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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: Unranked

Genre: PVP, Multi-Directional Shooter

Awards: None
Nostalgia Overload Mode, Activated Pros: Tons of Options, Great Animations, Great Title Song
Cons: Two Player Only, Basically a Remake of Combat's Game Variations 21-24
Sky Rockets at Night... Afternoon Delight! Wait... What?


Overview: We gotta review Danger Zone THIS WEEK, right? It was released on cart on what was called "Atari Age Day 2022" this past Saturday... and in a few days, the friggin sequel to Top Gun hits movie theaters. Come on! That's kismet!
Lewis Hill, an affable fellow from the UK that goes by Muddyfunster, hit the scene in the last few years making impressive homebrew video games for the 2600 and 7800 with a quality and pace that reminds me of younger and furrier Bob Decrescendo (Pac Man Plus). His 7800 works in progress and completed games waiting to be put on cart include EXO, Bernie and the Cubic Conundrum, Keystone Kapers, and a remake of HERO he's calling ARTI. He's a beast, and a full blown, old school Atarian. His first 7800 cart is a take on one of his favorite games he used to play with his brothers as a kid: the venerable VCS game Combat. That's right, the Atari VCS (2600) pack in game was a two player tour de force featuring several modes including all sorts of single screen war fare: tank battles, invisible tanks, ricocheted bullets, curved shots, jet dogfights, handicap matches, three bi-planes vs a big fat plane... this was the war your grandpa never told you about. Muddy's Danger Zone offering focuses on Combat's game variations 21-24, and comes with enough options to choke a horse with.

Graphics: The title screen alone is pure, steamy 1980's sexiness. It features a war plane, doing it's jet thing, level with the war-torn horizon. Danger Zone's biggest asset is the number of options you can tweak, so the menu screen is important. Lucky for us, the words are easy to read. After fooling around with the many gameplay options, you may want to head over to the plane customization part to select your plane and give it a 2 color paint job. Pretty swanky. There's three planes to choose from: American, British, and Russian stand-bys, but my favorite plane didn't have yellow as a selectable color when the other two planes did... and I felt personally attacked. When you get into the game, the large planes are detailed fairly well and their animations, especially when turning, are impressive and smooth. Nice touches like the shadows on the clouds, mean that Muddy loves us.

Sound: This is the first mass released game to feature the Hokey chip, which is like a biodegradable, environmentally friendly Pokey chip that tastes like chocolate. Just kidding... it's a new type of Pokey chip that was created by a wonderful man named Fred (aka batari) that developed it because of the impending Pokey chip shortage. So... how does it sound? There are two menu songs you can select, with the default menu tune being a real sexy Top Gun sounding number... the kind of song that builds tension and anticipation and makes young women lust. Song #2 is a little peppy for my tastes, but there is a good bass run in one part. I see your funk, Bobby Clark. But, when all of the pomp and circumstance is over and we crawl into the actual game, the audio reverts back to 1977. The sound is practically identical to the flying missions of good ole Combat: laboring engine noises coupled with pea shooter gun fire.

Gameplay: For all of the build up, the gameplay is a bit of a let down. I mean... this game IS the two player flying battle from 1977's Combat. To a lay person like myself... its identical. Two players fly a plane apiece, chasing each other around a single screen, complete with that 70's screen wrap/ warp vibe with some clouds thrown in for good measure. And you read that right. This is a total PVP game. There is no computer AI nor one player option. So, this game will be mainly used for settling bets between retro loving rivals in their living rooms. For someone like me who has no one who loves me enough to play old video games with, and all of my children are too big to play retro games with by threat of punishment or reward of ice cream, this thing will soon be just a good looking brick on my library shelf. But if you have a buddy to play with, the game is functional, made with care, and is perfect for 2 minute bursts of plane violence.

Originality: The first Atari 7800 homebrew was Harry Dodgon's Combat 1990, and the first 7800 game with a Hokey chip is Muddyfunster's Danger Zone, an homage to Combat. The Atari 7800 homebrew scene has come full circle. Funnily enough, both games improved on the original Combat in different ways but failed to capture what made Combat truly special in the first place: a vast selection of different games included in one cart. As I mentioned in the overview, Combat had tons of maps, modes and caveats to keep your mind entertained. Rematches could be settled with cluttered maps, wide open spaces, ricocheted bullets, invisible hijinks, or plane battles... there's even a handicap 3 on 1 jet variation when someone was getting to big for their britches. My favorite game option in 1977 was the three bi-planes vs a big fat spruce goose that shot a single, big fat bullet. This was an aerial Chun Li vs Zangief 14 years before Street Fighter 2. Danger Zone is devoid of all of that variation, so it becomes a beautiful one trick pony that runs out of gas.

Value: Value is a tough score to figure here, because I know I will never play this game again unless I reunite with a long lost twin that I never knew I had. If there are some Atarians out there with a pal or two that want to horse around with Danger Zone, I feel like they may enjoy this in short bursts but eventually would rather play the original Combat after the fun menu options wear thin. Still, tons of options exist. Options like whether or not to have curved shots or gun ammo limits help give this thin game more life. But many options like playing at night or dusk or fiddling with how fast the clouds move are cool for sure but are really just superfluous.

Overall: The Atari Age box, cart and manual look great on the shelf, and while I probably won't play this homebrew ever again, I do not regret the purchase. I want to support this guy Muddyfunster. Muddyfunster is not only a helluva guy, but his newer creations look incredibly sick and are more fleshed-out than Danger Zone. His all original game EXO may be the best game ever designed for an Atari 7800, and that's not even lip service. That is true. Keystone Kapers and his take on HERO will give EXO a run for it's money. Danger Zone is ultimately a sweet lover letter to Lewis' youth and his memories with his brothers. While mileage may vary per user, to most DZ will probably feel like a bunch of glitz and glam for what is ultimately remake of a small selection of Combat variations. If you love Combat and have people that also love Combat to play this with, bump our score up a to a 3.0 or 3.5.

Reviewer's Side Note:
*****If anything, playing Danger Zone and Combat 1990 reminded me that the original group of Atari programmers were legit nerd-kings, and their simple games were simply magical. Atari deserved the legendary status it obtained before it was sold to the fools who ultimately marred the brand. Combat is overlooked, I feel, because it is so ubiquitous and the original text-only cart is so ugly. Harry and Lewis are onto something Combat was one of the first PVP home video games and there is something special about it. If you are a loner, play Combat 1990, but if you have some friends, play Danger Zone and the original Combat sometime soon. Worth the time investment for sure for the trip down memory lane. *****



Additional Info: I would like to take this time to thank Atari Age for allowing the use of their screenshots for this review. This game is available for purchase at www.AtariAge.com.