Random Game Wednesdays: Quadrun (Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 1)

I like to think that I’m pretty good at being able to just pick up and play a video game. And I don’t think that’s a very special trait. If you’re reading a blog dedicated to video games, you can probably do that too. Just look at the screen, push the buttons a couple times to see what they do, and off you go. That was not the case for me when trying out Quadrun today.

Quadrun takes place on a single screen, with a plus-shaped playfield. You’re some kind of shape, maybe a spaceship? It’s kind of hard to tell with Atari 2600 games sometimes. Pressing the A button on the Xbox controller (which is the equivalent of the one big button on an Atari joystick) shoots a projectile, however you can’t just rapidly fire. You have to wait until the projectile is all the way off screen to shoot again. And after a few times of doing that, you automatically lose.

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From the other end of the field, enemies come at you one at a time. I shoot my projectile, take it out. and then suddenly something emerges from the middle of the screen. Another shape runs out to the right side of the screen. I find that if I touch the side of the wall, I get transported to the right side, where I can touch whatever just came out. Then enemies come back, I shoot again, and then automatically lose. What?

I played about ten rounds that lasted no more than a minute each before finally giving up and looking at the instruction manual, which is included in the game. Turns out there’s an actual story for this game. I guess some bad guys, called “captors” have trapped some good guys, called “runts.” Your weapon is called a “phase ball” and you have to catch it in order to use it again. Huh.

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So, with that knowledge, I was able to figure out the actual flow of the game. First, you have to shoot the enemy, and I’m sure you expected. Then, you need to hit up, which brings you to the bottom of the screen, and catch your phase ball before it leaves the screen. Now, the runt can escape, but the left and right ends will kill him. You have to go to the runt, collect him, and then return to the top our bottom quadrants to kill the next bad guy.

It’s actually kind of interesting once you understand what you’re doing. It never really got easier for me, however. That’s not exactly a bad thing though. It seems like the kind of game that someone could get really good at if they put a lot of effort into it, and it would be pretty satisfying to get a high score.

From a presentation side of things, Quadrun is pretty solid. While I don’t know exactly what the playfield is supposed to represent, everything you need to see in order to play the game is clear, assuming you know the rules. There’s even a voice when you start a game, that I’m pretty sure is saying “Quadrun Quardun Quarun”, although it’s hard to tell, this is Atari after all. Also, at the start of each game, there’s a message that says “Goons 10”. I have no idea what that means.

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While I’m not going to tell you that Quadun is secretly one of the best games for the Atari 2600, it is an interesting one and worth checking out. It doesn’t play like anything I’ve ever played before, and it’s surprisingly complicated for a game of its age. If you’re into weird, obscure, old games, I definitely recommend trying it.

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