Atari 2600

Review by Joe Santulli



Graphics: 4

Sound: 2

Gameplay: 10

Overall: 9

A square being eaten by a duckIn another reference I had made to Atari’s Adventure several years ago (I think it’s in the DP Collector’s Guide), I stated that this was the first game that made me understand the potential video games had, and ultimately the one that hooked me for good. It’s funny, when you look at this game today it’s SO outdated: no screen has more than two background colors, the elements of the game are extremely simple (your character is a tiny square), there’s practically no sound in the game, having more than two objects occupy any screen causes everything to flicker... and yet it’s just as much fun to play as it ever was. Some may wonder why. I don’t because I KNOW why.

Think of every game I play as a skeleton, "fleshed out" with graphics, sound effects, joypad combinations, and music. Now, apply that to a highly successful and interactive title like Tomb Raider. In Tomb Raider, if you take away all of the skin, there’s still a terrific skeleton underneath. Lara would be represented by a tiny block (heavens forbid!) moving through many indistinct areas (no texture maps), picking up items, bringing them to other places to unlock the entry to the next section, and so on. Along the way, your tiny block would have the opportunity to turn the tables on the bad guys, and there would still be those wonderful surprises along the way. Tomb Raider’s "skeleton" would be a fun game to play (albeit outdated in its presentation), and this is just an example of a successful skeleton. You can apply this to many more. Adventure was the first of its kind.

EGADS! It's Yorkle!For those of you who still haven’t experienced this game, let me briefly describe it to you. The goal is to find a chalice and return it to the gold castle, where you start the quest. There are three dragons along the way that want to eat you. You can kill them with a sword or just avoid them, but they’re usually hanging around guarding something you’ll need to get that chalice. There are three castles - the gold one is just one room. The white one has a maze with an inaccessible area that you’ll need to find a magic bridge to cross into. The black one is darkened and complicated - you can only see about three character lengths in any direction. There is a key for each castle that you’ll need to get inside. There’s a magnet that allows you to pull items from across an entire screen, even through walls. There’s a bat that flies around and tries to switch his item with yours (in the worst of cases he switches his dragon for your chalice!), and of course, there’s the chalice.

That bat... makes me want to BREAK THINGSPart of the "skeleton" that makes everything work so well is the wonderful AI. The bat is a constant nuisance, and good players will find a way to take him right out of the picture by locking him in a castle early on. The dragons have their own personalities - the red one is really fast, but the gold and green one guard specific items as if they have their own agenda. Further, the difficulty switches change the entire complexion of the game, allowing the dragons to be even faster and/or smarter (they’ll run away if you have the sword). Add to this a "randomizer" level where anything can appear in any area, and you have all the makings of an endlessly replayable classic.

My friend Kevin and I discovered the now-legendary "dot", a key to an Easter Egg that allows you to enter a secret room and see the programmer’s name flashing across the screen. Actually, I found the dot, Kevin figured out what to do with it. I don’t know if everyone got to experience that thrill before having it spoiled by a magazine telling you how to find it, but I can tell you that to this day it was one of the great gaming experiences of my time.

Suckers.Adventure is still fun to play, and probably always will be. It is one of the few games that upholds its namesake.

DOT SPOILER: Go to the black castle with the bridge and find a square area 1 screen left of the maze entrance that no path leads into, use the bridge to cross into it, then grab an invisible "dot" (you’ll hear the sound of it being picked up). Bring the dot to the screen below and to the right of the gold castle, drop it and two other objects here and you’ll be able to pass thru the wall to the right!


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:15 PM