Review by Mark Messina:
America is under siege by a deadly virus! Sort of. It's actually more like this: America's train stations and the hats that inhabit them are under siege by television static snow! What could I possibly be talking about? Why, Agent USA, of course! I first experienced this game when I was a kid, with my beloved Atari 1200XL (similar to the Atari 800) computer. My mother used to own a small private school for the learning disabled, and they had a bunch of Atari computers, along with a ton of software. Most of the stuff was educational in nature, so naturally most of it sucked. But Agent USA was an exception: the only "educational" game they had that didn't bore me after the title screen faded away.
I guess you could consider Agent USA to be an adventure game. The story behind the game is as follows: A scientist named Elma Sniddle was trying to build a high-tech TV set, and she just happened to find some strange, unidentifiable crystals in her back yard. So, what does the good scientist do? She decides that although she knows nothing about the capabilities and possible dangers associated with these mysterious crystals, it would be a good idea to try to use one as the power source for her new TV. When she hooks the crystal up to the TV, it turns into the FUZZBOMB!!!
The Fuzzbomb turns anyone who touches it into a "fuzzbody" , which is a walking ball of tv static fuzz. Fuzzbodies walk around trying to turn other people into fuzzbodies. The only way to cure this fuzz-itis is to touch one of those crystals. Our friend Elma happened to step on a crystal in her fuzzed state, but when she came to, the Fuzzbomb was gone! It is now up to you, Agent USA, to find and disarm the Fuzzbomb!
Now, the game play. First off, the game takes place entirely in the nation's train stations. You can not exit a train station to the outside world. Train stations are collections of red rooms. The bigger the city, the more rooms there are. The rooms in the train station fill the screen (they look like red Pac-Man mazes with only side doors, no 'maze walls'), except for the train platform room. That room takes up the bottom half of the screen, and the top half shows the trains coming and going, and behind the trains is the city's skyline. Most skylines are just generic buildings, but some are more accurate to the actual city (for example, in New York City, the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers are visible). Each city has a ticket booth, and each state capital and Washington, DC have information booths.
There are four types of characters in this game. Your character, Agent USA, is a little white cowboy hat with blue legs. Everyone else (i.e. U.S. citizens) are little black top hats with blue legs. There are also fuzzbodies, which look like little blocks of TV static, also with blue legs. Finally, there is the Fuzzbomb itself, which is a giant TV with a mean look on its face (screen).
The game begins in a U.S. city selected at random. You arrive from a train carrying ten crystals. Crystals are what you use to defeat the fuzz. You need 100 of them to disarm the Fuzzbomb, and the way you get more is to grow them. If you press the joystick button while in motion, you'll drop a crystal on the floor. Leave it there for a couple of seconds and other crystals will begin to appear next to it. Easy, huh? The catch is that citizens try to take your crystals, so you have to be careful not to lose all of your crystals to the citizens. Now, onto the fuzz-fighting. You must traverse the country by train in pursuit of the elusive Fuzzbomb, and as you near the city where the Fuzzbomb is located (the information booths tell you the Fuzzbomb's current location), you will begin to encounter fuzzbodies.
If one of these little nasties touches you, you instantly loose half your crystals. If you have no crystals and a fuzzbody touches you, you're screwed. You become a fuzzbody. If you drop a crystal and a fuzzbody touches it, the fuzzbody will turn back into a citizen. And finally, if you reach the dreaded Fuzzbomb, you must touch it while holding 100 crystals. Unlike fuzzbodies (which take away half of your crystals with every touch), if you touch the Fuzzbomb while holding any less than 100 crystals, you become a fuzzbody.
If you beat the fuzz, you get congratulated and it says something to the effect of, "Elma Sniddle will appreciate the return of her TV." This is the only part I'd change. If I were to write the ending, it's say, "Elma Sniddle has been arrested and is currently being held without bail as she awaits her arraignment for crimes against national security."
This game was a lot of fun when I was a kid, and before I knew it, it taught me a lot about US geography (the primary educational purpose of the game). I remember having a tough time beating this game way back when. Every time I got close to the Fuzzbomb, I'd get my ass kicked by the fuzzbodies. I recently found the Atari emulator on this site and the rom on another site, and was able to play Agent USA once again (I also tried the Commodore 64 version available on this site, and it's pretty much identical)! You know what I realized? It's still fun, but really isn't very hard, once you figure out a couple of strategies.
But enough talk, the fuzz is on the loose!