The Rube’s Review: A GREMLINS Video Game Retrospective [Part Two]

Gremlins Atari

Tramiel ordered the cancelation of all future game ventures so the company could focus on the development of the 2600JR and 7200 series… then a funny thing happened.

PUBLISHER: Atari
GENRE:Shooter
DEVELOPER:
Atari
PLATFORMS:
Atari 5200
MODES:
1 or 2 Players

Soon after the demise of it’s 2600 system, Atari was sold to Jack Tramiel, previous CEO of Commodore Computers. During this transition (1984) and planned termination of the slow-selling 5200 system, Tramiel ordered the cancelation of all future game ventures so the company could focus on the development of the 2600JR and 7200 series… then a funny thing happened. Due to a memo snafu, Tramiel kind-sorta “accidentally” ok’d the production of hundreds of thousands of Gremilns game carts. With the 5200 dead, this title stayed boxed up, hidden in a warehouse with no plans of retail sale.

gm5200titlescreenDuring this same time, Steven Spielberg was irate that his future-merchandising juggernaut was shelved in a storeroom gathering dust and not becoming the number one must have Christmas gift of the year. Trameil and Spielberg fought for months to the point that Spielberg even offered to buy out the entire stock of cartridges to be released under his newly formed company, Amblin Entertainment. Still, Tramiel refused Spielberg’s offer(s) and only after clearing out old stock of games in 1986 (two years after the film’s premiere) was Gremlins finally released, making it the last game published for the now extinct Atari 5200.

To my surprise, this version of the game really does kick some ass. The object of the game is for you/Billy to collect mogwai while dodging and killing gremlins with a sword (like the one used to decapitate the Christmas tree baddie in the film). Even though the game may feel like a clone of Berserk, to some, it’s still entertaining as hell to run around, going medieval on gremlins left and right. Yeah, some of the younger game generation may gawk at their dad’s mediocre console, make a fun of it’s low grade graphics, and say that Billy looks a lot like Ash from the Evil Dead films but this game offers more of a challenge than one might think.

gm5200level

To my surprise, this version of the game really does kick some ass.

While corralling Gizmo’s brethren into a kiddie pen, you have to watch out that they don’t eat any leftovers. If they start to munch on a chicken leg or a slice of bread, these cuddly creatures will transform into more of the mischievous green-scaled brood. Also, if the gremlins or mogwai touch water, they multiply. At first, the levels are easy (with only a small handful of mogwi/gremlins on screen) but by Level 6 (night), where a refrigerator is shooting out ice cubes that turn into water puddles, you’re fighting for your life.

Even after all these years, Gremlins for the Atari 5200 really does stand up over time and reminds us of the great arcade games from the 80’s. Also, it really goes to show even in today’s era of billion pixel disc adventures, sometimes the simplest games are still the best. I’m a big fan of the game’s graphics. Yeah it’s simple pixel art but the mogwai and gremlins look like how they should and the game field’s boarder reminds me of Dorry’s Tavern.

My only complaints are that you wish for faster movement in Billy and that even though you can find a Atari 5200 for around $15-$40, this pure example of 80’s pop culture is going to set you back around $40-$50 buckaroos. I was lucky to have a buddy that had an Atari 5200 for me to borrow to do this review and after playing this forgotten gem; I can’t wait to find one of these retro consoles at a local garage sale this summer.


4.9
OUT OF 5

GREAT

Gremlins for the 5200 clearly outplays it’s 2600 counterpart in so many ways and reminds us all that sometimes the simplest games are still the best.

PROS

+ Timeless gameplay fun
+ Gremlins + sword = awesome
+ Nostalgia factor

CONS

Stiff controls/slow movement
Hard to find

Like this? Check out previous installments of The Rube’s GREMLINS Video Game Retrospective:

A GREMLINS Video Game Retrospective [Part One]

Written by The Rube

The Rube is co-owner of Rusty Quarters Retro Arcade & Museum in Minneapolis, MN. He is also a Special Effects Artist, Master Chef, and Multiple Threadless Design Winner. Other than writing reviews and doodling, he enjoys watching bad movies, building monster model kits, and collecting games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

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