Basketball for the Atari 2600 is a simple, early video game representation of the sport. The game begins with both players at the center of the court, where a jump ball is thrown between them to start the action. The player in the offensive position, with possession of the ball, always faces their assigned shooting target basket, while the defensive player faces their opponent.
Players can move in eight directions using the joystick, and the player with the ball constantly dribbles it. The defensive player has the opportunity to steal the ball when it leaves the opponent’s hands, either during a dribble or a shot.
After a successful score, the roles switch: the shooter becomes the defensive player, while the former defender gets set under the basket to inbound the ball and take an offensive chance. The game lasts for four minutes, and the player with the highest score at the end is the winner.
Basketball for the Atari 2600 features two difficulty levels, determined by the position of the Difficulty Switch on the console. In the “B” position, players can move from goal to goal more quickly than in the “A” position. This allows for more dynamic gameplay and a greater challenge for both players.