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Front Line

 

Coleco 1984

Atari 2600

 

 

 

 

Classic shooter action for the 2600. Frontline was the first overhead one-man-army type game later popularized by games like Commando, Mercs, Heavy Barrel, etc. The arcade version offered simple but attractive graphics and control with a joystick/dial combination so you could aim in a different direction than you were walking. You little guy would point his gun in whatever direction the dial was turned to, which looked pretty silly.

The 2600 version is a decent translation. The graphics are better than the usual 2600 title. There's an actual scrolling background which in itself is pretty impressive. Your little dude marches and moves rather quickly, and can even hide behind trees or rocks for cover. Bad guy sprites are the same as yours but colored green. One of the cool things about the arcade game was that you could hop into a tank and shoot/run people over, thankfully this made it into the 2600 version. There are two types of tanks, light fast moving machine gun tanks and heavy cannon shooting tanks. At the end of each level you destroy a fortress guarded by a large cannon and several guards.

Graphics are very, very blocky, like everything is made up of the same recycled lego blocks. The backgrounds change from forest to desert, but then you notice they're the same backgrounds with the colored bands changed to tan and the stumps of the trees removed. Can't have everything I guess. The hero and bad guy sprites animate nicely though. Collision detection seems to be pretty sloppy though, sometimes a shot goes right through your head, other times you get killed when it passes under your feet. The computer has the habit of erratically hovering very close to you, making it hard to target them. Enemies also seem to spawn from the middle of nowhere and there doesn't seem to be more than two of them on the screen at any given time.

Big gripe is that there's no way to implement the arcade's control scheme with the 2600 joystick. Thus a major gameplay element (shooting in the opposite direction you're walking) is missing. Tithe little guy's gun still points in the direction you're firing in.

A not bad title for the little 2600 and a pretty faithful translation of the arcade game which has enough decent challenge to keep even modern gamers interested.

 

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