The Atari VCS or the 2600 belongs to the oldest squadron of gaming consoles. It had been launched in 70’s and it was a big commercial success. It had color graphics chip able to display lots of colors, good sound and, obviously a plenty of cool games. The hardware is very limited, though, and all the 8-bitters from the 80’s are far away behind the VCS. But that limited hardware gave a unique taste to all VCS games. At first, games were produced by Atari itself but then a bunch of people left Atari and started their own game company, Activision. They started producing very cool games and became, among the others, the VCS game developing leaders. Today, I’d like to review one of their game that I like very much: Enduro.

Enduro is an early racing game using pseudo 3D motion. You control a supercar that has to overtake a number of cars. Then comes the next round but with limited time and so on. You’re driving trough day times from the noon, afternoon, evening and night to the morning and even a you even meet snowy and foggy sections. All of this is repeating but as fast as you drive, the bigger bonus you get when you overtake all required cars. In the night, you see just red stop lamps of the cars and then the horizon of visibility is limited so you must slow down. On the icy road the steering is more difficult.

The graphics is good for the 2600. Activision set the VCS games graphics standard to a new level and this game is one of them. On the bottom there’s Activision rainbow logo, above it are information about score, level and number of cars remaining to overtake. In the middle of the screen there’s main playfield displaying a nice 3D road with your car and the opponents. On the top there are mountains scrolling as the road turns left or right. The background color of the playfield and the top part is varying according to what time you’re driving, i.e. day, evening, night, deep night, fog, snow, morning, etc. It nicely demonstrates the VCS’s nice color capability. Sounds aren’t bad as well. There’s a really strong engine buzz sound of your car and some other whistles when you crash. A simple melody plays when you reach the level’s end.

The game is incredibly fast. You can drive like a mad man, and if you have enough perception, you reach your goal pretty soon. As fast you drive, as crazier the game play is. When you crash to an opponent car, your car is put on the side of the road and you must speed up again. The opponent cars go in three lanes and it’s extremely hard to zigzag between them in high speed. It’s even harder in the fog course, because you see only rear lights and the fog is so dense that the visibility of the lights is reduced. All in all, the game play is about fast driving and adrenaline when passing other cars in a high speed. When you reach the goal of 300 overtaken cars, you have to complete the route till another morning when the car countdown begins again and the game level increases.

Enduro is very addictive game, fast like hell and it’s surely a gem in everyone’s VCS game cartridge collection. It’s nicely done, squeezing the limited hardware toughly to bring the player really good driving experience.

For a long time, I was living in the conviction that Atari games were ugly, boring, and lame. Then I got to know a local Atari community, and they showed me games that are absolutely fantastic. No matter that their release year is quite low. The playability of those games is brilliant, and one even doesn’t mind the squareness of the graphics. One such game is Millipede by Atari Inc., a sequel to the extremely popular Centipede. It was originally released for an arcade cabinet in 1982 but got home computer and console conversions for Atari VCS and Atari 8-bit, as well as (later) for the Atari ST (1986) and, finally a non-Atari, 8-bit NES console in 1988.

Let’s focus on the Atari 8-bit version, which is my favorite.

ABOUT THE GAME

Millipede is based on the very same idea like its predecessor, Centipede. You are controlling a little shooting spaceship that moves on the bottom of the screen, and you try to shoot everything that moves and also that doesn’t move on the screen. There are flowers (growth) that don’t move and centipedes- Oops! Sorry – the millipedes running from top to bottom in horizontal rows. When they reach a flower, they change their direction and go one row down. When you shoot them, they divide themselves into smaller, shorter millipedes and so on. But that’s not enough; sometimes an inchworm or an earwig appears on the screen going from the left to the right or in the opposite direction, and you must shoot it. If you do, you get extra points. Every 10,000 points you get an extra life. Having enough lives is important in this game, as you never know what will kill you next.

Almost every action has its dedicated sound effect, so you’ll feel like you’re playing the real arcade or that you’re chased by a police car!

The game consists of multiple subsections. In the first one, you fight a normal millipede, flowers, and nasties like jumping spiders and bugs. When you kill the millipede completely, the level changes a little bit and there’s an attack of evil dragonflies going directly from the top to bottom. But that’s still not enough. There are DDT bombs with powder placed randomly on the screen. When they’re hit and the millipede or any other baddie is near, the powder kills them immediately. After disposing of enough insects you finally get to the toughest part. There you have to shoot mosquitos that go down in non-orthogonal directions, so it’s difficult to attack and/or avoid them. I mentioned jumping spiders. They’re very creepy, and they move more and more randomly as the game progresses, so it’s dangerous to stay in their neighborhood. Finally, bugs come from the left or right at the playfield’s bottom, and therefore you should move your ship up to avoid them.

GAMEPLAY

It’s a very hard game, almost every millisecond you have to be on alert. It’s fast, and the beasts are treacherous. You need a really good joystick that fits in your hand. Thanks God you don’t need to press the fire button all the time. If you keep it pressed, a kind of autofire effect is applied, but you can’t be sure that’s enough in critical situations. The farther you get in the game, the tougher the beasts are and everything’s getting worse. You might collect many extra lives during the game, but then a lethal part comes and you can easily loose them all in one level. I think the game doesn’t have any goal set except reaching as high a score as possible. At the start, you choose a starting score from 0 to 60,000 points, which effectively chooses the start difficulty (you skip the easier part connected with the lower score). You’re getting bonuses at every 10,000 points. Information about each next bonus is on the bottom of the screen.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

The graphics are pretty basic, there’s nothing outstanding about them. You recognize beetles, spiders, millipedes, flowers easily. But there’s no remarkable art in the game. The sounds are crazy. Almost every action has its dedicated sound effect, so you’ll feel like you’re playing the real arcade — or that you’re chased by a police car!

RESULT

Millipede is one of my most favorite games on the Atari because of its incredible simplicity. I’m playing the game again and again from time to time, and it’s still the same fun like it used to be when I saw it for the first time. If you feel like shooting someone or something, don’t do it in reality — go and play this game instead!