I often dread writing these sports title posts for 80s consoles because more often than not, the games I am playing and writing about either never were or at least are not now, worth the time and effort to review. That may seem like a harsh assessment considering some of my favorite sports titles of all time (Punch Out, Tecmo Bowl, Baseball Stars, Blades of Steel) came from this era. The problem is, those are the exceptions, not the rule. The list of putrid sports games that can be found on the Atari 2600, Intellivision (which had some of the best to be honest), Vectrex, Sega Master System and early NES is long and forgettable. Now add the Atari 7800 to that list of consoles with some of their truly awful sports titles available. This post doesn’t even touch on probably the worst of the worst for the 7800, Touchdown Football, as that was a late addition to my collection this month.
Hat Trick is a port of a 2 on 2 arcade hockey game that had moderate success in the early 80s. Since I never played Hat Trick in the arcades, I can’t speak to it’s gameplay but I imagine it’s similar to what we see on the 7800. You control both a player and a goalie while outmaneuvering your opponent to score more goals than them in 2 quick minutes. Don’t think of Hat Trick like an ice hockey simulation game because it’s obviously not trying to be that. Think of Hat Trick as more of an NBA Jam on ice (maybe not a great analogy). The games are extremely short and it lends itself to short bursts of action, ideally with two human players in versus mode. As a one player game, Hat Trick offers nothing worth noting. In the easy mode, the opponent’s goalies will even move out of the way to allow pucks you shoot to get past them. In other words, the difficulty level is a joke. You have to play in the advanced mode to get any kind of challenge from the computer. Hat Trick is colorful but I really didn’t care for the controls or the gameplay. Blech.
Realsports Baseball is another dud of a sports game, being an updated version of the popular 2600 & 5200 titles of the same name. The game looks ok but come on, this is supposed to compete with other baseball games on the Master System (which sucked) and NES (which were hit and miss)? I found the controls to be difficult to figure out, especially the pitching, without the manual at my disposal but I eventually got it. My biggest issue with the game is batting. I press the left controller button to swing when the ball is approaching the plate but by the time my batter actually swings his bat, the ball has already been in the catchers mitt for a full second. What?!?! So I try to adjust my swing timing to essentially press the button when the ball is 1/3 of the way to the plate, which is ridiculous. I tried playing a full 9 innings but I couldn’t stomach it.
Finally, One on One featuring 1980s NBA basketball icons Larry Bird and Julius Erving aka Dr. J is a decent if unspectacular game. Now this was a game I was familiar with prior to owning and playing it on the Atari 7800 thanks to the Apple IIe version my friend owned when I was a kid. One on One is exactly what you would assume it is, a one on one battle between two of the best basketball players of the decade. Your offensive and defensive moves are limited to the basics. Shooting jumpers, backing your opponent down and spin/fade away shots, 3 pointers, layups, slam dunks, block shots, steals and jump for rebounds. You have to get used to how slow the game can play, however. Early on I was jumping way too soon for rebounds and would already be back on the ground and could jump again since the ball seemed to be floating in the air after a missed shot. I do like how the backboard can break during a slam dunk and the janitor has to clean it up while he cusses you out. This was something I did not remember from playing the game 30 years ago but instantly came back to me once I saw it again. One on One has zero frills though. There is no fanfare or even any chance for you to catch your breath between quarters. A quarter ends and immediately the next quarter begins. Once the game if over, it’s over. There is no post game summary screen showing you stats such as shooting percentages or rebounds, steals, etc. The game is sorely missing some of these aspects as it seems very basic as a result. One on One has charm but not much else.
Currently in my collection:
Hat Trick – game, manual, box D- (probably a grade higher if playing two players)
One on One Basketball – game, manual C
Realsports Baseball – game only F