Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Holy Grail of Atari cartridges on sale

A guy from Austin is selling a copy of the Atari 2600 game Air Raid, complete with box, on eBay - and with over a week left the current bid is already up to $6,500. Air Raid is one of the rarest games for the Atari 2600 and up until now a copy with the box intact was not known to exist - but apparently it has been boxed up in this guy's garage since 1985. Click here to check out the auction. [UPDATE: It sold 4/10 for a final price of $31,600!].

Well this seemed like a good excuse for me to try out the game for myself. Of course I don't own the real cartridge (or there would be TWO of them on eBay right now) but I do own the ROM and a working copy of the emulator Stella on the arcade cab so I flipped the switch and popped in the virtual cartridge.

The game plays kind of like missile command made into a vertical shooter. You are some kind of aircraft moving left and right at the bottom of the screen and firing up at flying saucers, fighter jets, and helicopters that are attacking your city.

The enemies fly down from the top of the screen and shoot at you and the skyscrapers in your city. If their bullets hit you then you die. If their bullets hit the buildings then the buildings take damage and after about 3 or 4 hits they collapse. After the 2 or 3 buildings collapse your game is over. And your plane is apparently constantly flying to the left because the buildings keep scrolling by from left to right.

The game was actually fairly fun with halfway decent graphics and sound (for an Atari 2600 game), and unlike a lot of 2600 games it was pretty challenging – my games didn't last very long at all. I did have a few complaints though. The hit detection was kinda flaky - the flying saucer baddies went up in smoke pretty reliably but I frequently put bullets straight through the fighter jets and helicopters with no effect which was aggravating. Also, the shooting was too slow and I found myself hitting the fire button a lot and just being forced to wait for the next bullet to load up to shoot.

So while it's certainly not the best Atari game I’ve ever played, it is far from the worst. I give it 6.0 weird t-handle cartridges out of 10.

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Fallguy40 said...

This makes me want to go check my parents' garage or attic. There's no telling what may be put away there.

Fallguy40 said...

What makes this Atari game rarer than others? Did it not sell well so not many were made?

I heard that the ET game had thousands of unsold copies dumped in a landfill. Are those also considered rare finds?

MadPlanet said...

apparently it was a small production run made in Taiwan pretty late in the 2600's life - 1984. Check out the text on the back of the box - the English is a little shaky. I don't know how much a legit buried copy of ET would go for - but I'd buy one. It would be a cool trophy for the shelf in the gameroom. I do own that game and can vouch for the fact that it sucks pretty hard.