Star Wars: Rogue Leader – Rogue Squadron II

Star Wars: Rogue Leader - Rogue Squadron IIOrder this gameThe Game: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Rebel Alliance calls on the hotshot pilots of Rogue Squadron for the toughest assignments – and that means you. You and your wingmen take on the defenses of the Death Star, buy time for a Rebel retreat from Hoth, beat Imperial forces away from Cloud City, and take on other high-risk assignments. A variety of ships is at your disposal, though initially you start out with a choice of the trusty X-Wing and the robust Y-Wing; if you advance to later missions, A-Wings and B-Wings become available too, along with a few others. (LucasArts, 2001)

Memories: It was hard to decide whether this game should be classified as a Retro Revival Review because in so many ways, the early stages of this game are the 1983 Atari Star Wars arcade game, resurrected with the benefit of 18 years’ worth of graphical advancement. Continue reading

3-In-1 Arcade Classics

3-In-1 Arcade ClassicsBuy this gameThe Game: Three classic Taito coin-ops are dragged into the modern day: the almost-text-based Crazy Balloon, the oft-copied Space Chaser (very similar to such games as Exidy’s Targ), and the abstract early ’80s classic Qix. Each game is presented with its original graphics, as well as new updated versions which – for once – just jazz up the existing 2-D graphics rather than dragging the whole mess into unnecessary 3-D. (Success Systems, 2002, for Playstation)

Memories: Between this and the already-reviewed Space Invaders See the videoCollection, the Namco Museum series, Irem Arcade Classics and the glorious Nichibutsu Arcade Classics, you may have gotten the impression that I really, really like how the Japanese put together retro arcade compilations. And you’d be absolutely correct in that assumption. There are two big reasons for this. Continue reading

Haunted House II 3D

Haunted House II 3DThe Game: As with the original Atari 2600 game, you’re exploring a dark haunted house populated by ghosts, spiders, and even a few walking skeletons. Your task is to track down all the treasures hidden in the maze-like rooms of the house without allowing any of these creatures to touch you. If they get hold of you three times, game over. And if you find all the treasure before that happens? Well…you’ll just have to find out. (Mean Hamster Software, 2002; written by John Swiderski)

Memories: One of 2002’s bumper crop of homebrew Atari 5200 releases, Haunted House II 3D is a sequel to a favorite among many 2600 owners. But is it radically different from the original? No – and that’s a huge part of the game’s charm. Continue reading

Game Pack #1

Game Pack #1The Game: Remember those BASIC programming how-to books in the 70s and 80s with the do-it-yourself minigames you could type in and run? They’re back. Daniel Bienvenu’s tribute to those classic games has a twist though: it’s running Buy this gameon the ColecoVision. 14 maddeningly addictive and yet simple games are crammed into a single cartridge, with extras like a program to test the console’s musical ability. (Good Deal Games, 2003)

Memories: Debuted at Classic Gaming Expo 2003, ColecoVision Game Pack #1 is a nifty little collection of games like the ones we all used to type in from a book, minus that syntax error I’d always typo into existence somewhere around line 300. Continue reading

Intellivision 25 TV Game

Intellivision 25 TV GameThe Game: 25 choice cuts of Intellivision goodness are crammed into something about the size of a modern-day console controller. Games include Astrosmash, Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling, Buzz Bombers, Chip Shot Super Pro Buy this gameGolf, Hockey, Hover Force, Motocross, Night Stalker, Pinball, Shark! Shark!, Skiing, Slam Dunk Super Pro Basketball, Snafu, Space Armada, Space Battle, Space Hawk, Star Strike, Sub Hunt, Super Pro Football, Super Pro Volleyball, Thin Ice, Thunder Castle, Tower Of Doom, Vectron, and World Championship Baseball. (Techno Source, 2003)

Memories: And it sounded like such a neat idea when it was first announced. Really, it is still a good idea. Pack 25 games into a $25 standalone game that plugs into your TV or VCR’s auxiliary audio/video ports, and make them as true to the Intellivision as possible. The real problem here is that they only get so close. Continue reading

Namco 5-In-1 TV Game

Namco 5-In-1 TV GameBuy this gameThe Game: It’s like Namco Museum in the palm of your hand: some of the venerable Japanese arcade innovator’s all-time best quarter-grabbers from the 1980s are gathered in the form of a standalone joystick that plugs into your TV or VCR’s A/V jacks. Games built into this system are Pac-Man, Galaxian, Rally-X, Bosconian and Dig Dug. Batteries are not included, but the fun is. (Jakks Pacific [under license from Namco], 2003)

Namco 5-In-1 TV GameMemories: After I reviewed the dandy Techno Source Intellivision 25-in-1 TV Game, at least one e-mail suggested that I wasn’t being critical enough in my review. I praised that dandy self-contained gadget for capturing the flavor of those 25 classic Intellivision games, even if a lot of the finer details were left out. Those of you who thought I was going easy on that game should just stop reading this review now. Because I kinda dig this quintet of Namco goodness – with some significant reservations. Continue reading

Skeleton+

Skeleton+Buy this gameThe Game: You’re wandering through a dark, twisty maze. So are the dead, apparently, and these reanimated skeletons have a bone to pick with you. You have a single weapon with which to protect yourself, as well as a sensor that picks up on the proximity of nearby skeletons. Using the hints provided by that sensor, you must track down the living dead and dispatch them yet again – and hope they don’t get you first. (Eric Ball, 2003)

Memories: This fun little number is yet another of the current crop of newly-prorammed homebrew games by hobbyist authors. In this case, Eric Ball has brought the first-person shooter genre to the Atari 2600 with surprising success. Now, sure, it’s a first-person shooter by way of a Hunt The Wumpus-style game mechanic, but that makes it no less impressive. Continue reading

Star Fire

Star FireBuy this gameThe Game: This may sound awfully familiar, but you’re the lone surviving pilot of a space squadron decimated by enemy attacks. The enemy’s bow-tie-shaped fighters are closing in on you from all sides, and you must keep an eye on your own fighter’s shields and weapon temperature (overheated lasers don’t like to fire anymore), all while trying to draw a bead on those pesky enemy ships. You’re also very much on your own – nobody’s going to show up and tell you you’re all clear, kid. (Xype/AtariAge.com, 2003)

Star FireMemories: A nifty after-the-fact version of an oft-imitated arcade classic, Star Fire isn’t undiscovered 80s vaporware, but was rather programmed from the ground up by Manuel Polik, paying homage to and slightly expanding on the original game. Continue reading

Kill The Attacking Aliens

Kill The Attacking AliensAliens are attacking several idyllic locales on Earth, and it’s your job to fend off the attack. Not only are you charged with blasting the aliens themselves out of the sky, but you must intercept as much of their incoming fire as possible before it hits targets on the See the videoground. If you save the various trees and cars and castles and trains and boats and whatnot, not only have you earned the gratitude of the human race, you get big bonus points too, and we all know which is more important. Your highly maneuverable ship is equipped with shields which allow you to absorb the impact of collisions with the alien ships, as well as protecting you from direct hits from their weapons. But each hit and collision takes a significant chunk out of your shields. You can replenish them with power-ups left behind by fallen aliens, but when your shields run out and your ship takes another hit, your alien-killing days are over. (Soren Gust [published by Packrat Video Games], 2004)

Memories: Let me go back and read that again. Shields and power-ups and scores into the thousands? Did I just write that about an Odyssey2 game? Yes. Yes, I did. Five years in the making, Kill The Attacking Aliens (a.k.a. KTAA) is one of those projects that demonstrates everything that is good about homebrew games for classic consoles. Continue reading

Planet Lander!

Planet Lander!Buy this gameThe Game: Your spaceship falls toward a forbidden, craggy landscape where there’s only one safe landing spot. Using your ship’s landing engine, you have to guide it down to the surface for a picture-perfect landing – not too fast, not at an angle, and without running out of fuel in the process. After each successful landing, you move on to another world, and another spaceship in need of your piloting skills. (Ted Sczcypiorski [published by Packrat Video Games], 2004)

See the videoMemories: So, another iteration of Lunar Lander for my amusement. You may be thinking to yourself, “I’m already trying not to crash-land my ship in Out Of This World!, so why would I want to do the same here?” The answer is simple – where the aforementioned classic Odyssey2 spaceship-landing title gives you control of nothing but thrust, Planet Lander gives you the whole crap-your-pants-and-hold-your-breath-while-you-look-for-a-place-to-set-down-in-the-Sea-of-Tranquility shebang. So to speak. It’s on a par with Lunar Lander for replay value, and boasts unusually intricate graphics for an Odyssey2 game, homebrew or otherwise. Continue reading

Pong For Odyssey2!

Pong For Odyssey2!Travel back in time to the dawn of interactive electronic games. Pong For Odyssey2 offers a standard two-player version of the classic video table tennis game, as well as electronic recreations of the analog version of the game available on the first home game See the videoBuy this gamesystem, the Magnavox Odyssey. (Renè Van Den Enden [published by Packrat Video Games], 2004)

Memories: Odyssey2 homebrews are a lovely thing to behold, and this is a game that you’d think would have been done sooner on this machine – especially with Magnavox’s claim to fame as the first company to manufacture and distribute a home video game system in the United States (or anywhere else for that matter). In the end, it took 25 years to get a Pong game on this console. Continue reading

Capcom Classics Collection

Capcom Classics CollectionBuy this gameThe Game: Relive the golden years of arcades through the latest retro compilation disc, Capcom Classics Collection. CCC contains 22 classic arcade games along with tons of unlockable artwork, music and more. (Capcom, 2005, for Sony Playstation 2)

Memories: It is impossible to deny the impact retrogaming has had on the gaming industry. Those of us who spent our youth hanging out in smoke-filled arcades are now the prime videogame demographic. Many of us have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on games, and the companies from our childhood have figured out a way to tap into that cash flow – through retro compilation discs. It’s taken a while for companies to get the formula right; too few games or to high of a price, and consumers complain (or simply avoid) your package. Developers (particularly Sega) have experimented with “updated” versions of classic games, which have been met with mixed reviews. In 2005, manufacturers seem to have dialed in to what consumers want – arcade ports of 20 or more games for $20. Bonus features are a plus. Continue reading

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate DestructionOrder this gameThe Game: Hulk Smash. Okay, he runs, jumps, punches and throws stuff too in this action-packed game, but mostly he just smashes. Instantly theraputic for anyone who’s ever wanted to hit anything, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction allows players to use the Hulk (and just about any item he comes across) to destroy his enemies and the environment around him. (Vivendi Universal, 2005)

Memories: Within five minutes of launching this game for the first time, I had destroyed a dozen tanks with my bare fists, knocked two helicopters out of the sky by throwing boulders at them, and killed an enemy soldier by beating him to death with a cow. If that’s not a recipe for fun, I don’t know what is. Continue reading

Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary

Namco Museum: 50th AnniversaryBuy this gameThe Game: To commemorate their 50th Anniversary, Namco has released pixel-perfect translations of sixteen of their greatest classic arcade games, all on one budget-priced disc. (Namco, 2005)

Memories: Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary brings sixteen classic arcade games such as Pac-Man, Galaga and Dig Dug directly into your living room. All the games play exactly like their upright counterparts, and they should by now; this is at least the third time Namco has released ported versions of these arcade games to the home console market. Continue reading

Tecmo Classic Arcade

Tecmo Classic ArcadeBuy this gameThe Game: Turn your Xbox into a virtual 80’s arcade with Tecmo Classic Arcade, the newest retro compilation disc to hit home consoles. (Tecmo, 2005, for Xbox)

See the videoMemories: Someone has definitely not been saving the best for last. Tecmo Classic Arcade follows a long line of classic arcade compilations which have been released this summer, including Capcom Classics Collection, Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary, Taito Legends and Midway’s Arcade Treasures 3. Unfortunately, no matter how you slice it, Tecmo’s game collection simply doesn’t stand up against the competition. Continue reading

Conquest Of Mars

Conquest Of MarsBuy this gameThe Game: The enemy in an interplanetary war has gone underground, and you’re piloting the ship that’s taking the fight to him. But he hasn’t just hidden away in a hole; he’s hidden away in a very well-defended hole. As if it wasn’t already going to be enough of a tight squeeze navigating subterranean caverns on Mars, you’re now sharing that space with enemy ships and any number of other fatal obstacles. (Fortunately, See the videothe enemy also leaves copious numbers of helpful fuel depots for you too.) Once you fight your way to the bottom of the cave, you plant charges on the enemy mothership – meaning that now you have to escape the caverns again, and fast. (John Champeau / AtariAge.com, 2006)

Memories: As much as Caverns Of Mars caught fire on the Atari home computers, you’d think it would’ve been a shoo-in for the company’s consoles. Now, at least, 2600 owners who resisted stepping up to the mighty Atari 8-bit computers can reap the reward for 20+ years of patience. John Champeau, the programmer who finally made good on Coleco’s unfulfilled promise to bring the arcade sleeper hit Ladybug to the 2600, has struck again. Continue reading

Mr. Roboto!

Mr. Roboto!Buy this gameThe Game: Robots, commanded by the CPU which is in turn commanded by you, take up positions on a battlefield grid. The two opposing armies converge, and if two robots lae square, the action zooms in on that portion of the battlefield so the two can fight it out. When one robot’s energy is exhausted by the other’s attacks or by coming into contact with energy pulses bouncing around the arena, that robot is forfeited and the action returns to the grid. The CPUs can transmit viruses to any enemy robot on the grid, stealing half of that robot’s speed or hit points, or halting it altogether. Robots can attack the enemy CPU, but the CPU has a more robust defensive mechanism at its disposal than the average robot… (Ted Sczcypiorski [published by Packrat Video Games], 2006)

See the videoMemories: Yet another Odyssey2 homebrew is charting impressive new territory for a classic console that many consider to be underpowered. And yet, what we have here in Mr. Roboto! is essentially Archon – a classic computer game that didn’t appear on a console until the NES. And yet here it is running on one of the 8-bit era’s underdogs, and running quite nicely, thank you very much. Continue reading

Puzzle Piece Panic

Puzzle Piece Panic!The Game: Interconnecting puzzle pieces are spewed out of the sky by the Tetrad Ejection Device (T.E.D.) and drift down the screen in a pre-defined area. You can rotate them for better placement (or at least rotate them to achieve the least worst effect); filling an See the videoBuy this gameentire horizontal line clears that line and lowers the amount of clutter left on the screen. As more lines are cleared, the pieces fall faster – and it doesn’t get any easier for you to catch up. (Ted Szczypiorski / PackratVG.com, 2007)

Memories: It doesn’t take a master’s degree to see that this game is clearly a version of Tetris for the almost 30-year-old Odyssey2 console, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Puzzle Piece Panic is a combination of a great game with a fond tribute to the finest Magnavox/Philips tradition of changing the name and some minor details to create a “near-beer” version of a popular title. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit to having had a hand in some of these homages to the hyperbolic Magnavox marketing style, including the game’s name.) Continue reading

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