THE 2012 RELEASE OF “SCRAMBLE” (EXCLUSIVELY FOR ATARI 7800)
Pros: Satisfying, intuitively controllable bombing. Reasonably “authentic” graphics, audio, and game play.
Cons: Compatible only with the Atari 7800 console (ideally with a pristine 2600 joystick connected).
Prefatory Note: This “review” is basically a “heads up” regarding the availability of a noteworthy, relatively recent port of the classic arcade game, “Scramble.” For multimedia live-action displays and reviews, feel free to search on the words “7800 Scramble” at YouTube.com, where there are several pertinent videos.
Though the side-scrolling, “shoot ‘em up” game Scramble (whose better-known sequel was Super Cobra) first appeared as a coin-op arcade game in 1981, the first version that I myself played was for the Vectrex system in late 1982. In case you don’t already know, the Vectrex was a unique “home” console that incorporated its own “vector-graphics” screen. Because that built-in monitor could only display monochrome (white-against-black) images, the Vectrex Scramble cartridge box included a dedicated, transparent-plastic screen overlay that simulated color (primarily green and yellow) graphics. That eminently playable “Vectrex” Scramble would remain my favorite version for the ensuing three decades.
Fast forward to 2013. Having already briefly dabbled with an inferior (because unduly hard to control and beat) version of Scramble bundled with various other games on the 1999 Konami Arcade Classics compilation disc for the Sony PlayStation system, it wasn’t till I bought AtariAge.com’s 2012 release for the Atari 7800 that I experienced the ultimate “home” incarnation of Scramble.
Unlike the aforementioned Vectrex version, this latest Scramble—newly programmed by Robert DeCrescenzo—is less of a greenish “adaptation” and more so a full-blown, multicolored recreation of Konami’s original 1981 coin-op arcade game. Much of that original Scramble’s “look and feel” is finally available for the home!
This 7800 Scramble (unlike either the 1999 Playstation port or Microsoft’s 2006 downloadable “Xbox Live” version) features satisfying, intuitively controllable bombing of the sundry enemy targets as the game-play action scrolls continuously rightward. Though you can use the 7800 system’s own two-button controller (in which case the right button drops bombs, and the left button independently shoots directly rightward), if you instead attach the compatible original Atari 2600 (single-button) joystick controller to the 7800 console, the lone button simultaneously bombs and shoots, which, I soon discovered, lets me advance far further in the game before losing all my “ships.” In fact, only with the somewhat more easily controllable 2600 joystick was I finally able to navigate the game’s most intricate tunnels and subsequently reach (and bomb) the main enemy base to complete “Stage 1” of this continuously scrolling, challenging game.
For fully comfortable play, you’d do well to purchase not only a like-new specimen of the original 2600 joystick but also a compatible “extension cable” (from an easily googled third-party vendor).
If you don’t already own the requisite 7800 console (but would like to), I strongly suggest buying a like-new “refurb” from the foremost dealer/vendor of Atari 7800 supplies, Best Electronics. [Google “Atari 7800 Best Electronics,” then order with confidence via phone or perhaps email. I bought my second (“backup”) 7800 console from them via phone last year, and I can report that the folks at Best Electronics are courteous and trustworthy, and they pack and ship exceedingly protectively.]
Though I also duly savor Scramble’s aforementioned sequel, Super Cobra, there’s just something about Scramble’s “spaceship” and game play (not to mention the bugle-like theme music) that more fully delights and captivates this (sometimes) “retro” gamer.