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Dodge 'Em (Atari 2600) artwork

Dodge 'Em (Atari 2600) review

"The cover art was of a stylishly-dressed couple in an old-timey car swerving wildly in that final moment before their agonizing, fiery demise. If you didn't clench the controls intent on going balls to the wall the instant the game started, this would happen to you, but with far more primitive visuals. "

In those old arcade-style games, defeat tended to be inevitable. You'd be given a handful of lives and then placed against forces which would gradually become more and more fierce until eventually overwhelming your on-screen avatar. Skill wasn't determined by actually finishing a game, unless lasting long enough that it freezes due to you achieving a score too lofty for it to register (as I did with the Atari 2600's Journey Escape) counts.

Instead, you set out to score a ton of points while lasting as many stages as possible. As you got better at the game, you'd last longer and longer, eventually getting to the point where you needed to allocate a notable amount of time in order to play your favorite game.

Or, you could just put Dodge 'Em into your Atari 2600. From my humble experiences with that one, it's hard to imagine ANYONE getting good enough for any single game to last particularly long. Most of my outings seemed to be done in mere moments, but I still came back. There was something nice about a game that I could play a handful of times during those 10-minute periods of free time while I was waiting for the parents to get ready so we could go somewhere. Masochistic, but nice.

The cover art was of a stylishly-dressed couple in an old-timey car swerving wildly in that final moment before their agonizing, fiery demise. If you didn't clench the controls intent on going balls to the wall the instant the game started, this would happen to you, but with far more primitive visuals.

Dodge 'Em takes place in a simplistic maze loaded with dots to collect. Imagine Pac-Man if the strategy of avoiding ghosts was replaced with insane intensity. The "maze" consists of four square lanes -- a large outside one, with three progressively smaller ones inside it. Your job is to collect all the dots. The computer car's job is to slam into yours at a high rate of speed, which costs you a life. Since both cars start on the outside lane (with the opposing vehicle moving in the opposite direction), the computer's job will be easy if you don't take immediate steps to avoid it. Midway along each side's wall is a hole allowing you to change lanes in an attempt to ward off high-speed death. You'll be doing this at virtually every opportunity, as the computer moves at your speed and is programmed to aggressively place itself in your path. Your one advantage over the computer car is that by holding down the fire button, you can drive faster, which helps in beating it to one of the lane-changing gaps and avoid being wrecked when it swerves into your path.

If you can clear two screens (which I was occasionally able to do after some practice), that advantage pretty much goes by the wayside, as a second computer car joins the fray. No matter how fast you can go, dodging two aggressive cars is a stiff challenge -- the sort that eventually crumbled me. And by "eventually" I mean that I looked at the two opposing cars on the screen, uttered a few curses and, resigned to my fate, watched my last couple cars get wrecked in seemingly no time at all.

If I'd gotten past that third stage, I'd be forced to clear two more two-car ordeals in order to reach the sixth stage. Since that never happened, I figured I'd do a bit of research to see what I missed. Apparently, achieving this causes players to start over on the first stage. The score flips at 1,000 points, but the game will then crash after another 80 points have been collected. So, I didn't get to experience a few more levels of dueling a sadistic computer followed by the morale-boosting sensation of knowing I outlasted its capacity to torture me. Which makes me a victim of Dodge 'Em.

It's hard to be too hard on this game. It brings the challenge in a "you need great reflexes" way AND, while growing up, it was a fun thing to play from time to time. On the other hand, it's hard to be too complementary of a game that usually didn't spend much more than 10-15 minutes in my system at one time before I needed to put something in that wasn't so intense and frustrating to my young self. There were a decent number of very good Atari 2600 games. There also were many cartridges containing pure garbage. Dodge 'Em falls in the much larger category of games that could be considered blah, but with some cool redeeming bits, such as the multiplayer modes, where two players could either alternate against the computer for bragging rights, or challenge each other to a game of high-speed chicken. Or it could be considered decent, but with some glaring issues. After all, the single-player game is just five stages that all look the same with the only difference being whether there are one or two cars out to get you. For me, this one is a bit south of average, but still can provide some small doses.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 28, 2011)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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