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Quick Reviews of Atari 2600 Homebrews
pokemon
unwiredben
Over the weekend, while Annelies was away working on her law school musical, I had a chance to finally try out a bunch of NEW Atari 2600 games that I've been gathering over the last year.  These were all homebrew games programmed by amateur developer all over the world and released by the AtariAge website (which is based here in Austin, Texas!)

The Great Ones

I'm really impressed by a few of the games in the pile.  These were the ones that were fun to play and had interesting graphics (at least for a 30-year old video game system).

Allia Quest - it's a shooter with detailed enemies flying in dangerous patterns.  I liked the details of the various attack waves here and the need to both dodge and shoot.  If you miss some of the attackers, they come back and give you a chance to shoot them down again.

Lady Bug - a very nice recreation of the arcade game which gets the sound right, includes the color changing bonus dots and turnstiles, and even has the floating bug death animation.  This would have sold a million if it were released in 1982.

This Planet Sucks - a variation on Taito's Lunar Rescue arcade game where you have dodge asteroids to land on one of three tiny platforms, then navigate through a sea of alien ships to dock with your command module.  This is a frustratingly hard game, especially when the guys you're trying to save run directly under you ship as you're trying to land, causing them to be splattered by your lander's exhaust.

Oystron - I've actually had this one for a few years, and I love it!  It's a horizontally-scrolling shooter like Defender, and it's very fast.  In addition to all the destruction, there's a collecting aspect, as you also need to pick up blocks left behind by some of the attackers and deposit them in rows where they will turn into bombs that you can use against the aggressive boss at the end of each level.

Toyshop Trouble - this was a limited edition 2006 holiday cart and is no longer for sale.  That's too bad, as it's one of the best 2600 games I've played.  You're an elf, and you've got to gather paint from pans on the side of the screen and apply it in various ways to the toys in Santa's workshop.  Sometimes you'll have a toy like a candy cane where you have to apply multiple colors, sometimes you'll have to apply colors in the right order.  Plus, there's a time limit.  It's frantic, but also really great, and it even has cool Christmas music between screens.

Star Fire is another arcade port, this time of a first-person space shooter.  Graphics are Star Wars inspired with lots ot TIE Fighters, and an occasional appearance by Boba Fett's Slave-1.  I think I also saw the TARDIS go by once... at least until I blew it into pieces with a dozen blasts of my constantly overheating laser beams.

Those That Are Just OK

A-VCS-tec Challenge had pretty graphics, but the gameplay was boring. 
AStar was an interesting puzzle game, but it got hard really quickly.
Pesco was a decent clone of Pac-Man, but with fish and crabs in the place of the Pac-Man and ghosts, but I didn't want to keep playing it.
Power Off was fun for a few minutes, but it's also pretty unforgiving.
Reindeer Rescue was the holiday cart from 2005, and while the chase idea was well done, it's the kind of game where you just have to die over and over to figure out what patterns to follow.
Vault Assault resembles with four-way laser battles in Cosmic Ark, but even more hectic, and while it had some fun moments, it didn't wow me.

The Ones That Would Cause a Second Video Game Crash

Backfire was just confusing to play, but the problem could be with my TV -- the shots might be flickering in such a way that I can't see them on the digital set.
Merlin's Walls required me to turn my head sideways in order to be correctly oriented, but it just made me dizzy.
Alfred Challenge was disappointing, reminding me of a slow version of Fast Eddie, but without the item collecting.
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Toyshop Trouble

(Anonymous)
A minor correction - Toyshop Trouble is now available in the AtariAge online store.

A few other 2600 homebrews you should check out: Gunfight, Seawolf, Chunkout 2600, and Incoming!

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