Lock n Chase
Unfortunately, the Atari port of Lock 'N' Chase lost quite a bit in translation. I'll get into that later. However, bear one thing in mind - the 2600 version Lock 'N' Chase simply beats the socks off of the miserable Pac-Man port for the console.
In Lock 'N' Chase, the player has the unsavory task of assuming the role of a lowly thief bent on stealing all the gold in a bank while avoiding the cops. As in most games of this type, the gold is laid out in a very orderly fashion throughout the bank which is, amazingly, laid out like a very orderly maze. The job of the thief, of course, is to steal all the gold, avoid getting caught by the cops and then escape from the maze.
The thief has one thing going for him - he can erect doors to block the cops or, if he's very lucky, trap them. This is where the Atari version of this fails. In the arcade game, both horizontal and vertical doors could be erected. Heck, the same was true of the Mattel Intellivision version of Lock 'N' Chase. However, M-Network programmers didn't incorporate that ability in the 2600 port of Lock 'N' Chase -- the player can only erect horizontal doors, which detracts considerably from the gameplay. Worse, the maze layout is much simpler in the 2600 version - out of necessity, they had to be. After all, when a whole dimension was removed from the title, the fundamental aspects of the game had to be changed, too.
When doors are erected, they only last a few seconds and only two can be put up at a time. However, doors aren't the thief's only defense. Treasures - which look a lot like gold or red blocks - show up on the screen and are worth a considerable number of points. Also, when a treasure is picked up, the cops freeze for a moment. Oh, and there are doors on either side of the maze - when the thief moves through one, he shows up on the other side of the maze, thus eluding the cops for a bit.
The game play is a bit monotonous, but this is an enjoyable game. Even the lower levels are challenging, and maze games tend to be enjoyable when they're done well. Lock 'N' Chase is done quite well, and manages to remain entertaining.
As for graphics, there's not a whole lot to see here, but it's done quite well. M-Network (a company owned by Mattel, of course) managed to squeeze a very "clean" looking game into a little 4-kilobyte cartridge. There's no problem with screen flicker here, and the thief and four pursuing cops move very smoothly. Unfortunately, the cops are monochromatic (blue) as is the thief (red, but an additional green thief is tossed in the two-player game).
The sound isn't great. Every time the thief picks up a gold bar, the player hears a metallic "clink" which is cool at first, but gets old in a hurry. Whenever a treasure shows up in the middle of the screen, a racket which sounds rather like an alarm siren plays. When the thief is caught, a "thwack" sound is heard, and the sound of a door slamming is played when a door is erected. Oh, and on the arcade version of Lock 'N' Chase, the thief kind of dissolves into his hat. That neat bit of animation wasn't carried over to the Atari.
In terms of control, this game really shines. A lot of maze games had one major flaw - turning corners was difficult. That's not an issue in "Lock 'N' Chase" as the thief can be maneuvered with skill through the maze. Perhaps the thief is so easy to control because he moves rather slowly and it's hard to overshoot a corner. Whatever the reason, the player can concentrate on eluding the cops and not worry about trying to get the blasted thief to take a corner when necessary.
All in all, Lock 'N' Chase is a respectable maze game. I don't enjoy it as much as Atari's Ms. Pac-Man or Coleco's Mouse Trap, but it's a very solid title which is far superior to the Pac-Man port for the 2600. The game is pretty common, too, so you shouldn't have much trouble finding a copy.
Lock n Chase