Playing the Atari 2600 – be gentle… its my first time…
So, this is an Atari 2600. I’m liking the wood veneer look and large number of switches at the top which I have no idea what they do, even though they’re labelled. Luckily for me it’s already set up and ready to play (over at Game Over) so no need to spend hours working out how to use it.
As this was my first time playing on one I thought I’d pick a small selection of games to play out of the huge selection available, most of the games I picked were ones I recognised, easing myself in gently. Below are a few thoughts on the games I played:
Asteroids is an awesome game, I spent the most time on this one. It was an epic battle of triangle versus misshapen balls. In which you’re the triangle (ship) firing dots at the misshapen balls (asteroids) to destroy them a piece at a time in order to score as many points as possible. There’s also the occasional flying saucer to take out as well if you’re fast enough.
Loved the colours and sound effects in this, that lovely “pew pew” sound always reminds me of these types of games. The game play kept me interested and the challenge level felt just right and there was that definite urge to carry on and beat my previous score. On that note I didn’t achieve any significant high scores but it’s definitely a new favourite for me and would go back to it any time on this system.
Joust is about jousting, on ostriches, collecting eggs from other ostriches who are also jousting… what could be better (or make more sense)! Whoever thought this one up must have been on another planet at the time, but I’m glad they were because it’s loads of fun. Running and flying about the screen you need to attack your enemy from above (seemed to be the safest way) and then collect the egg that appears once you’ve destroyed them.
The game play is superb but I found it a lot more challenging than Asteroids, each level varies in difficulty with the number of platforms and enemies blocking your way, the more there are the harder it is to manoeuvre into a good position. It took awhile to get used to the way your character moved (almost like they’re slipping on ice) and lining them up just right to take out the enemies.
Centipede was the first game I played, loved it, possibly my favourite so far out of the selection I chose to play. The player is at the bottom of the screen firing up into a field of dashes, as the centipede works his way down the screen towards you, kind of like Space Invaders, but faster, and with just a single enemy heading towards you at mental speeds back and forth across the screen.
It had just the right amount of challenge mixed in with great game play and sound. It took me ages to realise you didn’t just have to sit on the bottom of the screen and that you could move up slightly too, saved me a lot of trouble and lives later on. Other enemies also attack you on the bottom of the screen, just to make it that little bit harder, they reminded me of Tektites from The Legend of Zelda.
ET… I played this out of pure curiosity as I had watched a documentary about it called Atari: Game Over (2014), it was pretty interesting, and after hearing so much about the game and how bad it is I thought I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a quick go.
Now considering this was now the 4th game I’d ever played on the Atari 2600, I might have not realised how this type of game works, but the moving from screen to screen seemed pretty random, as was being chased by something that looked like an old-fashioned type explorer. I was constantly ‘falling down’ off the bottom of the screen into a pit? I seemed to end up in this pit more often than not.
It took me ages to figure out how to get out of the pit, only to fall back in again pretty much straight after. I was so pleased when I reached the blue screen/white house(?) area pictured above, it was so nice I stayed awhile, just hanging out, afraid to move really. Anyway, after a good 25 minutes wandering around I finally did something of note after falling into the pit again, I made a flower grow by extending my neck. It wasn’t a great experience, but it’s really the only thing I’m going to take away from this.
A few other games I played; Laser Blast (1981), not a bad little shooter, even though I was pretty terrible at it, I couldn’t get the hang of firing at angles. Frogger (1982), a classic in its own right but I was actually a little disappointed with this version, it kinda felt sluggish, and given its relative simplicity as a premise the controls didn’t seem to work very well for me. Donkey Kong (1982), great game, you could say it’s a ‘a barrel of laughs’, now, if only I could beat level one.
I very much enjoyed my first experience of playing on the Atari 2600, looking forward to going back and trying out some more games. Let me know what your favourites are in the comments below!
All the best,