Maze Craze

Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1978
Developer: ATARI, Inc
Players: One or Two (Two players for optimum enjoyment)

A Game of Cops 'n Robbers

When the Atari 2600 was still going strong and game producers were still interested in producing quality games, Maze Craze came along. The designers took a simple enough concept, going through a maze, and turned it into a rather popular and entertaining game.

In Maze Craze, you play a "cop" out on a beat. Your objective is to exit the area before your opponent does, while avoiding the many dangers of the city. Robbers, blockades, and power outages (parts of the map where you would have to manuever blindly) all can delay you in your journey to the exit. In the various modes, you face these dangers in various ways. Each time you must overcome one or more of these obstacles before you can leave the maze.

The Five Modes of Play

- Capture: "Catch" (make contact with) three robbers, before exiting the maze and winning the game. This variation was my personal favourite, because it involved more than just finding the quickest route out.
- Robbers: A number of robbers, dependant on how many you choose at the start of play, are placed on the corners of the map. Your objective is to get to the maze's exit, while avoiding the robbers. If the robber's manage to touch you it is an automatic victory for your opponent.
- Wound: Robbers will be placed on the map, randomly. You are to find your way to the map exit, before your opponent, while avoiding the robbers. If they touch you, unlike in Robbers Mode, you do not lose. Instead, you are just wounded and can only move forwards.
- Terror: Robbers will be placed on the map and appear during the game. This mode is a waiting game. You are to avoid the robbers, while waiting for your opponent to get touched by a robber. Only then are you allowed to exit the map.
- Blockade: This mode is a basic run through the maze, with an added twist. Both you and your opponent have the option of dropping a blockade. This blockade is identical to the walls of the maze, but both you and your opponent may pass through it. If you try to place a second blockade, your first one is taken away.

Footstep, footstep, footstep.
Footstep, footstep, footstep.
Footstep, footstep, footstep.
Footstep, footstep, footstep.

Didn't that get annoying fast...

The sound for Maze Craze can become really repetitive. The constant sounds of movement as you race through the maze not only becomes aggravating, but an annoyance. I found myself just muting the sound and listening to music while I played. There is little variety in them. Maze Craze is definitely a game that has merit based on the gameplay itself, instead of the "flare" that more modern games seem to take.

It may seem funny that I'm looking at a puzzle game, based on its graphics, but many Atari games challenged the limits of the Atari 2600 system and actually looked rather nice. Unfortunately, Maze Craze is not one of these games. The maze itself is orange and the wall colours are green. The cops are either a disgusting purple or a blue that would be pleasant on any other background. It seems that, when making Maze Craze, they focused on how the game would work, instead of what it would look like. And so we come up with the unappealing colour scheme of Maze Craze.

Despite all its technical failings, this game is definitely one that sticks out from my childhood. In fact, I think that the reason Maze Craze was so much fun, was because they worked on making a game you could play again and again. It has 256 different maps and enough variety to keep you and a friend (because the solo-play is extremely easy) content for an hour or two anyway.

In the end, I'd say that Maze Craze was one of the better puzzle games for the Atari 2600. Its developers focused on making a fun game, instead of making a game that would look cool or sell quickly. So, it is a game that became popular through good content and for that it should be applauded. Thanks for this one, Atari.

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