Retro Game Guy

It's the 1980's again!

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Atari 2600 Pac-Man games…

There were three officially released Pac-Man games for the Atari 2600.  In this post, I will discuss these as well as some homebrews and hacks.  Be sure to read my previous post about the arcade versions of these games.


Released by Atari in early 1992, Pac-Man ended up being the best selling game ever for the 2600.  It went on to sell more than seven million copies at $37.95.  That was a heck of a lot of money back in 1982 and would be more than $80 today.  The 2600 version was programmed by Tod Frye who was one of the first Atari programmers to receive royalties.  It has been reported that Tod was paid more than $1 million for his efforts.   Atari spent more than $1.5 million on advertising and marketing for Pac-Man.

Unfortunately, the game was horrible and it looked nothing like the arcade version.  The maze was nothing like the arcade maze and since when did Pac-Man grow an eye?  Pac-Man’s orientation doesn’t change when he changes direction and there is a tremendous amount of flicker with the ghosts.  Supposedly, there were better prototypes that had been developed, but Atari wanted to squeeze the game onto a 4K cartridge to save money.

Pac-man did sell seven million copies, but Atari had produced twelve million and, after playing the game, many customers returned it for a refund.  Thus, Atari ended up with more than five million unsold copies.   Unless you need to have this game for some collecting reasons, don’t even waste one dollar of your money on Pac-Man!

Ms. Pac-Man…

Released by Atari less than a year after Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man turned out to be an excellent port to the 2600.  Maybe the reason why is that it was actually programmed not by Atari, but by Mike Horowitz and Josh Littlefield of General Computer Corp (GCC).   Mike and Josh managed to get pretty close to that arcade experience, given the limitations of the 2600.  In fact, they pretty much have it all…four ghosts, bouncing fruit, animated title screen, four different mazes, and Ms. Pac-Man looks like Ms. Pac-Man.  There is still some flicker, but much improved over Pac-Man.   Ms. Pac-Man uses an 8K cartridge, versus 4K, and it is worth every K!

Ms. Pac-Man belongs in every 2600 collection and is the basis for several hacks.

Jr. Pac-Man…

Developed in 1984, but not released until 1987, Jr. Pac-Man was also programmed for Atari by GCC.  This time, Ava-Robin Cohen did the programming and she did an awesome job.  Once again, almost all of the arcade features are present in the 2600 version and it is a blast to play.  The biggest difference between the arcade and the 2600 version is the scrolling.  The 2600 version scrolls vertically, instead of horizontally.   Other than that, it is all there…Junior, the ghosts, candies, scrolling screen, etc.!

Pac-Man Arcade…

Using the Ms. Pac-Man code as a starting point, Rob Kudla created the Pac-Man that Atari should have done in 1982.  Rob extensively hacked Ms. Pac-Man to create a great version of Pac-Man for the 2600.  The mazes, sounds, graphics, and gameplay are all much closer to the arcade than Atari’s original version.  Photos of the game and several review comments are posted, so be sure to check out AtariAge to learn more about Pac-Man Arcade.

Pac-Man Plus…

Using Rob Kudla’s Pac-Man Arcade as a starting point, Bob ‘PacManPlus’ DeCrescenzo did some additional hacks to create a ‘plus’ version of Pac-Man.  Bob changed the mazes to be green, changed the ghosts to have leafs on their heads, and changed the fruits to match the bonus items in the arcade version.  I don’t think that this variation has been made available on a cart, so you will need a multi-cart or emulator to play to version of Pac-Man Plus.

Pac-Man 4K…

Dennis Debro set out to make a 2600 Pac-Mac version, as close to the arcade as possible, using only a 4K cartridge.   Recently his Pac-Man 4K has become available from the AtariAge store.  For a 4K effort, Dennis has done an amazing job.  The maze, graphics, and gameplay are just about as close as you can get to the arcade, especially given the 4K size of the game.  My only feedback is about the amount of flicker for Pac-Man and the ghosts.  Photos and a video of Pac-Man 4K are posted at AtariAge, so go check them out.  Flicker aside, Dennis has shown what Atari could have done with a 4K limit for Pac-Man!

Hack’em/Hangly Man…

At one point, the folks at Ebivision had developed a Pac-Man game for the 2600.  Due to licensing issues, they instead turned it into Pesco.   Nukey Shay took their original Pac-man code and has made many changes and updates to create one darn good Pac-Man for the 2600.  He has even included the Plus mode and is working on a Ms. Pac-Man game as well.  To read more about his efforts, see his thread at AtariAge.

There have been plenty more hacks of Pac-Man games for the 2600, but I have tried to cover the most significant ones.  This actually took a lot more time and research than I thought it would!  Next up…Pac-Man games for the Atari 7800…for now, I need to go play some Pac-Man!!!

PacMan for the 2600

Pac-Man for the 2600

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Galaxian and Galaga…


Galaxian is an arcade game developed by Namco in 1979 and released in the United States by Midway.   Galaxian was intended to capitalize on the popularity of Taito’s Space Invaders and was also a fixed, space shooter game.  It differed from Space Invaders in that it was a RGB color game and the aliens would break away from formation and ‘dive bomb’ your ship.  The RGB color screen with multi-color sprites and scrolling star background was considered ‘ground breaking’ for 1979.  The Galaxian arcade units were powered by a Z80 CPU and the game was ported to nearly every home console of the era, including the Atari 2600 and 5200, and the Colecovision.

Galaxian at Funspot

Galaxian at Funspot


Namco followed up Galaxian with 1981’s Galaga.  Galaga was similar to Galaxian, but added some new features such as additional alien flying patterns and ‘challenging stages’, which occur periodically during the game.  They also added the ‘tractor beam’ where your ship can be captured.  This adds a cool twist to the game as, if you have additional lives, you can kill the alien to get your ship back and it will attach to your current ship to give you double the fire power.  With more complicated alien movements, Galaga arcade units used three Z80 CPU’s and two sound generators.  Galaga was a smash hit for Namco and ported to a number of home consoles including the NES and the Atari 7800.

In 1983, Atari released Galaxian for the 2600.  The 2600 version was a pretty good port, given the hardware limitations of the VCS.  The one thing that bugs me about the 2600 port, is the crazy yellow borders; I am not sure what Atari was thinking with these.  Fortunately, more than one gamer has ‘hacked’ Galaxian to improve the appearance of the game.  Jess Ragan’s Galaxian Arcade improves both movement and graphics to be much closer to the arcade version.  Nukey and KevinMos3 have teamed up to produce an even more arcade perfect version of Galaxian for the 2600.  You can check out both of these versions at AtariAge.

5200 owners were not left out as Atari developed a pretty good port of Galaxian as one of the release games for the 5200.  The 5200 version doesn’t have any of the cool start screens of the arcade, but the graphics and game play are well done.   Given that the 5200 has a Pokey chip for 4 channel sound, the sounds could have been programmed to be closer to the arcade, but it is still a fun game to play.  If you have a good joystick, you will not have any control issues with Galaxian, but this version also supports the 5200 Trak-ball.  I have played Galaxian with both the standard 5200 joystick and a Trak-ball and it is fun to play either way.

Galxian was not ported to the 7800, but Galaga was one of the first dozen release titles for the 7800. Like many of the early release games for the 7800, it was programmed by General Computer Corporation.  Galaga for the 7800 was positively received by many, but panned by others as not being arcade perfect.  Comparing the 7800 version to the arcade version reveals differences, but none that detract from the game play.  In fact, Galaga is one of my favorite games for the 7800 and is a pretty awesome port when you take into account that compromises had to be made as the arcade units had three CPU’s versus one for the 7800.  Galaga utilizes a single fire button, so you can play it with your CX40 or Flashback joysticks.

If you have a 2600, then you should pick a copy of Galaxian or Galaxian Arcade.   If you have a 7800, you should pick up both Galaxian and Galaga.  Also, no 5200 owner should be without a copy of Galaxian in their collection.  Since millions of copies of Galaxian and Galaga were produced, they are easy to find and are still readily available for purchase at relatively low prices!

Wild for Galaxian!

Wild for Galaxian!

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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 Bob ‘PacManPlus’ DeCrescenzo, it is now possible to play Scramble on the Atari 7800.  Bob started his work on Scramble in late 2011 and completed it in March of this year.  Bob had made a few cartridges for AtariAge forum members and now Scramble is available for order from the AtariAge store.

Bob referenced the original arcade ROM’s to produce as faithful of a port as possible.  Comparing Bob’s Scramble to the arcade version, shows his typical attention to detail.  Given that the 7800 only has a single CPU and limited sound, Scramble for the 7800 is amazingly close to the arcade version.  My only comment about Scramble is that the game has some bright colors and some of them ‘saturate’ on my 7800.  I have tried Scramble on two different systems with the same result.  The color ‘saturation’ seems to only affect the lower portion of the screen and does not have any impact on game play.

In an earlier post, I discussed controllers for the 7800.  In order to control the guns and bombs, a two button controller is a must.  When I play Scramble, I prefer my modded CX24’s.  Scramble is a fun game, but it takes a lot of practice to get good at it.   Bob has built in three difficulty levels into the 7800 version which will keep you coming back for more.  Scramble is a unique side scroller for the 7800 which not only pushes the system to its limits, but, also, shows what a great home arcade system it is!  Once again, Bob has ‘knocked it out of the park’ with Scramble…another must have for your 7800!!!

Wild for Scramble!

Wild for Scramble!

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Atari Flashback 4…a second look!

I have had my Atari Flashback 4 for a few weeks now.  I posted a review on this unit a couple of weeks ago, but though it was time to post some additional insight…

Let me start with the wireless controllers.   As I stated in my first post, these are infrared and require a line of sight to the base unit.  I continue to read posts on forums that bemoan infrared controllers, but I wonder if they have actually tried a Flashback 4.  Yes, you need a line of sight, but I really like these controllers.  They have a good feel to them and work well with no lag.  The new wireless controllers are one of the selling points of the Flashback 4 versus previous units.

The second thing that hard core gamers complain about is that these systems use emulation.  In the case of the Flashback 4, the system actually runs on an ARM processor.  In the past these emulations were a little glitchy, but AtGames seems to have gotten it right with the Flashback 4.

With 75 games included on the Flashback 4, it is worth reviewing my top ten:

Asteroids-an absolute Atari classic!  Asteroids plays just as I remember it back in the days that I had a 2600.  The 2600 version was not arcade perfect, but was a blast to play and it still is on the Flashback 4.  If anything, Asteroids plays a little better as there is almost no flicker in this version.

Battlezone-the arcade version had vector graphics, but I always liked the colors in the 2600 version.  This game gets real hard after a few rounds and will keep you coming back for more.  Still a blast to play and well implemented on the Flashback 4.

Fatal Run-this game was developed late in the life cycle of the 2600 and was only released in Europe.   Needless to say, this is a game that I hadn’t played before.  I used to really like driving games like Pole Position and Enduro, so that is probably why I like Fatal Run and it is neat that it is included on the Flashback 4.   Follow this link to read more about Fatal Run and also, see AtariAge for a copy of the manual.

Gravitar-here is great game that I did not have for my 2600 back in the day.  Gravitar has good graphics and great game play.  This is not an easy game, so it should hold your attention for hours.  See if you can protect your galaxy from the evil Gravitar!

Jungle Hunt-a 2600 classic that is well executed!  It plays just as it should on the Flashback 4 with outstanding graphics and gameplay.  You will have hours of fun with Sir Dudley and his jungle adventures!

Missile Command-another all time Atari classic!  This is one of my favorite 2600 games and looks and plays great on the Flashback 4.  I would probably be rich had I not spent so much time playing Missile Command!

Space Invaders-as I mentioned in my previous blog, AtGames included a new version of Space Invaders that looks almost arcade perfect.  I wish that they had also included the original 2600 version, but this version is lots of fun to play and looks great.  It is a little too easy, so I always start my games on the 3rd or 4th level.

Super Breakout-I have always enjoyed paddle games.  I am not particularly good at them, but they provide a nice relief from the ‘standard fare’.  Super Breakout is a simple game, but is still a lot of fun to play.  You need to get a set of paddles to really enjoy this game, so it is nice that the Flashback 4 supports them!

Warlords-you need a set of paddles to play Warlords, but they are worth the investment.  The paddle input is converted from analog to digital, so they have a different feel than ‘normal’, but you will adjust quickly.  Warlords is just as much fun to play now as it was thirty years ago!

Yar’s Revenge-this was an original game developed for the 2600 and is a nice addition to the Flashback 4.  So many 2600 games were conversions of arcade classics that struggled with execution on the VCS’ limited hardware.  Yar’s Revenge provided a refreshing new game and is a still blast to play!

In addition to my top ten games, I would like to highlight a couple of others.  Both Saboteur and Save Mary were prototype games that were not released when the 2600 was in production.  I haven’t played either of these games enough for them to make my top ten list, but they are great additions to the Flashback 4 system.

Other great games on the Flashback 4 are Combat, Centipede, Off the Wall, Polaris, Pong, and Video Pinball.

Upon a second look, I still highly recommend the Flashback 4.  The emulation and the wireless controllers are a dramatic improvement over the previous edition.   If you are looking for some Atari fun at low price, you really can’t go wrong!

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Taking care of your game carts…

Cleaning your carts…

I had mentioned in a previous blog that I had purchased a number of my game carts second hand.  Early 2600 and 7800 game carts had a dusk cover mechanism which protected the carts from the elements pretty well.  Later 2600 and most 7800 game carts do not have this dust cover mechanism.  Thus, many second hand carts will be pretty dusty and dirty.  Not only will this have the potential for the cart to not make good electrical contact; this dust and dirt can get down into your game system.  The simplest and most effective way to clean your carts is with isopropyl alchohol and a good quality cotton swab.  It is important to have a good quality swap so that the cotton doesn’t come off and get stuck on the cartridge contacts.  Cotton swaps are cheap, so don’t be afraid to use more than one to make sure that you have removed as much dust and dirt from your carts as possible.  Also, be sure that the cart is dry before you insert it into your game system.  The alcohol will evaporate pretty quickly, so you don’t really need to dry the cart off.  Just wait a few minutes and you should be all set.  Once you clean your carts, you are going to want to keep them clean, so see below for a storage tip!

Going Wild for Cleaning!

Wild for Cart Cleaning!

Storing your carts…

Although game carts for retro game systems are relatively cheap, if you build up a large enough collection, the total value can start to add up to some significant $$$.  After you have more than a handful of carts, you are going to want to have some way to safely store them.  I looked on-line for cart storage systems and, since it has been many years since these systems have been manufactured, asking prices are pretty crazy.  I think that I have come up with a pretty clever and simple solution.  At a local discount store, I was able to find small plastic storage bins that were the perfect size to store 24-25 carts side by side.  These bins are pretty inexpensive; in fact,  I paid less than three dollars each for my bins.  I also picked up a couple of extras of these bins to store my game controllers.  They are also great for transporting your carts, if you want to head over to a friend’s house to play some video games.  If your carts are just laying around loose, show them that you care for them and get them a new home!

Wild for Cheap Cart Storage!

Wild for Cheap Cart Storage!


Sega Genesis Classic Game Console…a review

Up until now, all of my blogging has been about Atari 8-bit systems, but I also want to cover other retro game systems in this blog.  One of the most popular 16-bit systems was the Sega Genesis.  The Genesis was originally released in 1988 and, almost singlehandedly, caused the end of the 8-bit era.  Sega sold more than forty million Genesis base consoles between 1988 and 1997.  Outside of the US, the Genesis was known as the ’Mega Drive’. The top selling game for the Genesis was ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’, which also became the ‘pack in’ game for systems sold in the US, starting in 1991.

Recently, I picked up the new Sega Genesis Classic Game Console from AtGames.  The system includes 80 built in games, but only 40 of these are ‘original’ Sega games.  With that being said, some all-time Sega classics are included on this system such as: Altered Beast, Ecco, Golden Axe, Jewel Master, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Streets of Rage.  Additional versions of these classics are also built in including Ecco II, Golden Axe II, and Sonic II.

I haven’t had the time to play all of the games on this system, but the ones that I have tried, seem to play as Sega originally intended.  Like the Atari Flashback 4, all games run in emulation on an ARM based CPU.  The emulation seems to be very well executed on this incarnation of the system.  I am not as familiar with Sega games as I am with Atari games, but I didn’t notice any significant play or sound issues.  In my opinion, the emulation is nicely done and will satisfy all but the hard core Sega Genesis gamers.

Like the Atari Flashback 4, AtGames includes two wireless controllers.  These ’six button’ controllers are infrared based and required a line of sight to the base system, but seem to work really well.  The controllers take two AAA batteries each and have a cool auto off feature, so that you can’t accidently leave them on.  There are also two ports included if you prefer to use wired controllers, but I think that you will really enjoy having wireless controllers.

The biggest difference between this system and the Atari Flashback 4 is the inclusion of a cartridge port.  This allows you to play almost any Sega Genesis cartridge based game.  When the cartridge is inserted, the system simply boots to that game.  When there is no cartridge in the system, it boots to the internal game menu.  I played Madden ’97 for over an hour and was not able to detect any issues or ‘glitches’ in the game play.

Hard core gamers seem to be opposed to these ‘flashback’ type systems.  In some of the earlier versions of these systems, the emulation was a little ‘glitchy’, but seems well executed in this version.  I was able to buy my system at a local retailer for under $30.  For a base system, 40 classic Sega Genesis games, and wireless controllers, I think it represents an incredible value.  Having a cartridge slot and being able to play hundreds of additional games is a real added plus.  If you are a fan of the Sega Genesis and are looking for some retro game fun at a great price, get yourself a Sega Genesis Classic Game Console!

Wild for Sega!

Wild for Sega!

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My top Homebrews and Hacks for the Atari 2600…

I thought that this was going to be easier than it turned out to be, but there are so many great homebrews and hacks for the 2600.  I am sure that I have missed some great games, but here is my current list…

Berzerk VE–  An extensive hack of Berzerk to improve some of the graphics and add voice similar to the arcade.  It is a blast to start this game and hear “intruder alert!”.  Mike Mika did a masterful job in taking a great game and making it even better!

Chetiry– An original game just released for the 2600.  Finally, there is a Tetris like game for Atari!  This game takes advantage of a special edition of the Melody board.   Chris Walton, Zach Matley, Nathan Scrum, and Fred Quimby teamed up for a really cool game with outstanding graphics, music, and, believe it or not, high score keeping.  Don’t miss this one!

Defender Arcade– An extensive hack of Stargate to create the version of defender that Atari should have done from the outset.  This game is so good that you will forget that you are playing it on a 2600.   Another must have from Bob ‘PacManPlus’ DeCrescenzo.  Grab a friend to manage the special features controlled by the second joystick!

Juno First– An awesome game by Chris Walton.  Juno First pushes the limits of the 2600 and has awesome graphics and outstanding gameplay.  Not an easy game, but a blast to play.  If you like space shooters, this is another must have for your 2600 collection!

Galaxian Arcade–  An extensive hack of Galaxian to improve the graphics and eliminate the crazy yellow borders.  Jess Ragan did a nice job of making a good game into a great game.  I really enjoy playing Galaxian Arcade for the 2600!

Medieval  Mayhem–  If you like Warlords, you are going to love Medieval Mayhem.  This game by Darrell Spice Jr. features a great graphics, great sound, and menu selection for game options.  All you need to do is watch the start of this game and you will know that it is something special!

Pac-man Arcade– Rob Kudla did an extensive hack of Ms. Pac-man to create a much improved version of Pac-man for the 2600.  Rob’s version is what Atari should have been able to release for the 2600 and should not be missed.  If you are a Pac-man fan, you might also want to try the new Pac-man 4K.  I haven’t played 4K yet, but it looks to be even better than Arcade.

Space Invaders Arcade– Rob Kudla is back at it with a hack of Space Invaders to make the already good 2600 version even better.  Rob improved the sound, colors, and graphics to make this version closer to the real deal.  If you like Space Invaders, give Rob’s version a try…you will not be disappointed!

Seawolf– Similar to the arcade game with the same name, Seawolf is a blast to play.  The game play is simple, but it is so much fun.  Manuel Rotschkar did an awesome job with the graphics and game play.  This game belongs in every 2600 collection!

Thrust+ PE– Considered by many to be the best homebrew for the 2600, this is the latest version of Thomas Jentzsch’s masterpiece of programming.  Thrust has been updated to be able to use a variety of controllers.  Thrust features great game play and graphics.  It is not an easy game, but it will keep you coming back for more!

And here is a bonus game that will be released soon…

Space Rocks–  An awesome new game from Darrell Spice Jr.  The best way to describe this game is Asteroids Deluxe for the 2600.  Space Rocks takes full advantage of the ARM CPU and memory on the Melody board to create one of the most advanced games ever for the 2600.  Be sure to keep an eye out at AtariAge for the release of this awesome new game!

Of all of these great games, I really have to call out Chetiry and Space Rocks as they push the 2600 in ways that could not have been imagined until now.  They both take advantage of the capabilities of the Melody board, in different ways, to produce games that would have been impossible just a couple of years ago.

Check out all of these great homebrews and hacks at AtariAge as well as many others!

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My top Atari 2600 games…part two

Here is the second half of my list of favorite Atari 2600 games.  How about you…any games that you really like that are not on this list?  Send me your comments!

Kaboom by Activison- A great game for paddle controllers and one of my favorite game for the 2600. Kaboom has a pretty simple premise…catch the bombs before they hit the ground. In each round, the Mad Bomber gets faster and faster.  Despite being such a simple game, there is some strategy involved and it is a great party game!

Midnight Magic by Atari-If you like pinball games, then Midnight Magic is a must have for your collection.  The graphics are great and it plays like a real pinball machine. Midnight Magic is much improved over Video Pinball and is lots of fun to play.

Missile Command by Atari- Missile Command for the 2600 only has a single missile battery and simplified graphics, but is still a blast to play.  Missile Command is another game that I have played for hours and hours and belongs in every Atari Collection.

Ms. Pac-man by Atari- Pac-man was Atari’s best selling game for the 2600, but a real disappointment  to gamers. Ms. Pac-man was a dramatic improvement over Pac-man; it  featured better graphics and better gameplay.  Skip Pac-man and pick up a copy of Ms Pac-man instead!

Pitfall/Pitfall II  by Activison-  Ok, I cheated here and included both Pitfall and Pitfall II as one.  Pitfall was Activision’s best selling game for the 2600 and sold over four million copies.  Developed by David Crane, Pitfall was an incredible programming feat. David managed to program an awesome game with non-flickering, multi-color sprites, and 256 screens in only 4K!  Pitfall is a must have!!!

River Raid by Activison- Programmed by Carol Shaw, River Raid was one of the first vertical scrolling games for the 2600. In River Raid, you must fly your jet and attack a variety of targets.  Periodically, you must refuel  and you must also maneuver to avoid the river band. River Raid is one of the all time classics for the 2600.

Space Invaders by Atari- Space Invaders for the 2600 was a smash hit and the first video game to sell over a million copies. It is credited with dramatically increasing sales of 2600 consoles and, while simplified, is every bit as fun as the arcade version. See more about Space Invaders in October 20th post.

Super Breakout by Atari- Super Breakout improved on Breakout, but retained the simple, but fun, game play. I always liked paddle games, probably as they provided some much needed variety. After all these years,  Super Breakout  is still worthy of a home in any 2600 collection.

Warlords by Atari- Warlords is another paddle game in my top 20 and, probably, the best of the bunch.  If you had a second set of paddles, four people could play at the same time. This made Warlords the ultimate party game and I remember playing it whenever a group of friends would come over.

Yars’ Revenge by Atari- Yar’s Revenge was one of Atari’s best selling titles for the 2600.  Yar’s Revenge was programmed by Howard Scott Warshaw and was named for Atari CEO Ray Kassar.  In an era of arcade conversions, Yar’s Revenge is a refreshing, original game that is blast to play. Make sure that you add a copy of this game to your 2600 collection!

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My top Atari 2600 games…part one

I started out planning to talk about my top ten favorite Atari 2600 games, but soon realized that ten was too few. Instead I have selected twenty great games and here are the first ten…

Asteroids by Atari- One Atari’s arcade classics. The 2600 version has solid, colored, asteroids instead of vector graphics, but it plays just like its big brother. See my previous blog for more info on this great game.

Battlezone by Atari- The arcade version had vector graphics, but I really like the graphics in the 2600 version. Battlezone is fun to play, but gets pretty hard pretty quickly. Follow the advice in the game manual and keep your tank moving!

Berzerk by Atari- The original shoot ‘em up game long before Halo or any of the others! Your mission in Berzerk is to shoot as many Robots as you can and avoid Evil Otto. The action is fast and intense and I can remember playing Berzerk over and over again!

Chopper Command by Activision- Activision’s answer to Defender. Chopper Command is a classic side scroller where you must protect your helicopter and truck convoys from attacking helicopters and fighter jets. Chopper command has outstanding graphics and is a blast to play.  You get an unlimited supply of ammunition, so blast away!

Demon Attack by Imagic- The only Imagic game in my top twenty. Demon Attack is a relatively simple game, but a blast to play. The graphics are good and there are some really cool effects when the ‘birds’ split apart in higher rounds. A two player version is included which makes it even more fun.

Defender II (Stargate) by Atari-It was nice to see Atari make a new effort after their first, poorly received version. Originally released as Stargate, the name was changed to Defender II.  This one is much closer to the arcade version and is a blast to play. A second joystick (and maybe a second person) is needed to take advantage of all of the games features.

Frogger by Parker Brothers-A classic 2600 game and the only Parker Brothers game to make my list. The concept with Frogger is pretty simple, but it is  harder than it looks. If you had a 2600 back in the 70’s or 80’s you probably had Frogger!

Galaxian by Atari-I am not sure what’s up with the yellow borders, but, other than that, this is an awesome game. Given the limitations of the 2600, this game is really pretty amazing!  The alien movements are well done and you will definitely enjoy playing Galaxian!

H.E.R.O by Activision-One of Activision’s later releases for the 2600 and often overlooked by Atari fans.   Programmed by John Van Ryzin, some consider it one of the best games ever developed for the 2600. You must guide R. Hero through mineshafts to reach and rescue trapped miners.  It’s not easy as you have to fight off snakes, bats, spiders, moths and blast your way through walls. Good luck!

Ice Hockey by Activision-The best sports game for the 2600 period! I can remember playing Ice Hockey for hours and hours. Alan Miller did a great job of capturing the essence of hockey, given the limitations of the 2600. Ice Hockey is awesome to play against the computer and even more fun when playing with one of your friends!

The second ten great 2600 games will be in my next post!


PacManPlus…a special thanks!

Being Thanksgiving, this seems like the appropriate day to say a special thanks to someone who has done so much for the Atari community…Bob ‘PacManPlus’ DeCrescenzo.   Since 2001, Bob has developed more than a dozen games for 2600 and 7800 systems.  Starting with an extensive hack of Stargate to create Defender Arcade for the 2600, to helping rescue some almost finished prototypes, to ground up development of new 7800 games like Scramble and Moon Cresta, Bob has literally been a one man game factory!

Although I have never met Bob in person, over the past few months, we have become friends.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, game developers need to recycle carts to produce new ones.  I decided that one thing I could do was to help find carts for developers like Bob.  I sent Bob a couple of boxes of old carts and, one day, I received a package from Bob with two of his new games.  Here I was trying to do something nice for him and ended up on the receiving end of Bob’s niceness!

If you are an Atari fan, then you already know what a great guy Bob is.  He has spent so many hours developing games and giving to the Atari community.  He has always posted his game files so that anyone could download and play them.  He has made numerous carts for forum members and, also, allowed AtariAge to sell them at a very reasonable price.  In an earlier time, Bob would have been a highly compensated, ‘Rock Star’, game programmer.  In the past decade, he has had to settle for the satisfaction of knowing that his games have brought so many hours of enjoyment to a small group of Atari retro-gamers.

Recently, for personal reasons, Bob has had to stop the development of any new games.  At this point in time, Bob does not think that he will be able to return to Atari game development.  In true ‘Bob’ fashion, he has ‘retired’ from game development with little fanfare.   He recently posted the source code for all of his games so that others can use it for further game development.  Although Bob is ‘retiring’ from game development, his games will continue to be played and enjoyed for many years to come.

Bob is one of those special people who gives freely and asks for little in return.   We are going to miss him and his immense talents!

PacMacPlus-best wishes and a special Thank You for all that you have done for the Atari retro-game community!!!

Games by PacManPlus