Atari 7800 S-U

Alien Brigade – By Atari

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 Santa Simon – By Matthias Luedtke

If you want to be part of Santa’s team of elves, you must prove that you have the sharp mind needed to get the job done. To test your skills, your mind, and your memory, Santa has developed the perfect tool, a program called Santa Simon. And how does Santa Simon test you? Easy, by having you remember the sequence in which a Christmas Tree, a Reindeer, a Snowman, and Santa himself signal you and then having you play back the exact sequence. Any memory slip results in a failure of the test, ending your chances of joining Santa’s team. How good is your memory? Santa Simon is, for all purposes, a Christmas-themed version of the popular electronic game Simon. As in that game, the goal is to remember a sequence of sounds in the proper order for as long as possible. Whereas in the original Simon there are simple colors and sounds to recall, this video game version has characters each of which make a different type of sound for the player to remember. Santa laughs, the Snowman “ahs,” the deer bellows, and the tree jingles its bells. All these characters also have different movements as visual cues to help the player remember the sequence as well. Santa Simon replicates the gameplay of Simon quite well and, as such, it is a relatively simple game. That does not mean that it is not challenging! The graphics of the game are bright and colorful but there is only one screen to the entire game. I wish it had had a separate title screen or that the name of the game would at least not remain on screen during gameplay.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Scramble – By Bob DeCrescenzo

When it comes to side scrolling shooters, Scramble is among the best of the best. Released to the arcades in 1982, Scramble quickly became a success but it saw a handful of ports to home systems (one of these was to the Vectrex). Thankfully, prolific 7800 programmer decided to bring this classic to the console and we have to consider ourselves lucky. In Scramble the player controls an aircraft that travels though a terrain that is constantly scrolling in order to destroy as many alien enemies as possible. The ship is equipped with a forward gun and bombs for its offensive action but it also comes with a limited fuel supply. This means that the player has to keep an eye out for fuel depots on the ground to make sure the ship remains properly fuled. The game has six different stages through which the player must advance, with the final stage being the actual alien base. Each of the stages is different from the other with new challenges that must be faced. Bob masterfully ported this game to the 7800, bringing the arcade experience home. The game has beautiful graphics that are very close to the arcade even if the colours appear muted by comparsion. The sounds are also well done, which is a good thing. This version has three levels of difficulty to choose from (Easy, Normal, Hard), with the Normal difficulty being a match for Konami’s arcade version and Hard a match for Stern’s arcade version. Overall, Scarmble is an excellent port of the arcade and one I can highly recommend to owners of the 7800.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Scrapyard Dog – By Atari

By 1990, it was clear that side scrolling platformers with jumping characters were “the thing” in video games. In an attempt to capture that same gameplay and attract players to the 7800, Atari created their own original platformer for their console in Scrapyard Dog. In this game the player takes control of Louie, the junkyard guy, who is on a mission to rescue his dog, Scraps, from a dognapping gang leader called Mr. Big. Louie must cross six different worlds, the first five worlds have three different levels (Junkyard, City, and Sewer) while the final level only has the Junkyard and the City but at a much higher difficulty. Louie can jump and use weapons against his enemies. The weapons are mostly cans but others become available. In fact, you can even shop for stuff at various stores in exchange for excess cans. Besides the standard worlds, there are bonus rooms with different games that grant you special items should you play the games well. Scrapyard Dog is, quite honestly, an impressive title for the 7800. It has superb graphics, nicely animated characters, bright colours, and even good sound. There’s a musical score that plays through the game that fits it quite well. I guess the negative here is that Louie just isn’t as likable a character as Mario. He has a humongous nose and he just isn’t as memorable a character. The control scheme also requires some precision at times and this can frustrate some players. Overall, though, this game is unique in the 7800 library and a really good attempt by Atari to create an appropriate platformer for the 7800.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Sentinel – By Atari

Sentinel was the only PAL exclusive-release for the Atari 7800 back in 1991 and it represented the last lightgun game for the console. The game was later converted to NTSC format by ResQsoft, making it available in America. In Sentinel you are a scientist who has created an energy absorbing orb known as the Sentinel. This orb is able to absorb and store many different energy types. Unfortunately, Earth has been invaded by aliens and it is up to you and your invention to save the planet. Use the Sentinel to absorb the aliens’ energy while you protect it from their attacks as you travel to four alien worlds. Use the lightgun to destroy anything that approaches the Sentinel and watch for it to start flashing as shooting at it then released a smart bomb that destroys every enemy on screen. Sentinel’s gameplay is somewhat similar to another lightgun title for the 7800, Crossbow. The friend you protect here, though is the Sentinel, which is much larger than any of the friends in Crossbow. While the Sentinel will absorb power from enemies that you destroy, it also takes damage from enemy weapons and shrinks in size until it falls on the ground. Surviving the four worlds takes you to the game’s boss for one final round. The game has nice graphics with a status display at the bottom of the screen that shows the score, a map of the world you’re on, the strength of the Sentinel and whether or not the supershot is ready. The enemies are rather plain in design, however. The game has nice sound effects and, surprisingly, music plays all the time. Overall an alright lightgun game for the console.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Sirius – By Tynesoft

Sirius is the second title for the 7800 by Tynesoft that was found as an incomplete prototype but was made playable by Bob DeCrescenzo, Mitchell Orman, and Eckhard Stolberg. It is unfortunate this title was not released back in the day because this was the type of title the console needed to remain relevant compared to other systems available. Sirius is a horizontally scrolling space shooter that will remind players of games like R-Type and Gradius. The game has four levels of play, each different from the other, with plenty of enemies and action. In fact, the game is not easy at all despite it having many power ups available to help out. One of these power ups is a spirit ship that essentially doubles your firepower. While very useful, it can be distracting as the spirit ship is as large as yours. The game also lets you keep a power up saved so that, should you get killed, you can deploy it on your new life and not have to start from scratch. Given the difficulty of the game, this is a welcome feature. Sirius has impressive graphics that are colourful, have large sprites, with great shading, and lots of detail. The enemies are varied as well, and nicely rendered. The game lacks music (let’s not forget this is a fixed prototype) but it does have pretty good sound effects considering it makes use of the TIA chip. If you can get your hands on a Sirius cart, I highly recommend that you do as this shows what the 7800 is capable of as well as the power of the Maria chip in the console.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Space Invaders – By Bob DeCrescenzo

This is a game that needs no introduction. Space Invaders remains one of the classics in video game history and has even seen modernized versions released on new consoles and handhelds. Despite Atari having a hit with their 2600 version of the game (this was the game that put the 2600 on the map), they never created a port of the game for the 7800. That is quite surprising since the 7800 is certainly more capable and creating an arcade-perfect port would have been possible at the time. Well, fear not, for Bob strikes again and he has filled this gap in the 7800's game library. What Bob has created is a masterpiece for the console that not only looks great but also reminds me of the many options Atari added to their version of the game. Space Invaders on the 7800 has arcade-perfect graphics and animation. The sounds are as close to the arcade as they come as well. Instead of having to scroll through 100 plus game versions, you get to select different things to change on the main menu for the game. Here you can select the bomb speed, whether the shields are fixed or move about, whether the invaders are visible or not, whether bombs zig zag or not, and you even get to choose a colour scheme for the graphics. These schemes range from the basic white and green to the more colourful ones created with overlays on the arcade machines. Space Invaders is a must have title for any gamer and this version certainly has to be part of your game library if you own an Atari 7800.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Summer Games – By Epyx

Epyx’s Summer Games was first released in 1984 to home computers and was later adapted to home consoles. The game includes a selection of games from the Summer Olympics and up to eight people can play at once representing different countries of the world. The game was ported to the 7800 and released in 1987. The 7800 version has a total of six events that include the 100 metre dash, diving, 400 metre relay, swimming, freestyle, and gymnastics. The player can choose to play some or all of these events. As Summer Games starts, the player is presented with a nicely done opening ceremony that has a well rendered and animated runner with the Olympic torch. Once he lights up the big torch, you see doves be released and fly away, just like in the real event. From here you are taken to a menu screen with six options. You can select to complete in some or all events (options 1 to 3), practice one event (option 4), determine the number of joysticks to be used (option 5), or repeating the opening ceremonies (option 6). Once the options are selected, you will then be asked to enter your name and choose from one of the 18 countries available to represent. Each of the events has its own way of control but most require lots of wiggling of the joystick. Pacing is very important in some of the events to get the best times. Summer Games has truly beautiful graphics and pretty good sound effects. For some odd reason, there is no closing ceremony which is disappointing given the excellent opening ceremony. Nonetheless, this is a very good title to be had for the 7800.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Super Huey UH-IX – By Cosmi Corp

The UH-IX, the Super Huey, is an experimental helicopter and you are the test pilot in charge of making certain this state-of-the-art machine is working optimally. Can you handle this beast? Super Huey is yet another flight simulator for the 7800, something that really does feel peculiar. In any case, this game was adapted from a 1985 game developed by Cosmi. It offers two modes of play: Flight School and Arcade Mode. In Flight School mode you get to learn how to take off, navigate, and land with assistance from the on-board computer. Essentially, here your skills are tested at completing tasks and the computer gives you some assistance. In Arcade Mode the Huey starts off already in the air and your goal is to shoot enemy aircraft out out the sky. This mode is more game than flight simulator but still does have information on the display panel to let you know about targets that need to be destroyed and damage to the Huey. The instrument panel, which is more critical in Flight School mode, has plenty of information to keep track of such as fuel, ammunition, pitch, rise, engine RPM, rotor RPM, compass, etc. The graphics in this game are rather good and there music on the title screen is also pretty good. The best way I can describe the sound effects, though, is “interesting.” There is a constant background sound for the helicopter engine and turning blades that does vary in speed but other sound effects are rough. Not quite the most entertaining title and certainly not for everyone.
Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Super Skateboardin’ – By Absolute Entertainment

OK, time to show off those skateboardin’ skills! Grab your Atari 7800, insert the SUPER Skateboardin’ game and be ready to....skate inside a building? Surprise! So, what’s the story? It turn out you are the son of a factory worker and he’s found you a job so you can get money to fund your skateboarding hobby. Your job is to turn off every electric device in the factory and you must do this before 5:15 PM if you are to make it to the Skateboarding Championship. So, how can you get it all done more quickly? Simple, by taking your skateboard and running around the building on it! Duh! Yes, well, this game doesn’t have the player skateboarding on half pipes or anywhere else that would let you do all sorts of manoeuvres. Super Skateboardin’ is an arcade-styled maze game on the 7800. The building in which the action takes place is rather large and finding every electric bit of equipment in it is not as easy as it may seem. The graphics are bright, colourful, and detailed with the various electrical devices looking rather nice. The rooms all look very similar, though, and the only clue that you’ve been in a room are the open doors. To travel between floors you use what look like air ducts. You need to duck to enter them and end up at whichever level they get to. To give you a sense of how many devices you’ve turned off and the time left, there is a display at the bottom of the screen that shows the power consumption of the machines (left), the power that has been used since you started (middle), and the clock ticking to 5:15 (right).

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Tank Command – By Froggo

Froggo was not known for having super titles on the Atari 2600. They did, however, manage to release two unique titles on the Atari 7800 that are quite rare and difficult to find. Tank Command is one of these games and it has some similarity to games like Commando and Ikari Warriors. In this game the player is in control of an XT-87 attack tank on a mission to push back enemy forces until you get to their base camp and take their flag. Your enemy is relentless, though, and they will attack in any and every way they can. The not only have tanks of their own to attack you with, but also tank traps, heavy artillery, and other weapons that will make short work of your tank. Your XT-87 is equipped with 50 round of ammo and a full fuel tank. You need to replenish these using enemy supplies if you want to complete your mission, though, so keep an eye out for flashing supply icons on your display. Should your tank run out of fuel, you won’t be able to move in any direction but you can still fire until you are out of shells. Tank Command has three different levels that the player must complete, each with ever increasing difficulty. Capturing that enemy flag in the final stage is not easy at all as there is a heavy concentration of enemies in the areas. The game does have pretty decent graphics and the sound effects are alright. There is no in-game music, though there is some music on the title screen. Not as much fun as Commando or Ikari Warriors but, given its rarity and exclusivity to the 7800, it is worth pursuing.

Review by TrekMD

7/10

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 Title Match Pro. Wrestling – By Absolute Entertainment

Nice graphics alone a good make do not make. Sadly, that’s the case with TMPW. This game is, of course, a wrestling title for the Atari 7800 by the folks from Absolute. The game gives the player the choice of four different fighters: Mad Dog, Skin Head, Mr. Mean, and Big Chief. Each of these characters come from a different part of the United States and they each have their own skill set. One or two players can “enjoy” the game by playing against each other or by playing tag team. When the game starts, you are shown a rather nice title screen with the four fighters making some moves. You are then taken to a screen to select the fighter and then the action starts. The fighters will already on the arena and you just go at it. The scoreboard at the top displays the health for each fighter and lets you know the outcome of the fight. So, why is this game not so good? Well, the control system is just very complex and not intuitive at all. You have to use “joystick mode” and “button mode” in order to pull off the various moves available to you. The manual has a table with all the possible moves which vary depending on whether the fighters are free, held, down, on the ropes, or pinned. I suppose if you can memorize the whole thing you can fight better but most of the time you’ll just end up kicking and punching. The game graphics are good but sound is annoying. This game is average, at best.

Review by TrekMD

5/10

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 Tomcat: The F14 Flight Simulator – By Absolute Entertainment

OK, so here we go again, another flight simulator for the Atari 7800! This one turns out to be one of the most realistic simulators on the 7800 and one that makes use of virtually every button on the console! So, to play Tomcat, you better have the console right in front of you as you will be pressing and moving buttons to complete actions on “da’ plane.” Dan Kitchen was the programmer for this title and he even includes in the manual information stating that he wanted to create as realistic an simulator as he could. I can certainly say he accomplished it but it is just not something the average gamer is going to want to deal with. The only part of this “game” that I like is that the Tomcat is taking off and must return to the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise! As part of the realism of the game, things start off during daytime and end at night when you have to land back on the Enterprise in total darkness. If you manage to pull this off, you are then ranked from zero to nine based on the skill you have demonstrated. Flight operations in the game have four stages: Launch, Flying, Combat, and Landing. None of these stages are easy to carry out and end up frustrating the player. The game does have good graphics with a highly detailed instrument panel and the sounds even have alarms that go off, etc. Unfortunately, I think this is meant for pilots to enjoy and not for the casual gamer. As a game, I have to say you avoid this but, if you are really into flight simulators, then give it a spin.

Review by TrekMD

3/10

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 Touchdown Football – By Electronic Arts

Touchdown Football is the only American football title on the Atari 7800 and it is a damn shame because this game is awful. It is unfortunate that Atari chose not to create a RealSports Football title for the 7800 as it would have been interesting to see what they’d come up with. First, let me go over the good stuff. Touchdown Football has nice graphics and sound. There is a beautiful title screen with an equally beautiful options screen. The actual football field is presented angled looked at from the side with yards that are clearly marked and a scoreboard at the top of the screen. The player characters are nicely rendered, with each team being a different colour and there are some enormous cheerleaders. Sound is also pretty good with music playing at the appropriate times and decent sound effects. Now onto the bad. This game is pretty much unplayable. The action is very slow, running is anything but and the animation is choppy. None of this helps make the game fun. There are plenty of plays that can be selected (make sure you keep the manual) but with the way things happen in the game, it is almost meaningless to have those available. Touchdown Football is a pass on the 7800. My advise, get Super Football fro the 2600 and plug it into your 7800. That’s a far superior game. Too bad no one created an upgraded version of that game for the 7800!

Review by TrekMD

3/10

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 Tower Toppler – By US Gold

Eight mysterious towers stand in the poisoned ocean waters of the planet Nebulus. These towers are under the control of a mad scientist who wants to take control of the universe. Your name is Pogo and you are the top explosives expert at Destructo Inc. Your boss is giving you a raise and sending you, in the experimental BA-1 minisub, in a mission to destroy the eight towers. Using your gun, your wits, and your skills, you must climb each of these towers to activate the self-destruct systems in them. Be careful, though, as the towers are full of enemies that will try to stop you: indestructible mutant molecules, weird flying eyes, vicious robots, and huge cannonballs. Your gun is only good at destroying cannonballs (unless they are sliding left and right), which means, you have to figure a way to avoid everything else. Tower Toppler was originally released to home computers under the name Nebulus by Hewson Consultants. Though renamed to Tower Toppler by US Gold when ported to the 7800, all of the gameplay remains the same. You control a frog-like alien, Pogo, as he climbs the towers. Besides the enemies in them, you need to be careful of where you step as some areas are slippery and there are even ledges that vanish on contact. Tower Toppler has some really amazing graphics on the 7800. Pogo actually stays in the centre of the screen all the time and it is the environment around him what moves, something that is done quite impressively. The towers are cylindrical and lend themselves well for this. In between towers, there are bonus scenes where you need to catch shrimp-like creatures for bonus points. Though difficult, this is a game I can easily recommend.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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