Steve Woita

Atari 2600

Review by Russ Perry Jr.



Graphics: ?

Sound: ?

Gameplay: ?

Overall: ?

taz.gif (2957 bytes)Let's start out with Taz...

The first thing you see is a giant picture of Taz (Warner Bros.'s Tasmanian Devil of cartoon fame) himself, which, though a bit creepy (maybe if he moved a little), is fairly impressive -- it's always impressed me that they can make big and reasonably detailed pictures on the 2600. Within the actual game, however, Taz is pictured in his whirling dervish form, a small tornado, and it isn't animated much either.

Also, the sound isn't all that impressive, as it's confined to only two real sound effects and a couple sonic indicators for in-game events; no game music, no real variety in sounds, and kind of sparse use of the ones it has.

But graphics and sound aren't really the important thing... The gameplay, while simplistic, can become quite frantic. The basic idea is that you have to collect foodstuffs (burgers, root beer, ice cream cones, popsicles, and others, each worth an increasing amount of points), while avoiding sticks of dynamite. This all takes place in an arena of sort made up of 8 rows.

You can move anywhere within these rows, while either a food item or a stick of dynamite will enter one side of a row and leave the other. It's a pretty simple concept, but one that allows a good ramping-up of difficulty. At first, objects sort of meander across, but on later levels, they really go whipping by. Also, on earlier levels there is more time between a lane emptying (when you grab a food item, it's point value is displayed, and until it disappears, the lane will remain empty) and the next object passing through, whereas later on there's an almost constant flow of stuff across the screen.

Also, the foodstuffs can be difficult to distinguish from dynamite at times. For instance, you start with burgers, and at 2500 points progress to mugs of root beer; at 7500, to ice cream cones, and at 17500, to popsicles. But these popsicles look similar to the dynamite enough to make you screw up at times and die when you shouldn't.

At 10,000 points you get an extra Taz, and at other times thereafter (30,000 and 50,000 for example -- perhaps every 20,000 points?), and you're going to need them. At 32,500 you enter a "Crazed Wave" in which stuff just FLIES across the screen (starting with apples and then radishes?), and it is about then that your pulse REALLY starts to quicken.

I don't know what my record was as a child, but frankly, at my "advanced age", with my failing eyesight, and wrists I messed up a couple jobs back, I can't seem to reach even 70,000 any more. I'm sure there is more stuff in there awaiting discovery, but you're going to have to be fast, and accurate, to find it all. And if you do, let me know if the Crazed Wave ever ends. :-)

Some tips I can give you... Where there WAS an object, you're temporarily safe. If you nabbed a food item, the point value is displayed and it's safe to stay in that lane until it disappears. If dynamite has passed by, it won't turn around, so feel free to take a quick break behind it. As far as I can tell, there are no time constraints, so don't feel it's necessary to run out and grab every food item you can, because the extra risk will lead to more deaths and therefore lower scores (not that I follow my own advice).

To sum up, Taz is for people who like reaction contests. It's all about dodging, and precise movement of Taz. If your joystick isn't very precise, or you're not very coordinated, don't expect to rack up very high scores, but this is a fun little game.

asterix.gif (2696 bytes)Now, Asterix, on the other hand...

Oh, who am I trying to kid? Asterix is really the same game as Taz, only with a different cartoon character as the protagonist (the Europeans love Asterix The Gaul, whereas most Americans haven't heard of him; I suspect the opposite is true about Taz).

Since it IS a different character, the opening screen is of Asterix instead of Taz. And in this game, you are not collecting just foodstuffs, but other odd things like shields, lamps, children?; also there is not dynamite but rather some odd harp or lyre looking things.

The point values at which things change are the same, only instead of a Crazed Wave, you get an Obelix Wave, and you get to control Obelix for a while.

Quadrun is the other 2600 game Steve designed, and it's always been one of my favorites, just because it's a bit wacked-out. You also get a big surprise when you press the fire button to start a game - the game talks! It announces its name to you three times in quick succession (and is that by chance Steve's voice?), which is a pretty impressive feat (in fact there is only one other 2600 game with voice, Open Sesame). Other than that the game is, like Taz, a bit sparse on auditory stimuli.

quadrun.gif (1897 bytes)Quadrun seems to be related to Taz a bit, as the play area has the same sort of frame top and bottom as it did in Taz, only instead of the eight lanes you got in that game, here you get a scintillating octagon with a crossed shaped arena inside.

Moving around the arena is done in an interesting way. While you're in the vertical part, pushing the joystick up or down makes you go to the upper or lower part of the cross (respectively), and you always face (and fire) toward the center. To move to the horizontal part, you just move left or right to the wall, which then sends you to the left or right part of the cross; to get back, move up or down, depending on where you want to end up again. So, there are only two vertical levels you'll be at in the vertical part, and only two horizontal positions you can be at in the horizontal part.

The basic idea behind the game is, like Taz again, quite simplistic - you must shoot creatures (five per level) that are travelling in the vertical part of the cross, and at other times must catch creatures traversing the horizontal part of the cross. But Quadrun adds a twist to the shooting idea - you only get three bullets, so you have to catch the ones you've fired!

In the first round, versus Goons, it's not that hard - you see where they're coming from (don't let them touch you, or they steal a bullet), get on the other side from them if you're not already there, shoot them, and then go back across to catch the bullet. That certainly sounds simple enough, but it gets trickier, of course. On the second level you run into Snags, which have a center that opens up, allowing bullets to pass right through. On the third level you face Yo-Yos that change direction, forcing you to shoot from the opposite side as you normally would. On the fourth level you meet Nods who speed up halfway across, which means you've got to position yourself faster than in the prior levels. On the fifth level you find Brats, who bounce from side to side as they travel up or down. And so on! [which is to say I can't seem to get any further than that anymore, assuming I ever could].

And to complicate matters further, you have a time limit that will eventually run out, so if you keep missing the creatures - even if you catch every bullet - you eventually lose the game. Also, the horizontally moving creatures must be captured before you can go back to shooting the others, and though there is no direct penalty for not catching them, in the mean time the clock is ticking down.

Tips? Know thine enemy - understand how each creature acts, and learn how to deal with them. I find it helpful to always be at the top and go where I need to be, but at the very least after you catch a horizontally travelling creature be sure to get back to the vertical part right away, since time is always counting down, and you don't want to miss an opportunity to shoot a creature while you dawdle in the wrong area. To catch those guys when they're being uncooperative, it usually works to just jiggle the joystick left to right until they come to you.

Summary? When you get past the Goons, you'll find that the creatures you're shooting at can get your heart racing a bit, as you'll be trying to keep them from hitting you and stealing a bullet, and yet get in the right place to shoot them, and THEN get back to catch the bullet. This game doesn't have quite the twitch factor Taz has, but it's an intriguing little contest all in all.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:36 PM