Tag Archives: Atari VCS

Combat Two

One of the coolest things about the Atari Flashback devices and compilations that have been released over the course of the last few years is the number of prototypes included.

In many cases, these prototypes were complete games that just didn’t get released for one reason or another; such is the case with Combat Two, a game originally set to come out in 1984, but which was a victim of the great crash of ’83.

Fortunately, we can play it today thanks to ongoing preservation efforts — and it’s an interesting twist on the tank battle formula of the original Combat, offering a very different competitive experience for two players to enjoy.

Championship Soccer

I detest most real-life sports, but I’ve been known to have a bit of fun with digital recreations of sporting activities over the years; they make great, easily understandable competitive affairs, after all.

My favourite sporting games are those that don’t try too hard to be realistic simulations; those that simply make use of straightforward, abstract mechanics that provide a rough approximation of the basic rules of the sport. Games that you can just pick up and play without having to worry about the more complex side of things.

As it happens, Championship Soccer for Atari 2600 is a great example of this. It resembles football in only the most cursory of ways — but it’s actually quite an enjoyable competitive game of skill, even for those of us who don’t really like sports!

Canyon Bomber

David Crane is probably most well-known for his classic (and genre-defining) platformer for Activision, Pitfall!

But the prolific programmer worked on a bunch of things for Atari before jumping ship to a company that was more than happy to credit its developers for their hard work. One such example was the Atari 2600 version of Canyon Bomber.

To call this a port is a bit unfair; it actually offers quite a bit more than the arcade version does in terms of ways to play — including the closest we’ll get to a home port of Destroyer!

Breakout

Bip! Boop! Bip! Boop! It’s an iconic sound of the late ’70s: a computerised simulation of some sort of bat-and-ball game. And few games of this type are more classic or influential than Breakout.

The Atari 2600 version of Breakout offers a variety of ways to play, including several multiplayer modes. This technically made the home console version a superior experience to the arcade machine… which is a phenomenon we wouldn’t really encounter again until roughly the Dreamcast era.

Anyway, Breakout for 2600 is a good time, particularly if you’ve got some friends to play with. If you’re flying solo, Super Breakout may be a better choice… but that’s a story for another day!

Brain Games

It’s good to give the ol’ noggin a bit of a workout now and again, and that’s exactly what 1978’s Brain Games for Atari 2600 intended to do.

Consisting of several different games relating to memory and perception, Brain Games is a surprisingly fun little package that is all the more remarkable when you consider how early in the VCS’ lifetime it came out.

It was also a direct influence on the popular children’s toy Simon, so it’s got genuine historical significance, too!

Bowling

With a few occasional exceptions, sports games these days tend to be limited to a few “safe” options.

You’ve got your football, you’ve got your American football, sometimes you have your golf; very occasionally you have your Olympics. But ten-pin bowling? I can’t remember the last time I saw a game based around that for a modern computer.

Back in 1978, however, developers were still working out what kinds of sporting rules and structure worked and didn’t work in the electronic space. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not Bowling for Atari 2600 does the noble pursuit of hurling heavy things at skittles justice!

Black Jack

I’ve never been especially good at gambling. Largely because I don’t do it a lot.

Experimenting with simulated gambling doesn’t fill me with a ton of confidence, you see, because games like this are an excellent way to see that, inevitably, if you keep going you’ll end up with nothing more often than not.

Here’s Black Jack, a launch title for the Atari 2600, and a game which Video Magazine gave a perfect 10 out of 10 rating in 1979.

Backgammon

A big part of the early Atari 2600 library consisted of digital adaptations of tabletop games — including several that could be played solo against a computer opponent.

One such example was Backgammon, a fairly comprehensive package that allowed one or two players to play Backgammon or Acey Deucey, with or without a “doubling cube” to facilitate gambling.

I’m not good at Backgammon, but aside from this adaptation’s bizarre paddle-based control system, this seems like as good a way as any to learn!

Asteroids

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…

Armor Ambush

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.