Review: Miner 2049er (Atari 5200)

In this review, we dig through the Atari 5200 game Miner 2049er. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 1983. It is a port from the Atari 8-Bit Family.

The game follows Bounty Bob through various levels. The goal is to color in all of the floors in the level while avoiding certain death. In this game, dying is quite easy as there are a number of gaps, jumps, and enemies that can spell certain doom.

While the jumping and platforms require certain skill, the enemies are a different manner. While you don’t have any weapons to speak of, collecting any item will render them harmless for a certain period of time. During the time they turn green, you can touch them to defeat them for some points and, more importantly, eliminate them off the screen.

Even as you navigate around enemies and the level itself, there is another threat to your existence: time. On the top of the screen is a number highlighted in blue. This is the bonus. As you run around, the bonus gradually drops down. If you don’t complete the level within the time limit, you die.

To make things even more complex, there are also chutes and moving platforms to contend with. If you step on a chute, you’ll slide down a level to wherever this chute ends. If that happens to end on an enemy at the time, you’ll definitely collide with it. In that case, hope there is still time left on that item you picked up. The platforms that we saw move back and forth and can carry your minor across larger gaps.

In total, you have three lives to work with. For every 10,000 points you earn, you’ll get an additional free life. If you die, you keep your score, but need to start the level all over again. While that sounds frustrating, it’s possible to rack up a huge score by dying right before completing the level and then completing the level on the second try. In that regard, the game softens the blow of dying substantially thanks to being able to reach a higher score.

One way a person can describe this game is that this is a hybrid between Donkey Kong (in terms of movement), Q-Bert in terms of the goal), and Pac Man (In terms of fighting enemies). It’s an interesting blend that turns out to be very successful one.

Some have remarked that this game requires a certain degree of memory work. While this is a major pitfall for a lot of games, for this one, it’s not such a bad thing. The reason for that is because the game actually gives you a chance. Memory work merely allows you to master the level, not barely survive it. Each level has their own quirks and features that requires a certain degree of problem solving. As you learn the level, you’ll progress further and further in. So, each level becomes a puzzle you end up trying to solve as you peel back the layers.

For a number of levels, it’s all about knowing the length of your jump. If you jump to a nearby platform, and the platform is too narrow, it’s possible to overshoot it and plunge to your death. In other cases, you are looking for the platform that allows you to make a particularly long jump.

In some instances, the level is about timing. If you collect a certain item, you need to knock out certain enemies off of narrow platforms to reach the next item. Once you get to that next item, your next goal is to pick off a number of other enemies so you can make passage of that part of the level safe. In short, the game challenges you in a number of different ways. This gives a very dynamic feel to the game that, on the surface, looks to be a very simple one.

One thing I like is the general difficulty curve. While it does accelerate a bit by around station 3 or 4, the game at least allows players to see a nice amount of the game. This is unlike some other games that basically continually punishes you for the slightest of errors right from the beginning. As a result, the game is actually enjoyable partly because it’s relatively easy to just learn how everything works.

My only real problem with this game is the chute entry points. I found it extremely difficult to figure out precisely where on the floor would I get sucked down into a chute. All you have is a thick line that spans 2 blocks of floor space. It can be rather annoying to know if you are going to fall down or just harmlessly stand next to it. Since it’s possible to work around a lot of this, this ends up being a minor problem.

Another criticism is that some of the death animations where the minor just melts into the floor were a little odd to me.

Generally speaking, there is a lot about this game to give a thumbs up to. The game has a rather smooth learning curve (though it does accelerate at around station 3-4), it is possible to learn the basics of the game on the fly, and it has an interesting puzzle dynamic to it. My only nitpick revolves around the chutes as it was difficult to figure out exactly where your character will suddenly slide down the floors. Still, this game is a pretty good one.

Graphically speaking, this game is pretty decent. The chutes left a lot to be desired as it was just a mono-colored thick line. It would have been nice to see more art placed on some of the levels because there is the occasional problem of small chunks of dead space. The enemies were decently drawn, the miner is not bad, and how the floors changed made it easy to figure out what you had left to run on. Fairly solid graphics here.

The jingles were pretty decent. Not much in the way of actual music. The sound effects were not bad, though not inspiring necessarily.

Overall, this is a great game. The difficulty curve did accelerate a bit part way through the levels, some of the death animations are a bit strange, and the chutes were difficult to read properly. Still, the difficulty curve is forgiving as it allows players to learn the game well enough to survive without much hassle. The graphics are pretty decent, though the game does run into some minor cases of dead space. The jingles are decent and the sound effects are OK. Definitely a bright spot on this system that is worth playing.


High Score: 25,485
Died on Station 5

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 80%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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