Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Homebrew of the Month: Lead

Lead
Developer: Simone Serra


Simone Serra games are completely and utterly underrated.  I said it.  I started this whole Homebrew of the Month thing off with Omicron, another really great game from Serra, and now, having played Lead for over a month, I can confirm that Serra is one of the top developers  you’ve probably never heard of in the 2600 homebrew field.  I don’t know why these two games aren’t on the tip of the tongue of anyone who answers the popular question: what are the must-have homebrews for the Atari 2600.  Both games are addictive, fun, and extremely smoothly programmed.  Since Omicron has already had its day, let’s take a look at Lead.







What’s All This Then?

Lead is an extremely fast-paced action shooter that requires quick reflexes, keen wits, and determination.  That last quality will not be an issue as “just one more” might be the subtitle to this game.  In Lead you control a ship that travels through tunnels featuring various types of obstacles.  Your only mission is to survive.  There are four distinct levels with different objectives.  Fire! requires you to shoot all incoming enemy ships (miss one and it’s GAME OVER), Dodge! requires you to avoid looming asteroids, Scramble! requires you to fly in close proximity to deadly sentinels, but avoid setting them off, and Catch! is a bonus round wherein you must try to catch as many satellites as possible.  This kind of variety is the hallmark of a Simone Serra game and it’s part of why these games are so appealing.  It is highly unlikely that you will get bored very quickly with Lead.  Each level presents a new kind of challenge and there isn’t a lot of handholding; you are expected to be pretty good from level 1 and get increasing better as you play.


How Does it Play?

Ridiculously well.  The animations are smooth, the collision detection is pretty much spot-on, and the level design is very smart.  The challenge each level brings is well balanced by the brevity of the the levels.  Sure, when you’re playing level 3 Fire! it feels like the level lasts forever, but the actual play time is only around a minute.  This helps keep the frustration low and the replay value high.  Since you basically get one life per game, you’ll see the GAME OVER screen a lot, however the ability to continue on any given level means you can still practice and make a high score run after you’ve mastered all four levels.  Keeping the levels short and having a continue feature prevents the inevitable controller throw that usually comes with games that demand perfection.  
The game also features a unique power-up system.  You can collect one smart bomb per level that can be used to wipe the screen of obstacles, or you can stockpile smart bombs and trade them in for even better power-ups like shields, more powerful lasers, and bonus points.  While I’m not quite good enough yet to write a testimonial for each power-up, I can say this adds a layer of depth and strategy that makes the game even more addictive.
Visually, the game features the same colorful gradient graphics that are typical of a Simone Serra game.  While spartan, the contrast of the colorful game elements against a sea of black gives a classic arcade feel and creates an almost hypnotic effect during game play.  I love it!
Individual games of Lead will be rather short, but play sessions of Lead will likely tick up into the hours.  It’s just that much fun.


Whistles and Bells

TONS.  For a game that is mostly straightforward, Lead features a lot of great bonus features.  There is an entire menu that allows you to customize your sound settings.  (great music and SFX are another signature Serra feature).  You can also play proto versions of Lead that include just the Fire! (1K) and Fire! and Dodge! (4K) levels.  These are great for sharpening your skills and practicing for a high score run on the main game.  There is even talk of the game having  two possible endings based on which difficulty level you play on.  I’m yet to see either, but the fact that they exist is plenty cool!
As with most games of its era, Lead features AtariVox and SaveKey support to save your high scores and audio settings.


Final Assessment

Simore Serra strikes again with yet another sharply programmed and addictive shooter.  Lead will demand perfection, dexterity, and concentration, but the pay-off is a real and immediate sense of accomplishment when you reach the end of the tunnel.  This is a “pick-up-and-play” game that will eat up hours of your day and deftly avoid the kind of rage-quitting frustration that similar games induce.  Smart level design and sharp graphics combine to make up one of the most underrated shooters in the modern homebrew catalog.   Whether you lead or are lead, Lead should be in your collection.


Tips and Tricks

Don’t Be a (Dead) Hero:  Use those smart bombs!  Especially early on when you are learning.  Sure, it’s cool to save up for those power-ups, but don’t hesitate to use a smart bomb to get out of jam.  Since you only get one life, you really can’t take them with you when you go.

Like a Garden Hose on High:  The Fire! levels pretty much want you to hold down the button to shoot.  I like to use this like spraying a garden hose to just carpet as much of the screen as I can.  When I see a stubborn enemy that requires more attention, I focus the stream on it, but otherwise, I’m waving that beam in the air like I just don’t care.

Ever Vigilant:  The Scramble levels get pretty tight with Sentinels.  It is best to avoid the walls entirely and stay toward the center when possible.  It’s far too easy to get crushed between a wall and a Sentinel.




So there you have it!  One of the best, underrated homebrew shooters available.  It’s been flying under your (and my) radar for ten years.  I’ve rectified that mistake on my end, now it’s your turn.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Red Sea Crossing Manual (Unofficial)

Recently, in the Atariage High Score Club, we played a game called Red Sea Crossing.  This game is one of the rarest, most hotly debated games in recent Atari history, however when it was created it did not have a manual.  What follows is my effort to correct that 34 year old mistake.  The unofficial manual created below was created by me with some very helpful contributions from community insiders like Rom Hunter who runs the wonderful resource Atarimania.com, and fellow gamer who goes by Leto on the Atariage Forums, so big thanks to both of those cats for helping me get this right.  Also a nod to forumite Omegamatrix who did some peeking around the code for me.


Red Sea Crossing  (Unofficial Manual)
Inspirational Video Concepts
Programmed by Steve Schustack

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land.  The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground with a wall of water on their left and on their right.”  Exodus 14:21-22
What the Lord apparently failed to tell Moses was that his trip across the Red Sea bed was going to be fraught with perilous sea monsters and other obstacles.  That’s where you come in!  Relive the untold story of Moses crossing the Red Sea by guiding the Israelite leader as he leaps over chomping sea monsters, ducks spears, and dodges slithering serpents.  Along the way pick up articles of faith including stone tablets, white doves, and staves to increase your score.  How far can you go?



Getting Started

Insert your Red Sea Crossing GAME CARTRIDGE into your Atari VCS.  Turn the POWER switch to the ON position.  
Red Sea Crossing is a SINGLE PLAYER game program that uses the JOYSTICK controller.  Make sure your JOYSTICK controller is plugged firmly into the left joystick port on the back of the console.  Hold the JOYSTICK controller with the RED BUTTON in the upper left corner.

Console Switches
Use the GAME RESET switch to start a new game.
The GAME SELECT, B/W COLOR and DIFFICULTY switches are not used in this game.

Basic Controls  
Push the JOYSTICK left or right to make Moses move in the corresponding direction.  Press the red button to make Moses jump.  You can move the JOYSTICK left or right while Moses is jumping to make him move left or right while jumping.




Object of the Game

The object of the game in Red Sea Crossing is to help Moses cross the Red Sea without succumbing to the perils of the deep.  As you move Moses across the screen, he will encounter a variety of hazards intent on preventing him from progressing.  To overcome these obstacles you must time your moves precisely to avoid contacting them.  Sometimes this means evading the obstacles’ movement patterns, sometimes this means jumping over an approaching obstacle, and in later levels, success will require both techniques at once. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Three Chances
When you start the game, Moses will have 3 chances to get as far across the Red Sea as he possibly can.  Certain dangers along the way can cause Moses to lose one of his chances.  There is a certain item Moses can find to gain extra chances.  There may be other ways to gain extra chances so keep your eyes open!  The total number of chances Moses has remaining is indicated by the last 2 digits in the score counter at the bottom of the screen (see figure 1).  When the indicator says “1,” Moses is on his last chance.  Contact with a deadly danger will result in the end of the game.  Press the RESET button to start again from the beginning of the game.

Time Limit
You have a limited amount of time to cross each screen.  When a new screen starts, the fish at the top of the screen (swimming in the wall of water on Moses’ left) will start swimming toward the right side of the screen.  If it reaches the right side of the screen, Moses has taken too long to progress and will lose 1 chance.  The fish will turn red when you have approximately 10 seconds left to advance to the next screen.







Perils 
As he crosses the dried sea bed, Moses will encounter many dangers that threaten his progress.  Some of these dangers will merely slow Moses down or cost him points, while many of them will cause him to lose 1 chance.  The following are the dangers Moses will face:

Seaweed:  Moses must avoid getting tangled up in the seaweed that is strewn across the sea floor.  If he touches it, it will cost him 1 point for every second he touches it, and it will also slow his progress.  Other creatures on the screen will freeze in place until he is free.



Swarms:  Swarms of stinging locusts are buzzing about and Moses must not touch them.  Contact with a swarm will cost him 1 point for every second he touches it and his progress will be slowed.  Other creatures on the screen will freeze in place until the swarm has been evaded. “Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again.” (Exodus 10:14)  



Sea Monsters:  Giant leviathans will poke their massive heads from out of the right wall of water attempting to snare Moses in their gaping maws.  Moses must jump over these beasts or step carefully to avoid getting caught.  Contact with a sea monster will cost Moses 1 chance.



Spears:  Moses must not forget that Pharaoh’s soldiers are hot on his heels.  These soldiers will lob heavy spears over Moses’ head.  Stay low to avoid them as touching them will cost Moses 1 chance.



Pharaoh’s Archers:  Some of Pharaoh’s soldiers are armed with mighty bows with which they will lob a relentless volley of arrows at Moses.  Their aim is deadly accurate, so Moses will need to leap up to avoid their razor tips.  If Moses is struck with an arrow he will lose 1 chance.



Serpents:  Some of the most dangerous creatures Moses will encounter, serpents move about the screen in various ways.  Watch them carefully and determine the best way to avoid their deadly touch.  Contact with a serpent will cost Moses 1 chance.  “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.” (Genesis 3:1)



Giant Clams:  When the Lord pulled the waters apart, giant clams were left resting on the sea floor.  These clams will block Moses’ path unless he can figure out a way to safely leap over them.  





Octopi:  These little pink beasts may seem cute, but touching one will cause Moses to lose 1 chance.  Learn their movement patterns and move smartly to avoid them.







Articles of Faith
Though passage through the Red Sea bed is treacherous, it is not without signs that Moses has been favored by the Lord.  As Moses progresses through the various screens he will find tokens of faith that bolster him on his journey.


White Doves:  These harbingers of peace can be found darting about quite often in the air between the walls of water.  If Moses catches one he will be awarded 10 points. “‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.’” (John 1:32)


Stone Tablets:  Perhaps as a portent of the things to come, large stone tablets can occasionally be found floating in the air above the sea floor.  If Moses can collect them he will gain 10 points.





Staff of Moses:  The most valuable of all of the articles is the Staff of Moses.  Should Moses find it, he will be awarded 10 points plus 1 extra chance.  These are extremely valuable, so be sure not to miss them!  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)


Scoring

As Moses progresses through the Red Sea floor he will earn points for every screen he successfully completes.  Points per screen will vary based on the obstacles Moses faces in each.  Moses will also earn points for collecting Articles of Faith.  Likewise, Moses will lose points when he contacts a non-lethal peril like Seaweed or Swarms.  He will lose 1 point per second he is in contact with these perils.


Crossing the Rea Sea

As Moses progresses across the floor of the Red Sea he will encounter a wide variety of different screens.  Some screens will feature only one peril or article of faith, while later screens will feature combinations of game play elements.  Each screen can be successfully completed without losing points or a chance, but you must study each screen carefully to determine the best course of action to reach the other side.  It is sometimes wisest to observe the location and movements of all obstacles before rushing into action. “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)


History of the Game

Red Sea Crossing was an independent project by a self-taught programmer named Steve Schustack.  Schustack programmed and released the game in 1983.  The game was only sold directly through mail order via advertisements in religious magazines like Christianity Today.  Schustack confirmed an extremely limited run of a few hundred copies.  It was sold without a manual or box, but did feature an accompanying audio cassette tape featuring the voice talents of country western singer Dale Evans.  The game vanished from all knowledge until a copy was discovered at a rummage sale in Cincinnati, OH in 2007.  The discovery caused quite a stir in the Atari 2600 community and an oft-heated debate raged for several years over the game’s veracity.  The discovery of an aforementioned advertisement for the game found in 2011, confirmed the game’s authenticity, however, it wasn’t until the game was purchased by another collector and the ROM dumped that the community had first hand exposure to the game itself.  As of the time of this manual’s creation there is still only one known copy remaining in existence.  The ROM image is available at atarimania.com along with a picture of the original advertisement in Christianity Today.  

Curious fact:  Steve Schustack claims the game has an ending, but no player has been able to confirm that fact.  He also eluded to the possibility of an easter egg in the game.  Happy Hunting!


“Red Sea Crossing” is entirely the property of Inspirational Video Concepts and Steve Schustack.  This manual was created solely for the purpose of recreation and free use by video game enthusiasts.  The creator of this manual will in no way seek profit from the distribution of this manual and makes no claims to the intellectual property described herein.  All Bible quotations are from the NIV.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Homebrew of the Month: Oystron

Oystron
Developer: Piero Cavina
Available: Atariage

Let’s go back, way back to the dawn age of modern Homebrewing.  A time when sitting down and punching out code for a new Atari 2600 video game was more than just a labor of love, it was an act of self-sacrifice and skill.  These were the days of the Stellalist: a small, cloistered corner of the internet where those few who possessed the knowledge and talent for writing in a coding language more obsolete than Latin is to human languages swapped secrets and mined the VCS library for whatever wisdom could be gleamed from it’s hallowed halls.  At this time you could count the number of homebrew games without taking off your shoes.  Games like Edtris and Dark Mage were dipping their toes in the water to see if it was deep enough to swim.  From that primordial homebrew soup would soon come incredible games, games like Qb and this month’s selection:  Oystron.  I had not yet entered the classic gaming scene when Oystron began forming, but it, and I, burst onto the scene at about the same time.  I remember hearing about it, and others like it, but had no real clue what homebrews really were, or if they were anything to pay attention to.  No, I was too busy trying to track down copies of H.E.R.O and Pitfall II; desperately chasing those nostalgic nuggets of my past unable to see the future of VCS gaming jogging along side me.  So now, nearly twenty years later, I aim to catch up!  I’m probably the last person on earth to play Oystron for the first time, but maybe not.  Maybe you too are saying, “Hey! I just got here!  You mean there were homebrews before Draconian?”  There sure were.

What’s All This Then?

Oystron is a space shooter with some interesting twists.  You are in space harvesting pearls from space oysters.  As you harvest them you drop them in the collection zone.  When you have collected a full row of pearls they become powerful bombs and clear room for more harvesting.  This would likely be a tedious job excepting that you are not alone.  Space seems to be occupied by a bevy of creatures like yourself, that find these space pearls enthralling.  As such, these other space creatures will do whatever they can to steal your pearls.  So while you are busy harvesting you must also fight off your rival creatures to keep them from stealing or outright destroying your crop.  If you can hang around long enough, you will enter the Oystron phase.  It is during this phase that space goes absolutely mad as the mysterious Oystron appears.  Oddly enough the Oystron isn’t really hostile, he just seems to dance around a bunch during which time you can blow him up with bombs or you can just wait until he gets tired and mutates into a space oyster.  Yeah, maybe the most bizarre boss fight I’ve ever seen.  Either way, after the Oystron has done whatever it is it has set out to do, you’ll enter the Warp phase, during which everything speeds up dramatically and the risk of death is greatly increased.  Survive the Warp phase and new level will begin.  Repeat until dead or 100K points, which ever comes first.  Spoiler alert: it’s most likely death.

How’s It Play


Pretty damn solid for a game from the Homebrew Stone Age.  Ship movement is smooth (mostly, more later) and collision detection is solid.  The game starts out pretty difficult, but once you get the hang of the action things settle down and you can really get into the gameplay.  Difficulty definitely ramps as the levels progress and you’ll find particular challenge during the Warp phases when the speed goes completely out of control.  
However, it’s not all good news.  While the main part of the level is great and the action is well executed, once you enter the Oystron phase, the wheels start to come of.  Perhaps in an attempt to ratchet up the excitement and create a sense of disorientation, during the Oystron phase the screen begins to flash with a level of seizure inducing flash that only the most rigid mind can possibly tolerate.  Everything is blinking or flashing or moving or all three at the same time.  If the effect is to throw you off your game, it succeeds beyond what is reasonable.  Sadly it is so distracting and so busy that it totally breaks your concentration and makes this part of the game extremely difficult to play and enjoy if you can keep from writhing on the floor.  Somewhere during all of that screen vomit, the Oystron makes his appearance and you have an absurdly short amount of time to regain your senses, find him, and plant your bombs without being hit by the rest of the crap flying around.  It’s a mess, and not in a good way. 
Things calm down a little bit once you enter the Warp phase, and you’ll only have to deal with a change in screen color and a dramatic shift in enemy speed.  Gameplay remains the same as in the normal level, things are just much, much faster.  I found, that I was still suffering from the effects of the Oystron phase and generally spent the Warp phase bleeding lives and crashing into stuff hoping the madness would stop.

If you have any lives left, you get to start level 2.

So overall, 80% of the game is really fun space shooting action, and the other 20% runs the risk of causing vertigo.  The 80% that is fun is really great and that’s what I keep coming back for.  I find that I just grit my teeth and do my best to survive the other 20%.
There are a couple of game variations to keep you interested and challenged if the base game is too easy.  There are novice, medium, and hard options as well as an option to make your spacecraft “bounce” when it gets near the edge of the screen instead of just stopping.  It’s the best I can do to play the novice difficulty level, but I am willing to bet expert players enjoy the challenge of the other two.  I found the “bounce” option for the ship movement to be more annoying than anything else and honestly made the game feel sloppy and broken rather than more challenging.  Keep those difficulty switches on B, kids.

Whistles and Bells

Being from the early days of homebrewing, Oystron is its own Whistle and Bell.  The fact that it existed was super special for its day.  This is long before AtariVox or SaveKey were anything other than “wouldn’t it be cools.”  Oystron does come with a nicely designed full color manual, however the manual is riddled with typos and mislabeled images.  For instance, the space oysters and space creatures are mislabeled, and the manual says Difficulty setting B will cause your ship to bounce, when it is in fact the A setting that causes this.  There are some other inaccuracies in the manual that might simply smack of coming from a time when video game manuals weren’t being written or scrutinized as much as they are today.  There are also some things the manual leaves out, like how you must line up pearls to obtain the bombs with which to defeat the Oystron, or that lining up pearls causes them to disappear.  After 20 years I think the manual is due a rewrite.

Final Assessment

Oystron is a fun and engaging space shooter for the Atari 2600.  It features a novel concept with intriguing and challenging gameplay.  It takes a few minutes to fully comprehend what is going on, but once you get the hang of collecting pearls and fending off the bad guys, you’ll be having fun in no time.  Just be forewarned about the completely disorienting and psychologically jarring Oystron phase.  If you are even slightly set off by flashing lights, you may want to give this game a pass.  What happens during the Oystron phase is very similar to what happens to Alex in A Clockwork Orange.  But if you can make it through that with your wits intact there is much to enjoy about Oystron.  Don’t be wary just because it’s one of the earliest homebrews out there!

Tips and Tricks


Rapid Fire:  You can rapid fire by holding down the fire button.  This is nice not only because you keep shooting, but because you automatically drop off any pearls you pick up.  Early on you don’t have enough to worry about placement, so just grab and drop.  Later in the level once the collection area gets fuller, you can start being more judicious about where you place your oysters.

Play It Safer:  Enemies come from the right and they spawn on screen.  So while you can venture outside the collection zone, there is really little reason to ever do so.  If you keep left you can get a clearer sense of the action and intercept the space creatures before they can steal your horde.

The Best Offense is a Great Defense:  I know you want to get out there and just grab all the pearls you can, but the space creatures need to be your top priority.  Wait until a new wave spawns, locate and destroy the space creatures first, then harvest as many oysters as you can before the next wave starts.

Space Zoology 101:  Know your space creatures.  Some just come and take pearls, others will obliterate them.  Some cannot be killed and some can only be killed from behind.  Some space oysters have harder shells than others.  All of this goes to show that you will be best served learning the special characteristics of each kind of space creature, so that you better understand how to survive their onslaught.  This isn’t just a shoot ‘em up.
These arrow looking guys can only be shot from behind

Oystron Phase:  I don’t know what to tell you.  As soon as your screen goes completely berserk, try to regain your composure and look for the Oystron.  He usually dances about mid-screen and bounces between rows.  Set bombs in the rows he’s dancing in and just get out of the way.  Do your best not to die, because if you do, you’ll have to do the Oystron phase again.

Warp Phase:  This phase is just wicked fast.  It doesn’t last forever, so my best strategy is to stay in one row and shoot until it’s over.  If you are brave enough to stick your nose out and try to harvest pearls, that’s all you.



So there you have it!  One of the, ahem, pearls of the early Atari 2600 Homebrew library dusted off and shined up, ready for action again.  It’s nice when an older game like this can hold up against some of the extremely impressive games that are coming out today.  Oystron’s not going to blow anybody’s socks off these days, but it is still fun to play and still provides plenty of good solid action and challenge.  If, like me, you’ve been passing over it for a while, it might be time to go back and see what you’ve been missing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Homebrew of the Month: Drive!

Drive!
Developer: Nick Wilson

In the Big Atariage Homebrew Release of 2017 there were heavy hitters like Assembloids and Scramble that made everyone ooo and aaah.  There were also unassuming games that flew right under everyone’s radar.  Games that you really shouldn’t overlook.  Previously for the HotM I examined one such game:  The Gizzle Wap and the Strange Red Tree.  This week we take a look at another hidden gem:  Drive!


What’s All This Then?

You’ve plundered the treasure from an ancient temple in the year 2050, but now the structure is crumbling around you.  There’s only one way out:  DRIVE!  As you race to escape, you’ll want to nab any additional treasures you come across.  Survive to a score of 99,999 and you win.  Crash three times and you’re history, future history perhaps.

Drive! is a fast-paced, obstacle-dodging endurance game that pits you against a random assortment of walls you must navigate on your way to the finish!  Best of all, Drive! is one of the few homebrew games developed for the use of the Paddle Controllers!  The game play is simple and straightforward, but there is a lot to like about this game.  The basic idea is to navigate your vehicle through gaps in the walls at breakneck speed.  As you zoom through you will find different treasures.  You can carry a maximum of five, but hoard them at your own peril.  You see, you can “burn” a treasure in order to jump over a wall if you find yourself in a tough spot.  This becomes very helpful when things start to speed up.  In addition to giving you jump boosts, the treasures are also imbued with special powers.  Some allow you to pass through walls like a ghost, others give you unlimited jumping ability or even extra “lives.”   
That’s it.  Jump in your car and hit the gas!

Please excuse the crappy screenshots.  Is not easy to get good screen shots of a fast paced paddle game off your tv... 


How’s it Play?

Really well.   Taking into account that my paddles are really, really jittery until you play a dozen or so games and warm them up, Drive! plays really well right out of the gate.  The player moves smoothly through the obstacle course and the collision detection is sharp.  There are no cheap crashes.  Because of this you’ll want to be precise with your jumps, because even landing part of your car on a wall is crash time.

But don’t let your mad driving skills fool you.  Playing the base game with both difficulty switches on B is for old ladies and children.  What you want to do is switch both difficulty switches to A.  The left switch makes the gaps in the walls smaller and the right switch causes some of the walls to move.  Not so smart now, are ya?  Oh, still cocky?  Ok wise guy, now hit SELECT.  This will turn the title screen red and let you know you are entering the Speed Freak Mode.  Speed Freak Mode starts the game at the top possible speed.  If you survive long enough you might even enter that zen-like zone where everything just slows down.  If…


Whistles and Bells

Well the first and most obvious Whistle and Bell for me is the fact that this game was developed for paddles. (I've only mentioned it like 3 time so far)  I don’t know why more games do not utilize this controller (or other controllers like the Keyboard or Driving Controllers).  Just having a new paddle game is a pretty special thing.  Drive! also supports AtariVox/SaveKey so you can hold on to your high scores and comes with the now pretty much standard high quality, full color manual.

Final Assessment

Drive! is a great twitch-esque game that might seem really simple at first, but once you start implementing some of the game variations, you’ll soon find there is plenty of fun and challenge to be had.  Those endowed with great paddle skills will find it easy to jump right into the driver’s seat and race for that perfect score.  Those, like me, who are paddle-challenged will not be put off as the game variations give you plenty of opportunity to warm up to the task at hand.  The action is fast-paced and fun and will keep you coming back for more.  Finally, a new paddle game for the VCS!

Tips and Tricks

Practice!  Don’t discount the value of playing the Difficulty B variations to warm yourself up before going for Speed Freak Mode.  Even I was able to get 80K points in just a couple of runs on the dual B setting.  This will help familiarize you with the fundamentals before things get out of control.

Burn Baby, Burn!  You can only keep 5 treasures at a time, so do not hesitate to burn one here and there when things get tight.  It’s better to have jumped and lost a treasure than to never have jumped at all.  You treasure tally is only taken when the game is over, so until then use as needed.

Sneak in Some Rest.  This is an endurance game.  You’ll not get to 99K in a couple of minutes, so I use the invincible power-up to give my hand a break.  This power-up also gives you a change to test out some riskier maneuvers consequence free, if you are all rested up and just want to try some new tricks.




So there you have it, a cool new paddle game for your Atari that probably slipped past you when you weren’t looking!  It may not be as flashy as some of the heavy hitters released last year, but Drive! definitely deserves your attention!