Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Atari Warlords -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewAtari Warlords for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Warlords
Manufacturer: Atari
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1981
Part #: CX2610
Rating: 4 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

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

Warlords may not offer much visual splendor, but it more than makes up for it with game play. Four Knights team-up, gang-up and disband in a matter of minutes as they defend their castles. Did you ever wonder why the Atari 2600 Paddle Controllers came in pairs - one per controller port? For insanely cool 4-player games, like Warlords!

The mystique of the "4-player game" is large. There aren't too many of them and few are worthy of mention. Warlords imbibes the "more the merrier" mantra... and then some. Say what you will about the simplistic graphics - this is a Hella fun game!

My first exposure to Warlords was on the Atari 2600, but it began it's life as an arcade game released by Atari in 1980. Just as the 2600 version made use of the 4 paddle controllers, so did the prior arcade versions. The upright cabinet featured 1 or 2 player games and the cocktail table supported up to 4 players. Warlord's arcade controls were equally simple - a 360° spinning dial.

Warlords Story-arc (Feud)

Atari Warlords for Atari 2600 game cartridge Classic Video Game Review

Once long ago in a distant land lived a king named Frederick. He took very good care of his subjects and pretty much let the kingdom run itself. One day King Frederick and his wife, Queen Christina, decided to start a family. To their surprise, Queen Christina soon gave birth to quadruplets. Four healthy sons, all at once. The King and Queen were overwhelmed.

The years passed quickly and Frederick's sons(Dominick, Marcus, Felipe, and Restivo) grew to be strong young men. But they were nothing like their kind and peaceful father. They were just the opposite. The four sons of King Frederick fought constantly over anything and everything. Their fighting was so fierce that even the normally unconcerned Frederick became concerned. Left to his violent and competitive sons, his peaceful kingdom could very well be destroyed after he was gone, or perhaps even sooner.

Atari Warlords for Atari 2600 game cartridge Classic Video Game Review

The solution King Frederick decided upon was drastic, but he knew it had to be. Dominick, Marcus, Felipe, and Restivo were banished from their homeland and sent far away to a forbidden land. There they became warlords, dividing their newly acquired territory into four equal sectors, which incidentally, was the first and last thing they ever agreed upon. They then took to building their own castles, after which the battling resumed and never ended. They stopped catapulting fireballs and lightning balls at one another only long enough to rebuild their damaged and war torn castles. After repairs were made, the fighting always began again with renewed ferocity.

Warlords Game Play

As a player, you will continue the brother's feud armed with an infinite supply of both fireballs & lightning balls, while putting forth your best Breakout and Pong skills. With the paddle controllers, you can rebound the fireballs (a la Pong) else they will take on some Breakout characteristics and knock bricks out from your castle's walls. Your Warlord is behind the castle walls in one corner of the screen and your opponents occupy the other 3 corners.

Each battle continues until a lone Warlord is left. The player who wins 5 battles wins the war. A fallen Warlord's ghost may come back to haunt the battlefield which can cause the fireball to suddenly change direction. The Difficulty Switches are not used - all game options are selected via the Game Select Switch.

Warlords Game Variations

Warlords has 23 game variations that determine the number of players, how the shields react, speed and a few options for the little tikes who've yet to mature into hardcore gamers. You can play with any number of player between 1 and 4 - the VCS will control the remaining shields when you don't have 4 players. There's also a Doubles version in which each player controls 2 shields!

Holy shit! Check this out...
Warlords was released to arcades by Atari in 1980. The game is a combination of Breakout and Quadrapong using four-corner forts and break-away bricks. The upright uses a black & white monitor and reflects the game image onto a mirror with a backdrop of castles, giving the game a 3D feel. The upright version only supports 1 or 2 players, which move through the levels as a team. The cocktail version is in color, and supported 1-4 players.
The 2600 port was written by Carla Meninsky, one of the two female game designers to work for Atari in the early 1980s. According to Meninsky, the development of the 2600 version preceded development of the arcade version.

The ball speed can be set between slow (fireball) and fast (Lightning Ball). Other options allow your shields to ricochet or catch the ball. In ricochet mode, you get a pong like scenario in which you are primarily defending your castle. With the catch option, you can catch the ball by holding the fire button and release it at high speed be letting go of the fire button. The catch option brings a lot more strategy to the game and lets you aim in ways you can't in ricochet mode. It also lets you change up the pace of the game. Definitely go for the Catch mode with the faster lightning ball speed setting!

Oh yeah... don't forget to set the TV Type Switch to B&W if you don't own a color TV :)

Warlords Hack - Medieval Mayhem

Atari Warlords hack Medieval Mayhem for Atari 2600 Screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

For you die-hard fans who crave more, 2600 enthusiast Darrell Spice Jr. has created a 2600 homebrew titled Medieval Mayhem. It plays much the same as Warlords, but has improved graphics, a dragon and multiple fireballs. Same premise with a few new twists like degrading castle walls and an insanely manic feeling as multiple fireballs come into play. Great upgrade!

I believe it was actually created in cartridge format (try Atari Age), but you should be able to find a ROM online.


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

Atari Warlords

is as brutally simple as it is fun! It accommodates up to 4 players and becomes even better with more players! So, round up 3 friends and go to war. You'll be amazed at how awesome and enveloping this simple game becomes.

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