5200 Joust is an excellent conversion of John Newcomer's Williams classic coin-op. While you'll find a better version on the more modern Digital Eclipse emulation disks, back in the 80's this version was the best we could ever hope for, infinitely better than the compromised 2600 version. I have to admit this, after all these years and then going back and playing 5200 Joust again -- this version plays very nicely, full of 1 or 2-player thrills and fun challenge.
The controls are excellent, easier to use than the arcade version. You will notice in 5200 Joust that you don't need to flap quite as much to get airborne and to stay aloft, which is a good thing since we don't want to wear out our precious buttons any faster!
Graphically, the game is true to the arcade game. The buzzard riders and your ostriches all flap around smoothly, the Lava Troll reaches for you, the stone clouds nicely dissolve away, and the eggs bounce and drop. The Pterrie is a bit blocky looking, unfortunately. Sounds are also very good, with almost eerie bird-bounce sounds repetitively sounding off when the screen is littered with buzzard riders. 5200 Joust is an excellent game, but I don't really consider too much of a must-have since there have been so many versions of Joust over the years. I have fond memories of my friends and I playing 5200 Joust endlessly, both cut-throat and cooperatively -- it is infinitely replayable.
Joust has a few difficulty options, too. Playing on Advanced, for example, produces more numbers of more intelligent buzzards earlier in the game. Plus not only is there a 2-player option, but it's 2-player simultaneous gameplay, which really brings up the gaming value of any game. Ah, the memories of doing the butt-bounce and killing my friends' ostriches ...
Differences in gameplay from the Arcade Coin-op version:
1. Eggs hatch into mounted riders which sit on top the egg shell for a few seconds before they become active. Note that these inert buzzard riders can still kill you if you fly at them & swoop lower than their level! (also note that this was far better than in the 2600 version where eggs never landed on the ground, but floated around in the air!)
2. Pterries -- the arcade boasts up to 3 per screen! Holy terror! But you only get a maximum of 1 on the 5200 version.
3. Flapping -- it's easier; you flap far less than in the arcade or emulated arcade versions, which does affect gameplay.
Below on the left is the arcade version, on the right is the 5200 version. Pretty darned close for a 1982 console.