Reviewed by Martin Henely, Posted on 2007-07-03


Developer: Atari Publisher: Atari
Release Date: 1983 Also On: None

Many of the best of the early arcade games eventually found their way onto the Atari 2600 in one form or another. Games such as Space Invaders, Pac-man, and many others too numerous to name got this treatment. Come 1983, another notch was added to the arcade "port" repertoire of the Atari 2600, a little game of men with spears on flying birds called Joust. But how does the Atari 2600 version of Joust fare? Read on to find out.

The concept behind Joust is simple. You are a man with a spear on a flying bird. On the screen flying around are other men with spears on flying birds. Your objective is to kill them. But if you have a spear and they do too, how are you to accomplish this without getting killed? Joust has a creative way of answering this question: whoever has their spear higher when two birds come into contact with each other wins. In order to ascend into the air, you must repeatedly press the button. Horizontal movement is controlled with the joystick. Once an enemy has been killed, he will be turned into an egg which can be collected for more points. Once all the enemies in a stage have been killed, you will move on to a differently designed level and have more enemies to go up against. The entire point of the game revolves around killing as many enemies as possible and racking up a high score.

Graphically, Joust on the Atari 2600 isn't much. The graphics are very barebones, especially by 1983 standards. Against a black background will be a few orange platforms. Below the arena will be red lava that can kill you if you fall into it, although actually falling into it won't be possible in all levels. There are only a few different colors of birds, but the enemy birds will always be different colors from your bird. The enemy birds also behave differently depending on their color. In this game's favor also is the fact that it does have a title screen. Still, more could have been done graphically when this game was released.

The same is true of the sound. There is no music in this game, not even on the title screen, and the game boasts all of four sound effects: an effect when your bird is flapping its wings, an effect when you kill an enemy, an effect when you are killed, and an effect when you collect an egg. That's it. No music, even on the title screen. Other games released in 1983, even some third-party ones, had more impressive sound than this. So far as the aesthetics are concerned, Joust is lucky that aesthetics don't make or break a game on the Atari 2600.

The core gameplay of Joust holds up well on the Atari 2600. The system isn't broken in any way in this version that I'm aware of, although I will concede that I am not intimately familiar with the original arcade version of this game. This is one of those games that can last a while if you become obsessed with beating your high scores, and it is fun enough that such multiple play throughs would continue to have entertainment value for the player.

The aesthetic values of this game are low for their time, but compared to the earliest Atari 2600 games, they are good. This long after the initial release, the Atari 2600 gamer can't afford to be bogged down in questions of aesthetics, but should rather be concerned about how fun a game is. If that is your concern, then Joust has a lot going for it and can easily be recommended. If you're looking for a game that can show off what the Atari 2600 is capable of graphically, though, this isn't it.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7.2
Written by Martin Review Guide

Reviewed by Martin Henely