Atari 2600 users have felt a little left out over the last couple of decades, the time was when a successful franchise would always be converted to the Heavy Sixer - so they should be absolutely delighted at the moment because Ed Fries (who spent over a decade at Microsoft's games division and one of the people behind the original Xbox and the publishing of Halo: Combat Evolved and the first sequel) has rather surprisingly turned his hand to 6502 code and spent six months introducing Master Chief and his sworn enemies the Covenant to the delights of bright colours and two-dimensional graphics.
The timing does seem just a teensy bit... well convenient, with the 2600 game appearing just as the hype machine surrounding Halo: Reach was changed up to top gear (come to think of it, nobody has said where this fits into the established Halo universe) but if we put our most likely unfounded cynicism aside this really is a neat piece of work that works surprisingly well; Master Chief is easily recognised as such despite having gone on a radical pixel diet and the forces of the Covenant are varied and plentiful, although they do appear to be far more cute in this rendition than they've previously been represented.
HALO MY FRIEND, HALO
Fries has managed to squeeze the code, graphics, sound effects and a sizeable map into just 4K of cartridge as well, offering over fifty Covenant-occupied locations to travel through between the opening scene and final boss battle; even an experienced player will still take around ten minutes to go through the entire mission, so first timers can expect it to take a little longer. Along with the hazards, icy areas where walls have to be used just to stop moving and the enemies, there are also keys to open doors and power-ups to collect that aid Master Chief's mission, the first being a weapon that must be collected from the location directly above the starting point if the poor chap wants any chance of surviving, without it he won't even be able to defend himself.
Halo 2600 as a package is possibly a little small overall (a bank switched, extended version would be great fun) but enjoyable to play and very reminiscent of Atari games of old, playing in a similar manner to titles such as Adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark or perhaps even E.T. The Extraterrestrial, except with more visual finesse and, in the case of the last of those three, significantly lower odds that thousands of unwanted cartridges will be unceremoniously dumped and concreted over in a New Mexico landfill.