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Atari 8-Bit and Atari 5200 Pole Position Review

When this version was first released, Atari bragged about the game's "real motion graphics!" That boast is a little misleading. Yes, the stripes in the middle of the track and the red and white border on each side animate very fluidly. Everything else, however, including the mountains on the horizon, the other cars on the track, and even the track itself as you navigate a curve, do not move fluidly at all, and certainly don't give any impression of "real motion." Still, even with that shortcoming, this is a very good port, and the best way to play Pole Position at home during the 8-bit era. Animation, jerky as it may be, is never inconsistent. No matter how much you're fiddling with the joystick, and no matter how many other cars are crowding you off the road, the action never slows down, and never gives the sense your car should be going faster or slower than the speedometer implies. A closer look reveals the billboards and mountains don't quite move in sync with the track itself, but the skew isn't distracting, and it doesn't make the game any less fun. So, despite some obvious flaws and a bit of false advertising, this version of Pole Position comes well recommended.

Grade: B+.

(Note: The Atari 5200 and the Atari 8-bit computers have very similar hardware, and games were often published with the same code for both. Atari 5200 Pole Position has been tweaked to allow more precise steering using the analog controls, but otherwise the two releases are identical.)