Battlezone with dual stick – Atari 2600

Every since I got my Harmony cartridge for my Atari 2600 I’ve been enjoying some great home brew and hacked games found over at AtariAge – I’ve already posted videos of the voice enhanced version of Berzerk and the hacked version Missile Command which much improved control via a Amiga mouse, and am currently playing a version of Battlezone with dual joystick support, just like the arcade original!

Battlezone was one of three Atari Vector based games, (the others being Red Baron and…well you can probably guess the third!) I used to play a lot in the early eighties. We were lucky to have to full upright cabinet with ‘periscope’ monitor in our local arcade until, sadly, someone was a little too forceful with the dual stick controls, it broke and was never seen again 😦

Atari – Battlezone – 1980


That would be the last time for many years that I’d play Battlezone in it’s original cabinet. In 2009 at Retro Reunited I spied a thing of beuty, someone had brought along a Battlezone cabinet and had it up and running and set to free play mode. It wasn’t the full upright cab I remembered form the arcades and didn’t have the periscope view, but that didn’t matter, this 3/4 cab had dual controls and that’s all that mattered to me. Suffice to say I hogged it….alot 🙂

Over the years there’s been some great Battlezone conversions for home computers and consoles and likewise some real stinkers too. For me, the Atari 2600 version is sadly the latter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great little game but due to hardware limitations and Atari’s decision to go with sprite based graphics it just isn’t Battlezone anymore.

Battlezone arcade original


Atari 2600 VCS


Furthermore, like most home conversions, the dual stick control system is lost and it’s a shame really as this one of the bet bits about playing Battlezone.

Cue – Homebrew hacked version called Battlezone TC for the Atari 2600 by Thomas Jentzsch…..with dual stick control…yay!

This is more like it and woth my Harmony Cartridge I can get to play this game directly on my 2600 with both joysticks and have independent tank track controls just like the arcade original. Steer forward by moving both sticks up, both back for reverse and either one or the other in the opposite direction to drive your tank left or right.

It might still look a mess and barely resemble Battlezone, but who cares when you can drive it like the arcade version 🙂

Th only downside to using two Atari sticks is that, without having a hand free to hold them steady, they do tend to skid around your desk. Whilst musing over fabricating some sort of dual joystick caddie to sit them in (or duct tape for speed!) It got me thinking about some of the other dual stick games and one thing led to another and an idea started to form….just need to test something and i’ll be back. If this works…hehe, it’s gonna be fun.


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