Reviewed by Stan, Posted on 2007-04-07


Developer: Activision Publisher: Activision
Release Date: 1981 Also On: Atari 5200

Now here's an awesome game. I played this when I was younger, when I picked up a 2600 several years ago and then again a few weeks ago when I purchased a 7800 specifically to repurchase, play and forever own this title. Kaboom! is so perfect, so incredible that even today any fan of any system and gaming era can pick it up and enjoy it. You don't even need a manual to play it, just the system and the Paddle Controller and you're good to go. A game this perfect rarely comes along, so if you haven't done so already, get a copy and play it. You don't even need to read this entire review, this game is spectacular. But if you want to know the details, keep going.

Graphically, remember I'm talking about the 2600 here, so don't expect anything spectacular. What you should expect as a modern gamer is a good usage of the system's capabilities while displaying the intended images and ideas. And that's exactly what you get with Kaboom!. The screen consists of a simple green wall with a grey upper area where a prisoner is bending over, called the 'Mad Bomber' according to the manual. Clearly suggesting what he is, he drops little bombs with a superb display of flickering wicks that fall down and which you catch with a series of three buckets of water. The buckets are extended longer if you put it on easy mode, but are smaller and look more like buckets on the hard mode. The screen flickers and freaks out depending on how high you get, the bombs explode when you miss and it even has a TV screen saver mode that displays a variety of different color schemes for the scenery if you let it sit long enough. For an Atari game, this really displays what the programmers intended to display. Great job.

The sound in Kaboom! is just as good. The sound of the wicks as the bombs descend is right on, I'm amazed they pulled it off so easily on the system. The explosion effect is also well done, sounds just as I would think it would. Each bomb that's remaining on the screen if you miss one has a lighter explosion effect and the final one is deeper to end the series as the screen flashes. Other effects include the sound of the bombs hitting your buckets of water, which sounds like plopping and the effect you receive each time you reach a thousand points. Excellent overall, no problems and all right on with what I would expect to hear.

And to tie it together, Kaboom! has incredible gameplay. What makes this game so incredible is that it will easily remain one of the greatest classics of all time years from now, whereas something like, say, River Raid, though great in its time and a popular title with fans of the 2600, will eventually fall to the background because it just doesn't have that lasting appeal. I find it pretty boring, in fact. Kaboom! however, is simple; you use the Paddle Controller to control your stack of three buckets, using them to catch bombs the Mad Bomber drops from above. You get minimum points the first few levels, but as it gets faster you get more and more points until you reach the eighth and final level, where you keep going unless you lose all your buckets. The thing is, you'll be incredibly lucky, no scratch that, you'd have to be incredibly good to do that even with a great amount of practice. Kaboom! is surprisingly addictive and difficult. It starts out rather slow, but by the time you get to the fifth level you'll be feeling some tension when you just start out, and eventually the game is so fast the bombs are being dropped at nearly a blur. Kaboom! is all about simple coordination, timing and skill, the things that make for the greatest of games, especially as you begin to lose your buckets when you miss bombs. It actually takes real practice and ability to be able to make it even close to the ten thousand mark, where according to the manual the bomber does something interesting. Regardless, the great thing here is that anyone who is old enough to pick up the controller can play this game. It requires little thinking to play, but a hell of a lot of skill, which is where it succeeded in outdoing, in my opinion, every Atari 2600 game ever made. I can't say enough about this game and it doesn't have a single problem, just play it and be done with it!

Kaboom! was actually a slightly borrowed idea from a failed arcade title called Avalanche. Originally, David Kaplan had planned on releasing the game in its original format, but due to the fact that a horde of boulders were programmed at the top of the screen, the 2600 just didn't have the memory to pull it off. So they altered it and came out with something truly memorable and innovative. In fact this same idea was reused and has persisted to this day in video games. Tetris owes some of its prehistory to this game, as does Arkanoid, Woody Pop and tons of other titles. Really groundbreaking and original. Atari even reused the idea several times in different forms for various systems.

This is the one game I can think of that has a ridiculous amount of replay value. I've played this game nearly my whole entire life and will probably choose to play it the hour of my death. It's simple to get into and gives you plenty of room for advancement at any time you so desire. I come back to this game frequently to show off my skills to friends and get them to play it. Makes for good two player slam fests if you're in the mood, as well as potential Kaboom! parties. The game length is perfect. You play as much as your skill allows. At first, not so much, but eventually, I could forsee someone playing this for a good thirty minutes without losing if they got good enough, but regardless you'll play at least that long just trying to get as far as possible and to break your highest score. The game was so popular in this regard that Activision actually released special patches game players could get if they broke a score of three-thousand points, thereby entering you into the coveted 'Bucket Brigade'.

Kaboom! is without a doubt one of my favorite games and deserves mention as one of the greatest games of all time. Unlike something like The Legend of Zelda, it's not really well known today even though it lead to numerous developments in video game history and stands the test of time as something enjoyable by everyone, even to this day. My mother liked this game, and that's saying a lot because she can't play games worth a shiat. Anyway, I could go on but there's no need to this game gets perfect marks from me in every category, which I've never done. The only bad thing is that with the release of all those Atari retro systems you plug into your television, this title was surprisingly left out of all of them so the only way to play it is on emulator or by actually getting a 2600 or 7800. Probably had to do with the controller issue. Regardless, it deserves a worthy position in video game history and you deserve to play it.

Graphics: 10
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 10
Written by Stan Review Guide

Reviewed by Stan