The Game: Trapped in a maze full of HallMonsters, you are adventurer Winky, on a mission to snatch incredible treasures from hazardous underground rooms inhabited by lesser beasts such as re-animated skeletons, goblins, serpents, and so on. Sometimes even the walls move, threatening to squish Winky or trap him, helpless to run from the HallMonsters. The deeper into the dungeons you go, the more treacherous the danger – and the greater the rewards. Just remember two things – the decomposing corpses of the smaller enemies are just as deadly as the live creatures. And there is no defense – and almost never any means of escape – from the HallMonsters. (unreleased prototype, 2017)
Memories: There may be nothing quite as bittersweet as an unreleased prototype that turns out to be awesome, we gladly would’ve paid full retail for it back in the day had it ever gone to market. It’s not that it was hard to find a good port of Venture back in the day – there was an excellent port on Colecovision and a more than passable version for the Atari 2600.
But the Atari 5200 version does more than merely port the game: it adds some fine grain detail to it that even the original arcade hardware wasn’t quite up to. Walls that were once simple lines or rectangles now have brick textures. Treasures have details. The basic broad strokes of the coin-op are preserved – though the Atari POKEY chip provides some interesting takes on the polyphonic music of the arcade – and the control of the game is very smooth (within the limitations of the 5200 controller).
(It has since emerged that this is a fan-made port of a fan-made Atari 8-bit port of Venture completed and sold in 2014. As such, this review has been transferred from the “unreleased prototype” category to the “homebrew” category.)
But whatever the game’s origins may be, it’s a jaw-droppingly good port of Venture, as much of a treasure as any of the bonus prizes it asks players to collect. Whether recent or 1980s vintage, there are still 5200 gems waiting to be unearthed.