• Tag Archives 2600
  • Surround (Atari 2600)

    Cliff Spohn art for the Atari 2600 game “Surround,“ 1977.

    Surround, released in 1977, was one of the first games for the Atari 2600 (Atari VCS at the time). It was one of the nine launch titles for that system and comes from an era before there was any 3rd party development for that platform. This was a fairly simple game in which you moved a block around the screen leaving a trail behind you. The goal was to make the 2nd player (a real person or the computer) run into this line.

    While a very simple game, several game variations and somewhat addictive game play make this a pretty good early Atari 2600 game, at least in terms of fun if not in terms of graphics and sound. It would go on to inspire many similar games in later years (Serpentine for the Commodore 64 was one of my favorites). This game also had a “graffiti” mode in which you could simple draw on the screen. Other game variations include various speeds, diagonal movement, the ability to wrap around the screen, etc.

    Finding re-releases of the original is pretty easy as it has been included in a number of compilations and in downloadable form for some game consoles. It is also included on various Atari Flashback units. If you prefer an original cartridge, those are also pretty easy to come by and aren’t too expensive. As one of the original releases and a pretty fun game, especially with a friend, this is probably one you should have in your Atari 2600 collection.

    The image at the top is the artwork used on the box, manual and label for the game. As you can see, quite a bit of imagination was used. The game graphics are just a tad simpler as seen in the screenshots above.

  • 3D Tic-Tac-Toe (Atari 2600)

    Atari 2600 – 3D Tic-Tac-Toe.
    Programmer/designer Carol Shaw.



    3-D Tic-Tac-Toe is exactly what it sounds like. A three dimensional version of the classic Tic-Tac-Toe. Instead of the traditional goal of getting three Xs or three Os in a row, vertically, horizontally or diagonally, you must get four in a row on a 4x4x4 board. 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe was released for the Atari 2600 in 1979 and can be played by two players or one against the computer.

    What originally surprised me about this game was that it wasn’t unique to the Atari 2600. 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, otherwise known as Qubic (and a few other names besides). Unfortunately, Tic-Tac-Toe, even in its 3-dimensional form, isn’t all that compelling. The 3D nature of this game makes in interesting for a while but you will likely grow tired of it pretty quickly.

    There were a few other implementations besides the Atari 2600 version. Around the same time that verions was released, a nearly identical Atari 8-bit computer version was also released. More recent releases include a version on the Microsoft Windows Entertainment Pack called TicTactics in the 1990s. This version was also available via Microsoft’s Gameroom service for the Xbox 360 in 2010.

    As a side note, the creator of the Atari version of the game, Carol Shaw, went on to also create River Raid.

    If you want to play 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, the Atari 2600 version is probably the easiest to find. This version is also easy to emulate if you want to go that route. Another option is to play this game via one of the Atari Flashback consoles. I know that it is at least available on Atari Flashback 7 and probably on other versions as well.

  • Reactor (Atari 2600)

    Parker Brothers Reactor game for the Atari 2600 from 1982



    Reactor was originally an arcade game by Gottlieb in 1982. However, is was ported to the Atari 2600 and released on that platform by Parker Brothers the same year. The goal of the game is to prevent a nuclear reactor from melting down.

    The control scheme of Reactor is rather unique. In the center of the screen is the reactor and it is constantly pulling you towards it as if it were a black whole. There are various “enemy” radioactive particles that are trying to kill you. Touching the particles or the barrier around the reactor is a bad things. However, you can only speed up or slow down as you “orbit” the reactor in order to control your trajectory. You don’t control your movement directly. Particles are affected by the reactor’s pull as well but they try to steer towards you. You have traps that you can set that the particles will target instead. Setting them in the right place can lead to them colliding with the reactor and being destroyed or into the control rods and destroying them which is your ultimate goal.

    The relative uniqueness of this game makes it worth trying though it won’t be for everybody. The arcade version has the advantage of using a trackball whereas most Atari 2600 owners were stuck with a joystick. However, a trackball can be used on the Atari 2600 as well. The joystick is not a great substitute and I definitely recommend trying out a trackball even if you play this on an Atari 2600.

    I’m not aware of any re-releases of this game and while an Intellivision port was planned, it was never released. If you want to give this game a try then you will either have to resort to emulation (of the arcade game or the 2600 version), or hunt down an original. The Atari 2600 cartridges are not terribly hard to find.