Retro Game Guy

It's the 1980's again!

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Scramble for the Atari 2600…

Scramble is a video game developed by Konami in 1981 and distributed in the United States by Stern.  It is a side scrolling ‘shoot ‘em up’ with outstanding graphics and game play.  In Scramble, you control an aircraft with the goal of getting as far into the Scramble system as possible.  In addition to controlling the movements of the aircraft, you must also use your guns and bombs to destroy rockets, UFO’s, and fuel tanks.  You must keep an eye on your own fuel and destroy a fuel tank to increase your fuel level.

In Scramble the terrain is constantly changing and you must fight your way through six stages:

  • Stage 1:  Launching Rockets
  • Stage 2:  UFO’s
  • Stage 3:  Meteors
  • Stage 4:  Launching Rockets from tall buildings
  • Stage 5:  Mazes
  • Stage 6:  Base

The Scramble arcade units were powered by two Z80 CPU’s and two AY-3-8910 sound generators.  It was ported to the Commodore 64, Vic 20, and Vectrex, but not to any Atari systems.  Scramble was succeeded by ‘Super Cobra’ which was ported to the Atari 2600, 5200, and 8-bit systems.

Thanks to John Champeau, it is now possible to play Scramble on the Atari 2600.  John started his work on his port of Scramble in 2015 and it was released by AtariAge in mid-2017 with a color manual, poster, and an amazing box.  A number of other AtariAge forum members contributed to the game, including Nathan Strum (graphics), Bob DeCrescenzo (music and sound effects), Michael Haas (sound effects), and Dave Dries (label, box, and manual design).  Additionally, Darrell Spice helped with the DPC+/ARM code and Thomas Jentzsch helped with testing.                         


Scramble for Atari 2600

Scramble for the 2600 is amazingly close to the arcade version and, when playing it, you have to keep reminding yourself that it is an Atari 2600 game.  Like a few other recent homebrew games, John takes advantage of the Melody board to make the 2600 do things once thought not possible!  The graphics and sound are outstanding and all six arcade levels are included.

A really cool feature that John built into the 2600 version of Scramble is the ability to use a Sega Genesis controller.  If plugged in before your 2600 is powered up, Scramble will auto-detect the Genesis controller and allow two button game play (for separate control of firing bombs and missiles).  John also takes advantage of the 2600’s color/B&W switch to implement a pause feature in the game as well as the difficulty switch to allow for single shot or ‘burst mode’ when shooting missiles.

Scramble is a fun game, but it takes a lot of practice to get good at it.   John has built in four difficulty levels which will keep challenging you as you get better at the game.  Scramble is an awesome side scroller for the 2600 which not only pushes the system to its limits, but, also shows that, some forty years after it was first released, the Atari 2600 is still a great home gaming system.  John has really ‘knocked it out of the park’ with Scramble…an absolute must have for your 2600!!!

Scamble 2600

Wild for Scramble!

P.S.  Scramble also plays well on the Atari 7800!


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A few hours at Funspot…

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few hours at Funspot in Laconia New Hampshire.  More specifically, at the American Classic Arcade Museum which is on the upper floor.  For those who have never been to Funspot, they have the most amazing collection of 1980’s arcade games and I had a blast playing Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and many others.

This journey to Funspot was motivated by an event that happened earlier this year.  My local historical society showed ‘King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters’ presented by none other than the current world record holder at Donkey Kong, Robbie Lakeman.  Robbie is a super nice person and it wasn’t long until arrangements were made to meet up a Funspot to play some games.


Robbie & Mark with my Donkey Kong PK cartridge for my Atari 7800

Robbie ended up getting to Funspot about half an hour earlier than I did and had already started playing Donkey Kong.  It didn’t take too long for him to get to level 22 where an overflow condition causes Mario to be killed.  Robbie had made sure to save some lives, so he was able to demonstrate the kill screen three times.  This was something that I had only seen in the movie and YouTube, so it was super cool to see it on a real machine.


Mario at the Level 22 ‘Kill Screen’

Brian Kuh, who now lives nearby Funspot and played a prominent role in ‘King of Kong’, also came over and played some games.  I had a chance to sit down and talk with Brain and Robbie and they were both humble and happy to share their gaming experiences.  Just before I left, Brain and Robbie teamed up to play the latest incarnation of Space Invaders.


Brian Kuh and Robbie Lakeman playing the latest incarnation of Space Invaders

We all had a great time and I can’t wait to meet up again and play some more classic arcade games!