For part 1, click here.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of games made for the Atari XL/XE systems so this means I have plenty of writing material for the future. When I get around to playing and then writing about it of course.
Alley Cat – This is a game worth owning an Atari XL/XE computer for. I had forgotten about this game, which a childhood friend of mine loved but we only had access to the underwhelming 4-color DOS version version at the time. With the MyIDE][ cart I was finally able to see how this version is and it is excellent. The Atari version blows the IBM PC DOS version out of the water in every aspect I can remember, although it wasn’t difficult for any Atari game to best a CGA game in this regard. My kids love this game and give it time whereas many other games I throw at them loose their interest quickly. It has all of the charm and challenge of a classic arcade game. I’ve checked into some emulation after playing on real hardware and emulation gets the sound wrong so play this on the real thing if you can.
Montezuma’s Revenge – Not the medical condition nor the curse, the platformer game! One thing I love about games from this era is they would take an idea from a popular pop-culture item and run with it in their own direction. They didn’t get licensing which could end up limiting some of what they could do, they molded something unique from the theme. MZ played on the Indiana Jones theme which still holds up now. This is a screen platformer in that it doesn’t scroll; it is a real challenge too. I played this one a lot as a kid and perhaps with a little more practice I can finally get to the end. This also came out on the Atari 2600, 5200, Commodore 64. PCDOS and probably a few other platforms.
Nightshade – Recent conversion of a Spectrum ZX game, admittedly I’m not sure what to make of this one. At first I thought it was an isometric dungeon crawler but it is more of a chaotic exploration game. Since I have never played the ZX Spectrum version, I’m not really sure what I am looking for. I will give this more time and read up on it a little more but playing it without much info isn’t the way to go. As is, it is great as a tech demo not so much as a game. Perhaps I’ll see past that once I figure it out.
River Raid – A name never to be forgotten among anyone who played a video game in the 80s, it is an Activision game that had the company had the mentality in 1982 that they have now, we would have received annual updates to the game until people would become nauseated at the mere mention of the words ‘river’ or ‘raid’. Most people played the 2600 version of the title but it did get a ‘next-gen’ upgrade for more powerful machines like the XL and the 5200. The game plays just like the original version, to the disappointment of anyone hoping for vastly improved graphics. The additions of hot air balloons, tanks and slightly more detailed landscapes (mountains look like pyramids) is nice but if you were expecting to be wowed – well you probably won’t be. Since they didn’t change the formula it is still a fun game. Here is a review of the 5200 version, there is no difference visually between this and the version released for the XL/XE machines.
Star Trek – While an improvement over the Atari 2600 version, I still prefer the TI 99/4A port as the king of home ports for this great game. Since finding an arcade version is very difficult (higher rarity due to the unreliable color vector monitor Sega had), the home ports have to do. The XE version improves the graphics slightly but as this review says below, there isn’t much else to it in the realm of differences. As to going off on a tangent, I like the TI version best as it has higher resolution graphics and with the Voice Module, you get voice overs like the arcade version had. While nothing tops color vector graphics for games of that era, the TI does the best job in raster. Where my TI isn’t working at the moment, I’ll take the Atari XL version as playwise it is still fun.
Dark Chambers – This was Atari’s way of getting a Gauntlet-like game without it being Gauntlet. There was a Gauntlet port to the XL but it isn’t very good. For a Gauntlet-like game it is ok, it only has two player support and there are fewer enemies on the screen and how they work is a little odd – a more powerful enemy breaks down into the weaker ones as you shoot it until it disappears. With 26 levels its an ok game but it really could use an appropriate soundtrack and a boss fight here and there or a puzzle wouldn’t hurt either as the game eventually starts to repeat assets which just feels lazy. I did not know there was an XL/XE version of the game so while the sound effects benefit from better depth that the Pokey chip provides, the game runs slower with fewer colors and has fewer enemies than the 7800 version. So I would suggest playing this on the 7800 if you are going to play it at all. It’s too bad the source code for the 7800 build hasn’t been found as that is ripe for an XM “fix” version with a soundtrack and tweaks (bosses, different enemy types, maybe some extra magic effects, different weapon upgrades than what the game already offers, etc)
That’s it for the moment, I’ll have a part 3 up sometime eventually as I play more games 😉