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SCORES EXPLAINED:

5.0 Perfect
4.5 Excellent
4.0 Very Good
3.5 Good
3.0 Fair
2.5 Weak
2.0 Poor
1.5 Bad
1.0 Terrible
0.5 Atrocious
0.0 Your Mom


Funkmaster V Reviews


7800 Rank: Not Ranked

Genre: Maze Shooter

Distinction: First Atari 7800 Homebrew Game For Sale
The First 7800 Homebrew Looks a lot Like the First Video Game I Ever Played Pros: Chaotic Gameplay, Familiar Controls
Cons: Devoid of Almost All Audio, Lack of Game Variations
And a Little Bit Like an Acid Flashback


Overview: I held it in my hands, blinked once or twice and took it all in. I was holding in my hand the first original Atari 7800 game released since 1990. How appropriate the name, then,
Combat 1990 really was. This wasn't an incomplete prototype, an overblown 2600 game, or a non-released title. This was a homebrew. A labor of love. Combat 1990 is a sequel to the first video game many of us ever played: Combat for the Atari VCS. Programmer Harry Dodgson said he wanted to take a demo he made for an earlier project and add what he liked about Combat and Battlezone to it to create a new full fledged game. Trying not to get my hopes up, I popped the game into my Atari 7800 and began to play.

Graphics: This game certainly does not push any limits in the graphics department, but what it does do well is display several tanks, bullets and UFOs at once without any sort of blinking or frame rate issues. Simply put, this looks like the original Combat with a better than average color scheme (until it gets psychedelic), especially compared to most of the nauseating brown on beige stages in the original Combat. The explosions are kind of cool, and they remind me of the destruction of Scorched Earth. With the addition of a friend's tank, there can be eight large tanks and a UFO on the screen at once wrecking havoc. The biggest graphical hiccup here is that the score is pretty hard to read..

Sound: Simplicity is normally a good thing in the audio department with most Prosystem games, but this one plays it way too safe. There is absolutely NO music or little ditties in Combat 1990, and barely any sound effects. It actually has less burps and bleeps than the first one. In fact, I think there are only two noises: KEEEEEEEE and KOOOOOOO. That's it. This game is way too quiet... kinda like that creepy kid in homeroom that you heard chops the heads off neighborhood animals. What's really going on ova there?

Gameplay: If this game is one part Battlezone, it is ninety nine parts Combat. If you are unfamiliar with the venerable game, Combat, what we have here is a simple, multi-directional tank-maze shooter. But, there are some enhancements here and there to spice things up. The biggest addition to the game is the interesting use of shields. Shields can be turned on, but every time you fire bullets, your defenses drop. They can be raised back up by simply pressing the left button, but their strength drops when moving and can be totally destroyed when hit by enemies. All is not lost, because random defeated enemies drop shield power ups. The ability to go in reverse is a huge help, because the army can bum rush you in a hurry. Luckily for you, enemy tanks and ships either have no intelligence, or they simply lack the ability to drive in a straight line (an army of women drivers? HEYYYYOOOOOO!!! #metoo). Random movement doesn't necessarily make them total pushovers, however. The enemy tanks' bullets can curve towards you unexpectedly like baseball pitches from knuckleballers like Phil Niekro, and this can throw you for a loop often at first because your tanks' bullets fire in straight lines, although they have the ability to ricochet like billiard balls off barriers. The quick games are timed affairs, where you either endure the waves of tanks or you do not.

Originality: The 7800 version offers a much needed one player mode and a two player cooperative mode, but interestingly enough it doesn't offer the friend verses friend evilness exhibited in the venerable original. Besides a few nice touches seen in other games, nothing in Combat 1990 is very revolutionary.

Value: While it offers a stiff challenge, I think Combat 1990 is missing enough gameplay variations to keep it from being a real jewel. I would have liked the ability to play where the protagonist's bullets could be steered and the enemies bullets caromed. Player verses player, with allied computer-controlled tanks would have been awesome. It could have included a survival mode, where you played until your supply of tanks were destroyed. More backgrounds, big tanks, fast tanks, ice boards... there could have been a bunch of variations. The two player mode adds some life to the game if you have a 7800 addict handy.

Overall: Since Combat 1990 was released years ago, we've seen B*nq, Rikki & Vikki, Beef Drop (excuse me), Millie and Molly, Frenzy, Crazy Brix, Alpha Race, T:me Salvo, Froggie... you get the idea. It was the first and we are thankful. But comparing it to today's standards of what these talented programmers can squeeze of an Atari 7800 cart makes it a hard sell. All things considered, Combat 1990 is a fine game mostly because of one aspect: Smooth gameplay. I never felt like controlling the tank was annoying or sluggish. I always felt like I was in control (unlike my life!!!!). The game is fast paced and chaotic, however it may not hold your attention for very long. More game variations and better audio would have pushed this homebrew to the next level. As it stands, Harry Dodgson should be proud of his creation, especially considering how hard the system was to program for without a community of tag team partners. It IS a small piece of Atari 7800 history, and I will always be grateful for it.

*Considering I never really enjoyed the original Combat, you may wanna take my final score and bump it up by a point if you loved that game.

You can buy the cartridge for the 7800 at Video 61



Bonus Points:

***The instructions are very funny- definitely worth a read through.

***Video 61 offered numbered games, complete with buyer's name on the box, cartridge, and laminated instructions for a limited time. I lost my box in a house fire, but I still have the cart with #15 Vinnie Vineyard on it!

***Harry Dodgson programmed the first Atari 7800 homebrew, although it wasn't really a game. Maybe you have heard of it: it's called the Monitor Cartridge, fools.

I would like to thank Harry Dodgsen and Lance at Video 61 for their hard work put into this enjoyable game