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My Atari 2600 Video Computer System summer of 2023


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Once summer (school year summer, not actual season of summer) started I began playing a lot of 2600 games.  I really was not planning on playing a lot of 2600 games this summer, but it has started out that way.


It all started with Space Shuttle: A Journey Into Space.  My best friend had this one back in the day, but I never really played it.  I remember him playing it a few times though.


I have had that game on my play list for a while, and I finally decided to take the plunge.  I put the switch overly over the switches on my four switch system and laid the deck card down on top of the system.  I read the manual.  Then I read through it again.  I started with the first flight and just watched, trying to get a feel for what everything should look like.  The instruction manual said you have limited control over some functions on flight one, so I did flight one again while playing around with the controller, but it really does not let you do much.


Then I tried the second flight.  I succeeded on this one pretty quick.  I probably had a couple of aborted missions, but this did not take too long to complete.


Next was the third and final flight.  The first time I successfully rendezvoused with the satellite I immediately landed to complete the mission and got the Payload Specialist rank.  I tried again, this time completing two satellite rendezvouses so I could get the Mission Specialist Rank.  Pretty soon (maybe even the next attempt) I had made five successful rendezvouses with the satellite and landed for the Pilot rank and completed the requirements for the Pilot patch.  This was easy.


Since then I have tried to complete six satellite dockings many, many, many times with no luck.  I do not even think I have made five times again.  I do not know if I made a mistake by landing after five dockings when I made Pilot, or if I got real lucky getting the Pilot ranking when I did.  I will keep trying this one until I get that Shuttle Commander ranking.


Another impetus for my 2600 summer was Superman.  I have completed Superman before, but not in a while.  I did not have this one as a kid, nor knew anyone who did.  I was at a local game store and they had this in a RetroN 77.  I decided to just see how quick I could beat it.  I captured all five henchmen (I know you do not have to do this), captured Lex Luthor, and rebuilt the bridge, but the game did not end.  I had completely forgot about having to turn into the pride of Smallville and make your way to the Daily Planet building.


After looking it up, and seeing what I had forgot, I had to complete Superman at home.  Quite a few times actually, it is a fun game.  My five year old also attempted it, but she had trouble carrying stuff while flying.


At the game store I bought a copy of Cookie Monster Munch because it was in excellent condition.  My seven year old who is special needs saw it and asked to play it, we play the children's games occasionaly.  She completed one round with some help from me and then gave the Kid's Controller to me.  I actually went to one of the harder rounds where you compete against Cookie Monster and grabbed 35 cookies.  If you have never watched Cookie Monster eat that many cookies, once he gets to 20 he starts slamming those things as fast a the 2600 can handle it.


I also gave Adventure a spin.  I had Adventure as a kid, and although I had no manual, I played enough that I could beat the first game easily enough.  I am not sure I ever beat the second game as a kid, but I have done that as an adult before.  The third game though, I am not sure if I ever have.  I tried it and probably had the best possible placement of the yellow key and the Enchanted Chalice you can get.  I beat it quick.  I then went for something else I have never done, find the Easter egg.  Rhindle game me a little trouble hiding out where he was, but I found the dot and made my way to the Easter egg for the very first time.  I should have done this a long time ago.


I was needing a break from Space Shuttle a couple of days later and decided to give Raiders of the Lost Ark a try.  I had this one as a kid, but I had no manual so I could never figure it out.  I remember many times plugging the game in and trying to get something to happen using the left controller and the buttons on my 7800 ProSystem, to no avail of course.  I have known about controlling Indy with the right controller for some time, but I have never tried to give a go again, until now.


I read through the manual, until it came to the warning about spoilers.  I played the game and had no idea what to do, so I went back to the manual.  I read past the spoiler warning and got to another spoiler warning.  So I stopped there and went back to the game.  I got a little further, but no a whole lot.  I read the last spoiler section in the manual and tried again.  I still did not get very far, so I turned to the internet.  It may be cheating, but I do not have infinite time to try to figure everything out.  Last night I beat Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time, and then found the Yar and HSW2 easter egg for good measure.  I find this game quite fun, I really wish I would have had the manual as a kid and tried figuring stuff out myself.


That is my summer of gaming so far, outside of some High Score Club games.  I will continue to work on Space Shuttle.  E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial will probably be the next game I try.  My same best friend had this one back then, but I did not.  I remember playing it some, but no manual and a burning hatred of the pits meant I never beat it.  I have Haunted House and Star Raiders pulled out already.  I plan on beating every variation in Haunted House and trying to get the best rank in Star Raiders.  I will also be pulling out Riddle of the Sphinx to try that one, as I have never really played it.


That is a lot of text, but I have been having a great time with my 2600 these first couple of weeks of summer and I just wanted to share.



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Space Shuttle may be the most underrated game in the 2600 library.  At the time it came out, and on that machine, that game was a real feat it was impressive how literate it was if you read the manual.


I can't remember if there's a pause function on the 2600, but on the 5200 and 800 versions, the manual had a formula that you could use to pause the game and calculate the most efficient burn possible.  Might help you to get all six.  http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-400-800-xl-xe-space-shuttle-a-journey-into-space_4849.html

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I finally made the sixth rendezvous with the satellite, but I did not have enough fuel to even land.  I honestly was hoping the game did not read how much fuel you had left and would give me the Commander ranking anyway.  I guess I need to get more efficient with docking and landing.


I think I will take a break with Haunted House.  I let my five year old try it earlier, and it scared her a little.  She was playing the heck out of Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel's Castle earlier though.  And Adventure.  She actually beat the first game in Adventure with a little bit of directions from me a couple of days ago.

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I had the Shuttle Commander rank, and I blew the landing. I landed short of the runway. The very first time I have missed the landing.


I then had it again, but got an abort mission during deorbit. I think I waited too long to close the cargo bay doors.


That is twice I have had over six rendezvouses with the satellite and had near maximum fuel when I started the trip back to Terrafirma. I was not happy when I blew the landing on the first one.

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I DID IT! The rank of Shuttle Commander is now mine!  Exactly six times did I rendezvous with the satellite and I finished with 7,830 units of fuel left with a Mission Elapsed Time of 964.  Woohoo!  Man do I feel good about this one.  I think I might play a little bit more to practice the suggested deorbit and reentry procedures instead of the truncated @Dr. Morbis system.  It is a damned fun game.


Next will be to finish conquering all the variations of Haunted House, and then I think on to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.


I might also try for some more Activision patch scores.  I was thinking about this, but I did not want to really try unless I could get the Shuttle Commander patch.  I might add Laser Blast to my immediate play pile.  That 1,000,000 point patch would be the next most difficult (or at least time consuming).

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I conquered all nine games of Haunted House for the first time.  I had played through some of the easier levels before, but this was the first time I ever beat the harder levels.  I played each one with the difficulty switch in the "b" position so I could have some flashes of light, which did help quite a bit.  I played game nine, Ultimate Haunted House, so much that I got the different layout down pretty good.  That ghost on the hardest game or two is a heat seeking missile of death.  It reminds me of the spider from 5200 Centipede.  I very rarely was able to lose the ghost once he started chasing me.


I was going to go on to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial next, but I decided on Star Raiders instead.  I made the Pilot 1 rank on T10, which is the highest you can get.  I will start work on T20 tomorrow.  My goal is the Mystery rank on T40, but I am not sure I have the skills necessary to accomplish that.


I got my Kid Vid Voice Module hooked up with my new Coleco Battery Eliminator yesterday and let my youngest try out the Harmony Smurf cassette for Smurfs Save the Day.  She had some trouble, but she wants to try the rest, so I guess she enjoyed it at least a little.  Maybe sometime this weekend I can get both of my girls over there and let them try all the cassettes for both games.


We took the girls bowling for the first time earlier in the week, so I let my youngest try out Bowling.  She seemed to enjoy that one pretty good, especially the steerable ball variation.


I also played Space Shuttle again today just to get the Pilot ranking for fun, and I landed short again!  I am not sure how much fuel I had, so I may not have even made it if I landed correctly.

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Another update.  Saturday I played Smurfs Save the Day with my kids again, this time all three cassettes.  My oldest has trouble using a controller, but she enjoyed watching for a little bit.  My youngest again enjoyed the Harmony Smurf cassette, but I think it was a little too hard for her, so she got mad and quit.  She played the Handy Smurf cassette for just a little bit before quitting.  Her favorite by far was Greedy Smurf, she really enjoyed making the drinks the correct color.  She did not play through all 20 drinks, but I did.  I wanted to make it to the end of each cassette and verify they worked completely.  I helped Harmony Smurf make 20 songs, Handy Smurf categorize 100 items, and Greedy Smurf make 20 drinks.   Let me tell you, the last three or so drinks are not easy.  When you have to start mixing three different colors in a correct amount, it gets tough.


I have been playing Star Raiders still on level T20.  The manual says the highest ranking you can get on T20 is Ace 1, but I just got an Eagle 5, which is the next step up from Ace 1.  So I guess the manual has no idea what rankings are possible.  I think I might move up to T30 and see where I am at.  I am getting pretty good at it, and coming up with some decent strategies, but I know on the hardest two levels even a couple of hits can be devastating.


Hopefully my girls and I can try Berenstain Bears soon.  I am going to keep working on Star Raiders, and I think I might pull out Ghostbusters.  It has been a while since I beat that one.  And I still have E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial waiting on me.

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After many decades, I have finally beat E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.  I started on game three, and worked my way up through game two, and on to game one.  For each game, I beat it first with both difficulty switches in the B position, and then again with both difficulty switches in the A position.  The right difficulty switch really changes how hard this game is.  I think game two with the right difficulty switch in the A position is harder than game one with it in the B position.  I think Atari should have made game one the easy one, and not game three.  Considering most kids played the first game most of the time, having the F.B.I. super agent harassing them probably led to a lot of the game's dislike.  Along with falling down the wells, of course.  Overall a fun game though.  Once you know how to play it, it is a good time that can give you a good challenge.  I also did all three Easter eggs, which were all pretty neat.


The T30 level on Star Raiders is giving me heck.  I have only been able to get the enemies down to single digits once or twice.


Ghostbusters will be next.  I have beat that one before, but it has been a while.  After that, probably Riddle of the Sphinx or Private Eye.  I have never played either of those for more than a couple of minutes, so those will be new experiences.

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I went out of town for vacation this past weekend, but I am back at it.  I have still not been able to beat T30 on Star Raiders, but I am consistently getting the targets down to single digits.  My best so far is three ships left.


I played through Ghostbusters a few times.  The streams from the Ghostbusters do not seem to actually matter all that much.  I just place the trap near the ghost, and try to catch it quickly.  If the ghost is low, I will try to get a stream on top of it, but otherwise I just try to catch it with the trap.  The most important thing is being able to drop the bait when the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man appears.  Getting the $2,000 from that is where you can make good money, but losing the $4,000 is disastrous if you are on your first play through.


I also pulled out Robot Tank.  My best so far is 51, which is good enough for the Medal of Merit patch.  I can see the Cross of Excellence patch in my sights, but the Star of Honor patch seems pretty far away.

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I achieved the Cross of Excellence patch on Robot Tank with a score of 62.  Maybe I can finally see that Star of Honor patch coming into focus.


I started playing Private Eye for really the first time ever.  It is okay so far.  I beat the first two cases with only four and two seconds left, respectively.  Case number three so far has been difficult. I can get the necklace and get it turned in to the jeweler, I mean gemstore, fairly quick, and I can even get the comb pretty fast after that.  I have not been able to make my way back to the salon, or barbershop, with it yet though.  I will definitely finish the third case so I can get the requirements for the Super Sleuth patch, but I am not sure about the fourth and fifth cases.  I have seen on the forums people talk about how difficult the fifth case is to complete.


Riddle of the Sphinx is definitely next up once I put one of these to bed.

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I finally achieved the Star of Honor patch in Robot Tank.  That patch was brutal.  I totaled 76 kills, four more than I needed just for good measure.  When I first started I just attacked no matter the weather, even snow, or the light.  My best with that method was 62.  I then started being more careful.  Very little night fighting after the third squadron, and running when in the snow.  Let me tell you, when the game gives you four straight, and even five, yes FIVE, straight days of snow, it sucks.  My best with that method was 67.  I then went searching for some tips and I found a hero, @CapitanClassic who discovered some pretty good techniques, which he then shared.  Those tips allowed me to get that Star of Honor.  Thank you DrVenkman, I mean CapitanClassic.


I did start playing Riddle of the Sphinx, and man, what an awesome game.  I started on game one with the difficulty switch in the b position.  I then made my through games two and three, and then started over on game one with the difficulty switch in the a position.  I made my way through the three games again, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.  I figured I would like Riddle of the Sphinx if I ever gave it a try, and I did.  I tried to figure out the riddles on my own, and I deduced a couple of them.  I went ahead and looked up the answers to the rest though.  I do not think that affected my enjoyment of the game though.  The only thing I did not like was how long it took to find treasure with the spade sometimes.  It probably would have been fine if you did not have to use the second controller to use the spade.  Great game.  I am glad I played it.


After playing Riddle of the Sphinx, I decided to give another Imagic game with an ending a try, Fathom.  This game is huge.  I definitely had to consult a map for this one.  It would take a long time, a long time, to figure out where all the stars are on your own.  I beat all seven levels and saw the Imagic address Easter egg.  I went ahead and found the Easter egg of the programmers' initials too.  A darn good game, and one that would have taken up a lot of your time if you got it back in the day.


Since I played two straight Imagic games, I decided to pull the rest out.  Well except for Cosmic Ark, for some reason I could not find it.  It would be neat to beat Laser Gates, but I am not sure I have the skill necessary.  The rest of the games are just high score games, but there is nothing wrong with that.  I have been playing them and I actually started recording my high scores.  Atlantis is always great, but I am not a huge Demon Attack fan like most people.


I am still playing Star Raiders and Private Eye, but Private Eye is starting to wear on me.  I might just look up solutions for the third and fourth cases and call it.  Maybe I can find a solution for the fifth case and have my wife read it to me.  I am not saying it is a bad game, but I do not think it is a good game either.

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I got Star Raiders T30 down to three targets left two more times, but could not close the deal.  On one of them I felt really good.  I had a fair amount of energy left, I was on roll so to speak, and I still had my shields.  Unfortunately my shields were still there, but flickering.  So I got hit with an enemy flying in from off screen while my shields were down.  I was really confident I was going to take out all 30 targets on that one.


I finally got to play the other Kid Vid Voice Module game with my kids, Berenstain Bears.  My oldest played about as much as she could, but my youngest played Big Number Hunt for a while and Great Letter Roundup for a little bit.  She was not interested in Spooky Spelling Bee though.  There is actually a little bit of gameplay in Berenstain Bears.  The three cassettes for Smurfs Save the Day are all pretty different, while the three cassettes for Berenstain Bears are pretty much the same thing.  The gameplay part comes in for the score.  At first I though you got a Honeypot every time you caught the right letter or number, but if you catch a wrong one first, you do not get the Honeypot for that one.  You also get a Honeypot for completing the in between stages without making a mistake.  So you can actually have a high score competition with Berenstain Bears.  I made sure to play through all three cassettes to the end to make sure they all work completely, and they all do.  I am not saying Berenstain Bears is a great game, but there is more there than what is obvious.


I pulled out Laser Blast and played on the easiest game once.  I made over 100,000 points and earned the Federation of Laser Blasters patch.  Now I have to decide if I want to go for the 1,000,000 point patch.  To get the patch you can play on any game variation.  I think the scoring is the same for all variations, but it would be nice if there was a variation that allowed you to score points more quickly.


I can get through the second detonator on Laser Gates, but I have not been able to make it to the third one.  By far the hardest obstacle is the Homing Missile.  Those things are relentless, and are very hard to hit.  I would bet that a third of them hit me.


I also played Subterranea for really the first time.  I like it, but it does get hard pretty quickly.  I also played Trick Shot for probably the first time ever too.  For a pool game, it was good, but probably not something I will go back to all that often.  Imagic had some really good games obviously, but some of them I had never spent time with.  I am glad I finally gave all of them, save for Atlantis II and Wing War, a real playthrough.

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9 hours ago, WIZZARD77 said:

I had clicked that link multiple times, or at least multiple different links to that site, to get nothing each time. I had it in my head to find an archive of that site, but you found it for me. Thank you.

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I finally beat T30 on Star Raiders, twice.  The first time I got Pilot 3, and the second time I got Scout 1.  Pilot is better than Scout, so my first time was better, but I am happy I finally beat it.  I do not think I am ready for T40 yet, so I will keep practicing on T30 for a while.  I did have another run that I felt really good about that ended due to another lucky shot from the Krylons.


I also pulled out some more Activision games that have patch scores.  Stampede has always been one of my favorites, so it did not take long to score over 3,000.  I think I did it on my fourth attempt.


Seaquest has never been a favorite, but I still more than doubled the patch score on my first attempt.


I also gave The Activision Decathlon a try, and after two events I realized I was not even close.  So that one got put to the side.  I think that was the first time I ever played the game outside of testing my cartridge when I got it.


Kaboom! is not a game I am good at, but after a few tries I at least broke 1,000.  I am not sure if I can get to 3,000, but I will give it a try.

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