Written by Carol Shaw for Activision and published initially for the Atari 2600 in 1982, River Raid is an early vertically-scrolling shoot ’em up with simple graphics, challenging gameplay, and its own unique set of rules.
This notorious 1982 release for the Atari 2600 was – at the time – the most expensive movie license ever acquired by a video games company ($35 million dollars it apparently cost), and it also undoubtedly hastened the demise of Atari Inc. as a company (as it was back then), and was also a major contributing factor in the video game market crash of 1983.
You’d expect the Atari 2600 version of Spy Hunter to be the runt of the litter, and… it’s actually not too bad.
The Atari 2600 version of BurgerTime is extremely basic and contains little of the character and playability of the arcade original.
David Crane‘s Pitfall! is a pioneering old game, from way back in 1982.
You control Pitfall Harry and must find 32 treasures in 20 minutes. You run and jump from screen to screen, swinging on ropes, jumping on crocodile heads, and avoiding quicksand. Not to mention: creatures that will kill you if you touch them.
Adventure – designed and programmed by Warren Robinett and released for the Atari 2600 in 1979 – broke new ground at the time, on a number of different levels.
The original Defender on the Atari 2600 is rubbish, but Defender II is the shizzle.
Unlike the first game, Defender II has a great feel to the controls, nice movement of the ship, and fast, decent, absorbing gameplay.
You could argue: “why on earth did they ever bother with a Defender sequel on the Atari VCS in the first place?” The easy answer is: because they looked at the first game and thought they could do a LOT better. Which they did.
The result is: arguably one of the best games on the Atari 2600.
Defender II is also known as Stargate in some circles, as per the 1981 Williams Electronics‘ arcade game on which it is based.
John Van Ryzin‘s popular H.E.R.O. (Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation) first made its appearance on the Atari 2600 (aka Atari VCS), via Activision, way back in 1984.
The premise is simple: you are a guy with a helicopter rotor on his back and can fly through caverns of a deep mine, looking for trapped victims to rescue.
You have to be careful where you fly, though, because hitting certain things can kill you.
Every now and then you’ll come across an immovable wall, barring your way, and can drop sticks of dynamite to get rid of them. Avoiding the blast of your own explosives is crucial though. Oh, and you can shoot a short range beam out from your eyes too. Helpful for shooting spiders and suchlike. Don’t shoot a lamp though, otherwise the screen will go dark.
H.E.R.O. is classic 1980s video gaming. A simple, original idea, made fun by pushing the limited abilities of the Atari 2600 to their limits.
H.E.R.O. also appeared on many other 8-bit video gaming platforms too, including Apple II, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, MSX, and ZX Spectrum.
More: H.E.R.O. on Wikipedia