Whether you’ve just purchased your first game system, or you’re already an expert home video player, you’ve come to the right place!
How to Win at Home Video Games will show you how to play — and master — 14 of the most challenging home video games available today. For the beginning player, we’ll guide you through the vast complexities of each game: controllers, elements, variations, the works — nothing has been left out! For the hard-core Video Ranger, we’ll also give you proven, in-depth strategies that will turn your good game into a great one!
What’s more, we’ve included mini-strategies and reviews of 56 additional games, complete with ratings and price ranges. We’ll help you wade through the sea of game cartridges available and help you pick the best ones for your home video system. We’ve even included a summary chart of these games that you can use as a handy buying guide.
If you don’t already own a home video system, or are looking to upgrade your present one, read on. We’re going to take a close look at some of the many game systems on the market, and the relative merits and drawbacks of each.
HOME VIDEO HARDWARE
A few years ago, buying a home video game system was easy. You went out and bought one of the many versions of “Pong” that were available, and that was that. You may have had a couple of game variations built into the system, but it was still the same basic game. Period.
Today, however, it’s a different story. Consider, that in the last year:
- The number of home video game systems available has doubled, from four to eight.
- About 80 new Atari VCS-compatible cartridges and 18 Intellivision cartridges were introduced by not less than 16 different manufacturers, many of whom didn’t exist a year ago.
- The number of game cartridges available for the Atari VCS system alone shot up to over 150.
Talk about confusion for the first-time buyer! Which system should you choose? Like everything else, it depends on what you want. Some systems offer terrific graphics, some are easy to play, others specialize in strategy games, and so on. Remember, a game system is no better than its cartridges. If you’re thinking of buying a system, check the manufacturer’s cartridge library to see if the type of games you like to play are available for that system. Also, see if outside manufacturers are making games for that system — often they’re better than those from the original manufacturer.
In the end, it is you, the consumer, who must make the ultimate decision. To help you make that decision, let’s take a look at some of the major home video game systems available today.
Atari has the least expensive system, and it was hot stuff when it was first introduced. Today, however, it pales in light of competitive systems. Two outstanding things work in Atari’s favor. First of all, its cost. You get a lot of entertainment for your money. Second, Atari holds the rights to some of the most popular arcade video games (Asteroids, Pac-Man, Defender, Space Invaders, and Berzerk, for example). Although the home versions differ — sometimes drastically — from the originals, the game programs are as close as they can successfully make them.
In addition, many different companies make game cartridges that are compatible with the Atari VCS. Some of them, such as Activision and Imagic, turn out superior games with terrific graphics. This is another plus for the Atari system, the sheer number of cartridges (over 150) available for it.
On the negative side, we feel that: 1) there are too many wires connecting too many parts (to the TV, the wall outlet, the joysticks, and the paddles); 2) the TV makes a lot of static when a cartridge is removed; 3) graphics, especially in older games, are quite poor; and, 4) too many game options are packed into each game cartridge, and you must scan through them all to get to the one you want to play.
Atari is still, however, the so-called Giant of the industry. It’s a fun, versatile system at a low price.
Atari is introducing a new system this winter called the Atari 5200. It will carry a hefty retail price ($299) but promises to be worth it, especially for hard-core gamers. The console is sleeker, and there are fewer cords and no annoying “white noise” when you change a cartridge.
However, it’s the games themselves that promise to be the big selling point of the 5200. Sophisticated microprocessors and innovative designs will provide some of the finest graphics and sound in the industry. At least ten cartridges will be available this winter, such as Space Invaders, Missile Command, and Asteroids. The 5200 version of Pac-Man promises to be an exact replica of the arcade original (the VCS version was not), right down to the entertaining “intermissions.”
Atari 5200 owners will eventually be able to buy an adapter that will allow them to continue playing their old VCS cartridges on the new system. A voice synthesizer will also be available in the future. It looks like the system to beat in 1983.
Intellivision by Mattel has, up to now, produced the best home video audio/visuals in the business. Their sports games are legends. The reason the Intellivision displays are so exceptional is that they use more space in their cartridges for one game. Remember how Atari puts several games in one cartridge. In a sense, Intellivision uses all that space for one fascinating game. Each cartridge comes with two overlays for the system’s keyboard controllers. What’s more, a voice module will soon be available for the system. New games will feature voices that “talk you through” the action. Also, outside manufacturers, such as Imagic, are beginning to manufacture games for the Intellivision system.
On the negative side, Intellivision games are often needlessly complicated. Some games require that you utilize up to 17 different controls during the action. Also, instead of a joystick, the Intellivision controllers feature a “direction disc” which you must press in any of eight spots. It’s really a joystick without the handle — we miss the handle.
Odyssey² is the mid-priced home video game system. And it is probably the most unusual system of the bunch. It comes equipped with a full alpha-numeric (letters and numbers) keyboard that looks Just like a typewriter. It features some truly original game cartridges, not the least of which is a series of “Master Strategy” games that combine both board and video games into one challenging contest.
On the negative side, most of the other Odyssey² game cartridges do not compare favorably to those in comparable systems. The graphics and game play are often basic and boring. North American Phillips Corp. (Magnavox), who makes Odyssey², has always been a middle-of-the-road electronics manufacturer. That’s exactly what this system is, middle-of-the-road.
ColecoVision promises to give both Atari and Intellivision a run for their money. The games provide the best sound and graphics this side of the Atari 5200, and for less money (retail price is $199). The game comes packed with a Donkey Kong cartridge, and it’s stunning. They’ve also jumped heavily into the arcade adaptation market, offering home versions of such coin-op games as Venture, Lady Bug, Turbo, and Zaxxon.
ColecoVision, like the Atari 5200, will prove to be a nice upgrade for the present Atari VCS owner. Coleco is planning to introduce a VCS cartridge adapter in 1983. Also on the way is an expansion module that will turn the system into a home computer.
We like this system — it provides arcade-quality games for little more than the price of an Atari VCS. Most people will find the controllers a bit hard to handle, though. The joystick is too stubby and the action is too stiff to make for quick responses, especially in games that require rapid cornering.
Also, we’d like the system a lot more if it weren’t for the problems we experienced during testing. Our first ColecoVision unit had to be replaced by the manufacturer because of a faulty power source. Also, occasionally it took a few tries at plugging in and un-plugging some of the cartridges before they would work. One game we received (Smurf) didn’t work at all. We hope that these are only early-production bugs Coleco can work out of its system, because it’s basically a lot of fun.
Arcadia has come up with what must be the most unique game system of all. Well, it’s not actually a system unto itself, it expands upon the present capabilities of an Atari VCS. Called the “Supercharger,” it plugs into the cartridge slot of an Atari VCS. You connect a wire to any cassette tape recorder and “load” a game program into the unit. The game programs, you see, are on normal audio cassettes, not microchips. (You play the tape for about 30 seconds and the Supercharger holds the game program in its memory until you turn off the VCS unit.) The graphics and sound are far superior to Atari VCS games, at roughly half the price (retail is $14.95 per game; the Supercharger — packed with one game — retails at $69.95). This may very well be the way of the future in home video games.
Other home entries include systems by Astrocade, Vectrex, Emerson, and Creativision. The games reviewed here, however, are for the previously discussed systems: Atari VCS; Intellivision; Odyssey²; ColecoVision; and Arcadia.
CARTRIDGE INFORMATION AND RATING SYSTEM
At the opening of each game discussion or review we’ve included some important consumer information regarding the cartridge. First, we list the name of the manufacturer and for which video game system it is designed. Second, we give the manufacturer’s suggested retail price and a low price range based on our research of typical video game dealers. Next, we provide the number of players that can participate in the game.
Finally, each of the cartridges presented in these pages is rated on a four-prong system. Each is given a basic rating and is then evaluated on a one-to-ten scale according to the cartridge’s graphics, game play, and longevity.
Rating indicates who we feel the cartridge is designed for. A “G” rating means the cartridge is for “general audiences.” Anyone can easily pick up and play a “G-Rated” game, although it may be too easy or too “cute” for advanced videogamers. A “PG” rating indicates that the game is still accessible to a wide range of players but is challenging enough to hold everyone’s interest. The children may even need to give their elders “parental guidance” on how to play the game. An “R” rating is given to games we feel are too difficult for the very young and more casual video players but provide an excellent challenge for advanced players. An “X” rating applies to games that would appeal only to hard-core strategy and action gamers. “X-rated” games are definitely not for the masses.
Graphics refers to the audio/visual aspects of the game. A game such as the original “Pong,” without much in the way of graphics or sound would get a “1,” while a game that duplicates the looks and audio of a good arcade game would receive a “10.”
Game Play rates how much fun and challenging a game is. “1” would indicate a totally boring game, while a “10” would represent the ultimate challenge.
Longevity indicates how long we feel the game will be of interest to the purchaser. A “1” game would begin to collect dust on the shelf after the first play; a “10” game would be a constant source of entertainment long after its initial purchase.
Note: If at all possible, “test drive” a game cartridge you are unfamiliar with before purchasing it. The game that appears on your TV set never looks like the wonderful artwork presented on the package. Use our ratings as a guide, but we suggest you see the actual game for yourself before investing in it. If the store where you buy cartridges will not let you see the game in play before buying it, make sure they will take a cartridge back if it does not work or if you do not like it. If the retailer will allow neither, we suggest you take your business elsewhere. At $20-$40 per game, few can afford to buy cartridges that will just sit on the shelf.
The strategies presented here were verified by our battery of top home video game players: Frank Cretella, Jerry Pangilinan, Scott Rodgers, Todd Rodgers, Mark Vecci, and Phil Wiswell. In addition to our strategies for the ten most popular and challenging video games, we’re also including top tips from our team of expert gamers. Our thanks to these individuals. We’d also like to thank Joystik Magazine’s Home Video Columnist, Danny Goodman for use of his “G, PG, R, and X” game rating system.