There's No Crisis With This "Warlords" Port for the 8-Bits
By David SherwinOctober 22, 2004
(c) Bryan Edewaard
Not to be confused with another "Castle" game.
The dragon makes it's triumphant return!
It starts to get heated when the multiple fireballs are introduced.
Time for another game!
The Atari VCS has been credited with many
gaming “firsts,” but what may be most remarkable about Atari’s
blockbuster system is the fact that so many of its signature games just
didn’t make it onto any of Atari’s other platforms. It’s possible that
Atari thought that its 2600 games were too simplistic or dated for its
newer consoles, but, for whatever reason, Atari enthusiasts never were
treated to Combat Extreme on the 5200 or Adventure Plus
for the 7800 during the commercial life of these consoles -- a marketing
decision that would frankly be unthinkable in today’s world of endless
Fortunately, many modern coders are doing what Atari did not and have
begun to convert many classic games to Atari’s other platforms. A crop
of classic games have appeared on the 5200 and 7800 in the past year
and, with Castle Crisis (CC), Bryan Edewaard has brought
the best of the early Breakout-style games, Warlords, to
Atari’s 8-bit computer line.
With its cheeky Warner-era label and cart styling, it would be easy to
think that CC had been actually released at the height of the
Time-Warner era, and possibly somewhere between Centipede and
Donkey Kong. Remarkably, CC is just as good as any of those
storied arcade conversions, and you’ll be amazed to discover that this
game fills a very large gap in your gaming library that you didn’t know
had existed. Don’t hesitate -- order a copy of CC, dig out those
old gaming paddles, and enjoy the best conversion of Warlords
that you’re ever likely to see on any home console.
Castle Crisis is not shipping with instructions, but neophyte
gamers and / or those unfamiliar with any version of Warlords
shouldn’t be afraid to toss their inhibitions aside and pop this cart
into their 800 or 130XE. Warlords / CC is, at its essence, a
four-way Breakout variant, and it should take you all of five
seconds to learn...and, of course, a bit longer than that to master.
The ostensible goal of CC, as in most Breakout-derived
games, is to chip away at your opponents’ barricades and launch a lethal
hit at the central vulnerable target with the game “ball.” The ingenious
twist of Warlords was to enable players to capture the ball and
launch it, with force and direction, onto the weakest parts of their
opponents’ fortifications. These (fire)balls are, however, volatile, and
they will spit off increasingly damaging lightning strikes at a player’s
own fortifications the longer a player holds on to it.
The fireballs’ volatility adds a great deal of depth to what otherwise
might have been a fairly standard Breakout clone: players can
choose an offensive strategy, which can quickly overwhelm opponents at
some risk to the players’ own fortifications; a defensive strategy,
which is ostensibly safer, but can turn each round into a slow battle of
attrition; or a combination of either method in various mixtures. I
prefer the “enemy of my enemy” approach, myself: it’s fairly easy to set
up a duel between computer opponents and then launch sneak attacks when
Those few players who become jaded with regulation play will be pleased
to note the availability of a number of specialized play modes,
including a two-player “deathmatch,” that should satisfy the most jaded
of arcade gaming palates.
Jitter-free paddles are a must for problem-free gameplay. I found gaming
controls to be tight and responsive with my only pair of working
It’s a sad fact of life that the modern gamer just won’t be able to run
down to the (much-reduced) local arcade to compare Castle Crisis
with a classic Warlords upright, but those who do fire up a ROM
image of Warlords on their favourite emulator will note that
CC is remarkably faithful down to every last graphic detail that was
found in the arcade original.
The CC playing field is presented with an overhead perspective
that was utilized very effectively in the original Warlords
upright. Each corner of the gaming screen is occupied by four small grey
“castles,” which are marked, as in the arcade game, by icons
representing either human or computer players. The icons (“Darth Vader”
masks for the computer players, crowns (complete with Atari Fuji) for
the humans) are all well-drawn and add a dash of colour to the screen.
Most of the arcade game’s unique graphical touches have been ported in
whole to the CC playing field; I especially like the flying
dragon which starts each round by blowing a fireball to the player who
starts the game (to his or her advantage). It’s very nice indeed to see
a game for the 8-bits whose graphic inspiration was the original arcade
game and not, as was typically the case, the inferior 2600 product.
CC is a faithful recreation of the arcade gaming experience of
Warlords, and players shouldn’t expect to hear any music that wasn’t
included in the original game. Music is limited to a simple tune at the
end of each game and sound effects are limited to simple bleeps and
bloops, but that’s just the way it was in 1980, too.
CC is, along with a very few honoured classics, one of those
“I’ve got to have just one more game” type of games, and was 2003's
“must-have” computer gaming purchase. It’s simply a wonderful game and
is, at $25, a steal and a required addition to any 8-bit computer or
5200 gaming library.
($25.00 US from Bryan Edewaard; 32K and paddle controllers required.
Available from the