Atari In the Wild No. 2: 2600, 5200, 400/800/XL/XE Carts

This is the second installment of “In The Wild”.  In this series, I do first impression reviews of games I have added to my collection of carts for old Atari Systems. In the Wild refers to me having found these while shopping at local retro gaming stores, and other non-ebay sources.

This is my first time going to a very local store (that usually doesn’t have many Atari carts) and finding many carts for all three major Atari 8-bit Cart systems (no Jag or Lynx unfortunately).  I clean and test everything on my 4 port 5200, my Atari 7800 (for 2600 and 7800 games), and my 130XE Atari computer.   Today was a great day with so many finds and nearly 1/2 of them games I will play again and again.

All images were taken by me while playing the actual carts on the actual hardware. All quality wrinkles can be chalked to to real life, bad video connections, odd camera angles and the tired editing of a middle aged man playing with old video games.


Airlock (2600) – DataAge, 1982. AtariAge Rarity 3 (scarce).  AtariAge Average Critic Score 54%

airlock_cart – James?

There isn’t much of a game here. Now, I didn’t read the instructions, and rarely do for these first impression finds, but I did read a couple reviews to see what I was supposed to do. It seems like you need to get out of a submarine of some sort before it fills up with water. You start at the bottom of the screen and must collect some odd hanging object(s) on each platform before your air runs out. The graphics are terrible. And by terrible I don’t mean by NES or Playstation 4 standards, I mean by PONG standards. By this time the 2600 had been out for 5 years and some of the better titles were being made. I’m not sure my brother and I ever had this, and if we did, it would have been a $1-$5 KB toys pick-up after the crash. The sounds are ok, but the game play it is just about as bad as it gets. Play in emulation and you’ll see what I mean. You can try all 2600 games at


I was never able to get off the bottom platform (I’m the orange thing). For a 2600 game, if you can’t just pick up and play and have fun with a little bit of instruction, it probably will not be put back in the machine very often.  I hope “James”, whose name is scrawled on the cart, got some fun out of it, but I did not.

First Impression score: 2/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on A.


Warplock (2600) – Dataage, 1982. AtariAge Rarity 3 (scarce). AtariAge Average Critic Score 72%

warplock_cart – James? He had some crappy games.

Another game that “James” owned before I got my hands on it. This is a piss poor version of Activision’s Megamania that uses the paddle controllers. You have a single life and you are attacked by “waves” (1-3 enemy per game “level”) that I could get to. It might be my paddles, but I was not able to control the centering of the “gun” at the bottom well. (not that I’d want to really try too hard). You get 1 point for each hit on a “alien?” and your game is over if they hit you are you are hit by a “bomb?” that they drop.

warplock_screen  I know this screen looks awful. There isn’t much game and mostly reflection of me. You’re not missing much.

What can I say, “James” had terrible games in his collection.  This one I might go back to.  The sounds and graphics are minimal, as is the fun.

First Impression Score 3/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on A.


Summer Games (2600) – Epyx 1987. Atariage Rarity 4 (scarce +). review score B+

summer_games_cart – yes. it’s dirty. Every version I have seen looks like this.

This game alone was worth the trip to the game store.  I don’t know the technical aspects of the cart, but it seems to add both ram and bank-switched ROM to the VCS (2600). You definitely need the instructions to play the 7 events, but very few are of the “joystick waggler” variety (I’m looking at you Activision Decathlon).

summer_games_screen – It took my son and I like 30 minutes to figure out where the lens flare was coming from. We never did, so this is the ugly pic we have. Luckily, you can google all of these games and get great video and pics – but even a video of Warplock isn’t going to make it look any better.

This definitely merits more play time.  Very nice graphics and pretty decent sound. May very well be a sleeper top 20 game in the 2600 library.

First Impression Score 8/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on A.


Superman (2600) – Atari 1979. AtariAge Rarity 2 (common +). AtariAge Average Critic Score 45%

superman cart

Many people consider this an absolute classic (not the average review scores though) for the 2600. A pre-cursor to the classic Adventure.  Without the instruction manual, this is game is an absolute mess. It’s from 1979, so consider it a peer of the Homerun, Football, and Golf era of 2K flickery Atari VCS carts.  I had trouble doing much, but I think it will be better once I read the manual on AtariAge.  I think there is potential here, but it certainly needs patience and at least a little reading to figure out.


Sound and graphic wise, it is a lot of a flickery mess of screens that seem to work like the Winchester Mystery House in placement and design.

First Impression Score 4/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on A.

Burger Time (2600) Mattel 1982. AtariAge Rarity 2 (common +). AtariAge Average Critic Score 57%


Since I play all of my games 2600 games on a 7800, i was initially fooled into thinking this cart didn’t work. They use the difficulty switches for the number of players and to the pause the game. So with both switches in the A position, the game would never start.  I paused the game. (what?). I found a manual scan online and read through enough to figure out how to get the game started. This is one game where I seriously do not agree with the internet critics. Yes, the graphics are mostly just blocks, and when you throw salt the game freezes for a second, but by god does it play a fun version of BurgerTime. The music is good, the sounds goods, the animation and game play a little slow, but heck, it’s 10X better than Air or Warp Lock.

burgertime screen

Don’t let the naysayers tell you the game is awful, research this one for yourself. You may not like it, but I sure did. This stays in the play again pile for a while!

First Impression Score 7/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on B.

Smurf Rescue (2600) – Coleco 1982 AtariAge Rarity 4 (scarce +). AtariAge Average Critic Score 72%

smurf_rescue_cart – Yep this cart is DIRTY. If you look closely, you can see that I took the photo on top of  my 130XE with the Ultimate Cart plugged in.

Now, this is another game where I differ with the internet critics. It sucks! I give it a -1. Why? Because it I literally broke by original 2600 joystick trying to jump the first fence.  Ok, That -1 is because I’m pissed, and I know of two CX-40’s at the local Book Off that I can get for $5.00 each, and will even super glue this one back together.

broken_stick – Looking at it now, this might have been a Atari Flashback replica stick. I still haven’t fixed it.  SMS stick to rescue.

This actually is a very good looking, good sounding game that I just suck at.  You walk from left to right through contiguous screens of nasties to finally rescue Smurfette.  Very well made, but a bitch to play (at least for me and my CX-40)

smurf_rescue_screen – colorful, well made, but ultimately frustrating game (at least for me and my joystick)

First Impression Score 7/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on B.
Second Impression Score -1/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on B. Broke my joystick and I can’t get by the first fence.


Dolphin (2600) – Activision 1983 AtariAge Rarity 3 (scarce). AtariAge Average Critic Score 78%

dolphin cart – like all aged Activision carts, this one is dirty. It seems Atari had the best Cart label ideas.

Dolphin is an innovative VCS game that uses sound effects in interesting ways to give the player clues about what is occurring (particularity where the “hole” in the upcoming vertical line of sea horses, blocking the way, is located).  This game makes the mistake of  giving the player a side view perspective to control a creature that can see in front of himself (or herself). It’s kind of neat, but gets frustrating very quickly.  High pitched tones mean the “hole” or “break” the Dolphin can swim through is higher up the screen and low tones mean it is further down. No matter what, I could never really dodge octopus that chases the dolphin easily, and never saw the seagull that does a Pac-man turn the tables and lets the Dolphin chase the octopus.

dolphin_screen – Is the government adding vapor trails to my game screens?

In any case, the game looks and sounds awesome. A very “Activisiony” looking game with a very “Activisiony” play mechanic (simple, but hard to master).

First Impression Score 6/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on A

Fishing Derby (2600) – Activision 1980 AtariAge Rarity 3 (scarce). AtariAge Average Critic Score 79%


Fishing Derby is an absolute classic and a joy to play.  One of the Best looking and playing VCS games of the time, and maybe all time. You and a computer player or a second player sit on the docks, and use your fishing poles to try and catch fish. The lower they are in the water, the more points you receive for reeling them in.


There is a shark that will knock your line and free a fish that you are reeling.   This is one of the games that put David Crane on the map, and turned Activision into a super star company.

First Impression Score 9/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on A

Star Fox (2600) – 1983 Mythicon AtariAge Rarity 4 (scarce +). ratijng F-

star fox_cart – They put a lot more effort into the cart then they did the game

From a couple of the best VCS games ever to one of the absolute worst. Now, I didn’t think it was an F-, but there is very little redeeming about this generic defender style clone.  I like what your ship looks like. In fact, it looks like something I probably drew on graph paper back in grade school when I “designing” my own Atari games.  The game play consists of you spastically trying to pick up crystals at the bottom of the screen and shooting at really evil baddies. There is a strange happy face in the top left that really creeps me out.

star_fox_screen – why is it smiling that evil smile at me?

I was never able to pick up a crystal because as you near the bottom of the screen you can’t move horizontally any more. It makes the game suck.  I guess you might be under water, because there seem to be row boats in the sky above.

I have no idea really. The whole thing is too fast, and really not fun. It gets a couple points only because of the design of the player ship.

First Impression Score 2/10 – play settings – Game 1, difficulty switches both on A

Super Breakout (Atari 400/800/XL/XE)Atari 1979 Average User Score 8.1 / 10 – Rarity NA

super breakout cart

It doesn’t hurt that progressive Super Breakout is one of my all time favorite variations, and that the Atari 8-bit computer version is my favorite version of breakout. I was really lucky to find this cart.  All Atari 8-bit carts are pretty rare, and no one spends much time calculating how rare, but in my local travels to the various game stores in out area (4) I have never found one. This game is an absolute, unadulterated classic.


This was The Tetris of its time. If you haven’t played a version, pick up an emulator, or try to get this or the 2600 version. The best way to play is with the original Paddle controllers. You will NOT be disappointed.

First Impression Score 10/10 – play settings – Game 2, Progressive


Berzerk (5200)Atari 1983. AtariAge Rarity 2 (common +). AtariAge Average Critic Score 92%


berzerk cart


This IS the Arcade classic. If you have never seen or played Berzerk, look it up. This version is almost 100% identical to the coin-op and really shows what can be done with the Atari Computer/5200/XE Game System Hardware (all share the same chip set and code base, save for controller functions on the 5200).


What else can I say, but play this puppy. I didn’t experience any control problems, and had a blast (literally), kicking Robot Butt.


First Impression Score 10/10 – play settings – Game 1, one player.

Space Dungeon (5200)Atari 1983. AtariAge Rarity 2 (common +). AtariAge Average Critic Score 97%


Space Dungeon requires 2 working 5200 controllers (and is a breaker of them also). I don’t have a “coupler” to hold two sticks at the same time, but the game is fun anyway. One stick is used to move and the other to shoot, giving you ultimate control (once you get used to it) Some people have called it a cross between Robotron and Venture, but I to me it is the best parts of Robotron, Berzerk, and and Gantlet.


You have a radar map that shows you the rooms you need to go to and in each you pick up treasure and blast enemies. There is a wide variety of treasure and enemy to shoot.   This game is not rare, but I had never played it before. It shows off the best of what the 5200 can do, and just plain rips.  You won’t want to put it down.

First Impression Score 10/10 – play settings – Game 1, one player.


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