What could be more American than an ol’ fashioned game of football? Starbowl Football aims to bring the excitement of the gridiron into your own home! Now you, the armchair quarterback, can choose and execute the plays to lead your team to victory!
Of course, the preceding paragraph describes every football video game ever made. What it doesn’t say, however, is how freakin’ hard this particular one is! Consider this: I grew up with this Atari to play on. Instead of playing sports, I played with the computer. About the only things I knew about football is that a bunch of guys huddle, then hike the ball and run into each other. Eventually, somebody’d get a touchdown. I didn’t know how it happened, just that it did (and if I tried to play it with kids my own age, I’d get laughed at until I cried and hid under those giant tires they used to have in playgrounds). So, coming into this game, I had virtually no knowledge of how it worked.
Now consider that we got all these probably pirated games with no instruction manuals, and you had a recipe for the computer beating me soundly every single time without me knowing what was going on. Now add to this the fact that, even if I had the instruction manual, it had instructions such as this:
“Press and release the RED button on joystick to designate as eligible; otherwise, choose a pass pattern by pushing the joystick in the appropriate direction: square out, screen, fly, or slant in. TR will turn to face defense once programmed. Choose blocking assignments for OL (as a group) by pushing the joystick in the appropriate direction: sweep top, pass protect, trap middle, or sweep bottom. OL will turn to face defense once programmed.”
Heck, I barely understand that now, let alone when I was an eight-year-old computer nerd. Even playing the game now, knowing at least a marginal amount about football (thanks, EA Games!), I still can’t figure out how to execute some basic commands, like, say, passing the football! The quarterback just runs around with his arm raised, no matter what button I press or direction I run, until he passes the line of scrimmage, and if every play I call is a running play, the computer pretty much murders me.
There may be a fun game in Starbowl Football, but I sure as heck couldn’t figure it out. In this day and age there are tons of better football games out there anyway, so stick to something else and pass this one by.
The premier racing game back in the day, Pole Position puts you in a first-person-view F1 racing car. You pick a track from four options (although one is a practice course and all four have the exact same map, so I don’t really know what the difference is) and how many laps you will complete. Then, you’re off; but first, you complete a qualifying lap, which will determine in what position you begin the race, the pole position, of course, being first. You seem to have filled up your car with nitrous oxide instead of gasoline, however, since your car is at least twice as fast as any other car on the course. If you crash into anything (another car, a road sign, etc.) you will immediately reappear, but since the time ticks over a crash, it becomes more unlikely that you’ll finish the race with each crash. This is preferable to actual car racing, where each crash results in fireballs and thousands of dollars in property damage and hospital bills, so there’s something to be said for that.
Pole Position defined a lot of what makes up the racing car game genre, including checkpoints that increase your time remaining, the first-person view (instead of top-down), and many other innovations. The sound is surprisingly good for the Atari 8-bit era, and the course, while the same each time, is always pretty difficult due to the other cars on the track. Of special note is what I call the Dead Man’s Curve: a really sharp turn about halfway through the course that inevitably results in a crash with a red road sign off to the right of the road, unless you turn early enough, brake, or downshift (that’s right, you’ve gotta shift in this game too, but you only get two gears so it’s not too difficult). All in all, Pole Position isn’t just a pioneer, it’s a great game, and I recommend it for anyone into racing games.
Another racing game, PitStop has an added gimmick that Pole Position lacked: namely, the fact that racing is hard on a car and it might explode if you’re not careful (and not just by running into other cars or road signs)! The racing part is fairly elementary: you’re on a course, with a map in the corner that you kind of follow (the road gently curves every time there’s a bend on the map, but it’s not exact by any means). You race against some amount of yellow cars, whose main objective is apparently to bump into you like bumper cars (they even make a “bump” noise if you collide with one). Every bump wears down your tires a bit, but if you try to off-road it your tires wear down super-fast. Once the tires wear out too much, KABOOM! Your game’s over.
This is why, every lap, you have a chance to stop in the pit stop area and refit your tires (and fill up your gas, which is also running out). Unfortunately, this is done by a laborious process of selecting a man who slowly walks up to your car, grabs a tire (if you can get the pixel-perfect collision-detection to work), drags it over to a barrel, turns it blue, and drags it back to the car. All of this takes time out of the race. Since you’re just racing against yourself (and the clock) I guess it doesn’t matter, but it is a little annoying.
PitStop is an all right racing game, but it’s a little subpar when compared with games like Pole Position, as the racing part itself isn’t nearly as fun and the pit stop gimmick doesn’t do much for me than be annoying. Give it a shot if you want, but I’ll stick with Mario Kart.
You may think, with the racing motif on this disk, that a game with a name like Speedway Blast would be another along those lines, but that’s not the case. Here you’re some sort of car-driving, um, character, whose job is to pick up eggs left at intersections in an upscale suburban neighborhood somewhere. If you don’t pick up an egg fast enough it ends up hatching into a weird, buck-toothed creature who pees all over the road. At least, that’s sure what it looks like. You then have to shoot all the creatures and their, um, droppings, to advance to the next level, where (boy am I sick of writing this next phrase) the colors change and the enemies move faster. If you run into a monster or its leavings, you blow up. Also, you can drive off-road (in the grass), but if you hit a bush, house, swimming pool, or other landmark of suburbia, you also blow up.
I don’t really know where the “speedway” part comes into it, since you’re driving around some WASP neighborhood shooting monsters (although you can go pretty fast in later levels), but what really baffles me is the premise for the game. I mean, eggs left at intersections that hatch into buck-toothed creatures who pee all over the street? Who comes up with ideas like that for a game? Oh, that’s right. (Careful with that link: the video does contain some profanity.)
Anyway, the game itself is pretty fun, although in later levels it moves at an insane speed. I’d recommend it if you’ve got some time to kill in a weird way.
Honestly, I’ve got very little to say about this game. It’s an Atari version of Othello. You pick the computer’s difficulty level and whether you go first, although you’re always white. If you like Othello, this version’s a nice vanilla version of it.
That’s about all I got on that.
I like pie.
You would think that a video game from Parker Brothers would be more of a Monopoly or Risk-based title, but this is apparently a port of a Konami arcade game. You pilot the Super Cobra helicopter over some pretty unfriendly territory, what with the tanks shooting and rockets being shot at you. In addition, the terrain itself is pretty jagged and often you fly into tight tunnels with little room to maneuver. You’re armed with a gun and little bombs, and each press of the trigger alternates between shooting the gun and dropping a bomb. You’ve also got to keep an eye on your fuel meter, which can be refilled by shooting or bombing fuel containers on the ground. I’m not quite sure how that works, though, but if every time I needed to fill up my car I had to take a hood-mounted rocket launcher and blow up the nearest Chevron—well, let’s just say that I’d do a lot more driving.
In any case, after every two levels a really goofy tune plays and a message appears showing how many miles you’ve gone (1000 miles for each two levels passed). Also, every pair of levels share a common theme. Sometimes it’s just rockets and tanks in narrow caves or in cities, but sometimes you also have to contend with flying aliens or UFOs or, um, whatever is flying across in the screenshot above. (Ping-pong paddles? Happy flying fish?) What’s nice about this game is the unlimited continues: if you run out of lives you can start on the same level you were on, just with your score reset. This way even the most inept game player can still slog through and see the end of this game without too much repetitiveness.
Speaking of the end of the game, the objective is not to save the world from space invaders or save civilians or even blow up the enemy base. No, the very last level requires you to pick up a giant crate with a dollar sign emblazoned on the outside. That’s right, much like the “terrorists” from Die Hard, your real goal isn’t anything altruistic or even political; it’s simple thievery. Unfortunately, John McClane doesn’t end up driving a car over a ramp to collide with your helicopter in a giant fireball, as that would make this game about a thousand times more awesome.
Still, Super Cobra is an excellent game, with a lot of varied, challenging gameplay, colorful graphics, and fun sound and music. Definitely recommended.
So much for disk 7. Coming up next: Disk 8, featuring Dig Dug, Pogoman, Race in Space, Fort Apocalypse, and Gamestar Baseball. See you then!