• Category Archives Atari 2600
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    Haunted House (Atari 2600)

  • Defender (Atari 2600)

    While it’s easy to look down on the crude graphics and game play of the Atari Video Computer System (later redubbed the Atari 2600), it was pretty cool by late 1970s-early 80s standards.

    One nice touch was the use of art on the game cartridge boxes along with a “backstory” in the instruction manuals.


    Defender was created at a time when some of the basic video game genres were still being defined. While it was not the first game that could be categorized as a side-scrolling shooter, it was the first that extended beyond a single static screen. Defender was unique for its time in that the screen would continuously scroll in whichever direction you travelled. However, if you went in one direction long enough you eventually came back to where you started.

    The goal of defender was to stop the aliens from abducting humans, turning them into mutants and taking over Earth…Hey, isn’t this the basic premise of the X-Files? There aren’t really distinct stages as in a more modern shooter but the game progresses in waves that get harder as you go.

    While the Atari 2600 version can’t match the graphics of the arcade, it does a reasonable job within the limitations of the platform and plays very well. These days its easy enough to find Defender on one of numerous compilations in arcade form but the Atari 2600 version is worth a try too. These classics for the Atari 2600 are worth it for the Box/Manual/Label art alone but you’ll have to spend a few extra bucks to get a complete copy to really enjoy it. Defender is one of the more common Atari 2600 games so it’s a piece of cake to find if you don’t already have three.

    Although the Atari 2600 version was no doubt the most popular home version of the day, it was also available for the Atari 5200, Apple II, Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit, VIC-20, Intellivision, TI-99/4A, DOS and several other platforms. Defender only had one real contemporary sequel titled Stargate (or Defender II for most home releases) that was really more of an update of the original. There was a 1991 update titled Strike Force that was an update to Defender in the same way that Smash TV was an update to Robotron. There was also an update released for the Atari Jaguar called Defender 2000 that was much more like the original but with updated graphics. There were also numerous clones and other games inspired by Defender released mostly on home computers of the day, the most well known of which is probably Choplifter.

    Images above are all related to the Atari 2600 version of the game.

  • Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade (Atari 2600)

    Sears has this weird thing they do where they contract with outside manufacturers to produce items for their store and then sell it under their own brand name. An example of this is Sears’ Kenmore line of appliances. These are actually made by companies like Whirlpool or whoever Sears happens to be contracted with at the moment. At one time they also did this with video games.

    The Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade was nothing more than an Atari VCS (later known as the Atari 2600) with a different name. Not only did they do this with the system, but they did it with a number of the games as well. For example the Atari branded Combat was known as Tank-Plus under the Sears Tele-Games label and Air-Sea Battle was known as Target Fun. The games and systems were exactly the same except for some labeling differences. A very few games were Tele-Games exclusive but of course these also worked on an Atari VCS/2600.

    This ad from a Sears catalog in 1977 shows what Sears had to offer early in the life of the Atari system. These early ads tend to exaggerate the number of games. Atari 2600 games typically had multiple variations. For example, Combat involves driving a tank around trying to shoot another tank (either another player or the computer). There are multiple game variations that change things like the maze layout, bullet behavior and even the visibility of the mazes and tanks. Many ads portrayed these as different games. In this ad it talks about being able to choose from 27 exciting video games with the Target Fun cartridge. Really that’s just 27 different variations of the same game.

    In 1977 the Atari VCS had just been introduced and there weren’t that many games yet. The days of Activision and other 3rd party developers was yet to come. The games in this ad probably represent most of what was available at the time and they include: Speedway II (Atari’s Street Racer), Outer Space (Atari’s Star Ship), Blackjack (also Blackjack under the Atari label), Tank Plus (Atari’s Combat), Race (Atari’s Indy 500), and Pong Sports (Atari’s Video Olympics).