The First Real Adventure Game for the Atari 2600

User Rating: 8.5 | Adventure 2600
Rewind back to 1980 for a moment. The videogame console that holds the largest marketshare (and the free time of most kids) is the Atari 2600. Yours truly was one of its fanatical followers. Simultaneously, an extremely popular group role-playing game ("manual" role-playing game at that) was sweeping the nation, so much so that practically every conservative preacher in the country was crying foul and insisting that it was a conspiracy from the Devil himself. That role-playing game was "Dungeons and Dragons", and yours truly was also one of its fanatical followers. So the developers at Atari get an idea to use some of the concepts from "Dungeons and Dragons" in a videogame developed for the 2600, and what they come up with is one of the most successful games ever released for that system. Its name was "Adventure", and while it isn't an RPG like "Dungeons and Dragons" was, it is clearly one of the first (possibly the first) game in the what we know as the adventure gaming genre.

The goal of the game is to return what looks like the holy grail to the yellow (or gold) castle. You will be visiting three castles of different colors, with other extended areas of varying complexity, including anything from open courtyards to castle keeps complete with mazes to areas that appear to be hedge mazes. You will find varying items along the way to aid you in your quest, among which will include a sword and several keys. You will encounter dragons along the way which will chase and swallow you, and are often there to prevent you from gaining available items necessary to continue your quest. There are three types of dragons total, each color coded, and in varying degrees of difficulty. There are, additionally, three variations on gameplay which act as difficulty-levels, each one adding some overall variety and originality to the game for multiple play-throughs.

Even though I think that it will cause many to unfairly judge the other merits of the game, I have to expose the graphics and sound effects of the game as absolute garbage that they are. While its true that the environment backgrounds are as well done as can be expected on the Atari 2600, that is where the technical prowess ends. Your character consists of a block... yes a block. No head, no arms, and no legs... just a block. The items you collect barely look like items at all, though they look more like items than your player character looks like an adventurer. The dragons are the closest thing to looking like their intended model, but even they fall way short, appearing to be some kind of deformed upright-walking bird, rather than bloodthirsty dragons. Sound effects are certainly on the light-side. The basic bleeps and blops don't really give you a solid impression of anything in particular, but having them there does serve to make the game more palatable than if they were left out altogether. Now, you might think that all of these visual presentation weaknesses would be catastrophic to the game as a whole, but you'd be wrong. Once you get past all of it, and get used to what things are and how they are played, used, or avoided, the game will truly become immersive.

All in all, this is the most complex (and most fun) game I've played on the Atari 2600, and demonstrates that some effective planning really can make a complex immersive game from the simplest of functionality. Its not a technical marvel, but it definitely is a marvel in game layout development. It is hands-down my favorite Atari 2600 game, and serves as one of my favorite games of all time, and that's saying something given the complex visual masterpieces we are presented with today. I recommend it fully with good conscience to anyone who has even a hint of desire to try the "ancient school" of videogaming. If you play one and only one Atari 2600 game in your life, this one should be it.