremely timely 1982 release from Sirius Software that adapts the 1966 movie (or possibly Isaac Asimov’s novelisation) about injecting tiny submarines into scientists to blast health problems from within.
It’s actually a very enjoyable shooter — albeit one that isn’t going to blow your mind with its visuals, being barely distinct from its Atari 2600 counterpart. It plays well, though… and you’ll be hearing that beep-beep-beep in your sleep!
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 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!
Today it’s time for one of my favourite early Activision titles, and a great game from designer Garry Kitchen. Kitchen, if you’re unfamiliar, was responsible for the Atari 2600 version of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong, and also the wonderful Pressure Cooker, the spiritual precursor to popular indie title Overcooked.
Keystone Kapers kasts you in the role of Keystone Kelly, a kopper who is keen to katch his kriminal nemesis, Hooligan Harry. Harry, it seems, likes hanging out in department stores, and thus begins an increasingly ridiculous series of chase scenes up to the rooftop of the store, with Kelly being forced to dodge all manner of mundane yet perilous obstacles that put his mission at risk.
Loosely inspired by the old Keystone Kops movies, Keystone Kapers is simple to learn but tough to master — and a near-perfect example of what early ’80s Activision was all about.
That’s a title and a half, isn’t it? Even thirty-five years after its original launch, “Attack of the Mutant Camels” is still a delightful piece of titling prowess that just rolls off the tongue.
Attack of the Mutant Camels is one of the most well-known games put out in the 8-bit era by the hairiest man in games, Jeff Minter. Based quite obviously on the Atari 2600 adaptation of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, it’s a real showcase game for what the humble Atari 8-bit could achieve in the hands of a master.
Combining Minter’s love of underappreciated animals, sci-fi, prog rock and psychedelia, Attack of the Mutant Camels may be simplistic in structure and mechanics, but it remains a beloved part of many Atari 8-bit collections with very good reason.