Author Topic: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD  (Read 208 times)

Offline davyk

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2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« on: June 27, 2020, 12:08:30 PM »
I got my 2600 in the Summer of '82.

So by that time there was a big library and a healthy set of regular releases. It was very easy to get one's head turned by newer games. By that time many new games were arcade ports and being a lover of the arcade it was very easy to be attracted to a port of an arcade game I liked. So it was very easy to overlook those earlier games.

However I was also very suspicious of licenced games (an attitude that has served me well to this day).

I was 16 in 1982 and had already written some computer programs on an Apple IIe in school and was in the middle of writing a version of Monopoly for that computer as part of my school project. This was in Apple BASIC so I had an appreciation of what computers could do. I was also aware of assembler and how much superior games written in that were to BASIC games.

Atari games still had an air of mystery to them but already I could see their limitations. I hated having too much flicker in a game and I was already figuring out that flicker tended to be associated with games that had to display multiple sprites at the same vertical height on screen...

Anyhow. Basically this meant me overlooking some of the older games in the catalogue for various reasons. Either I saw them as variations on games I already had or thought them just too simplistic and imagined I wouldn't get full value out of them. At that time these games were EXPENSIVE!!!!

I knew that some arcade ports would never match the originals. But sometimes I was too cautious and I avoided some of those ports and I probably would have enjoyed them in retrospect.

A triple A game then cost £30. In 1983 that equates to over £100 in today's money taking inflation into account. Being a teenager I had to maximise my opportunities for games that arose from gifted money or from amassing money from part time jobs and/or benefits I was able to claim while going to technical college to further my education while paying money into the house. I'm comfortable now but I come from a modest background. I still retain an attitude to spending money I learned from that time. I wouldn't pay £100 for a game nowadays. I just couldn't justify it unless it was funded from selling other games in my collection.

So I'll post here about games I avoided that I probably should have got. This is based on trying them out on Stella or by loading them onto my Harmony cart and playing them on actual hardware.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 13:52:48 PM by davyk »

Offline davyk

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2020, 12:30:42 PM »
Tennis Activision.

It's really easy to look at this game and believe it to be incredibly primitive. I remember writing it off as just far too simplistic. I had played Pong for years and was more or less fed up with tennis games so I saw this just as a variant of that with a change of view and a nice slap of fake 3D paint applied to it.

Even though my gaming then was made up of a healthy ratio of single to multi-player with siblings and cousins, for some reason I didn't think I would get any value out of this. We were big Wimbledon fans at our house - this was the era of Borg, McEnroe et al and in the UK tennis was a big thing. So it's still a bit of a mystery to me why I didn't get this.

Recently I tried this on Stella. The game controls are ludicrously simple. You only have to press the button to serve. After that the ball is hit automatically - so making it feel at first even more like a tarted up Pong.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

What I found was that I was getting my ass handed to me by the CPU. It was like playing against a brick wall. I couldn't win a game. I found it hard to even win a point!

The more I played, the more I could start to see how important position is. It dictates whether you play the equivalent of a  forehand of backhand shot which had a big input into the direction you return the ball. Also the game detects which part of the racket makes contact. I don't know how many angles of return there are but there are several - at least as many as in 2600 Pong (which has 5). EDIT:Just read that difficulty switches affect this. :)

So I found myself starting to be able to position myself to make angled returns and start to win some games. But it becomes pyschological (as much as it can with a CPU opponent - but I can only imagine how good this would be in 2P mode). Position is everything.

Well - not quite everything.

Timing is important too.I noticed sometimes the speed of the ball would change. Sometimes I would hit a cracker. Then I realised the height of the ball is important too. Hit it when it is high and you get better speed - and maybe even better angles. Can't definitively say yet if that is the case with angles, but I suspect it is. It feels it anyhow.

But to be able to have the time to wait until the ball is higher means predicting the opponent and being in the right position early.

I am also starting to think that hitting while stationary or while moving might make a difference too but I can't be sure.

In short - this is a deep game. A really good recreation of Tennis which I used to play in school. It feels like playing Tennis - albeit while sitting on ones backside!  :)   There isn't as much emphasis on the domination of having the serve but that isn't really that big a deal. You can still dictate the rally a bit because you can choose to come into the net off the back of it.

This is a masterpiece of game design. A real gem in the Activision crown. I know I would have got many many hours out of this. My brother and I would have caned this game. And our regular MP sessions with cousins staying over would have benefited from it too. I regret not getting this game.  I reckon my father might have even tried this. He loved Wimbledon and played the odd game of something with us from time to time.

Atari brought out Realsports Tennis later on on the 2600's life and it seems to have similar depth but is maybe even slightly more nuanced.  You can change the settings so that hitting the ball isn't automatic, and hitting the ball while moving forward can make the player smash the ball. When retreating it creates a lob shot - so adding more options for attack and defence. This game has a bit more graphical flair being a later game but either game will I believe deliver a great game experience - even today.

I'm a big fan of Sega's Virtua Tennis and Nintendo's Mario Tennis. It's probably the best sport for videogame treatment. The entire court can be covered by a single camera view with minor adjustments. And it can facilitate 4 players in modern versions. Both Sega's and Nintendo's games enjoy pick up and play control schemes - and like their 2600 ancestors soon reveal hidden depths.

Even if you play these modern games I firmly believe you will enjoy these two early games. I really , really wish I had owned one of these in the day.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 22:37:21 PM by davyk »

Offline Saturn

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2020, 14:28:39 PM »
I wish I (still) had my original copy of Pitfall 2 Lost Caverns. It included contest rules for submitting perfect scores by mail and how to take a picture of the tv screen withOUT using flash. I beat the game dozens of times with perfect scores and submitted many entries but didn't win. Still, the separate leaflet with this info was priceless to me but lost over time somewhere.
Can't think of anything else as appealing atm.

Offline TrekMD

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2020, 16:54:55 PM »
Hey @Saturn did you not get your patch for Pitfall ii?  I remember spending a lot of time working hard to get that patch!  I was so happy when I finally rescued Harry's dog!  :)

@davyk interesting that you mentioned Activision's Tennis and RealSports Tennis for the 2600.  Both of those games are excellent.  This is one instance where I feel that Atari outperformed Activision.  Not only does the game look better but you can enter your name on the scoreboard.  Can't go wrong paying either one, though.  :)

As for arcade ports, yes they don't come close in terms of looks, but a good number of them capture the gameplay quite well.  Some examples are Dig Dug, Centipede, Millipede, Star Wars: The Arcade Game, Asteroids, Battlezone, Berzerk, Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man.
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Offline davyk

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2020, 17:15:11 PM »
Realsports Tennis came out 2 years after Activision's so I can excuse the earlier game's relatively simpler graphical look. Atari really used all the tricks on those Realsports series.

EDIT: 1983. Thought that series was later - devs really were making that old console sing by then.

Offline davyk

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2020, 17:25:00 PM »
A few more games I wish I had got:-

Night Driver Atari
A real solid arcade port this. And the paddle is put to good use as well. It's still an effective effect they used which belies the game's age. The game has a series of tracks that can learned by rote but there are a few randomly generated tracks that keep the replay value going.

Enduro Activision
Activision really pushed the boat out with this. I just took this one for a Pole Position clone but it is far more than that. This puts up a good stiff challenge to the player by requiring 200 cars overtaken for each day. I've played this on Stella but haven't got past the 2nd day. It isn't one that will be mastered quickly. Despite some of the graphical variety and trickery going on here I still prefer the look of Night Driver but these two games make a great pair and cover the into-the-screen driving genre extremely well. This wasn't a genre I invested in on the 2600 as I didn't think the console was up to the task - but I was wrong. Of course driving games have come a long way and I wouldn't say these come near to challenging modern games in any way - but I would have enjoyed both of these at the time.

Circus Atari Atari
I wrote this off as a Breakout clone. And yes - it could be argued to be that - but the 2 clown + see saw mechanic adds something genuinely new. You don't feel that until you pick up and play it. I had Super Breakout so I left this on on the shelf. The square "balloons" put me off this game too but such graphical limitations melt away when you start playing this. It is real high speed twitch game with great smooth movement and there are enough game variations to keep the interest up. I would have got a lot of playtime out of this and the 2 player mode would have only added to that. First time I played this (using Stella and the mouse) I said to myself - I really should have got this one....

Offline davyk

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2020, 17:45:55 PM »
Beamrider Activision.
Wow. Just wow. This doesn't look or feel like a 2600 game. Way ahead of its time. I though this was a late release - but 1983? Incredible.  I love my shooters and I play Cave's greatest on the 360 - but I still make time to play this one. A highly entertaining game. It's main problem was it was another shooter and even I had had enough of those in the mid 80s. But I would have made an exception for this. Great looks, sounds and gameplay. A big challenge too - I often got into the zone with shooters then and clocked them but I don't think I'd have done that with this one. This would have blown me away.

Defender II Atari
Chopper Command Activision
I had the first Defender port. It was disappointing at first glance. Flickered like hell and the ship disappeared when you fired. But it was playable - and those issues didn't matter after playing for a short time. I played the hell out of it. Clocked the score and the wave counter..... got a pile of playtime out of it in 1P and 2P modes so ultimately I got the best out of it. But these 2 games are far superior. I had had enough of that style of game by the time I spotted these. Maybe I wouldn't have played them more? Hard to say but it would have been a better experience.

Flag Capture Atari
An odd choice maybe? Maybe. But I like a puzzle game - I just didn't know it then!  This is an early ancestor of Minesweeper and it plays pretty well and has plenty of modes for 1 and 2 players. I just know I'd have played this to death. Would have made for a great change of pace. Some of the modes are head splittingly hard - something I really could have got my teeth into. Maybe it would have been solo play as there's good odds my brother & cousins wouldn't have liked it at the time - but I would have.

Freeway Activision
Frogger was a big favourite of mine in the arcade. Played it a lot but for some reason I avoided the Parker Bros port - probably because of the flicker. I also ignored this one because there was no river and no sideways motion - so I wrote it off as too primitive.

It's a different game really - and it's all about 2 player. You simultaneously race to get the most chickens across the road and is highly competitive. The cart has a pile of different traffic layouts as well. This would have been a hoot in the day. Really sorry not to have had it.



Offline TrekMD

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2020, 17:51:43 PM »
That's another good group of games.  Stargate/Defender II is uttery fantastic when compared to the original.  Did you know Bob DeCrescenzo hacked Stargate into Defender Arcade?  Enduro is probably the best driving game on the 2600.  I got my patch on that one.  :) 

Have you checked our Legacy Reviews section?  There are plenty of Atari 2600 reviews there as well as for several other system.  The Legacy Reviews are here or just check the tab at the top of the forum.  :)
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Offline davyk

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2020, 18:06:58 PM »
Frostbite Activision
Looks like Frogger at first glance but it isn't. It's a real action/tactics game that requires quick thinking and movement. A truly great game - up there among the best for the console really. Just a superbly designed and implemented game. Would have loved this.

H.E.R.O. Activision
Pressure Cooker Activision
Two late games that show off complete mastery of the hardware. As enjoyable to play as they are to look at. Most people know about HERO which is a superb hunt and rescue game with light problem solving and good action, but Pressure Cooker was way ahead of its time - predating the new mobile casual games that are based around food prep etc. This is a really solid and challenging game.

Jr. Pacman Atari
Had Ms. Pacman which was great but this blows it away. For deeper. Far more challenging. What a game. Whoever developed this was a master craftsman. Despite the sky high difficulty it doesn't put me off. I can't put the controller down when  start playing this.


Keystone Kapers Activision
Once you figure out how to capture the criminal it's easy to think you have this mastered. That's what put me off this one -  but you haven't mastered it at that point. Repeated chases become hectic as the developer throws more and faster obstacles and patterns at you. It's amazing how much variety has been squeezed into the simple format.


Maze Craze Atari
Ancient maze chase game. Ignored because of the age. But what a game this is. New mazes every time you play and a PILE of modes and options that are riffs on the basic chase or race game styles. Would have been played to death in MP this. Highly entertaining.


Missile Command Atari
There is NO WAY, the 2600 could do this game. This was majestic in the arcade. The trak ball. The 3 missile silos. The frantic action. That's why this was ignored. My jaw hit the floor when I tried this years later. Of course the game is scaled back but this a candidate for the best arcade port on the system. This feels like the arcade game despite the compromises and changes. A miracle of game design and implementation. Would have worn this cart out. This is still a really playable game now and can be considered on its own terms apart from the arcade game. Miraculous.

Moon Patrol Atari
Same again. No way the 2600 could do this. I played this a lot in the arcade. Maybe the parallax scrolling and great music made me think it couldn't be done. But the same gameplay is intact in this port - and of course - and as usual - that's what really matters. And it's no walkover either. Would have caned this in the day.

Realsports Volleyball Atari
Like Tennis, a seemingly primitive game reveals hidden depths. The CPU is an able opponent. This would have been a hoot in the day in 2P. Really sorry I didn't get to play this on that spare b&w TV we were chucked onto when the cousins stayed over.







Offline davyk

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2020, 18:16:20 PM »
Skiing Activision.
A set of Activision's original games were based on the time trial format. They were very pretty but very primitive. Grand Prix, Barnstorming, Sky Jinks - all basically the same game. How long does it take to get through a course?  Not a bad thing but it wasn't a mechanic I was fond of then. The basic look and the TT reputation of Activision put me off Skiing. However playing this is a revelation. Maybe because it is a sport that is based on time trialling. I really like 1080 snowboarding's slalom courses. There is something very satisfying about navigating gates and flags and this little game has that feel. It also has a straight downhill mode with jumps for more variety. This stands above the other TT games that Activision churned out then and I'm sorry I missed it.


Sky Diver Atari
This is little more than a mini game now but the risk reward mechanic is very modern. A great little score attack game but if you perfect it, the 2P "match me" mechanic always makes this game worth playing. We would have loved this in MP back then. Such an early game with so basic a look which is why it was ignored - my loss.


Solar Fox
The arcade game was a late discovery to me - courtesy of MAME. This is an astounding port. Highly accurate. This would have been eaten up in the day. Would have loved it. That collect/cleanup mechanic is extremely compulsive and the game is created with great fidelity on the 2600 due to the basic look of the original.

« Last Edit: Today at 12:56:31 by davyk »

Offline Saturn

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2020, 23:07:01 PM »
Hey @Saturn did you not get your patch for Pitfall ii?  I remember spending a lot of time working hard to get that patch!  I was so happy when I finally rescued Harry's dog!  :)

I did, indeed. Got the patch but lost it over time as well.
Had since gotten another sealed/boxed version of Pitfall 2 but it was in the early 2000s. Not the same version as my original but will definitely suffice. I discovered/remembered that by searching in my huge collection Excel file. Never opened it once it arrived but this one is definitely secure so all is well :)
Have a serious urge to play the game now. Installed Stella on my laptop and may give it a go :)

Offline TrekMD

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2020, 23:20:16 PM »
Oh, it's a fun game, so I can see wanting to play it again.  I still do have my patch.  That's something I did not want to lose. :)
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Offline davyk

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2020, 12:09:23 PM »
Pitfall II music - really, really didn't like it. Was a horrific assault on my ears.Put me off the game.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2020, 18:51:16 PM by davyk »

Offline TrekMD

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2020, 15:11:20 PM »
You didn't like the music?!  It has a special chip to produce it on the 2600.
Going to the final frontier, gaming...


Offline davyk

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Re: 2600 games I wished I owned BITD
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2020, 18:50:52 PM »
They really shouldn't have bothered. That dirge actually stopped me from playing.


The Pitfall games are slightly overrated anyhow. I mean they are fine but I wouldn't have one in my top 20.

 

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