Atari SuperCharger Review
The Supercharger was developed by a company called Arcadia in 1982 and marked a significant stepping stone in the history of the Atari 2600. Arcadia Corporation had to change its name, however, due to copyright reasons and became Starpath which led to Supercharger units having both company names on it (many Superchargers had a label that said Starpath Corporation [formerly Arcadia Corporation] using the same logo type). The Supercharger was a large elongated cartridge that attached to the 2600 through the cartridge port and it expanded the Random Access Memory (RAM) of the 2600 from a measly 128 bytes to 6,272 bytes (that’s a 4900% increase!). The added RAM expanded the capabilities of the 2600 and allowed for higher resolution graphics as well as larger games. Games would be loaded into the unit by plugging the cord on the unit to a tape player as the games came in standard tapes. Starpath took advantage of this capability and created games that allowed for multiple loads of information making them very large compared to the usual 4K games of the time. To show off the capabilities of the unit, the Supercharger came packed with Phaser Patrol a very impressive first-person space shooter.
Though the Supercharger was a critical success, it did not sell well and it fell victim to the North American video game crash. This limited the games that were released for it. Those games, all developed by Starpath, include:
Communist Mutants from Space
Escape from the Mindmaster
The Official Frogger
Sword of Saros
While several of the games were original in nature, some were clones of existing arcade games (i.e., Killer Satellites was a take on Defender) and some borrowed elements from other arcade games (i.e., Rabbit Transit borrowed from Frogger and Q*bert). One of the most impressive games for the system was Escape from the Mindmaster. In this game the player is immersed in a world of 3D mazes played in first-person perspective. The game requires multiple loads as the player advances through the mazes and passes the tests of the Mindmaster.
Superchargers can still be found through sites like E-bay nowadays and several of the games can still be easily found. There’s also a CD, Stella Gets a New Brain, that has the entire library of Starpath Supercharger games as well some prototypes (e.g., Labyrinth [an early version of Escape from the Mindmaster] and Sweat: The Decathlon Game). Though the capabilities of the Supercharger were matched and even surpassed with special hardware additions to 2600 cartridges later on, the Supercharger still offers some unique games for the 2600 that make it worth having. It certainly is the only way to play the best version of Frogger ever made for the 2600! This is one piece of hardware no 2600 owner should be without!