SPORTS FOR THE 5200
It's that time of the year!
ATARI 5200 FOOTBALL
It's that time of the year! Cheerleaders, pom-pom's, fleet halfbacks and wide receivers, bulky linemen, and the star quarterback. Only this time, you're calling the signals.
Atari 5200 Football lets you be the Monday morning quarterback any day of the week. And pitted against either the computer, or your best friend, you'll find 18 offensive plays to choose from. The instructions are lengthy, but worth reading carefully. Knowing that the upper button will pass to a different receiver than the lower button is crucial and a lot of skill is involved in timing the pass.
You have the ability to transfer player control once during any play. For example, if the pass you just threw is long, you can transfer joystick control to the receiver, break the pattern, and run under the pass for a completion -- a very nice touch.
This is a game of finesse and timing, and has a creative element not found in the majority of other games. The graphics are only fair but game play is good and makes up for the stick-like characters. As far as strategy goes, what works on offense greatly depends upon what the defensive alignment is, much like the real thing. I've found that almost all of the screen passes work well and are comparatively safe. However, once your timing is down pat, you'll be going for the bomb before the first quarter is over.
ATARI 5200 SOCCER
I've always believed that soccer never caught on here for two reasons: low scoring and an almost complete lack of understanding of the game. Atari 5200 Soccer is almost as difficult as the real thing. Dribbling and passing the ball requires a completely different set of skills than any other game. There are four kinds of kicks available and mastering them is necessary to move the ball effectively.
A switch-player option is disappointing in that you cannot select a specific fielder, but may have to switch several times before finding the right man. You have to work hard to even get close to scoring a goal. Unlike football, where every play is a potential touchdown, numerous players are required in soccer to set up a potential score.
Thinking ahead definitely pays off here, and quick reflexes along with constant movement will eventually let you feel like Pele, without the shinsplints. The graphics are a bit better than in football, but the lack of background noise and no halftime show (in either game) make this seem like high school rivalry instead of The World Cup.
Perhaps with more practice, even I could develop an appreciation for the game. I think this might be a very good sports game, but I just don't have the patience to find out! I don't believe children of less than 12 or so would come close to sitting down with this game to really become good at it.
ATARI 5200 TENNIS
I must admit, I'm a closet tennis fanatic. I actually get up early to watch Wimbledon. Unfortunately, my forehand, backhand, and serve leave much to be desired. It was with great expectations that I plugged in the Atari 5200 Tennis cartridge. What I found was only a little less demanding than facing John McEnroe at his best.
However, this sports game turns out to have real potential. I learned more about lobs, passing shots, net play and baseline volleys in 3 hours than I believed was possible. Again, reflexes and timing are critical factors here, and finding the correct buttons to press for a cross court volley can be frustrating. Making the shot work was rewarding, and therein lines the strength of this game. No fines here for cursing the lineman.
If you get to the ball, you will return it. Player positioning is the key here and takes practice. The color and graphics are above average, and on days when you can't make it to the courts, this might be the next best thing. This sports game is as creative as the others compared to other video games. Repetitive actions here will not improve your score, only let your opponent know what's coming. So let 'er rip. The only thing you won't need after the game is a trainer.