Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Atari Joust -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewAtari Joust for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Joust
Manufacturer: Atari
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1983
Part #: CX2691
Rating: 4 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

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

If you've ever been to a renaissance faire, you have to admit jousting on an Ostrich is far more fun- especially if its a flying Ostrich. Another arcade gem born of a time where common sense was hardly a requisite for a game premise, Joust was a really fun game that was even better as a 2-player affair.

Appearing on numerous consoles over the years, this Williams Electronics hit came first to the Atari 2600 during a time when popular arcade games were making their way into living rooms around the globe. It was an exciting time to go to the store (no internet back then) to see what arcade faves where lining the shelves.

Sifting through the Joust manual there is no mention of any Ostriches. They are Ostriches, right? Long neck, round feathered body and long gangly legs - what else could they be? The operative term in the manual is "Buzzard". Um, yeah. Does someone have a trademark on Ostriches?

Riding an Ostrich (aka: armored buzzard) you flap your wings to fly while trying to stay alive. As you collide with other Ostriches in joust the rider with the highest altitude wins. He will turn into an egg which you can snatch for points. This egg will turn into a more dangerous foe if you don't grab it quickly. If you win a joust against your opponent (colliding with him) in 2-player games, the opponent loses a life.

Fire pits a the bottom of the screen will take your life as will the pterodactyl who periodically flys by. You can defeat him by hitting him directly on the beak - not as easy as it sounds. Once you've unseated all the enemies a new round will begin.

Joust Arcade Controls

Its always interesting to see how a designer will translate arcade controls to a home console. The Joust arcade controls were pretty straight forward. Each player had a 2-way joystick for left & right movement and a fire-button... I mean Flap-button. Since jousting requires no projectiles and your Ostrich (it's not a buzzard) needs a mech for flapping it's wings - a fire-button lends nicely for flapping. The flap button would send you upward at a speed commiserate with how much you pounded the flap button. At least that part makes sense.

Holy shit! Check this out...
Programmed in assembly language, the Joust arcade game was developed by Williams Electronics, with John Newcomer as the lead designer, and released in 1982.
It was created around Defender's hardware. Newcomer left his job as a toy designer to work at the Williams and conceived Joust as a "flying game" with co-operative 2-player gameplay.

Side note - I was lucky enough to find a cocktail-format Tempest in a local Pizza joint, but never encountered Joust in a cocktail format where the 2 players sat side-by-side. Um, a bit too cozy?

Moving and flapping lent well to the Atari 2600 joystick (as did most games with 2 functions). Where this one differs most from the arcade is the graphics. The platforms don't have that rocky ledge feel of the arcade, the lava pit is the red area and the characters are all single colors lacking any detail. On the other hand the game play is quite good and gives a good overall experience.

Including the 2-player option was awesome because this game begs for head to head competition. Most 2-player games require one of the participants to sit idly while the other plays. Simultaneous jousting and egg-snagging engages both players and makes the game a lot more fun and a superior gaming experience.

Joust Game Variations & Difficulty Switches

From what I've read, cramming all the goodness of Arcade Joust into a 2600 cartridge meant leaving out features and scaling back on the graphics. Preserving good game play and the 2-player options seemed to be pushing the envelope, so I can't complain too much about the lack of options... but I will anyway.

Joust makes no use of the Difficulty Switches. Instead gamers get 1 and 2-player versions of SKILLED and EASY play. Skilled is actually what most games would call normal node, since the easy mode has the renown severed teddy bear head indicating it is a very simple version for kids. I was a kid when I first played Joust. How easy does it have to be?

Anyway... You'll find plenty of challenge in the Normal (I mean Skilled) version to overlook additional variations that might have been possible.

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

Atari Joust

is somewhat scarce on grahics, but the game play brings back the arcde challenge. Inclusion of the 2 player do-op mode makes this a really fun game for 2.

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