Atari 800 Flashcart – Part One
Jan 14th, 2015 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Recently I bought an Atari 800 flashcart. It’s pretty good, but not perfect. Every Atari 800 game in the world comes in the .ATR format, and the flashcart isn’t great at using that format – it prefers .exe or .xex. Which sucks, because NOT every Atari 800 game in the world uses that format. It can also fit 800 KB of stuff. I know the developer is working on a larger cart, and I’ll get that when it is available.

(The alternative to the flashcart is to use a SIO2PC cable that goes from your computer to your 800. And that works pretty well, and it’s OK with .ATR files – it’s just that you are tethered.)

Anyway, how do some of the Atari 800 games hold up? Let’s find out.


Inspired by the fact that The King of Kong has been re-uploaded to Usenet, I picked this one out and started playing it. All four levels are represented! There’s some animation missing, like the upskirt shot of Pauline as DK drags her up another level to the building, but nothing important seems to be cut. Or everything important is cut, depending on how you roll. Much easier than the arcade, in so much as I can actually make it to the top of the first board with some regularity, instead of never on the real thing. (The nearby arcade even has it on “easy” mode and gives you five lives, which is extra-humiliating!)

You can select various difficulty options, but there is no way to tell which is which because instead of “1”, “2”, “3”, “4” and “5” they are “hammer,” “firefox,” “spring”, “barrel” and “pile of cement.”

It’s an easier game, but fuck this is fun. The molasses-encased like myself can now enjoy Donkey Kong. My goal in this project is to determine which Atari 800 games still hold up today. These aren’t in-depth reviews, in fact, some of this stuff won’t even load. Donkey Kong, however, is worthy of being on many “What’s your favorite 8-bit game?” list.



I personally believe that Shamus is one of the Top 100 games ever made, and the Atari version is actually superior to the one I grew up playing on the PCjr, due to the fact that it’s able to display more than four colors on the screen at the same time. Shamus looks great. He moves a little sluggishly when someone is going in the same direction as he is, but that won’t be for very long because everything dies nicely and quickly in this game, due to the fact that you keep throwing stilettos at them.

Apparently, Shamus is a private investigator, as the name of the sequel is “Shamus: Case II.” He also has a little fedora (well, maybe it’s a top hat: not enough pixels to really tell) and I think “shamus” means “drunken, Irish private eye.” This game is better than Berzerk in two ways:

1) It feels like you are making progress in Shamus.

2) “You can teach a monkey how to play a certain number of rooms but you cannot teach a man how to play Berzerk.”

There’s a few different skills levels to pick from and a running score so you can track your own progress.



That’s Boggit, he hates buggies. I thought I would hate this game as well due to the fact that you control it with the joystick and due to the necessary changes from the arcade version’s vertical monitor to the horizontal TV. But it really is quick to respond. The extra horizontal room is nice and offers more chance to shoot down the centipede. The graphics are colorful and crisp. Centipede is the game that everyone used to point to and use as the one that women liked more than men. My theory to this is not because there are pastel colors in the game, but because of the spider. Allow me to explain. Wait! Come back!

You get 900 points if the spider is right on top of you when you kill it. You get 600 points if it’s a little farther away and if you’re some kind of baby you get 300. The game dispenses an afghan and booties out of the coin return if you’re continually trying to get 300 points from the spider. The spider can never retrace his steps. It can’t go backwards: if it enters on the left side of the screen, it can move up and down and right, but never to the left. If he enters from the right, he can’t go to the right. It’s the easiest thing in the game to avoid, so long as it does not kamikaze itself right at you before you can respond. But there is something ingrained in the male brain that will cause guys to pick a fight with an enemy that can no longer affect them, whereas a woman is more likely to have matured to the point to where they won’t make it personal with a goddamn video game spider.

I don’t have an 800 “trakball” so I don’t know how it is on that. Probably better, but there’s no negatives to this version being played on the joystick.



What is this awfulness? I remember reading through computer game magazines and being jealous of the fact that Atari and C64 owners could play this, which had to be an awesome game, and I just had access to shitty version of Q*bert, including but not limited to the 2600 version (horrible) the Intellivision version (less horrible) and the version that came on a digital watch (surprisingly better than the 2600 version). This game is stupid. I don’t like Pogo Joe.

For starters, he looks like there is something wrong with him, like he’s been squashed in an industrial lathe accident, or somehow part of the Doug Flutie family tree. Going to cylinders instead of cubes was stupid. You have to press the button to do a “super jump” onto and off of the really high areas, and you can jump on most of the monsters I encountered, which limits the challenge. The monsters are all a single color and while you can tell that one is supposed to be a dragon and one a featureless blob, they look like rejects from Atari Football.

This game isn’t any good today, so if this was somebody’s huge favorite in 1983 I’m not saying you have no taste or that you’re dumb or anything. Pogo Joe now has competition against the MAME version of Q*bert and it does not hold up.




Alpha One: The Major Havoc Prototype
May 16th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I recently went to the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown and played a lot of pinball. I don’t know how the industry is doing as a whole, but when there is a convention center with a bunch of games, I’ll be there.

The newest machine was Wheel of Fortune, which I did not play, because it’s a pinball game themed after the Wheel of fucking Fortune. However, there were some arcade games there as well, including the prototype for Major Havoc, which is called “Alpha One.”

Major Havoc was the last color vector arcade game released, to the best of my knowledge. Vector monitors were never correctly debugged – they remain a pain in the ass this day for games like Star Wars, Tempest and Gravitar. If yours dies, well, good luck – nobody will ever spin them again. In fact, making some is one of the things I would do if I ever became moon-laser rich and crazy. They are rare enough that people will take a game completely infested in maggots to save it. So somebody bringing his Alpha One game (a prototype) to a public event like the Pinball Showdown was amazing and generous.

Naturally, I left my fiancé’s camera at home. And even more naturally, the showdown was nowhere near either my home or work. So I had to rely on the Milker’s cellphone for some photos.

The first one is of the control panel. I have never seen a real Major Havoc machine, but I did buy the reproduction roller, you know, just in case. The roller on the protype was definitely smaller, and not translucent:

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And then here are a couple photos of the cab itself (again, apologies for the poor quality):

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Even though I never shut up about it, I was still amazed at how different the game was in the flesh, as opposed to how Major Havoc plays through MAME. MAME really is a wonderful and amazing tool, and I am very grateful it exists, but the differences on the real hardware are obvious during the first play.

There is an extra mode in the prototype – a section somewhat like Star Castle. Major Havoc was released with just three (the Galaxian-like shooting stages, docking, and then the maze level), which was pretty advanced back then. All right, it wasn’t really that advanced, Donkey Kong had four, but still.

It’s a shame that vector monitors never really took off, as there were rumors of a color Vectrex unit in development at some point, which obviously never materialized because of the hundreds of advantages of raster (shakes fist) (flips keyboard).

Atari 800 Flashcart – Part Two
May 15th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey


At the CGE in Vegas last year there was a real Wizard of Wor. It was very difficult to get onto it and play it, because apparently arcade gamers in a freeplay environment forget everything they ever knew about lines or courtesy. I’m sure the deaf Chinese kid was staring at the thing as the owner tried to pack it up Sunday night, trying to reach down and trigger the “more credits” wire without making eye contact with anyone or anything. The 800 version of WoW is pretty good – a little weird at first, as the first joystick port controls the blue worrior (sic) and the second one controls the yellow… and the game demands that the first joystick port be player two. So you always have the yellow asshole involved in the game no matter which version you play. It looks like somebody fucked up for the 8-bit, but it doesn’t really matter. Plugging the joysticks in and out of the system is easy and they are recognized instantly.

The graphics on the real version of WoW are blocky and shitty, so the 800 version maps pretty well. It’s very playable and you can control how many lives you get before you start playing. A lot of fun in two player mode, as the game, like Joust, can go from co-op to a deathmatch instantly.



This was another one that I played on the real hardware for the first time at the CGE. I had never played it in MAME because of its stupid name. I used to have a juno e-mail account before Chet gave us zombiemail. Juno, the e-mail service, gave us an entire two megabytes of space to use, which was always way too little. I remember Juno having an advertising campaign that went like, “Henry gave it to Gladys. Gladys gave it to Cheryl.” And everyone involved was in their sixties. You definitely want to get people associating STDs and liverspots with your Internet service – I don’t know how Juno failed like it did.

Juno First also fails, because it looks like it’s dropping most of its frames. It’s fairly unplayable and also loses points because it is making the most annoying sounds in the world in its “attract” mode as I type this up. This game is on my 48-in-1 (and it’s a lot of fun, if a little easy), but this version for the Atari 800 is slow and sluggy.


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