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RELEASE DATE (NA): 1978 GENRE: Action/Puzzle
// review by Stingray

It's the (not so) latest craze!

I have always enjoyed a good maze. From the paper form as a small child to the first top-down computer versions to first-person 3D mazes, I enjoyed them all. I didn't need to fight any creatures or anything special. I just enjoyed getting lost in an array of corridors. The frustration of getting lost was always tempered by the joy of finally finding the correct path.

In 1978, a seemingly simple game was released for the Atari 2600 called Maze Craze. While at first glance this game looks like a boring maze game, there is surprising depth for an Atari game. The full title, Maze Craze: A Game of Cops and Robbers, gives a little glimpse into its depth. You are not just a blip trying to find the exit. You are actually a cop that is patrolling the winding city streets.

One thing that is often forgotten about in many Atari games is the game variations. While the limitations did not allow major changes to a game, a lot of Atari games offered many different way of playing the same game. Depth and replayability in the earliest of forms turned a simple idea into a more complex and enjoyable game. Maze Craze is one of these games.

The game was made for two players in mind, but a single player option is possible. The base game had the two players controlling cops that have to patrol the city street by getting from the start to exiting on the other side of the board. But watch out! There are robbers hiding in the streets. If you are touched by a robber, you are out of the game and lose.

But the variants is really where this game shines. There are a total of 16 different games you can play each one having one of the following modes.

What a corny-looking game. Well, it IS a maize, after all.

Capture: Turn into a hero in this variation! You must capture three robbers before exiting the city streets.

Robbers: You can choose between 2, 3, or 5 robbers that will be lurking in the city streets, ready to knock you out.

Wounds: Instead of immediately knocking you out of the game, a robber will wound you, slowing your cop down to a crawl until you heal.

Terror: Your opponent must first be knocked out of the game by robbers before you can exit.

Blockade: Trick your opponent into thinking he walked into a deadend by setting up a blockade.

Scouts: During invisible mazes a scout runs ahead of the player to assist the player in finding the correct path.

With each of the variations above there are also visibility options. There is a blackout! Part of the city is shrouded in darkness! There are four visibility options: full visible, small portion, large portion, and full invisible. During a game that has some part invisible, the game will automatically flash the complete maze to help you find your way. The player also has the option to show the completed maze during an invisible game, but like the automatic peek, it's only there for a brief time.

The graphics are crude with the cops being an odd shape resembling a bug and the robbers being a square. There is no music and the sounds are likewise crude. But these are typical of the limited capabilities of the Atari. The mazes themselves are not very large or complex, but are randomly generated. In some ways, I feel that this game was ahead of its time and would have served better to be on a later console. However, I still find the game enjoyable and the variations add a lot to the game.

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