Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Atari Fatal Run -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewAtari Fatal Run for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Fatal Run
Manufacturer: Atari
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1989
Part #: CX26162
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

Rating: Atari Fatal Run Classic Retro Video Game Review Rating
Atari Fatal Run Screenshot:
Atari Fatal Run for Atari 2600 screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

At first glance, you'll see the similarities to Pole Position. Your view is from behind the car - at the bottom of the screen - and the road turns in front of you giving the illusion of steering. But when you mix in the year 2089 and the rush to deliver a vaccine to those dying of radiation poisoning, you'll see this is no ordinary Indy car race.

Of course the question beckons... Why are you delivering the vaccine via an F1-like race car? Anyhow, your goal is a race against time, but the other cars are trying to knock you off the road - again removing the notion that you're in a race against the other cars. Nope, you're just trying to stay alive. Despite relatively un-spectacular graphics, Fatal Run, at 32K, is one of the largest cartridges ever released on the Atari 2600!

Fatal Run Story Arc

Delivering vaccine in a race car? WTF? In the year 2089 Earth has been poisoned with radiation following a collision with a comet. A vaccine has been created, but it must be dispersed in order to save humanity. Leaving the protective fortress of Albagon, you speed off toward the next city - as fast as possible in order to rack up more points - to pass along the life saving vaccine.

Neighboring city dwellers are not the only ones who want the vaccine. Everyone wants to survive and some nefarious henchmen are willing to sacrifice you in order to steal the vaccine for themselves. Naturally, if they steal if for themselves, they're not likely to share, so your mission is to safely travel from city to city with the medicine. You are also in search of a rocket that is capable of launching a satellite that can nullify the effects of this cosmic disaster. If you can unlock the secret code you can save the world.

Holy shit! Check this out...
Atari's Fatal Run, developed by Sculptured Software, is not the largest cart released on the Atari 2600. Even though it weighs in memory-wise at 32K, there was a 64K educational cart released in Brazil. Keep in mind many early 2600 games were only 2K!
Fatal Run's memory goes into elaborate, for its time, animated sequences and it's ability for user-entered codes to advance to later places in the game. All that memory certainly didn't go into the graphics :)

Fatal Run Game Play

Fatal Run opens up with a very unusual screen for an Atari 2600 game. In today's gaming world selecting a previous profile or "save" is common practice, but on a game console from the 70s - unheard of!! Perhaps this is where some of that mammoth 32K went. Codes are dispensed after every 4th run. You can enter up to 7 characters. This was pretty cool for it's time!

At start up, you get Fatal Run's option screen to resume or start a new game. Wow! OK, the "wow" factor dissipates when you realize that the Fatal Run code screen simply take you to predetermined places. But come on! That's pretty slick for an Atari 2600 game!

The controls are pretty cool too. Joystick forward accelerates while pulling back brakes. Left and right movements steer and the fire button does just that - it fires the machine gun! Resting in the center position lets the car coast - I dig that feature. Seems common sense, but it was slick for the era.

Shooting and slamming cars is the name of the game. Destroy your enemies. You are racing to cities to dole out vaccine. Getting there quickly gives you more points. The sooner you arrive at a city the more people you save, thus more points. When you arrive at a city the city's status screen displays and survivors appear on the screen. After reconciling your bonus points for survivors a Vehicle Upgrade screen appears. Here you can upgrade your car or buy fuel.

Some items for sale at the Vehicle Upgrades at the cities are more valuable (useful) than others. If you acquire a lot of yellow diamonds, you may only need to purchase better tires and fuel at most stops. Quick braking will destroy enemies approaching from behind without damage to your car. Learn to power surge - head-on collisions will damage your vehicle. Go off the right side of the road immediately after destroying an enemy vehicle to get a valuable diamond. The game ends with your safe arrival at the rocket site. The Earth saving satellite launches and you win!

I can't find any reference to the Difficulty Switches, so I'm fairly certain fiddling with them is futile.

Fatal Run Gauges

Score, speed and fuel are pretty obvious, but what about all the pretty colors and those whacky dashes... or are they hyphens?

Atari Fatal Run for Atari 2600 gauge description

The dashes on the bottom-left is actually a radar screen so you can see who's sneaking up from behind. They're out to get you, so keep an eye on that one. Speaking of keeping your eyes peeled, the black splotches on the road are oil slicks that can damage tires and the yellow/white striped road blocks can cause serious damage if hit.

The colored bars tell you the status of your engine, tires and armor. See! This is way more than a Pole Position clone. If you run out of ammo you can do a power surge and slam the car in front of you. Similarly, you can lock up the brakes to destroy a car behind you - check that radar! After destroying an enemy a yellow diamond appears. Run it over to repair your armor. Run over blue dots to replenish fuel and green dots to add bullets.


Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Final Judgement:

Atari Fatal Run

has a number of complexities that go beyond the average 2600 game. Its hard to say where the memory split actually lies, but I wish more of it went into the graphics. It's a fun game overall with the added sophistication of it's gauges. It combines the fun of a racing game with shooter elements. Damn I wish the graphics were better :)

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