Computer Gamer

The Atari Collection

Author: Nick Walker
Publisher: Synapse
Machine: Atari 400

Published in Computer Gamer #8

Nick Walker selects fifteen classic games that all Atari addicts should have

The Atari Collection

The name Atari has always been synonymous with video and computer games. Atari brought us the first video games console in 1977 and then in 1979 followed it with their home computer range the 400 and 800. Considering these machines were designed in 1979 before the UK had even seen the ZX80, it says something for the original design that they are still keeping up with the latest computer games.

Even so, life hasn't been all that easy for Atari owners in the UK, initially the machines were overpriced and, worse still, when you'd brought the machine the games were selling for an average of £30 a time. The only consolation was that the games were far superior to anything else in the UK market. Then came the Sinclair Spectrum - cheap machine, cheap games, but both machine and games looked cheap so no real threat. Next came the C64 - at the time cheaper than the Atari and with a cheaper range of equally good games. Needless to say, the C64 was a hit and has now established itself as *the* games machine in the UK.

Over the last year or so Atari has hit back with drastic price cuts and the original American titles which once sold for £30 are now being imported by the likes of Ariolasoft and US Gold at reasonable prices. At its latest price of £70 for an 800XL with 64K RAM, joystick and one game cartridge the Atari must be the cheapest way to enjoy some of the finest computer games.

Deadline (Infocom, £29.95, Disk)


I was very tempted to make this top fifteen games consist entirely of Infocom adventures but that would be boring. I've chosen Deadline as the best of the bunch because it's the one and only Infocom adventure that I've solved and because of the informal chatty style. Infocom are the undoubted masters of text adventures with wonderful descriptions of every location and a unique kind of interaction that responds to almost every command.

If you've never played Infocom adventures before I also recommend a look at Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Zork 1, Cutthroats and if you're not really into adventure at all Sea Stalker. The most endearing feature of Infocom adventures is that all the puzzles are logical but perhaps the greatest puzzle of all this is just how did they manage to get all that text on one disk...?

Dropzone (US Gold, £9.95 Cassette, £12.95 Disk)

For all those that loved the arcade game Defender this is the only computer game that really captures the excitement of the arcade machine. The Atari version is faster and has better graphics than any other. Very challenging, fast action for dedicated arcade freaks.

Eastern Front 1941 (Atari, Cartridge £14.95)

Eastern Front is, to my mind, the best designed computer war game to appear on any microcomputer to date. It gains this distinction by having the fine quality map-like graphics and being so well engineered that the logistics of entering commands are reduced to simple joystick controls.

Eastern Front is the first wargame that non-wargamers enjoy playing. By all means, if you enjoy wargames it's a must, but even if you don't it's still a must.

Rally Speedway (Adventure International, Cartridge £22.95)

Not the best looking racing car simulation in the world but still the best two player arcade game I know. Ten minutes of Rally Speedway against an opponent and I guarantee your joystick will be ungrippable for sweat. Synchronised four-wheel drifts and burning drivers rolling out of crashed cars also make it great entertainment, even for those watching.

Star Raiders (Atari, Cartridge £14.95)

Despite the debut of newer and more complex space game over the past five years and numerous attempts to suppress the graphics of this 8K cartridge, Star Raiders still remains the classic.

Star Raiders is a high speed battle game set in a number of space sectors where your mission is to destroy the Zylons for control of the galaxy. If you haven't got this game yet, then you should have... but be quick, supplies of this cartridge are getting scarce and I doubt new supplies will be forthcoming from the new Atari.

M.U.L.E. (Ariolasoft, Cassette £9.95, Disk £12.95)

If I told you this game was an economics simulation with elements of Monopoly thrown in, you might not get too excited. Yet M.U.L.E. imaginatively blends these elements into one of the best multi-player simulations you'll ever play.

Whilst the graphics can at best be described as functional the introductory theme music is the best original computer music I've ever heard. M.U.L.E. is way ahead of any other economics simulation I now, and who knows you may even find yourself learning something.

Archon (Ariolasoft, Cassette £9.95, Disk £12.95)

Remember that very skillful but boring board game called Chess? Archon takes the strategy of chess and combines with the fast-moving arcade action. This is the first game I show to those that aren't familiar with computer games and every single time it fascinates them and it's rare that we see another game that evening.

Despite its complexity, it is quickly grasped by players of all ages. A game to last a lifetime.

Blue Max (US Gold, Cassette £9.95, Disk £12.95)

Blue Max is a three-dimensional, diagonally scrolling, aerial combat game putting you in the seat of the famous World War I pilot, Max Chatsworth. Blue Max is a very enjoyable game that gives you a realistic sensation of flying a bi-plane over enemy terrain complete with aerial dogfights, strafing, bombing and landing to refuel.

A challenging game, it takes some practice to avoid frustration. This game has great depth of play to hold your interest for a long time.

Ultima III (US Gold, Disk £19.95)

The best ever graphic adventure, Ultima III is the nearest thing you'll get to Dungeons & Dragons on disk. Whether you're played the first two versions or not this one is a must. Finding Moongates, stealing money, killing trolls - it's all part of the fun, just don't expect to do anything else for a month or two.

Boulderdash (Monolith, Cassette £7.95)

I still can't understand why, for such a simple game, Boulderdash is so insanely addictive. All this game consists of is a number of underground caves where you guide a little character called Rockford in an effort to collect a number of diamonds whilst falling rocks and numerous moving nasties hinder you. No amount of description could do this game justice, go to a shop and try it out... you'll walk out with your wallet £8 lighter.

Universe (Omnitrend Software, Disk £89.95)

No, that price isn't wrong, this game will not only make a big dent in your bank balance but also wear out your disk drive - taking a total of five disks to play. Can any game be worth this amount of money?

In my opinion, yes. Universe is vast; Infocom adventures are piddling little things in comparison with the hugeness of this.

Universe is the ultimate space trader simulation combining text and graphic adventure with arcade action. Consider buying this instead of eight smaller games... you'll still be playing it a year from now.

Miner 2049:er (Big Five Software, Cartridge £12.95)

The game that started the trend for jumping and climbing games and still one of the best. Lovely clear graphics and some very tricky screens. I've had the game for a year now and I'm beginning to wonder whether I'll ever see screens 8, 9 and 10.

Bounty Bob Strikes Back, the sequel, has now been released by US Gold, offering even more screens and more challenge though I still recommend the original as training.

Loderunner (Broderbund, Disk £29.95)

Loderunner is a 150-screen jumping and climbing game that, by some mirable, manages to make every screen considerably different from the next. In addition, you get a screen editor to create your own screens making it possible to create your own 150 screen jumping game.

Loderunner is a definite winner. Its graphics offer good animation, and it has surprising depth. Strategy is emphasized over outright violence, and the game is to be won only through planning and strategy.

Pinball Construction Set (Ariolasoft, Disk £12.95)

Pinball Construction Set has been called "the best program ever written for an 8-bit machine" and not without reason. Manufacturers of video game design programs would be well advised to look at this before designing their products.

Pinball Construction Set is a fully integrated design tool that lets you create your own video pinball games that can then be given to your friends in the form of an original book disk. A masterpiece of program design.

Ballblazer (Activision, Cassette £9.95)

I had my doubts about including this as my final choice as, to be honest, I've only played it for a total of half an hour when writing this. But from what I've played this game is superb, with a totally abstract concept of catching a metal ball and shooting over to your opponent hal of a vast scrolling field. No amount of text could adequately describe this game.

Look out for it amongst the Christmas releases it has the potential to be a hit.

Nick Walker