Friday, August 17, 2012

Warlords for Atari 2600

Hi everybody! Mr Glitch here with my very first classic game review. Today, I dug through my dusty old stack of Atari 2600 games and pulled out a real gem: Warlords!

Warlords is essentially a four player competitive version of Breakout, originally released in the arcades in 1981. You play as a capital L surrounded by bricks in one corner of the screen, and you must defend yourself from attack by the capital Ls in the other three corners. You use the paddle controllers to guide a shield around the outside of your brick fortress that deflects a ricocheting cannon ball. You can catch the cannon ball on your shield by holding the paddle's button down, and then release it screaming into your enemy's defenses. If you're the last L standing, you win the match. Warlords supports up to four human players at once, with the computer controlling any un-manned forts. The various difficulty levels  just change how fast the ball and the computer-controlled opponents move.

It's a great enough game solo, but four player matches are where it really shines. The ball changes speed and bounces around unpredictably, leading to some awesome moments of turnabout such as when it smashes around inside your own fort. The paddles give you precise, instantaneous control over the ball, and yet you have to rely on well-aimed & well-timed bank shots, as you're almost never given a direct shot at the other players. The graphics are basic early 2600 game fare, but the sound effects are quite nice. The ball, for example bounces off your shield with a satisfying 'plink' and your enemy Ls meet their doom with epic fiery explosion noises.

Warlords is probably the best multiplayer game available for the 2600, and as a result, is very easy to find; my copy came in an eBay lot with the 2600 itself. Just remember you'll need two sets of paddle controllers for the full four player experience (it won't work with joysticks) and working examples of those can be a little more difficult to come by.

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