The Top 10 Atari 7800|
Single Screen Platform Levels
In this superfluous Top Ten list today, I'm going to count down what I think are the best 10 platform levels in the 7800 library. Keep in mind, these are the platform levels from single screen platform games, not adventures like Bentley Bear's Crystal Quest or Scrapyard Dog... Speaking of which, I don't know why games like that are still called "platformers" anyway since "Super Mario Brothers" is so different from "Kangaroo"... why can't we call that genre something like "jumpy adventures?" Anyways... I digress.
For the list's credibility sake... this was written as of February 2021.
10. Donkey Kong Jr.
It is probably odd that I think the best levels in DK Jr have more to do with mad scientist technology than the jungle, but its true. I'm not the biggest fan of DK Jr, but always found that knocking fruit onto electrified atoms and causing their demise was one of the most interesting scientific absurdities ever conceived. This level focuses more on timing and offense than awkward platform jumping, and I always enjoyed the break when this level rolled around.
9. Mario Brothers
The best games seem to come with bonus stages: Street Fighter, Final Fight, Galaga, T:me Salvo (you owe me, Mike Saarna!). This, by definition, would include Mario Brothers, too. My favorite stages on Mario Brothers were the always the race for the coins stages (curse that Mario and his damned capitalistic ways!), and the most fun challenges for me were the icy ones. Complete with screeching tires on ice sound effects, you have to navigate the slipping and sliding well to get a perfect score. You can tag team this one with a buddy, but that could induce shouting and pushing matches.
8. (Burgertime) Beef Drop
Burgertime can be a difficult game to get into, but once you start to get good at the game, it will surely become a favorite. Ken Siders made this perfectly safe homebrew, but people seem to still be afraid of level 4. The freedom it offers compared to the hemmed up level 3 comes as a welcomed respite on our journey to trip the 7 levels. The 4 hamburgers we have to assemble are huge, but we can go almost anywhere we want on this level unencumbered, making stage 4 seem more like a mad race to complete, rather than a puzzler.
7. (Q*bert) b*nQ
Level 1 Round 3
Some people wouldn't consider Q*bert a platformer, but that confuses me. The very definition of a platformer is a video game where the character jumps onto different "platforms"... and that's all my man Q*bert does, is jump... well, that and take the Lord's name in vain. Every round in Ken Siders' homebrew is structurally the same, but this one features super cool, M.C. Escher-esque gray-scale cubes and introduces us to some new enemies. These baddies must be some cracked out friends of the snake, because the weird dudes that crawl up from the bottom of this level neither care for the physics of this world nor politeness. They make some weird azz noises to boot. This provides us with an interesting gameplay wrinkle that the title astutely and tastefully refuses to overuse throughout the game.
6. (Burgertime) Beef Drop
At number 6, we complete the ellusive 3 in a row Ken Siders tic tac toe here with a run of Beef Drop- b*nq- Beef Drop. Rounding out the trio is the most unique stage of all Beef Drop madness. Tall ladders and long platforms make level five feel almost like we are playing a different game altogether. While level 4 was all about twitch play and reflexes, this level is about planning. Seemingly long moments of starring up or down at enemies, hauling ass with pregnant anticipation of a future fist fight fill this level with enjoyable tension. A confrontation between man verses food will take place today on Level 5... but are you chef enough to face it?
5. Donkey Kong Jr
By far the most fun level in DK Jr, level 4 we get to rescue dad with a clever use of keys and face-ripper monkey grip strength. It's a pretty easy level as far as final levels go, but maybe its because the birds aren't pooping on us here. This level also include clap-traps... and they don't poop on us either. It's fast, its fun, its satisfying, and its gets me back to the jungle in plenty of time for dinner (just like your mom).
4. Donkey Kong
If you are playing the Donkey Kong PK, XM version or arcade version of DK, the level number may be different, but the final confrontation in DK is a nasty action/ puzzler. A simple jumpman, blinded by rage, tries to take down a whole building, forgetting that his girlfriend is on the roof. Oops. Not to mention that a seemingly intelligent gorilla that is possibly a necromancer is conjuring bale fire-familiars every few seconds. This is truly one of the darkest moments in the Mario vs. DK lexicon. Much darker than when Mario bumped DK off the track, breaking his clavicle, in Mario Kart 64 years later.
3. Rikki & Vikki
Rikki & Vikki is a very good action/ puzzle homebrew. Too good in fact. It should be a Lynx or Genesis game. And there's probably enough great levels in R & V to fill up most of the top ten. But one of my favorite stages is this odd, clever level simply entitled B3. B3 sees fish transport needed platform blocks by gobbling them up and moving them and bubbles act like magical Star Trek style teleporters. This one confused me for a minute, and during it, I realized how great this entire game was. Nothing beats the boss battles in this game, but this level was fun to figure out.
2. Donkey Kong
This is the one that started it all. The first level of the first platform video game of all time. We've seen it so much that we probably have forgotten how ingenious and original this level back in the day. The randomness of the barrels forces you to focus, now matter how good you are at the game. This level is different everytime you play it. Donkey Kong climbs a building, damsel in hand, and stomps on the risers until they become all catawampus and conducive for rolling barrels. And thus begins what has become a very familiar narrative for this young man's life: Our plumber in deep lust has to navigate the difficult terrain by jumping and swinging tools around... blood... boogers.. butts... sweat... climbing... climbing... jumping... climbing... sweat... I MADE IT! Dammit... he's gone. She's gone. But... I must carry on...
Motherfunker bringing up Popeye? For the Atari 7800? YES! Brand new homebrew programmer, darryl1970, is making a port of Popeye so good you won't believe it. Was Popeye a better game than Donkey Kong? No way. Was the first level of Popeye the best platforming level of all time? Absolutely. Popeye's 2nd and 3rd level are fine, but they can't match the perfection of the amalgamation of what is happening on the first round: Love, David vs Goliath, punching, drunks, beer bottles thrown, witches, the paranormal, eating, cartoons, the ole comedic barrel on the head routine, flexing, daydreaming, lust, fist fighting, fall off of things, unintentional swimming, bonus points, and if we are lucky... maybe a little boom boom afterwards. Perfectly balanced, fast, smooth, fair, and instead of always being on the run, you get to be on the offense a little bit too. This is the best level for any classic platformer on any system... and the 7800 version will blow ye down. Save your furlough money, sailor fer when she's released!