Chase the Chuck Wagon for the Atari 2600
In the late 1990s, I did something I usually do not do, I went out and bought an Atari 2600 cartridge that I thought was overpriced. I paid 33 dollars for Chase the Chuck Wagon. The game was in rough shape then, but it worked, and I am happy to say, it looks pretty much the same today (the worn silver label is peeling), and more importantly, it still works. So I thought I would fire it up for this week’s retro game review.
My memories on this title are a little flaky. If I remember it rightly, this game was a premium you could send away for from Purina, the makers of high-quality dog food and even higher quality commercials featuring a dog chasing a tiny chuck wagon. Since it was a premium, my expectations were low, which is good since the game actually has some nice little surprises that raise it above what you normally would get from a giveaway game.
Chase the Chuck Wagon is a simple maze game where you need to guide a dog to the Chuck Wagon before your time runs out. You have to contend with a bouncing cat or dog or bone (something I don’t know) and a wandering dogcatcher. There is actually a little bit of gameplay here. As you will need to time your movements through the maze to avoid the slowing effects of the bouncing object and the life losing effect of the dogcatcher. The problem is that it has almost becomes too easy to play since the time and enemies move slow enough to get to the end of the maze most of the time. What is cool is that the maze changes from round to round, which is really impressive for a title like this, but there is something even more impressive. A bonus round! That’s right between rounds a shimmering dog dish descends from the Chuck Wagon and you need to time your movement to catch the dish (or is it a Frisbee — where are those instructions!).
Graphics on CtCW are decent, that Chuck Wagon is pretty impressive, but the sound design is questionable. When you get hit by the bouncing whatevers, it makes a pretty loud noise, but that is nothing compared to the knock you on your ass sound they play when the dogcatcher gets a hold of you. It is the 8-bit equivalent of a garbage truck being dropped off the Empire State Building that will have you cowering in the corner covered in yours, and whoever might be watching you play’s urine.
This game does not get a lot of love, except in regard to its rarity, but I find it to be a pretty decent title. If I was grading it against what you should expect from a “premium giveaway” it is in the four-star range, but against other VCS titles, it is merely a two (maybe a three on a good day).