Before I begin the review I will note that I posted this to the Atari IO 7800 forum first. I've essentially copied and paste it here so it doesn't follow the same formatting exactly as my other reviews. But I feel that it reflects my thoughts well and I don't want to rewrite it to say the same things.
Also, I'm attempting to take my own screenshots instead of using Google image search. I plan on going back and replacing all the other screenshots eventually. But since I play on real hardware and a CRT no less, it's difficult. So bear with me, and if you have advice please let me know!
So please keep that in mind, and without further delay, the review!
Some say the strength of the 7800s library is in its strong conversions of early arcade classics. Games like Ms Pac Man, Food Fight, and Asteroids we're considered the best ports of their time, and some even prefer them to this day. Others refer to the fantastical and crazy later releases like Ninja Golf, Basketbrawl, or Midnight Mutants being the true highlights of the library. But the truth may live somewhere in the middle, and there you'll find Venture for the 7800.
Venture is the latest release from Peter Meyer and Video61, and I believe it to be their best yet. I went back and played the 2600 version as I waited for my game to come in the mail, and I took notes of what I would like to see improvement on. Of course their was graphics and sound, but I also felt that the player was too slow and ill equiped to meet the games challenge. I also wanted to see more variety in gameplay by using additional rooms or modes. But I could understand if adhering exclusively to the arcades visions was the intent. So how did they do?
Graphically I feel that they did a fantastic job, with a slight caveat. It may sound silly but the title card and the options menu looks really good! There's something about it that conveys quality to my eyes. After you make your selections your shown what is essentially the interlude screen that plays before and after each map and lost life. Our hero Winky (yes that's his name) and usually a hallway monster run across the bottom of the screen with the treasure both collected and yet to be presented above. This all looks great.
And the rooms themselves look great with an improved Winky sprite from the 2600 version, with bow equiped and all. The monsters are varied and easily identifiable. Everything looks great but I want to bring up the map screen. Here the rooms you have yet to enter have clearly marked doorways and are outlined. Rooms you've conquered turn solid, which is nice, and the hallway monsters look good. But Winky is represented with a dot. Simple but effective to me, but I could see some wondering why a smaller smiling face wasn't used here. Again, this is a small nit-pick but I thought I'd mention it.
The sound rests solely on the back of the TIA chip and they did well with it. I like all the music and tunes that play. I also like the sound effects but a few have the tendency to play in fast repetition and I'm sure some people wont enjoy that as much. It becomes a little annoying after a while when hearing it play over ad over, but in my opinion it's really not that bad. But repeating sound effects aside, I really appreciate the music. I have to say it feels great to nab a treasure and barely escape a room with that familiar tune playing you out, like you Indiana Jones or something.
In my opinion, gameplay is where the biggest improvement over the 2600 version needed to be, and they mostly nailed it. You have 3 difficulty options before you start, and 2 control options of how you shoot. You can either move freely and shoot wherever you happen to be facing, or you can lock the direction your facing by holding down the shoot button and then spin freely when you release the button. Both methods work fine and it should just come down to your preference. I prefer the free move and shoot where you happen to be looking mode myself.
You can also choose between arcade mode that includes the 3 maps and 12 rooms I expected, the XL XE challenger mode with 4 maps and 16 rooms, or the exclusive 7800 challenger mode with 5 maps and 20 rooms! I would recommend the 7800 option myself, as there is enough variety that even playing deep into the game and at high level loops it still feels fresh. But the XL XE map is by far my favorite, and the new 7800 map pales in comparison. That's not to say it's bad, but the bar was set very high with the XL XE map.
Winky's movement is responsive and shooting works great. Sometimes shooting at angles resulted in situations where I felt I should've got a hit or a bullet was blocked that I didn't think should've been, but never to the point where I felt frustrated or wanted to call bullshit. The gameplay is solid and there is a good challenge in each room, with each having their own identity. In later loops of the game, the maps have more enemies and traps added, and the hazards move quicker. It results in a solid and fair challenge...most of the time.
I do have to say that I did get frustrated and have to call bullshit when I enter a room just to have a monster spawn almost on top of me. That I didn't like. It seemed to happen the most in he Vampire room of the new 7800 map, And I didn't like it. But that's really my only gameplay complaint. And it didn't happen all the time. That aside, I feel that you get a lot of game in this package and it plays great!
So the 7800 version of Venture made all the improvements I wanted to see from the 2600 version. Graphics and sound? Check. Faster and better gameplay? Check. More maps and rooms to add to the replayability? Check. I see this as an easy recommendation, and Peter and Video61 should be proud of Venture. It retails for 39.99 and I think it's well worth the asking price. Great job guys!
Overall 8/10 Great!