Sleek and Smooth.

When I first got my atari 5200, I was incredibly excited. I remembered playing it once or twice at a friends house, and I'd always been jealous. I plugged it in as soon as I got home, but alas, the RF switch didn't work. The RF switch on the 5200 is a gimmicky old beast- the power for the entire system plugs into the switchbox, and feeds the power for the console down the same Dolby Plug as the video uses.

One day I bought a copy of Star Wars: The Arcade Game over the net, and that provided the impetus for me to get off my kiester and get it working again. After a few calls to Best Electronics (A wonderful all Atari store in California), I had all the necessary parts, and the beautiful graphic flashed up on my screen. However, none of my controllers seemed to work. Disassembling them and doing a little cleaning made them as good as new, and I was ready to destroy the deathstar.

But, details. It's a big sleek black/chrome box, with 4 ports on the front (2 if you have a later model). No woodgrain in sight. 2 controllers store in a flip up-compartment in the top, and there's a power switch on the lower right, complete with an LED! The controllers are analog joysticks, with a lot of buttons. There's a rubberized keypad on the lower half of it, similar to a phone layout. Above the joystick there's 3 buttons- start, pause (yes!), and reset. On the side of the controllers near the top, there's 2 buttons on the left and right side. i believe that the botom left=bottom right, and top left=top right. These are you basic fire buttons. The controllers are kinda clunky- a big rectangle that's in a sort of wedge shape. But, even so, they're not that daunting, and a heck of a lot more comfortable than an intellivision joypad.

The Games

The screen consists of small strip at the top that shows an evildoer ( a potato?) chasing your girlfriend, the bottom 1/3rd of the screen shows a start button, a timer, a blueprint, and a "hole". The rest of the screen is dedicated to a map, with a bunch of houses on it. Your task is to move your little character inside of the houses, and find parts, which you drag back to the blueprint, and place upon their respective locations. Some houses don't contain parts at all, but they contain bombs- ditto for houses you've already entered and gotten the piece from. If you don't hurry, the bomb will blow you up- so you have to drag it to the hole in the bottom, and drop it in. Sometimes, monsters will crawl out of the hole, and meander over to the start button- this will knock all the parts you've assembled off the blueprint, and onto thefloor, wasting valuable time. So you need to run and grab the monster, and put him back in the hole. Once the blueprint is completed, you hit the start button, get in the contraption, and move across the bottom of the screen. pushing the button will fire a projectile skyward, hopefully reducing the evildoer to nothing.
This is an amazingly addictive game. Move you little character along the bottom, and shoot the advancing centipede. The centipede splits when you hit it, and the segment you destroys turns into a mushroom. Fleas, spiders and ticks make guest appearances. You're nothing more than a glorified can of raid, but who knew being a pesticide could be so fun?
dig dug
Again, you're ridding the world of baddies. you're walking around in an environmentally protective suit, wielding a big bicycle pump. Dig in the ground, and release the creatures contained within. Then you get to stick it to 'em with the pump, and blow 'em to smithereens. You can also burrow under rocks, crushing the unsuspecting baddies under them. Everybody loves this game.
San Dimas high school football rules! No, really, it's a decent football game, if you're into that, I suppose. But if you're into football, you'd probably rather have John Madden or Super Tecmo Bowl XXL. (I'm busily working on porting those two games to my Coleco Telstar. results promised soon.)
I don't think the 5200 version captured the flavor of the game as well as the 2600 version. I was curious as to how they'd implement the game with the analog controls, and now i find out they were quite crafty about it. Moving the stick controls the direction froggy wil hop, but he only hops when you push the fire buttons. you can also make him hop with the control pad- 2 moves forward, 6 to the right, 4 to the left, and 7 down. The music is good, but the artwork just doesn't quite look raw enough. They can't all be the 2600.
Not a great port of the game, unfortunately. Gorf for the 2600 probably has better gameplay. It looks alright, but I might be biased, since my favorite game in this genre is Galaga. (Not to be confused.)
Pac Man
Not that different from the 2600 version, except that the maze looks like the arcade, the ghosts are colored, the tunnels run horizontally, your character looks round, there's fruit to eat instead of a wafer of some sort, the sound is good, there's colorful animations inbetween rounds, and it's fun to play. Other than that, you might as well be playing your old 2600 version.
pitfall ][
You're Pitfall Harry, running through a large cavern dodging bats, scorpions, frogs, vultures, and electric eels. Meanwhile, you're also trying to find your daughter, a diamond ring, and your pet panther, Quickclaw. If you manage to work your way through the vast array of death bringing creatures, a secret door opens... and you're teleported to a special level that's only on the 5200- and this level is tough. Rats you have to jump over, insane bats, pirahnas... I'd heard the rumors of this level, but i'd never believed them. Now i'm getting my ass whooped by it.
a great little classic. the screen is a big box, with a qix floating around in it. you're a little dot that can draw lines in the room, and box off areas. if the line you're drawing gets hit by the qiz, you die. there are also little sparks chasing after you, on the lines you draw. if they hit you, you die. if you double back on your line, you die. if you make a spiral death trap, you die. if you pause too long while drawing a line, a fuse will start burning towards you... if it hits you, you die. Box off 65% of the room, and trap the qix, and you move up to the next level. how tough could it be?
space dungeon
It took me awhile to figure this one out, sans instructions, but I'm sure glad I did. You're ... something, in a square room. You can move around with the left joystick, and shoot a beam in 8 directions with the right joystick, a la robotron. (I need to get the controller holder, to make it easier.) At the top of the screen there's a map of the level, and an empty box. If you find treasure, pick it up, and it shows up in the box. The map displays your current position, the entrance to the next level, and the position of the thief (He hoardes treasure. Kill him, and he drops it all!). You go through doors, blast monsters, pick up treasure, and try to make it to the next level. Each of the levels has a cool little name. I think there's around 100 levels, and the treasure location randomizes each game, so it's fun and different each time!
star wars: the arcade game
Admittedly, I'm a Star Wars fan, and this game is the reason i got my 5200 working. But after playing it, I have to say that it's a very good reason to fix it up. The sounds are kind of weak, but it still manages to maintain the gameplay of the original. There's tie fighters you shoot (Darth's isn't among them) while they shoot at you (hard to get hit by them), towers that you can shoot that you can *steer* around (i'm still blown away by this) and then the final scene. I've got a few beefs with it, but my only major one is... why don't they utilize the other button to shoot a photon torpedo down the exhaust port? sure, it would have been a little tougher. But it's like that in the arcade! It's still fun, though. Super tip! Fly through the trench without shooting a single shot, except for the final one down the port, and get a huge bonus score for 'using the Force'.
Super Breakout
You know, I'm surprised atari hasn't put out super breakout for the Jaguar. It's the same game on the 5200 as it was on the 2600, gameplay wise, but it takes a little getting used to without the paddles. But it's got the cool variations, and the colors are nicer.
wizard of wor
Two player game, with the slightly annoying feature that for a one player game, you plug the joystick into port 2, and start on the right. Player 2 is in port 1, on the left. You're both hunters, armed with futuristic guns, wandering around a maze with lots of monsters. You shoot the monsters, and more appear- finally culminating in the Worluck chasing after you. This is a really good translation of the arcade, with great music, but I think I'm going to have to say i enjoy playing the 2600 version more... the analog joysticks make this game incredibly tough.