Chuckie Egg, Atari 800

I’m not sure why Henhouse Harry has been made as large as he is in the Atari 800 version of Chuckie Egg, but he looks ridiculous…

Harry’s movement (and jump) is slow; the chasing birds are slow and flickery. Harry doesn’t seem to be able to do those neat (and sometimes necessary) ‘belly bounces’ on the platforms either.

The only saving grace is that the controls are not sticky, but the game is way too easy to have any real lasting appeal. This is barely Chuckie Egg, and is a bit of an embarrassment for the Atari 8-bit machines. Should’ve been a lot better!

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuckie_Egg

Spy Hunter, Atari 800

The Atari 8-bit version of Spy Hunter is a cracking rendition, with smooth scrolling and decent sprites. It’s a little chunky, graphically, reminding me of a cross between the Commodore 64 version and the Amstrad version, but the car moves very well and all the Spy Hunter features are present, so it’s not a disappointing experience.

There are two levels of difficulty: Novice and Expert. In Expert there are more vehicles on the road and more helicopters chasing you, making it much more challenging.

The Atari 8-bit version was released on cartridge, as well as disk.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spy_Hunter

Super Cobra, Atari 800

Park Brothers developed this conversion of Konami‘s classic arcade game, Super Cobra, and released it on Atari 8-bit home computers in 1983.

Graphically it is very good, with nicely-defined backgrounds and sprites, and the colour cycling that defines its arcade parent.

Gameplay-wise it is solid too – balancing challenge versus playability nicely, and having reasonably forgiving collision detection.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Cobra

Cavernia, Atari 800

A British platform game that came quite late in the life of the Atari 8-bit computers (released by Zeppelin Games in 1990), Cavernia is a fairly simple left to right run-and-jump-a-thon but with nice presentation and decent controls.

You control a small kid (called Teddy Arklethorpe) who’s dressed in an adventuring outfit (complete with pith helmet) and who must collect items to reveal the key to the exit door. Touching something dangerous or falling too far loses a life, but you at least keep all the items collected on a level to that point, so don’t have to start from the scratch.

The first level is a cinch, the second level more challenging, and the third level is quite hard. So quite a steep difficulty curve. There are 16 levels in total.

More: Cavernia on Atari Mania

Summer Games, Atari 800

Epyx‘s classic multi-event sports sim, Summer Games, first came out on the Commodore 64, and this Atari 8-bit conversion came later.

Epyx did a sterling job of porting it to the Atari and Summer Games is arguably one of the best games on the system.

The events include: pole vault, platform diving, 100m dash, gymnastics, freestyle swimming, skeet shooting and 4 x 400m relay.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_Games_(video_game)

Dark Chambers, Atari 800

Dark Chambers is an overhead maze shooter in the style of Gauntlet. That said: it is actually a direct descendent of Dandy – another overhead maze game written by John Howard Palevich and also an influence on the design of Gauntlet.

The game is rather simple. You run around, looking for keys to open doors, weapons and armour to improve your offence/defence, bombs to blow everything up, and food to replenish energy. You can fire in eight directions. Generators produce more enemies, so shooting them is priority. Some generators are disguised as items, and are traps.

Dark Chambers has a simultaneous two-player option and two levels of difficulty, which helps make the game a bit more enjoyable than it might otherwise have been.

Dandy, Atari 800

Dandy is an overhead maze shooter for up to four players, created by John Palevich for the Atari Program Exchange in 1983. It is the precursor to Gauntlet, Dark Chambers, and a whole host of other games.

Although Dandy may not look like much, it is in fact a great little game. It is much more difficult and strategic than it looks.

Key to this strategic layer is how the player character fires. Once a bullet (or arrow) has been fired, you can’t fire another until it either hits something, or goes off the screen. Also, certain objects block monsters, and also turn into monsters when shot. This can make things very interesting, and rather than just blasting away recklessly you have to be careful where you shoot.

Dandy is also quite a challenge. There are 26 levels (A to Z), and some of them are relatively hard. The monsters might looks a bit basic, but they certainly come at you with enthusiasm at times – especially when they are being re-spawned by a skull and crossbones generator (the prototype for the monster generators in Gauntlet). So shooting the generators is generally a priority.

It’s easy to write Dandy off because of the graphics, but I urge you not to do that. It is a classic video game and deserves appreciation (in spite of the silly name). It’s even got a built-in level editor, so you could make your own levels if you wanted to.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dandy_(video_game)

Montezuma’s Revenge, Atari 800

Montezuma’s Revenge is a classic platform game originally released for Atari 8-bit computers by Utopia Software in 1983, and later re-released by Parker Brothers in 1984.

The game was written by a then 16 year-old Robert Jaeger, who made two versions of the game for Atari home computers. The original disk version required 48K of RAM to run and featured an animated title screen, plus more rooms, a different layout, more bells and whistles, and a Mexican lead character called “Pedro”. A 16K cartridge version was also released, with fewer rooms, less detail, and a main character called “Panama Joe”. I recommend finding (and playing) the original disk version over the sparse cartridge version if possible. The original version is easy to spot: it has a title screen and music, and the cartridge version does not. These grabs show both versions.

In both versions there are nine difficulty levels, which change the game quite significantly in some respects, giving the game more scope than it otherwise might have had. Only the first three difficulty levels are available from the start, though. The rest must be unlocked by playing through the game.

Montezuma’s Revenge has also been converted to a variety of different systems over the decades, which demonstrates just how good a game it is. It might look like a kid’s game, but it’s actually quite a tough challenge, and well worth taking on.

More: Montezuma’s Revenge on Wikipedia

Ballblazer, Atari 800

Another Lucasfilm Games‘ classic that originated on the 8-bit Atari, Ballblazer is a one-on-one, futuristic ball game played out on a giant checkerboard, with players inside floating hovercraft.

The game gives you a first-person view of the action and the aim is to get the ball and hold onto it for long enough to shoot it towards the goalposts and to score a goal. The further away from the goal you are when you score: the more points you get.

The other player can ‘hit’ you to try to get you to drop the ball, but otherwise it’s you and him in the small arena, trying to outwit each other in these weird floating ships that always snap in the direction of the ball.

Droids with various difficulty levels give a single-player game, and of course a split-screen game like Ballblazer is made for two-player games, so playing against a human opponent is where the game is best.

Ballblazer might be simple, but it is also video-gaming at its best, and this Atari 8-bit version is the daddy of them all.

Note: I previously said that the Commodore 64 version of Ballblazer was the best. It really is debatable which version is the best. The Atari version runs faster and has a neat little intro. All the 8-bit versions are top notch. Which do you prefer?

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballblazer

Spelunker, Atari 800

This 1983 scrolling platform game was quite influential when it was first released. A lot of people tried to copy it, but very few got anywhere near as good. This Atari 8-bit version is the original.

Spelunker is a single-player adventure through a large haunted cave where the aim is to collect dynamite (to blow up rocks that block the way), flares (to scare off bats), energy (for your ghost-killing Phantom Blaster), and keys (to open doors barring your escape). Also: there is limited air (your supply is indicated at the bottom as a purple and blue bar) and if you run out you lose a life. More air can be picked up via canisters found laying around the cavern.

Controlling the Spelunker is pretty easy – up, down, left, right, and jump – although you have to be very careful not to fall off ropes when jumping. Pressing the ‘D’ key will drop dynamite (run away from it when you do); pressing ‘F’ will shoot a flare; and pressing Space will activate the ghost gun, although you have to use it when the ghost is some distance from you, otherwise it might still reach you and kill you.

Spelunker is tricky and challenging, and still fun to play now, although is a little unforgiving with the controls. One slip and – wheee – you’re dead.

The game has been re-made a number of times over the decades and has even appeared on Nintendo‘s Virtual Console.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spelunker_(video_game)