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M.A.D. - The Atari Times


You've played this game before
by Darryl Brundage

November 22, 2004
Chuckle: good ol' advertising, it can sell products that you would normally pass on, since some creative embellishing (otherwise known as "lying") can really move something that you'd otherwise pass up without so much as a second look (insert photo of babes in bikinis here).

Take M. A. D. (please!), for instance: I remember the ads in the magazines when it came out, exclaiming that two players can play at the same time! No waiting turns like on all those other horrible games! Golly gosh and gee whiz, I REALLY want to play this game!

I didn't even realize for a while that that had already been done before...PLENTY of times: ever hear of an early Atari game called Air-Sea Battle? Two onscreen players at once on several variations of Space Invaders? Combat? Canyon Bomber? Freeway? Street Racer? Duh! (Oh well, I was young then.)

M. A. D. (which stands for Missile Attack and Defense, by the way) is one of the better of the U. S. Games offerings, in my opinion, but even if you've never seen or even heard of it before, believe me, you've already played it: ever play Missile Command or Imagic's Atlantis? Then you've played it! Missile Command gave you control over a missile base by moving a cursor towards enemy missiles, then pressing the fire button would launch a missile at the last point where your cursor was; Atlantis, on the other hand, did away with the cursor and gave you three bases to counterattack enemy ships with.

So, taking the above two games into account, you go from one to three and then back down to one missile base in this game (whee, the VARIETY!). You have six very ugly cities to defend from enemy attacks. Why are the enemy attacking? Maybe because the cities are ugly? The cities, being blotches of flecked-out colors, look like they're in pretty bad shape to begin with (which it seems to be no big deal to me to let them all go to the dump as it is, as it looks like they're already halfway there).

The graphics are pretty colorful and the enemy craft look a bit better, at least. They fly over your cities, waiting to divebomb a helpless soon-to-be landfill if you're not quick enough with your trigger finger. Once an aircraft turns white, that means it's about to change into the now-grounded Concord and plunge towards one of your crummy-looking urban "developments" (or not. The fun waves that occur every few rounds involve ALL of the aircraft being white throughout the whole level, so it's eenie meenie miny moe time with those, just pretty much guessing which ones will be the biggest threat. And unfortunately you can only have two shots on the screen at a time, so you'd better make them count.

Unfortunately, your base only has a certain number of positions that it can aim with, so it can be tough at times in order to nail the enemy (even though the controls respond decently enough). Plus, if an enemy kamikaze pilot smashes into your base, you will lose a city that way (go figure). Worse still is the weird collision detection, since a lot of the time an enemy aircraft will land *in between* two cities, destroying neither one (however, this seems to be an improved version over Commando Raid, with much worse collision detection there, where your shots can go through aircraft a bunch, but that doesn't happen here, thankfully).

Oh, and that excellent two player at a time option? You do actually end up taking turns, but that's in regards to what your job will be at the moment, as a cursor appears on the screen, which one player, when he positions the cursor on an enemy aircraft and presses the button, will cause that aircraft to dive down to a city and smash it lower than any of the real estate value of anything at Three Mile Island...meanwhile the other player will try to defend those future pieces of scrap metal (the cities, I mean). After each wave, the players switch sides, which the base commander will become the instructor who can't remember if he was supposed to teach his clients to fly or sky dive down to the ground, and vice versa.

Even with my gripes, this is a fun game, but with one VERY major flaw: personally the highest I've ever gotten is about 12,000, and all of my games end up with pretty much the same score of around the 10,000 point area. Why? THERE IS *NO* WAY TO GET YOUR CITIES BACK AFTER THEY'VE BEEN DESTROYED...NONE!! No getting a city back after every 5,000 points (which I think would be about right, since the scoring's a bit slow), not 10,000 like on Missile Command and Atlantis, none! I don't understand why the game was made like that, which is just flat-out stupid, but what else can you expect from a video game company that was a division of a food company? (That's right, U. S. Games was a division of Quaker Oats company, so what the hell did they know?)

A brief ugly tune also plays at the beginning of every round, which it sounds like someone got creative with the recording of someone snoring (probably from playing Sneak 'n Peek.) I'd still check it out, though, if you run across a copy of it somewhere, it should wake you up for a while, especially when you've got another player on board. "I love the smell of a flattened city in the morning!"

And if you can actually make 20,000 points or more in the single player game, then my hat's off to ya. :)


(c) U.S. Games

Don't get MAD!
Get even!
Ok, is this it? Yawn.
System: 2600
Publisher: U.S. Games
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 68%
Sound & Music Score: 78%
Gameplay Score: 85%
Control Score: 90%

Final Score: 78%

Reader Comments for M.A.D.

The title of the game by Gregory D. George on 2006-10-18 23:41:05
I thought M.A.D. stood for Mutually Assured Destruction? I'd defer to Darryl, since I don't have this game, but that's the acronym I learned while growing up during the Cold War.
Might've been changed... by Darryl B. on 2006-10-19 01:35:39
It read "Missile Attack and Defense" in the print ads. There were a couple of different acronyms out for the Activision H. E. R. O. game too, I think. Dunno if it was something in marketing, where they tried several ideas, or something like The White Stripes band, where in half the interviews the guitarist would say he and the drummer are brother and sister, and in the other half he claims they're married. (shrugs)
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