Head 2 Head: Pitfall – 2600 vs ColecoVision vs Intellivision
May30

Head 2 Head: Pitfall – 2600 vs ColecoVision vs Intellivision

Pitfall! was designed by Activision programmer David Crane and originally released for the Atari VCS in 1982. It features Pitfall Harry climbing, falling and swinging his way around the screen in his quest to find all the lost treasures against a 20 minute countdown. It is often credited with giving birth to the scrolling platform format although the game itself didn’t scroll as such, you just walked off the edge of the screen into another one. It was the second biggest selling game of all time for the Atari 2600 behind Pac-Man and along with releases for ColecoVision and Intellivision, it was ported to home computer formats including the Commodore 64, MSX, TRS-80 and Atari 800. It also spawned a plethora of sequels down the years starting with Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns in 1983 and ending with the latest, Pitfall: The Big Adventure being released for the Nintendo Wii in 2008. Graphics Atari 2600 version CBS ColecoVision version Mattel Intellivision version This was surprisingly hard to judge actually. Most people would take one glance at the screenshots and immediately say Colecovision, but Pitfall! is an iconic game and that iconicism has arisen not from it’s ColecoVision port but from the immediately recognisable 2600 graphics. Whilst the CV version has more detail, especially with Pitfall Harry himself, the 2600 version has a naive charm which just says “I am Pitfall!, all others are copies”. in the meantime the Intellivision version is just a paler looking alternative, and in complete contrast the CV version is a like a completely upgraded version worthy of a different generation of consoles. Hard to choose between iconic 2600 and revamp Coleco version here but grudgingly the first round goes to ColecoVision – just… Sound An obvious choice this one. The Intellivision and 2600 versions both share the same lack of sound effects. For most part the game is silent with minor sound effects being triggered when jumping, falling, being hit by logs etc. and swinging (the Tarzan cry). The ColecoVision on the other hand has sound in the game intro, where you hear the Tarzan cry as Pitfall Harry swings from his vine. During gameplay the sound effects are much more evident, with footsteps and even a separate sound for when he hits the ground after a jump. The sound of a fall fades as he descends during a fall and the Tarzan call is much nicer, all in all a much more detailed and rounder audio experience akin to an arcade machine. And so it is that the Colecovision is the easy winner here. Gameplay Probably the hardest of all categories to judge,...

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Head 2 Head: Donkey Kong – 2600 vs ColecoVision vs Intellivision
Nov09

Head 2 Head: Donkey Kong – 2600 vs ColecoVision vs Intellivision

Another Head 2 Head and another classic title to savour. Released in arcade format in 1981 and designed by Nintendo genius Shigeru Miyamoto, this game has since become one of the iconic games of the 80s. Later to be released on almost every format imaginable including: Amiga 500, Apple II, Atari 7800, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, NES, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Atari 8-bit family and Nintendo 64. Graphics When judging which of the three versions is the best graphically there can be no doubt of the winner, so I will firstly discuss the runners-up. Firstly the Atari 2600 version, which in fairness does the comparatively primitive hardware some justice with good character graphics (especially Mario) and excellent games speed. As is often the case with a 2600 game, there is a charm to the simplicity of the graphics that just ‘works’. Not so with the Intellivision version. Mario is yellow for f*cks sake… this is a licensed version of a Nintendo game and the game character is the wrong colour? Oh wait, he does have a cap on… that’s ok then. Donkey Kong is also green, which is obviously just wrong although the girders have a smidge more authenticity to them than the 2600 version. Enough about those two, lets talk about the clear winner here. Graphically, the ColecoVision version of DK is as close as you can get to the original coin-op on a pre-NES home console. Everything (except girder layout on some levels) is as near to perfect as you would wish, with almost pixel perfect recreations of all the characters in the original arcade game. For 1982 this was a triumph and it’s no wonder they had this as the pack-in game on ColecoVision’s launch. First round to ColecoVision. Sound The Intellivision version of this game is a travesty to the eardrums, with beeps that belong in another game and no original sounds at all. The Atari doesn’t fair much better on the original sounds but does sound a whole lot better than the Intellivision at least. Another victory to the ColecoVision with it’s true-to-arcade sound effects and music. Gameplay Intellivision plays like a dog, simple as that. Poor collision detection and hit and miss ladder climbs make it no fun to play. In contrast, I really enjoy DK on the Atari 2600, it just plays really well with smooth graphics, a good difficulty setting and great collision detection. ColecoVision has this one licked too though, it plays as well as it looks and sounds, just a pity they never produced an arcade stick for it! Judge for yourself! Watch our Review Video Now featuring...

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Head 2 Head: Double Dragon – Sega Master System vs NES
Jul23

Head 2 Head: Double Dragon – Sega Master System vs NES

Number four in our new series of face-offs between classic games on rival consoles. The aim of Head2Head is not to say which console I think is the greatest (all consoles have their own particular strengths and weaknesses), but rather to examine the same game released for rival consoles and to say in the fairest possible way which I think was the best at the time. This episode features the home version of the arcade smash hit Double Dragon, originally developed by Technos Japan and distributed in Europe and North America by Taito in 1987. The game was then released in 1988 on the NES and Master System followed by releases on Atari 2600, 7800, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC464, Amiga, Atari ST and MegaDrive. The idea for this Head 2 Head came from a conversation on Twitter with Danny Major (@GuyFawkesRetro), well worth a follow! Graphics At first glance, the Sega Master System seems to have this one licked, but first appearances can be deceptive. Yes, the colours are brighter, the characters more detailed and the intro screen is much better, but play the game a while and you will realise that whilst some degree of thought has gone into the NES screens, the same cannot be said of the SMS version. Double Dragon on the SMS has bland, featureless screens with little or no thought to actual interaction between characters and scenery. The NES also has splash screens announcing the next level, something which they clearly couldn’t be bothered with on the SMS version. Both versions have numerous glitches and bugs regarding the screen redraw, with flickery sprites and characters only being half redrawn when knocked to the ground being just two of many issues. These issues are more prominent on the SMS version especially on boss levels and this along with the lack of graphical detail gives the NES a win. Sound From the intro music, through to the level-start and in-game sound effects, there is only one winner here and that is the Sega Master System. Gameplay This one proved to be a bit tougher. Both had so many flaws that they almost cancelled each other out. Poor collision detection on the SMS makes it almost unplayable especially on boss levels. The fact that only 2 enemies appear on the screen compared to the 3 on the SMS gives Sega’s effort the advantage in that area. Better screen design on the NES version make playing it more enjoyable than its SMS counterpart. The SMS does have 2 player co-op which is something that the NES version sadly lacks but even that can’t make up...

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Head 2 Head: Q-Bert – 2600 vs ColecoVision vs Intellivision vs G7000
Jul13

Head 2 Head: Q-Bert – 2600 vs ColecoVision vs Intellivision vs G7000

Third in my new series of face-offs between classic games on rival consoles. The aim of Head2Head is not to say which console I think is the greatest (all consoles have their own particular strengths and weaknesses), but rather to examine the same game released for rival consoles and to say in the fairest possible way which I think was the best at the time. In this episode we feature the isometric craziness that is Q-Bert, originally developed by Gottlieb and ported to home formats by Parker Bros. First released in 1982 on the Atari VCS and released the following year on ColecoVision, Intellivision and Videopac. It has since seen versions on Commodore 64 (1983), NES (1989), Game Boy (1989), PlayStation (1999), Game Boy Color (2000) and Dreamcast (2000). Graphics If we are to start with the worst then there is no doubt that the G7000 version has got to be first, just what were they thinking? The Philips guys haven’t even made an effort to represent the games fundamental feature; it’s isometric cubes. Instead we are given small rectangles. Not to mention the game characters have been re-invented (what is that thing that looks like a hand?). Lame. The Atari 2600 version’s graphics aren’t bad at all considering the units technical limitations, with a decent rendition of the pyramid (although a bit two dimensional looking for me) and game characters. The technical limitations of the machine do mean that the pyramid is only 6 blocks high, and 1 less row of blocks makes for a much smaller play area, this problem also afflicts the Intellivision version. The 2600 version is also the only version of the four that doesn’t indicate what colour to change a block to. The Intellivision version looks a bit ‘squashed’ with the ‘cubes’ looking taller than they are wide, but it’s colourful and the characters are good considering the resolution. Only the ColecoVision version matches the arcade game with any accuracy with a full size pyramid (OK so the G7000 has but we’ve discounted that right?), accurate character sprites and arcade-like resolution. Graphically, ColecoVision is easily the winner. Sound The G7000 was never going to cut it in the sound department and is the clear loser. The 2600 fairs a bit better with some good sound effects but its TIA chip isn’t up to emulating Arcade sounds accurately and it just doesn’t sound anything like the original. The Intellivision and ColecoVision are in a different league here. Right from the opening music they both sound impressive with the ColecoVision making some ground during gameplay. Another win for ColecoVision. Gameplay With the G7000 being handicapped...

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Head 2 Head: River Raid – 2600 vs ColecoVision vs Intellivision
Jun28

Head 2 Head: River Raid – 2600 vs ColecoVision vs Intellivision

Number two in my new series of face-offs between classic games on rival consoles. The aim of Head2Head is not to say which console I think is the greatest (all consoles have their own particular strengths and weaknesses), but rather to examine the same game released for rival consoles and to say in the fairest possible way which I think was the best at the time. In this episode we feature the smash hit River Raid by Activision, first released in 1982 on the Atari VCS but later to be rolled out on many platforms including the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and MSX. Graphics All three versions of this game not only play remarkably different but look very different too. The stark difference in hardware capabilities can be seen most when comparing the 2600 and ColecoVision versions, with the CBS made machine having much higher resolution. Nevertheless, the Coleco version feels like a lazy port in many ways with lack-lustre sprites and sparse looking screens. The Intellivision version is somewhere in between the two resolution-wise but fairs much better with well designed sprites and explosions and clever collision detection whereby you can fly over land only to be destroyed if you hit a tree or other obstacle (something which the other two versions lack). The 2600 version is by far the simplest but that doesn’t make it the worst, yes the scenery is square and symmetrical but in not trying to be too clever it has a certain graphical appeal that the Coleco and Intellivision versions don’t have. All in all though, and most surprisingly, it’s a win for the Intellivision. Sound This one was between the Intellivision and 2600 version from the go. The ColecoVision plane has the worst sounding jet engine ever (white noise) and it only gets worse when you accelerate. The terrible sound continues with the firing and explosions sounds. The Intellivision’s sounds are actually quite good, I especially like the explosion noises but the lowly 2600 has the best sound overall with a great jet engine noise that pulsates and sounds great when accelerating along with decent explosions and firing noises. Therefore it’s a win for the 2600. Gameplay As all three machines use very different controls this was a hard thing to judge but the Atari version of River Raid is by far the hardest. The pseudo-random AI of the enemies in the Coleco and Intellivision versions are far easier to predict and in many instances they are just static and pose no threat. It also has the most thirsty jet, with gathering fuel being one of the most important aspects of the...

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Head 2 Head: Desert Strike Return to the Gulf – SNES vs MegaDrive
Jun07

Head 2 Head: Desert Strike Return to the Gulf – SNES vs MegaDrive

The first in my new series of face-offs between classic games on rival consoles. The aim of Head2Head is not to say which console I think is the greatest (all consoles have their own particular strengths and weaknesses), but rather to examine the same game released for rival consoles and to say in the fairest possible way which I think was the best at the time. This time round it is the turn for the smash hit Desert Strike – Return to the Gulf by Electronic Arts, released in 1992 on the Nintendo SNES and Sega MegaDrive. Graphics In Desert Strike – Return to the Gulf it is obvious in most places that exactly the same images are used, but not all…  and it all starts to go the MegaDrive’s way right from the opening sequence. Firstly the Electronic Arts logo is animated, SNES version is not. The dungeon torture scene and also the main menu is animated on MD but not on SNES. In game graphics are very similar too, but again right from the off the MD has the advantage with the ship and surrounding sea being animated but not so on the SNES. Small details but ones that clinch a win for the MegaDrive. Sound At first I thought this was a no-brainer.  Take a listen to the video and right from the opening music you can tell that a lot more effort was put into the musical scores on the MD. The only part where the SNES  just has the edge is with the in-game action sounds. They are far more realistic sounding and could have been sampled from actual gunfire/explosions etc. whereas the MD’s effects sound like they were all generated. Still, with the intro sequence and end music being so much better it is still a win for the MegaDrive…  just. Gameplay This was tough. I couldn’t find any real difference in the way the games played on both systems. Control was smooth with both controllers and the sound cues were clear when you needed to know of impending danger. This has got to be a draw. Review...

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