Atari Video Cube: a true Hidden Gem

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Posted by Lord Publius |

Game Statistics

  • Title: Atari Video Cube
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • Platform: Atari 2600
  • Year of Release: 1982
  • ESRB Rating: Not Rated

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have this game as part of a greatest hits collection on the Nintendo DS. The emulation is 100% perfect but, I still hope to have it as an actual 2600 cartridge someday.


If you've never heard of Atari Video Cube before, I am both not surprised and feel very sorry for you. Despite being as old as I am, this game still proved to be a fun and challenging title for the console that essentially created the game industry we love today. This game was a unique approach to try and cash in on the Rubik's Cube craze of the early 1980's. As a not-so-obvious cash grab, I think it did quite well. While 3rd party companies often put out a lot of garbage on a cartridge, Atari typically turned out quality product... Until the 2600 port of Pac-Man that Namco authorized them to do and the quickly rushed E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial anyway... [/Shudders at the mention of that UNHOLY game...]

Story

From the game's page on Encyclopedia Gamia: Hubie's home is a six-sided, multi-colored cube. Each side has nine smaller faces, colored red, blue, green, white, purple or orange. When you start a game, the colors are scrambled. Your task is to arrange the colors so that each side becomes one solid color.

From the description on the back of the game's box: Help Hubie the Cube Master solve the magical Atari Video Cube. He picks up and drops colors at your command - and you have billions of possible combinations! Atari Video Cube is fast-paced fun for the whole family!

Not much of a story but, unlike so many other Atari games, it does actually have a story. That deserves some recognition. Also, like almost all the other Atari games, the story doesn't really matter.

The back of the box also engaged in some hyperbole. There were really only 50 puzzles or so for each of the different game modes. The number of puzzles you'd have would actually be in the hundreds. That's still impressive for a 2600 cartridge released in 1982. If they could have programmed some kind of random number generator into the game, that could have ensured the tile patterns would almost never be the same. I doubt it was something realistically possible for the 2600, though. Maybe someone can add one to a hacked version for emulators or, dare I say it, an officiall Atari-published sequel?

Graphics

The graphics are your standard blocky, just-barely-8-bit affair. With old Atari games, you're supposed to be using your imagination instead. They're serviceable and do their job well enough. It doesn't stand out from the rest of the games released for the 2600 in 1982, except for one area: moving from one face of the cube to another creates a quasi-3D effect for the cube. You can see it in the image reel below.

gameplay gameplay gameplay gameplay

Sound/Music

There is no music, save for an opening jingle when you pick a puzzle to solve. The other sounds can get a bit grating at times. The buzzer sound that goes off every time you try to walk onto a tile that's the same color as your avatar aggravates me. That's the one negative aspect to this game that I could find. The sound for getting one side of the cube all one color is also used for the mode select at the beginning of the game.

Simply put, don't crank the volume on this one unless you're trying to drive someone insane.

Controls

Controls are quite responsive. I have no complaints here. If you're playing the cartridge on an actual 2600 console (or the Atari 7800, which had backward-compatibility with the 2600), I strongly suggest you use something other than the typical 1st party Atari CX-40 joystick. Use one of the more comfortable sticks from a 3rd party company like Wico. And since they used the same connections and pin-outs, you can also use a 3-button SEGA Genesis controller on your 2600 games. That's the way I normally play my 2600 cartridges these days. The 3rd-party joysticks are often quite good but, D-pads are more precise.

Gameplay and Replay Value

It's a puzzle game. They always have replay value. There are hundreds of puzzles to explore across the different modes of the game. It will take at least a few weeks of casual play to go through them all. All this being said, there would be much more replay value if the tiles were random instead of pre-programmed.

With regards to the Gameplay, that depends on your tastes in games. If you love brain-busters and puzzles, this one is right up your alley. You'll probably lose hours of time to it just like you do with Tetris and Bejeweled.


Final Verdict

If you like puzzlers, this one will keep you occupied for a good long while. Just don't turn up the volume too loud. This gameplay video will demonstrate what I mean when I talk about grating sound effects.

Youtube

Personally, I wonder why no one from Atari (whichever version happens to exist at the time) ever considered remaking this hidden gem. It would make a great game for touchscreen devices using iOS and AndroidOS. And with today's technology, it shouldn't be hard to make the graphics resemble the box art. Not to mention better control, superior sound, some actual music, a randomizer to create custom puzzles every time, etc. etc. etc.