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Blackjack Review

Developer: Atari Publisher: Atari
Release Date: 1977 Also On: None

The Atari 2600 never really caught on until after the release of Space Invaders. For years I have wondered why. Now I think I have some idea. Many of the games released before Space Invaders were stuff like Hangman or the game that I am about to review, Blackjack. Blackjack, released in 1977, must have actually been a launch title, or been released near the launch of the system, and, with a launch consisting of games like this, it’s no wonder the system didn’t fly off shelves.

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Blackjack for the Atari 2600 follows the card game pretty much, but, for those of you who have never played the card game, allow me to explain to you how it works. Players bet money, and then they deal out two cards to each player. The objective of the game is to get the highest score possible without going over 21 points. Number cards are worth the same number of points as the number shown on the card. Face cards, except the ace, are worth ten points, and aces can be worth one point or 11 points depending on which is more advantageous to the player.

Each player in turn can choose to stay, which means to keep the number of cards he already has and quit, or take a hit, which means that he gets another card. A player can hit as many times as he wants until he goes over 21 points or accumulates five cards. Also available is a Double option, although I do not know exactly what that does. In the case of this version of the game, after the player has finished, the dealer will take his turn, and you win or lose depending on the relationship of your score to the dealer’s. Ties in this game count as losses to the player.

The background in this game is a reasonably accurate approximation of a casino table. The cards themselves use pretty small pixels considering this is 1977. So graphically, I have no major complaints here. I don’t recall there being any sound whatsoever in this game, so I am going to call that category not applicable and grade the game based on an average of the other four categories, with a slight penalty for the lack of sound.

The controls work fairly well though. For betting, you can spin the paddle control left and right to increase or decrease your bet, and spinning the paddle control left and right is also how you decide which option you want to take after the initial cards have been dealt. Yes, that’s right, this game uses the paddle controller, so if you don’t have one of those, you’re out of luck. The button is used to confirm things. You use it to confirm your bet and deal the first cards, and you also use it to confirm which option you want after the cards have been dealt. It is a pretty good system and it works quite well.

So far as replay value is concerned, it’s all a matter of how into Blackjack you are. This game is a pretty good version of Blackjack, as good as many of the little handheld Blackjack games you’ll find floating around these days. So, if you’re a fan of the Atari 2600 and of Blackjack, this game might be one worth looking for.

Graphics: 8
Sound: N/A
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7.4
Written by Martin Review Guide