Review by Retro

Reviewed: 04/06/01 | Updated: 05/21/02

Looks can be deceiving

When you first turn on the game of Surround and begin playing it, you might wonder how it could possibly be a worthwhile game. All you see is solid, ancient looking blocks that are all the same boring old color. But like the saying goes: Looks can be deceiving. Before you know it, after playing a few rounds of this game that features nothing more than normal, every day squares or blocks that move around on a television screen, you find yourself growing more and more fond of a little game called Surround that uses a basic, yet surprisingly fun and addicting idea for a video game.

Your job is to control a block, or square, that moves around a blank board. While both yours and your fiend's square is moving around the four-cornered playing field, both moving squares will leave a trail of solid and unbreakable blocks behind it. During the playing time, it will be impossible to make your square come to a stop. That is, unless you do what you're trying not to do and run into a block that is either left behind by yourself or your opponent, or one that is sitting at a standstill around the field's border. Anytime either you or your opponent happens to run into a block, a daunting sound will play for a few seconds that lets you know that you just did something that was not so cool, and your opponent's score will increase by one.

You can either play against the computer in a one-player game or against a real person in a simultaneous two-player game.

Again, the object of the game is to make your opponent run into either your trail of blocks, their own droppings, or the unforgiving wall. The whole time, not a single block will be moving except the two that you and your opponent move around the screen. When you make your opponent run into some blocks, you will get a point, and vice versa. The first to reach the visible height of ten points wins the game.

You can always make trails of blocks horizontally and vertically, and in some variations, you can even move around diagonally. The best way to score points is to box in, or surround your opponent to where they don't have any open spaces to breathe in, thus the name of the game: Surround. Claustrophobic players might be at a disadvantage.

To keep Surround from getting boring, the developers made a great decision to include a good number of variations. The most memorable of these other variations are the ones in which the game continually speeds up as the seconds tick away. In these fun, amusing, addicting, and memorable variations, the game will start off at normal speed. When about five seconds become extinct, you and your opponents' squares will speed up a notch. When another five seconds pass, it will start hauling ass even more, and so on. After it speeds up four or five times, a top speed will be reached. It gets real challenging and it's even more fun trying to stay within the shrinking open spaces while moving at such high speeds; it can also be quite humorous.

The next variation species takes away the blocky border around the screen and allows you to go through any of the four sides of the wall. This can make for an easy way to cut corners and to escape shrinking places. But, no matter what, the wide-open, fresh air inhabiting places will still dwindle down and a winner will be proclaimed in a matter of minutes.

Another breed of variations makes it where you won't lay any blocks while keeping hold of the button on the joystick. When you let go of the button, blocks will be laid behind you once again as you move around.

There are also combinations of all the variations that I just mentioned. In some, you can go through the walls while the game speeds up. In others, you can keep hold of the button while moving around to choose the best places in which to mark your territory while the game speeds up, and you can go through the walls. There are 14 variations in all, some are one-player, and some are two-player.

Finally, there is one last variation that offers a break from seeing who suffers from tight, closed spaces the most. In this more toned down variation, both you and a friend, or just you, can move around the screen laying blocks like usual, only it's different this time. This time around, you can choose when to move and when not to move; you can also keep hold of the button to choose where to put blocks, and you can go through the blocks that you've already plastered down. This variation is used as a drawing board. You can make anything from your initials, to a television, to a snowman, etc., depending on how creative and artistic you are.

Surround is one of the oldest Atari 2600 games of all. It has a lot in common with the great game of Combat. It doesn't look all that appealing, but once you play it awhile, you see that it's a great game and that it just gets better through the years. I'd even go so far as to say that it's one of the very best early titles for the system, and one of the most fun that was ever made for the console. The bottom line is that there is nothing revolutionary about Surround. It's a game that uses a basic idea for providing fun and enjoyable playing times, and it works real well.

GRAPHICS - The graphics in this game are extremely simple. The walls, the blocks, and the squares that you control are all just……well, basic. There isn't a background either, just the same palette of a certain color. This is a game that is fun enough to take away the noticeable lack of graphics. Then again, you can't really expect much from the graphics department in a game that was made in 1977.

SOUND - The sound is also somewhat blocky. Each time the squares 'take a step' a dark, low-pitched sound is heard. It's a constant, yet catchy sound with no music to accompany it. However, there is something that's great about the sound. When playing a variation in which the game speeds up every few seconds, the constant ''mm mm mm mm'' gets higher in pitch, which was a great thing to see, or hear, at the time.

CONTROL - Overall, the controls are right on. Just move the joystick in the direction you want to move and press the button to stop the blocks from being laid behind you. At times, you'll probably have some troubles moving exactly where you want to move at exactly the time you want to move, but that discrepancy doesn't happen too often.

REPLAY VALUE - Unfortunately, the computer is fairly easy to beat almost every time, so playing one-player doesn't offer much of a challenge, but Surround is a lot of fun when playing a two-player game against somebody else, especially if your fellow player is at about the same skill level as yourself.

OVERALL - Surround looks like crap and there's nothing revolutionary about the game. This might be a turn off for some, but anybody that enjoys playing games that never get old will certainly enjoy Surround for many years down the road. That is, unless you're overly claustrophobic.

Rating: 8

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