Atarisoft’s two titles for the Colecovision are marvels of what technology leaps could be made in a few short years. Of course, it was in the arcades where both Centipede and Defender made their initial marks. Both were extremely popular and groundbreaking titles in the golden age of video games. Centipede was the premier track-ball vertical shooter and Defender was the gorgeous looking and sounding raster based horizontal shooter. When both of these titles were ported to Colecovision’s most direct competitors, the Atari 2600 & the Intellivison, the general consensus was “nice try”. Playing both of these games on the Colecovision really offers someone like myself who played these games in the arcade more than I did on a home console, a firm reminder that Colecovision was the shit in 1982-83.
Atarisoft’s box art for Colecovision had the distinct orange background with hand-drawn images in the upper right corner intended to evoke the gameplay. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this choice as the majority of the box is taken up by the titles of the games in white over the boring orange background. Personally I would prefer more artwork and less orange but it’s a minor gripe. There must have been a plethora of NOS (new old stock) of these games available in the late 90’s/early 2000’s as I bought both new in box off ebay 15+ years ago. Of course I opened them up to play them and honestly, they wouldn’t be worth all that much today if I had left them unopened. These two Atarisoft games as well as a few other Colecovision titles must have been produced in Atari 2600 E.T. like quantities as there are still NOS games floating around the internet 35 years later.
Both games play phenomenally and while you can play Centipede with the standard controller, it also works with the Roller Controller which I highly recommend. Defender also plays and looks great on the Colecovision and my biggest complaint about this game was and still is its level of difficulty. In the arcades, Defender has an intimidating 5 button set up along with the joystick to shoot, thrust, go into hyperspace, reverse direction and use a smart bomb, all while being shot at by aliens and attempting to save humans from capture. This game is a nightmare but it’s oh so beautiful in its stark simplicity. The controls for the Colecovision are simpler thanks to the two buttons on the side but you’ll have to use the keypad if you want to go into hyperspace to escape a sure death. It’s doubtful you’ll remember that when you find yourself in a situation that requires it. It’s like remembering you have a parachute on your back 20 seconds from hitting the ground, it may save you but probably not. If both Centipede and Defender were standing side by side in the arcades back in the day, 90% of the time I would have chosen to play Centipede. Not because it’s a better game, but because I thought I could make my quarter last longer. Thanks to the Colecovision, I don’t have to make the easy choice and I can instead play Defender over and over again and die as quickly as necessary in order to practice my skills.
Currently in my collection:
Centipede – game, manual, box A-
Defender – game, manual, box B+