Atari 7800 O-R

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 One-On-One Basketball – By Electronic Arts

This game from Electronic Arts was one of the very first sports games to use officially licensed characters. In fact this version for the 7800 is the only game on the machine to do so. It’s almost like a sign of what was to come for EA as they went on to release their endless sports franchises like FIFA, PGA Golf, NHL Hockey and John Madden that are still going strong today. The 2 players on offer here are both NBA hall of fame inductees, Larry Bird and Julius “D. J” Erving. The actual game is played on half a court with a behind the player view. There is a scoreboard, shot clock and court markings to help you with landing those 3 pointers. The idea is simple, to score more points than your opponent within the time limit. There are 2 really nice features that I must mention here. The first one is the action replays that happen when you pull off a particularly awesome shot like a 3 pointer and the second is the glass smashing dunks. Score one of these and you see the glass smash round the hoop and fall to the floor. This is followed by a caretaker who comes on with a broom and sweeps it up before swearing at you! The graphics and sound are both pretty decent here and with a selection of difficulty modes along side the obligatory 2-player mode you can get a lot of fun out of this title.

Review by The Laird

7/10

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Pacman Collection – By Bob DeCrescenzo

Bob DeCrescenzo is the undoubted king of homebrew on the 7800 and this for me is his finest moment. What we have here is pretty much every conceivable version of both Pacman and Ms. Pacman on one cartridge! I am not even going to bother explaining what you have to do in Pacman but I will tell you what this versions adds to the classic. You can choose the types of mazes you want to play in; random, invisible, original etc. The game type; plus, speed-up, original etc. And other things too like difficulty, players and character. The original versions of both games are near enough arcade perfect. They look great, play great and even sound pretty great too, there is also now a version with POKEY sounds too for those wanting something else extra! Quite simply put this is the most essential purchase you need to make for the 7800 and the quintessential Pacman game for any console. Look out for Bob’s other homebrew games for the machine too because you really can’t go wrong with any of them!

Review by The Laird

10/10

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Pac Pollux - By Gambler 172

One of the first homebrews to be released for the 7800 after the encryption was found and made in a very limited number, mine is number 4 out of 15!. The game is called Pac Pollux and it’s a hack of Ms. Pacman based on the brilliant Pacman hack by PacmanPlus over on AA. I don't really think I need to explain how to play this game as everyone has played a Pacman game at one time or another in their life. Pac himself (or herself in this case) and the ghosts have been replaced by characters from an obscure French comic series which according to the manual also has its own website! Even the cut scenes have been changed to tell a different story. The game is incredibly faithful to the original Pacman still though with all the proper sound effects, fruit, ghosts that speed up and the original mazes. Overall a nice little addition to the 7800's library, I will be playing this cart a few more times yet!

Review by The Laird

9/10

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 Pete Rose Baseball – By Absolute Entertainment

It now goes without saying the reputation of sports games on this console is far from stellar. Pete Rose Baseball is a rather frustrating affair because there are so many signs that this could have been a brilliant game. Instead what we get is a nice looking but ultimately badly executed recreation of America’s favourite past time. The major problem here is the way that fielding is controlled. Once the ball is hit the screen flips to the outfield and then you have to select the fielder you want to control. Why is doesn’t just select the nearest one for you is anyone’s guess. The other problem is that each of these fielders can only move within their own “zone” so sometimes you can’t actually get to the ball when you think you can! Sure you will get used to it eventually but why should you? It’s definitely a major design flaw of the game. Graphically Pete Rose looks very good except for the lack of a face on any of the players! In the sound area it’s not too bad considering the restrictions of the machine with lots of short tunes and crowd noise. You can pretty much flip a coin between the two baseball games on the 7800, neither are particularly good.

Review by The Laird

5/10

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 Pit-Fighter - By Atari

One of Atari's most successful arcade games of the late 80's Pit-Fighter set new standards for graphics and fighting games in general. It used 100% digitised graphics with real actors playing all the characters and also used hardware scaling and rotation to pan around the fighting pit and zoom in on the action. A lot of people scoffed when they saw it on 7800 release lists found thinking it could never have been done, although an awful Sega Master System version exists. But interestingly a very early version of the game was found on a TT hard drive that came from Atari's dev department and the game was put onto a cartridge and released. Like the SMS version this one also uses hand drawn graphics but they look far closer to the digitised arcade originals than the awful SMS version. But that is pretty much it. All this early proto consists of is the arena, the crowd and the same character sprite in different colours running around. You can control your character, who looks to be Ty, and you can kill the enemies with limited moves. There is no AI and once the bad guys are knocked out the game does nothing. It's a shame this game didn't get further because the graphics look superb and showed real promise. I would have hoped that it also would have had a pokey chip on board, this proto has no sound. Really just an interesting curio more than anything else it’s only worth picking up if you are a hardcore collector like myself.

Review by The Laird

4/10

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Planet Smashers – By Atari

In the late 80’s space shooters became all the rage and Atari didn’t want to miss out. Because it was virtually impossible to license any arcade titles thanks to Nintendo’s unfair lockout policies they had to come up with something of their own. Sadly rather than try to match up to games like Flying Shark, Slap Fight, Dragon Spirit and 1942 they chose to create possibly the most bland and unoriginal vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up ever made. All you seem to do is endlessly fly up the screen shooting the exact same baddies over and over again. There are some pointless power-ups and even difficulty modes but you will probably fall asleep before you finish it. Sure it looks ok, and it sounds ok too but god is this game boring. Shame really because Atari had the opportunity to do something nice here, especially as its supposed to be a sequel to the brilliant Alien Brigade.

Review by The Laird

4/10

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 Plutos – By Tynesoft

Tynesoft are best known for making low cost games for the British home computers, usually ones that were not very good. Until this game was discovered (alongside Sirius) in 2008 nobody knew they had actually worked on some console games too. Plutos was originally a game for the Atari ST and Amiga that was reputedly the first horizontally scrolling shoot ‘em up for those machines to feature a simultaneous 2-player mode. This 7800 version is more of a re-imagining than a straight conversion but does retain many elements from the original game including the 2-player mode. This prototype has 6 levels in total but only 3 of them are unique, the other 3 are just the same stages with palette swaps. Each level has an end of level boss and there are 3 unique themes for the levels too. There are three different types of power-ups available, each of which can be upgraded four times. The three different weapons are: Duel machine guns, spread gun and energy gun. There is also a very useful invincibility pick-up too. Graphically Plutos is excellent with smooth scrolling, lots of detail and absolutely no flicker or slowdown! Beat that NES and Master System! The sound isn’t so hot but I think they did their best considering the hardware. Compared to Planet Smashers this game is leagues ahead, which makes it an even bigger shame that it was never finished. Now available to buy on cart this game is well worth picking up!

Review by The Laird

7/10

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 Pole Position II – By Atari

The original Pole Position in the arcades, and on the 2600 for that matter, was an all-time classic. It set new standards for racing games and the sit down version gave us the full formula 1 experience, well as close as we could come in the early 80’s! This sequel for the 7800 was the original pack-in game for the machine in North America. As well as the original Fuji speedway we now have 3 more tracks to race around, all with varying difficulty. Despite the upgrades it really doesn’t feel like a better game though. The tracks are all pretty uninspiring, the graphics are really bland and unattractive and the sound is grating to say the least. On the plus side it is very fast and does control very well. If you like your racing games then you still might want to pick this up because on the 7800 there sadly aren’t many alternatives.

Review by The Laird

6/10

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Rampage – By Activision

One of the most popular multi-player arcade games ever released, Rampage, was first introduced to the world back in 1986 courtesy of the now sadly defunct Bally / Midway. The game allowed you and up to 2 of your friends to take control of one of 3 movie styled monsters; George (King Kong), Lizzy (Godzilla) and Ralph (American Werewolf). Then the idea was to make your way across 128 North American cities and reduce them to rubble. You did this by climbing buildings and smashing them with your fists until they are destroyed and fall down. However the army are out to stop you and use their soldiers, tanks and helicopters to attack you. Every hit you take drains your energy, lose all of this and you die, reducing you back to a naked human! By eating stuff found in buildings, including people who live there, and the soldiers you can bump your health back up. This version was sadly never released in PAL and was often over shadowed by the amazingly good Sega Master System version and so never really got the respect it deserved, it’s certainly better than the cut down NES version. Using the same sound as the 2600 translation, in this case that isn’t a bad thing, but with graphics massively upgraded it’s a very good conversion in my opinion. You can certainly do a lot worse than picking this game up, especially as there are not many good 2-player games for the console. It’s also worth noting that this NTSC game does work fine on a PAL machine but does have some graphical glitching present.

Review by The Laird

8/10

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Realsports Baseball – By Atari

The whole sport of baseball is pretty lost on me as a Brit, we only played it at junior school and called it rounders! That said I do always like to give something a try and despite hating gridiron (American football) as a sport I have enjoyed many video game iterations of it. Once I finally worked out exactly what I had to do then I found this game to be fairly enjoyable. There are nice little sprites that run around, you can see the whole of the stadium, the scoreboard stays on the screen and the sound isn’t bad either. However this game does fall down a bit in the gameplay department. While it’s easy to control and responsive the problems comes in when playing the computer. It’s almost impossible to beat them, Atari really should have added in difficulty modes like they did with almost every other game they made for the system. Either the play testers were video game world champions or they just didn’t bother once they knew it worked. So for this reason I can only really recommend Realsports Baseball as a good 2-player title.

Review by The Laird

6/10

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 Rip Off – By Bob DeCrescenzo

This home brew game by the 7800 master Bob “PacManPlus” DeCrecenzo is a conversion of the 1980 vector arcade game by Cinematronics. Until now the only other home machine this game was available on was the MB Vectrex, mainly due to its vector graphics. Bob has done Vector graphics on the 7800 before with the release of his Asteroids hacks and they do work very well. In Rip Off you control a tank on a single screen that is trying to protect a fuel dump. Enemy tanks zip onto the screen and try to steal your precious fuel. All you have to do is blast them away before they can get to it. If they manage to grab some before you shoot them then they drop it where they were shot. You don’t actually have any lives in this game, so when you are shot you just come back a few seconds later. The game only ends when all your fuel has been stolen, this makes it a great game for high score contests. There is also a brilliant 2-player mode where you can team up with a friend against the enemy. It’s certainly not the deepest game in the world but it sure is a lot of fun, this is yet another winner from our very own 7800 home brew hero.

Review by The Laird

8/10

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 Robotron 2084 – By Atari

Sadly this game was never released in PAL, strangely the only Atari title for the 7800 that wasn’t. The reason for this is unknown and seems rather silly considering how popular this game was in the arcades. It is also a great example of the 7800’s sprite pushing power. At times the screen is totally full of enemies with absolutely no slowdown or flicker! Take that NES and Master System! Robotron 2084 always has been one of my favourite ever games, the Lynx version especially, so this makes it even more upsetting for me that I can’t play this game on real hardware. Come on 7800 bods a PAL conversion of this game is well over due! The graphics are excellent as I have alluded to and even the sound is really good here too. The control method on offer even allows you to use 2 Atari joysticks taped together to replicate the original duel stick controls of the arcade original. You are not going to find more frantic shooting action on the 7800 and this remains one of the best 7800 games out there and one of the best home conversions of the classic Williams coin-op.

Review by The Laird

9/10

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