Although on the surface Food Fight may look innocent, the game has a rather interesting history. Back in 1981 a small company known as General Computer Corporation (GCC) began to sell enhancement kits for Atari's latest smash hit coin-op Missile Command. While the public applauded their efforts of breathing new life into the game, Atari was less than amused. As a result Atari sued GCC for hacking their game, but in a strange twist of fate the two companies actually became partners! GCC agreed to develop three arcade games for Atari (Food Fight, Quantum, and Nightmare), and to start developing games for the Atari 2600 and 5200 games as well. Of these three games Food Fight is most well known with Quantum being released in only limited quantities and Nightmare not being released at all.
Inspired by the famous food fight scene from Animal House, the goal of Food Fight is to move Charley Chuck from one end of the screen and eat the ice cream cone on the other before it melts. Of course it wouldn't be much of a game if there wasn't something trying to stop you from reaching the other side of the screen, now would it? In the case of Food Fight, these somethings take the form of four chefs (Oscar, Angelo, Jacques, and Zorba) who are out to stop Charley at all costs. Each of the chefs are identifiable by the different hat they wear: Oscar wears a big hat; Angelo wears a small hat; Jacques wears a curved hat; and Zorba wears a tall hat.
Now at this point you're probably wondering where the food fighting comes in. As you may have noticed, each level starts out with large piles of food scattered about, just aching to be thrown. Picking up food is a simple as walking into the pile, while throwing the food is accomplished by pushing the fire button. Charley can throw food in one of eight directions, but Charley must be point in the direction he wants to throw. If the Charley hits a chef with a piece of food they will fly off the screen for a few seconds before reappearing out of one of the holes in the floor.
The chefs in Food Fight aren't defenseless. In addition to being able to simply kill Charley by touch (I guess they carry knives or something), they can also pick up the food scattered about the level at throw it back at Charley. The chefs also have a nasty tendency to deplete vital food piles, leaving Charley completely defenseless! Charley must also watch out for the holes in the floor that the chefs appear out of, as falling into one of them is deadly.
Every few levels a watermelon level will appear. On these levels all the food will be replaced with watermelons which never run out. Charley can use these never ending stockpiles to his advantage and rack up huge points by sitting in a safe corner a picking off chefs as they appear. Of course the chefs can use the watermelon piles as well, so be careful.
Every now and then you will be treated to an instant replay of the level you just finished. During the instant replay you will be able to watch the computer play the level following every move you made. It is unknown what triggers the instant replay, but they seem to occur on levels where Charley barely escaped being hit. On very rare occasions Charley may actually be hit during the instant replay in which case the game will say "OOPPS MISSED" (their typo, not mine) and will actually lose a life. Thankfully this is a very rare occurrence.
The Atari 7800 version of Food Fight is a very good port. The graphics are bright and colorful, and the gameplay is pretty much exactly the same as its arcade counterpart. The only problem is that the game plays somewhat sluggish, which isn't surprising given the massive amount of items moving on the screen at once. The result is that the 7800 port tends to be much easier than its arcade counterpart because the slow down allows the player more time to react to everything moving on the screen. The arcade version allowed no such luxury.
Food Fight is one of the best games to grace the Atari 7800. Not only is it quick to learn and fun to play, but the bright colorful graphics show off the 7800's abilities nicely. Food Fight was also released for the Atari XE, but that version suffered from even worse slowdown than the 7800 version. A prototype also exists for the Atari ST, and is a near perfect arcade port (one has to wonder why that version was never released). Food Fight is one of the hidden gems of the 7800 library and belongs in everyone's collection.