Atari 7800 O-R

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 One-On-One Basketball – By Electronic Arts

Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One was first released in 1983 as a computer basketball game with excellent reception. In the game the player plays the role of either Julius “D. J” Erving or Larry Bird, famous basketball players from the NBA Hall of Fame, in a one-on-one event. Played against another player or the computer, One on One was recognized for its nice animation and the types of plays allowed each player. It also had signature shattered blackboards whenever there was a hard dunk, which led to a janitor coming to sweep the shards and swearing at the players! Everything the game is known for made to the port on the Atari 7800, with the title simply being changed to One-on-One Basketball. The port is almost a literal take from the computer versions, looking more like the Amiga version where the basketball court has been given a more wood-like look (the other versions sported a black court). Of course, the court has its signature markings so you can know where to stand to land those 3-point shots. Both Dr. J and Larry Bird look pretty good, even if they are cartoonish in their appearance, and they are quite well animated. Upon starting the game, the player has the choice of either a timed game or a game won by score. If set by time, you determine the length of the quarters. Overall, a good sports title for the 7800 that fans of the sport do not want to miss in their library.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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Pac-Man Collection – By Bob DeCrescenzo

Atari gave us a wonderful port of Ms. Pac-Man for the 7800 but they never released the original Pac-Man to the console, despite the system clearly being quite capable of reproducing that title. Maybe that was a good thing since it inspired Bob DeCrescenzo into developing more than just a port of Pac-Man for the 7800. Instead we now have a collection of Pac-Man games in one cartridge! Of course the original Pac-Man is here in all its glory but so is Ms. Pac-Man along with a thorough set of options for both games that also give you the well known “Plus” versions of both titles. You can now select to play on the original mazes or new mazes, you an select the type of game you want to play, the speed at which the Pac-People move, the level of difficulty, the number of players, etc. This is all done through a very nice options menu that appears right after the well rendered title screen. The game comes is available with starndard TIA sounds, which are done quite well, but a POKEY version is also available for use with the 7800 XM once available. Of course, the POKEY chip makes things sound even better. The game graphics are superb and, in some cases, improve upon what Atari did with Ms. Pac-Man as some of the maze colours and character details more closely match the arcade original. Pac-Man Collection is a superb title that is an absolute must for any 7800 owner.

Review by TrekMD

10/10

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Pac-Jason - By Walter Lauer

Pac-Jason brings together two bad guys of terror and pits them against each other. It is Freddy vs. Jason in this Nightmare on Atari Street! As the title of the game implies, Pac-Jason is a hack of the arcade classic Pac-Man. The player takes control of Jason as he gobbles up drops of blood spread through the nightmarish mazes that Freddy made to torture Jason. Because this is Freddy’s creation, Freddy has split himself into four (each Freddy has a nickname - Ned, Bob, Jeff, and Gambler). If any of these Freddys touch Jason, it’s game up for Jason. Of course, Jason can turn the tables on the Freddys by gobbling one of the large blood drops at the corners of the mazes. This makes the Freddys vulnerable for several seconds so that Jason may vanquish them. Unfortunately, this is Freddy’s world, so he just regenerates the vanquished copies of himself so they can keep on chasing Jason. Despite this being a hack of Pac-Man, this is not a game to underestimate as it is quite difficult to complete each maze. These have been completely rearranged and their colours changed to be more in tune with the theme of game. Everything is blood red! The mazes have crosses in them as walls and plenty of blood dots to clear. The mazes have been designed so that you must always move Jason where you want or he will stop and get caught. Some mazes have no walls and sometimes the walls vanish when you eat an energizer. The bonus items have all been changed to appropriate items for the game (daggers, axes, claws, hammers...). A change in the music, though, would have been nice. Overall a challenging but fun game.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Pete Rose Baseball – By Absolute Entertainment

After having a basketball title with two famous players, it only made sense for the 7800 to get a baseball game with another famous name attached to it. This time it is famous Pete Rose, former Major League Baseball player, who lends his name for this very different version of baseball for the Atari 7800. Whereas most baseball games of the time had a view of the entire diamond with small players, Pete Rose Baseball introduced a “behind the pitcher” view for both pitching and batting as well as different bird eye views fo the field depending on where the ball ended up. I remember when I first got this game how impressed I was with the graphics since nothing up to them had looked like this on an Atari console and, to be honest, I’m still impressed by them. Visually this baseball game is still remarkable and it is quite unfortunate that the control mechanism truly does not do the game justice. When Absolute programmed the game, they decided it would be best to have the player manually select the fielder to catch the ball. While this may sound OK, it doesn’t work very well because each fielder can only move within a certain area and it is hard to determine what the area is unless you’ve played the game tons of times. Having this done automatically would have made the game more enjoyable. Does it make the game impossible to play? No, not at all, but it does give it a steep learning curve that may not appeal to all. I prefer playing this title over Atari’s RealSports Baseball.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Pit-Fighter - By Atari

In 1990, Atari Games released a fighting game that was unique for the time as it used digitized live actors for its player graphics. This game was Pit Fighter and it had gameplay that was comparable to titles such as Violence Fight (from Taito) and Stret Smart (from SNK). In the game the player had to jump, punch, and kick their opponent to drain their health energy. At the start of the game, the player was allowed to select from various fighters, all dressed in colour coded trunks (red, blue, and yellow for each player). This meant that up to three people could play at once. The game included bonus stages and even had weapons available during some the fights. Atari decided to port this game to the 7800 but the game was left in prototype stage and was never completed. The prototype has no sound and collision detection is poor. In addition, the characters are all nothing more than the same character wearing different colours. No AI was programmed and, though the game can be played with some limited moves, very little actually happens. Rating this game is difficult because it is incomplete but one can tell that this had potential. The character sprites are nicely drawn and the arena where the fighting is done does look pretty good. A cart of this prototype is available and, to be honest, it is nothing more than a collector’s item. If you must have a complete collection of 7800 games, including prototypes, feel free to get this. If you just want to play games, feel free to skip this title.

Review by TrekMD

3/10

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Planet Smashers – By Atari

While one of your friends was on a space exploration mission, his ship encountered a hostile alien species calling themselves the Planet Smashers. These aliens, after blowing up your friend’s starship, sent a message back to Earth informing the planet that they’d be sending their intergalactic invasion force to take over the planet. It is up to you to protect Earth from this malicious force of invaders! Planet Smashers was released by Atari in 1990 at a time when shooters like 1942 and Dragon Spirit were “the thing” and this was Atari’s attempt at bringing a shooter of that type to the 7800. While Atari succeeded in creating a game that is visually appealing and that even has decent sound and music, the game failed miserable in gameplay. So, let me break all this down. The player controls a spaceship that looks like a space plane and there are various enemies that come in waves. All of these enemies are rendered in various colours and they do look nice. There are also power ups that come down that you can grab. The bottom of the screen has a status bar that shows Earth’s shield along with your ship’s warp, range, lives, shield, and cloak. Nothing here sounds bad, right? Well, that’s the good news. When it comes to gameplay, the game is just plain boring. You are just shooting stuff that comes down but it just never gets very exciting. You do face a boss at the end of each level but you pretty much want it to kill you before you kill yourself. It is really unfortunate because this game definitely had potential to be something really nice.

Review by TrekMD

4/10

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 Plutos – By Tynesoft

Plutos was developed by Tynesoft for the 7800 but was never released until a group of Atari enthusiasts discovered a working prototype of the game. The prototype was unfinished and unstable so Bob DeCrescenzo, Mithcell Orman, and Eckhard Stolberg worked on the game to make it playable on real hardware. This led to the release of the game in 2008, much to the joy of the rest of us Atari 7800 owners! Plutos is a vertically scrolling space shooter with a total of six levels (three are unique in design, the others are colour variations), each with its own boss at the end. The player’s ship comes with a standard weapon but, by grabbing numbered power ups, it is possible to upgrade the gun to either have dual fire, spread fire, or an energy blast. If you are able to collect the same type of power up, to a maximum of four times, you will increase the firepower of that particular gun. Grabbing a different power up changes your weapon type and this is something that sometimes happens inadvertently as the power ups may pop up right on top of your ship. There is also a power up to give your ship invicibility. One cool feature of Plutos is that it offers two-player simultaneous play with each player controlling a different ship (one red, one blue but of different design). Plutos has gorgeous graphics with plenty of colour and there is plenty of action going on as the enemies move in unpredictable ways. There is in-game music but he sound effects are good. Some music would have enhanced the game but, I suppose, one can’t complain. After all, this almost did not see light of day!

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Pole Position II – By Atari

Pole Position II was the pack-in game for the Atari 7800, which makes it a very common cartridge. Interestingly, it was released with a white label and black text with the consoles but it was also released boxed with a full colour label. Pole Position II is a port of the arcade game of the same title and it is the sequel to the beloved racing game by Namco. The gameplay is pretty much identical to the original but the game has four different tracks for the player to choose from: Fuji (the original race track), Test, Seaside, and Suzuka. The Test track resembles the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track and the Seaside track resembles the 1982 US Grand Prix West circuit in Long Beach. The arcade had some graphical improvements over the original as well with explosions showing flying debris. When you start the game, on any track you have to do a qualifying lap and then you start the race. The Atari 7800 version of Pole Position II is a good port of the arcade game and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Though I do miss the voice calling “Prepare to Qualify” or “Prepare to Race,” Atari has replaced this with a small Atari dirigible that pulls a sigh that says those words. The joystick controller is used to accelerate, brake, steer, and change gears. This cannot compare to an arcade machine (makes me with Atari had created a true driving controller for the system!) but it works. The animation can be a bit choppy but with things going by so fast, you don’t notice it as much. The graphics are well done with the cars nicely detailed, though rendered in three colours only. Sounds are fair but they do the trick just fine.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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Rampage – By Activision

Bally Midway put together a game in 1986 where monsters, who really were mutated humans, are on a rampage destroying city after city in the US. What better title for such a game than Rampage. In the arcade up to three players could play at once and control either George (a giant gorilla), Lizzie (giant lizard monster), or Ralph (a giant werewolf). These monsters jump on building and smash them until the fall to the ground, all while eating humans and destroying any vehicle that’s visible (helicopters, taxi cabs, boats, trolleys, and police cars). Of course, the military are in place trying to stop these monsters using guns, dynamite, and other weapons. These cause harm to the monsters until they turn back into naked humans who then try to leave the cities. If you added coins before the human left the city, it would mutate again into a monster. In addition to humans, there are objects in the buildings (toasters, toilets, etc), that may be harmful or helpful to the monsters. Rampage was truly a fun game in the arcades and Activision got the license to convert the game for home consoles, including the 2600 and 7800. The 7800 version has pretty nice graphics, though they are not as detailed as those of the arcade. Two players, since there are only two controllers for the console, can smash buildings simultaneously for things to be more fun. Game sounds are simple renditions of the arcade sound effects but they do the trick. Again, I’m not sure why Activision didn’t use a POKEY chip on this cartridge as that would have made the sound even better. Rampage captures the gameplay of the arcade well and is a title I recommend for the 7800.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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RealSports Baseball – By Atari

Despite releasing various RealSports titles for their other consoles, Atari only released one such title for the 7800, RealSports Baseball. Given the graphical power of the 7800, it is surprising they made this decision as other sports would have looked great on the system. RealSports Baseball on the 7800, unfortunately, is not as good a title as it could have been. The game does have good graphics with a well drawn triangle and nice baseball players. It is cool seeing the teams (in red or blue) move into and out of the field. There is a large scoreboard at the top of the screen that tries to imitate what would be seen at a real game and there are bleachers with seats at the bottom left and right. There is no animation of the audience but a wind-like noise is made that is supposed to emulate their roar. Since this version lacks the voice synthesis from the 5200 version (oh POKEY, where are you?), text lets you know whether you had a strike, ball, etc. You do get a selection of nine pitches and three swings, which is not bad at all. Sadly, where the game falters is in the one-player game against the computer and not because it is easy. On the contrary, it is so tough that it is nearly impossible to defeat the computer. So, the best way to enjoy this title is with a friend so you have human vs human action. If you have to play by yourself, I recommend Pete Rose Baseball for the 7800 but, if you can always plays with someone, give this title a chance.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Rip-Off – By Bob DeCrescenzo

Rip-Off was released in the arcades in 1980 by Cinematronics and it has the distinction of being the first arcade game to feature cooperative gameplay and flocking behaviour. Because the game uses vector graphics, it was only ported to the Vectrex console until Bob DeCrescenzo decided to give it a try on the Atari 7800 (given his experience with Asteroids Deluxe). In the game you are in command of a tank-like vehicle that is charged with protecting fuel canisters from groups of pirates who use tanks to steal them. The game is organized in waves where anywhere from two to three pirate tanks appear at a time. Once you destroy all the tanks in a given wave, you move onto the next wave with bonus stages occurring after a certain number of waves. In the single player game, the player’s vehicle appears to the left of the screen with the second vehicle appearing on the right side in a two-player game. Interestingly, you do not have a limited number of lives in Rip-Off as the game ends only when all the fuel tanks have been stolen. This means that you can use your ship to ram enemies to destroy them if need be. The 7800 version of Rip-Off captures the gameplay of the arcade well and does have nice graphics and sound. There are three levels of difficulty to select (Easy, Normal, Hard) which vary the number of canisters to protect, the number of pirate ships that appear, and their speed. Rip-Off remains a fun game to this day and this 7800 version is well worth having.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Robotron 2084 – By Atari

If you ever want to see just how powerful the Maria chip in the 7800 is, look no further than Robotron. This title is, of course, a port of the 1982 arcade shoot ‘em up title from Williams Electronics well known for its intense action and unique (for the time) control scheme. The game is set in the year 2084, in a future where humanity has almost vanished from the world as robots (or Robotrons) have taken over the world. The player plays the role of a superhuman who has been charged with saving the last remaining families in the world. In the arcade, two joysticks are used for the action, with the left joystick controlling the movement of the character and the right joystick controlling the direction of the weapon’s fire. The game action is hectic as there are various different robots in the playing field chasing after the humans and after our hero. As you control the hero, he must make contact with any of the humans on screen to save them. Once all Robotrons are destroyed in any given wave, you move onto the next one. There are six types of Robotrons, with hulks being indestructible. The 7800 version of Robotron captures all of the arcade action very well and it does it masterfully without any flicker on screen despite having tons of sprites present. Game sounds are also good and faithful to the arcade. The game can be played with one joystick or two, with the latter method allowing for a scheme like that of the arcade. The only problem is finding a way to keep the controllers together since Atari never released the holder they had developed.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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