Tuesday, August 1, 2017

EVERY Atari Lynx Game RANKED! (Part One: #075 to #051)

Part one of a special three-part series revisiting, reviewing and ranking every single game released on the pioneering handheld.



By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@JimboX

HEY! Looking for the other installments in this series? You'll find 'em all at the links below:

PART ONE (Games #075 to #051)
PART TWO (Games#050 to #026)
PART THREE (Games #025 to #001)

The Atari Lynx is unquestionably one of the most innovative systems of all-time. The full-color portable was an absolute technological miracle, delivering gamers on-the-go polygonal graphics gaming 15 years before the Nintendo DS and PSP were capable of the same feat. Alas, the adoption rate remained far below that of the original Game Boy and even the Game Gear, meaning very few gamers ever owned the unit - that is, if they ever got their hands on the handheld at all. 

To mark the 28th anniversary of the pioneering portable, we here at The Internet Is In America are counting down EVERY single game in the pantheon of Lynx titles in a special three-part series examining the breadth of the unit's software library. Join us as we embark upon an epic quest to rank, review and rate all 75 official games released for the system, beginning with the suckiest of the suckiest and concluding with the absolute best the handheld had to offer (and trust me, there were some GREAT games on the platform - I mean really great.) 

Before we hop into the first installment, a few ground rules:

- Only officially licensed Lynx games qualify. That means unlicensed games, games that never got a commercial release in the States or aftermarket homebrews are ineligible for consideration.

- All games were rated on a scale from o to 10 and ranked accordingly. Factors taken into consideration included, but were not limited to, gameplay, controls, graphics, audio, level design, multiplayer integration, originality and replayability. 

- Of course I had to play the games using emulated .ROMS. You honestly think I'm going to spend all that money on physical copies of games that mostly suck dick anyway? 

- And lastly, your mileage may vary on the rankings and ratings. I tried to be as genre-neutral as I could, but some of my personal biases might sneak in every now and then. If you don't agree with the placements, feel free to make your own list and send me a link, so I can promptly never read it, you smug, self-centered prick.

And with those pleasantries out of the way, who's ready to get this portable Conga line shaking? Make sure those AA batteries are in there snug, folks ... it's time to party like it's 1989!


#075
ElectroCop (1989)
Developer: Epyx
Publisher: Atari

Epyx's ElectroCop has the not-so-proud distinction of being the WORST game on the Atari Lynx not made by some bootleg South Korean developer in a dungeon somewhere in Seoul. This was one of the first games that went into production on the handheld and it certainly proves the designers hadn't worked out all the hardware kinks quite yet. Fundamentally, it's supposed to be something a pseudo-3D Impossible Mission but the game is so inexcusably buggy that it's next to impossible to play the damn thing. The camera angles constantly switch around and the graphics are ALWAYS flickering, so you really have no idea where the hell you're going (or really, what your avatar is doing, most times.) You'll get stuck in the game geometry constantly and the controls? Well, they're about as responsive as an epileptic during a seizure. Targeting enemies is pretty much impossible, and the core gameplay (you just run around trying to collect codes to punch into computer terminals) is so boring I'm surprised anybody got to the third level. Oh, and by the way, the levels - the semi-polygonal abortions they are - are absolutely hideous and repetitive as all hell. All I can say is that if this game was most consumers' introduction to the Lynx, no wonder the portable didn't sell worth a shit.

My Score: 3 out of 10



#074
The Fidelity Ultimate Chess Challenge (1991)
Developer: Telegames
Publisher: Telegames

You know, you really have to go out of your way to fuck up a chess video game. I mean, how hard is it to make a serviceable virtual imitation of something that requires hardly any animations at all? Well, leave it to Telegames to bring Lynx owners one of the most boring handheld games ever in the form of The Fidelity Ultimate Chess Challenge. Now, graphically, the game looks alright, and the sound, while minimal, is decent enough. Where the game totally collapses, however, is the pace. To put it bluntly, this game is molasses slow. It's slower than Stephen Hawking in a foot race. It's slower  than Waldo Faldo from Family Matters doing fractions. It's slower than your grandparents fucking, and both of them are in a coma. Yeah, all of this sounds like hyperbole, but go on ahead and play the game for yourself. I guarantee you will be astounded by just how long it takes to move one piece on the fucking board. Hell, if you started playing a game back in 1991, it's still probably not over.

My Score: 3 out of 10



#073
Steel Talons (1992)
Developer: NuFx
Publisher: Atari

Personally, I was never a fan of the 1991 Atari arcade game Steel Talons, but compared to this horrific handheld port, that game is pretty much a version of After Burner that sucks your dick and feeds you pizza while you play it. Of course, one of the big selling points of the Lynx was that it could do polygonal graphics, but the ones you see in this game might just be the crappiest semi-3D visuals you'll ever see in your life. I mean, we're basically talking colored-in vector graphics here, but that's not the WORST thing about this game. No, the worst thing is the pathetic control setup, which makes your fighter jet feel like its been taken over by Saudi hijackers. The developers didn't really know whether they wanted to go the more arcadey dog-fighting route or try to turn the game into some kind of Microsoft Flight Simulator lite, and as a result, it just plays like a big muddled mess. Thankfully, there are much better aerial combat games on the Lynx, so you can just write this portable disaster off as a nothing more than a minor loss.

My Score: 4 out of 10 



#072
Bubble Trouble (1993)
Developer: Lore Design Limited
Publisher: Telegames

Do you kids remember a game on the NES called Solar Jet Man? Well, it was one of the most frustrating fucking games ever made, and Bubble Trouble is essentially an even more frustrating re-dressing of that game. Like Solar Jet Man, this one has the same gravitational pull gimmick. That means you're constantly falling to your doom, but you do have the ability to self propel yourself out of harm's way. Now, here's the gigantic design flaw with Bubble Trouble: it is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to avoid hitting enemies. Shit, at least in Solar Jet Man, you could kinda-sorta' defend yourself from floating attackers, but here? Basically, you're just going to keep ping-ponging back and forth between enemies until your life bar drains away to nothing. There's a fine line between challenging and broken, and in the case of Bubble Trouble, I'd reckon its gameplay is closer to being the latter than it is the former.

My Score: 4 out of 10 


#071
Block Out (1991)
Developer: California Dreams
Publisher: Atari

Block Out is a perfect example of a game with a solid concept but terrible execution. Essentially, the game is a 3D, top-down version of Tetris (yeah, I know other developers would take advantage of the same idea later, but I think this was the first game of its kind to hit retailers.) Sounds like a can't-lose handheld proposition, right? Well, for whatever reason, the designers royally fucked up the control scheme, with the twisting and turning of puzzle pieces taking WAY too long. Furthermore, the three-dimensional effects don't really provide you an accurate sense of depth perception, so it's often hard to tell if you're dropping your piece precisely where you want it to go. Factor in some highly annoying (and highly repetitive) music and you have one of the most disappointing games in the pantheon of Lynx titles.

My Score: 4 out of 10 



#70
Hard Drivin' (1991)
Developer: NuFX
Publisher: Atari

Since most gamers only remember the ho-hum SNES and Genesis ports, a lot of people tend to forget just ahead of the curve Atari's 1988 arcade game Hard Drivin' was. Really, it wasn't until Virtua Racing came around that we saw polygonal graphics in racing game that outdid what Atari did in that supremely influential (and in my humblest o' opinions, supremely underrated) racer. That said, the Lynx port is just fuckin' awful in every sense of the word, with downright heinous wannabe-3D graphics, terrible sound effects and controls that feel about as fluid as a taking class notes on a cinder block. That said, if you have the patience of a Zen kung-fu master, you can probably figure out how to work around its numerous design shortcomings and play it like an actual video game ... although for the life of me, I can't imagine why anyone would waste that much time on something with absolutely zero net positives

My Score: 4 out of 10 



#069
Pit-Fighter (1992)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

Even using all of that high-powered, fancy-pants digitized graphics, the arcade version of Pit-Fighter was pretty ho-hum. Rest assured the scaled down version of the fighting game on the Lynx is exponentially worse, sporting some of the fugliest graphics you'll see in any video game on any system ever. The cruddy, block, turd-colored visuals, though, are just the tip of the shit-berg. Another huge problem are the animations, which are so poorly done that a lot of times you can't even tell whether you're attacking an enemy (or if an enemy is attacking you.) Additionally, the collision-detection is piss-poor (sometimes, you and your opponent even fuse together for a couple of seconds like some kinda of basement' brawlin' Brundlefly) and the controls are just a goddamn, unresponsive mess. The SNES and Genesis versions of the game ain't exactly masterpieces, but compared to this aportion (that's a portmanteau of "port" and "abortion," if you're wondering) they're pretty much the equivalent of those old eight-player Super Street Fighter II arcade cabinets from back in the day.

My Score: 4 out of 10 



#068
Super Off-Road (1993)
Developer: Telegames
Publisher: Telegames

Are you seeing a trend here concerning fairly unimpressive arcade ports? Well, you can safely add Super Off-Road to the big old pile of conversion disappointments. Now personally, I was never a fan of the arcade game or its home console spin-offs, but even compared to those, this Lynx port is just the drizzling shits. The graphics are slightly above average, I suppose, but the control are utterly horrific. It's practically impossible to make hairpin turns without crashing your monster truck into the railing, and even worse, every time you stall out your truck just sorta sits there and spins for a couple of seconds before you can start putting the pedal to the metal again. And if you get within one pixel of touching a barrier, your fucking rig just fucking freezes. Granted, the game does have a four-player mode but then again, when the solo gameplay is so shitty, who in the world would want to show this thing off to three other people?

My Score: 4 out of 10 



#067
World Class Soccer (1992)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

Graphically, World Class is a pretty impressive game. The sprites are big, colorful and well-defined. That, and you get a pretty hefty number of game modes and options, too. Alas, what's the point of having great visuals and tons of game play add-ons if the core gameplay itself is so dang BAD? As with many of the worst games on the Lynx, there are plenty of problems with animations and collision detection. Sometimes, characters will just freeze dead in their tracks and other times, they will basically turn into fucking ghosts who can't even TOUCH the ball without passing through it. Additionally, the camera reverses itself every time the ball changes possession, which actually leaves you wide open to having the ball stolen back from you during the transition because while you're team is momentarily paralyzed, the other team apparently is unaffected by the perspective shift timeout. With a little more Q.A. testing, this could've been a pretty decent to pretty good footy game; as is, though, it's nothing more than a barely playable disaster.

My Score: 4 out of 10 



#066
Power Factor (1992)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Handmade Software

Although Power Factor has a pretty good amount of content (the full game is easily an hour long), it's not really worth it because the controls are so poor. The jetpack mechanics are absurdly slippery and just running around on the ground feels incredibly awkward and unwieldy, like your avatar is trying to traipse around on dangerously thin ice while wearing banana peels for flip-flops. Furthermore, the backdrops and enemies are woefully uninspired (in fact, the whole gun-metal mesh motiff comprises every level in the game) and the shooting action leaves a lot to be desired. There's a couple of boss fights in there, but they are all pretty unremarkable and by the books. At the end of the day, it feels like a really, really shitty Metroid clone - and seeing as how there's at least one legitimately great game on the Lynx that in many ways out-Metroids Samus Aran herself, there really isn't much of a reason to play this one - ever.

My Score: 4 out of 10 



#065
Jimmy Connor's Tennis (1993)
Developer: Handmade Software
Publisher: Atari

At heart, this is a solid enough arcade tennis game, but it's just so basic and devoid of personality. While the audio is freaking outstanding - I still can't believe digitized voices this clear were technologically possible on a handheld in the early '90s - the core gameplay is absolutely nothing to write home about. Despite the four person multiplayer, there just aren't enough game modes to keep you invested in the experience, and the graphics are utterly mundane, with practically zero aesthetic changes from level to level. Still, if you are a HARDCORE tennis fan, I suppose the controls are fluid enough that you wouldn't have any difficulties getting accustom to it ... although the scant options drag down the replayability to almost nada.

My Score: 4 out of 10 



#064
Shanghai (1990)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

Yep, it's basically just another mahjong simulator - for better, but mostly for worse. The graphics and audio are scaled back to the point of being almost abstractly minimal, and there are virtually no customizable gameplay options. The action - if you can call anything about mahjong even remotely action-packed - is decent enough, I suppose, as you race the clock to match up pairing tiles. The two-player mode gives it slightly longer legs, but on the whole this a rather forgettable title. If you're an avid mahjong-playing motherfucker, you might get a kick out of it, but for everybody else? Yeah, you're better off giving this one a pass.

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#063
Dirty Larry: Renegade Cop (1992)
Developer: Knight Technologies
Publisher: Atari

Well, the makers of this one had some brass balls, no? I'm kinda surprised they didn't follow it up with Larry Potter, Larry and the Hendersons or When Larry Met Sally, to be honest. Warner Bros. lawyers baiting aside, Dirty Larry is a pretty mediocre sidescrolling action game. The controls are clumsy, the hit detection is poor and the gameplay is about as linear as it gets. While the cutscenes are pretty entertaining, allusions to The Warriors alone doesn't make a handheld game decent, and Dirty Larry remains - at the absolute best - an amusing short-term novelty and positively nothing more.

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#062
Ishido: The Way of the Stones (1991)
Developer: Publishing International
Publisher: Accolade

They say patience is a virtue, and you'd have to be one virtuous motherfucker to enjoy this one. This peculiar puzzler has one of the most perplexing rules set of any Tetris variation I've ever played, ultimately feeling more like a mahjong game than a Columns knockoff. Long story short, you have to place 72 tiles on the screen, each grouped according to color and the little squiggly icon marked on every stone. Every game takes forever to finish and the minimal audio design (there's no music, just the occasional "thud" and "clang" when you match up tiles) makes it a slug-slow sojourn fit for only the most hardcore of puzzle aficionados. Well, that, or your grandmother.

My Score: 5 out of 10



#061
Switchblade II (1992)
Developer: Gremlin Interactive
Publisher: Gremlin Interactive

Yeah, I've never played Switchblade I, either - I think it's supposed to be an abstruse joke, like how there was never a movie before Surf II. Digressions to bad 1980s teen-sex comedies nobody remembers aside, I guess the best way to describe Switchblade II is a really, really poor man's version of Strider. I mean, like, poor enough to be one paycheck away from homelessness. It's certainly a playable game (despite the fugly graphics and total and complete lack of music), but it just feels so shoddy. The hit detection is horse shit and some of the design choices are just hilariously bad (like your character's ability to jump so high he literally begins floating out of the game space.) Then again, none of these flaws are bad enough that you can't finish the game ... although, for the life of me, I just can't figure out why any mentally sound person would want do such a thing. 

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#060
Shadow of the Beast (1992)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

If you're looking for a bellwether for video game mediocrity, this might just be it. While nothing about this port of Shadow of the Beast is necessarily bad, by that same token it doesn't even attempt to excel at anything. The graphics and music are just OK, the level design is nothing you haven't seen a million times before and the core gameplay mechanics are utterly unremarkable. Factor in the slippery controls and a one player mode that barely lasts 20 minutes and you've got a game built from the ground-up to impress absolutely nobody, at any point in history, ever.

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#059
Fat Bobby (1991)
Developer: Lore Games
Publisher: Telegames

On a platform glutted with platformers, Fat Bobby doesn't do a whole lot to stand out from the competition. While the animations are pretty nice and the sprites are slightly more detailed than your average Lynx hop-and-bopper, the core gameply feels rather repetitive and wholly unremarkable. Furthermore, the stage layout is pretty uninspired and there are definitely some noticeable hit detection problems a foot. Still, if you just have to play something, I suppose you could make-do with its technical shortcomings - although for the life of me, I'm still trying to figure out why the titular character is called Fat Bobby when, apparently, he's only slightly larger than your average electric guitar.

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#058
Malibu Bikini Volleyball (1993)
Developer: Handmade Software
Publisher: Atari

Long, long before the hos of Dead or Alive came along, pervy gamers had to make do with the pixelated boobies in games like Malibu Bikini Volleyball. I suppose on the whole it isn't a terrible little volleyball sim - granted, it's not quite as solid as something like Super V-Ball, but it nonetheless feels comparable to Super Dodgeball, in some respects. The problem with the game is two-fold; first off, there just aren't enough customization options or gameplay modes and secondly? The whole thing is just way too damn short (about 30 minutes for the main campaign mode) and there's practically zero replay incentives once your beat it. It's an OK game at best, but with a bit more time and features, it could've been something much, much better ... which, I suppose, can be seen as the story of the Atari Lynx's software library, overall.

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#057
Awesome Golf (1991)
Developer: HandMade Software
Publisher: Atari

Well, this game certainly has a high opinion of itself, don't it? Despite the self-exalting title, I'm afraid Awesome Golf is unfortunately a fairly underwhelming sports game that - at its absolute best - can hardly be considered anything more than ho-hum. It's not for a lack of features, though; the game has pretty deep customization options for its time, and I guess if you're a hardcore golf junkie, the multitudes of club and driver options will make you grin from ear to ear. Some of the scaling effects (like when you tee off) are quite impressive, and it will probably take you a few hours to get through all of the title's courses. Alas, the gameplay mechanics are seriously bland and boring and a good 95 percent of the game consists of nothing but rummaging through menu screens over and over again. All in all, calling this game Awesome constitutes a mini-form of consumer fraud;  a much better - and truer - title would have been Just Kinda' Alright Golf

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#056
Warbirds (1991)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

There's nothing egregiously bad about Warbirds, it's just that everything about it feels so ... rudimentary. The graphics, the music, the controls and especially the gameplay all feel by-the-numbers, and there really isn't anything in the game that you couldn't experience in much better dogfighting arcade titles. You have about half a dozen missions to trudge through, but they all pretty much feel the same. Fly, shoot, keep an eye on your altitude and air meters, rinse, repeat, forever. That, and the attempt at polygonal graphics here and there are among the worst on the console - which, assuredly, is a major, major accomplishment. 

My Score: 5 out of 10 


#055
Rampart (1992)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

Rampart has always been one of those "love it or hate it games," and considering its low ranking on this countdown, I guess you can figure out where I stand on the matter. The core gameplay resides somewhere between a proto-RTS and a traditional puzzler. Basically, you have a finite amount of time to arm a fortress before an armada of war ships hit the coastline, and then you engage in brief fire fights, with the victor being the one who incurs the least amount of property damage. Naturally, as the game drags on your castles get bigger and the number of attacking ships increases. It's a fairly slow game, and there is hardly any variation in aesthetics from stage to stage. That, and you don't really have anything to reward you for your investment in the game - no additional weapons, no upgrades, no special skins, nothing. The sound effects are pretty good (just wait until you hear the attacking captains yell "Fire!") but the core gameplay is just too flavorless for my liking. Hardcore strategy fans might appreciate it more than the laity, but I'm guessing most gamers won't be too enthralled by what Rampart offers them.

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#054
RoadBlasters (1990)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

I guess the best way to describe RoadBlasters is the autistic version of Spy Hunter. You drive around, shooting all the cars on the road, trying to find gasoline and other power-ups while zipping around hairpin turns at approximately 300 miles per hour. While the graphics are pretty good (not up to par with the NES version, but I guess that is to be expected), the controls here are absolutely suck-tastic. Your car slides a lot and you have a 50/50 chance of crashing every time you hit a turn, no matter how fast you are going. On top of that, the scaling effects are pretty crappy, too, with vital upgrades (and some enemies) materializing just a split second before you can spot them. And if THAT wasn't enough, the whole she-bang is barely 30-minutes long. You know, if you're actually able to tolerate wrestling with the controls that long, anyway...

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#053
European Soccer Challenge (1993)
Developer: Krisalis Software
Publisher: Telegames

There weren't a whole lot of good (let alone great) sports games on the Lynx, and sadly, European Soccer Challenge is yet another mostly unremarkable genre offering on the platform. While there is a pretty hefty number of gameplay options, the core mechanics are so iffy and unresponsive that playing a single game quickly becomes a grueling patience-building exercise. The controls are very clunky and passing the ball is especially cumbersome. On top of that, the graphics are subpar and the audio design is well below average. Unless you are an insanely dedicated fan of football non-Americano, you're probably better off avoiding this one.

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#052 
A.P.B: All Points Bulletin (1991)
Developer: Quicksilver Software
Publisher: Atari

The 1987 arcade game (complete with a steering wheel mounted on the control deck) was a fun (if not somewhat shallow) experience. This handheld port is even less impressive, thanks in no small part to the awful controls. Simply navigating the game space is a chore, since your car's handling is ultra-sensitive and bumping into ANYTHING causes your ride to bounce all over the place like a mentally retarded ping-pong ball. And that's a shame, too, since the core gameplay, visuals and sound design are actually pretty good. I know I've said this before, but this truly is the intrinsic tragedy of the Lynx; the hardware capabilities were there, but the software know-how just wasn't. And few games exemplify this dour notion, regrettably, than A.P.B.

My Score: 5 out of 10 



#051
Gauntlet: The Third Encounter (1990)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

No, your vision didn't get all funky on you, The Third Encounter is one of those games where you had to turn the unit upside down and play it with totally inverted controls. I suppose that approach makes sense for certain genres, like puzzlers and SHMUPS, but here, the hook feels totally unnecessary and in many ways, hinders the overall gameplay. The multiplayer mode is cool, but the visuals and sound design are both sheer crap. Furthermore, the hit detection is just awful, and the never-ending swarms of enemies are pretty much the epitome of "cheap ass motherfuckers." Still, if you can overlook all those problems (a tall task, I know), it is nonetheless a fairly faithful port of the arcade favorite ... even if it was originally designed as an entirely different game.

My Score: 5 out of 10 


And that's all we've got for this installment of the countdown, kids. Hang in there and revisit the site in just a couple of days for the next installment in this epic, ultra-comprehensive look back on the Lynx ... hey, some of the games we cover might even be good for a change!


HEY! In the mood for more extensive, system-specific countdown spectaculars? Check out some of our previous "best-of" features below!






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