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Basic Math (Atari 2600) artwork

Basic Math (Atari 2600) review


"During the development of the “Launch 20” for the Atari 2600, it seemed any programmer at Atari could get a project greenlighted. This was both a good and a bad thing. Some programmers came up with some innovative games in this era, like Surround and Space War. Gary Palmer, however, took advantage of Atari's liberal project approval and came out with a ''game'' so bad, its horror would not be overshadowed until the E.T. debacle. "



During the development of the “Launch 20” for the Atari 2600, it seemed any programmer at Atari could get a project greenlighted. This was both a good and a bad thing. Some programmers came up with some innovative games in this era, like Surround and Space War. Gary Palmer, however, took advantage of Atari's liberal project approval and came out with a ''game'' so bad, its horror would not be overshadowed until the E.T. debacle.

Nolan Bushnell envisioned a greater destiny for the Atari 2600 than merely as a game machine. He believed his machine was a “video computer system” and could be used to educate as well as entertain. The “Launch 20” contained 5 educational titles. That’s a full 25% of the launch catalog dedicated to educational games. The drive to validate video games as an educational tool and not only mindless entertainment has its genesis here. Generally speaking, educational games are, at best, pretty bad. At their worst, they're ''Basic Math''. ''Basic Math'' is so bad, it actually hurts to play it.

''Basic Math'', it must be said, lives up to its name. It's basic, and it's math. Essentially, you are presented with a very simple math problem (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division), and then you solve it. A correct answer is awarded with a victory fanfare, and incorrect answer is awarded with another fanfare. At the end, the number you answered correctly out of ten is displayed. That's it. That's the entire game.

You are afforded the options of ''table'' problems, where one number in the problem remains the same, or random problems where the both numbers change. Manipulation of the difficulty switches allows for a time limit to be set. These are your only options.

There's really no excuse for this. It's laziness, plain and simple. Fifteen minutes of extra labor spent on the code could have added some graphical representation of score, improved the sound, or set the math problems in some sort of gaming concept. This is essentially a math quiz that Atari honestly expected people to spend money on.

The only value ''Basic Math'' has is to collectors of Atari cartridges. If you are considering an emulation option, I can honestly say that the 2k of room it would take up on your hard drive is too much to devote to it.

Instead do this, take the D. Dodge Silver ''Basic Math'' challenge. Using your favorite programming language and a time limit of one hour, see if you can make a better game than ''Basic Math''. I'm pretty sure you can.

I've never given any game a ''1'' before, since I believe that every game has some redeeming quality that could at least net it a ''2''. ''Basic Math'' has no redeeming features whatsoever, and actually caused me to question the morality of the procedure that brought the game to commercial release. My final advice...stay far far away from ''Basic Math.''


Rating: 1/10

ddsilver's avatar
Community review by ddsilver (October 25, 2004)

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