Tuesday, January 1, 2013
The Top 30 Vertical Shooters for the Atari 2600: Introduction!
The VCS library boasts over 40 games that can be considered vertical shooters. For the purpose of this list, the genre "vertical shooter" will be defined as: any game wherein the principal goal of the game, and therefore the game play, is to fire "shots" at targets vertically while the player moves horizontally across the screen. This may include vertical movement by the player as well, and "shots" may fire up or down as long as their travel is predominately vertical. A "shot" may be any kind of missile that is emitted from the player and strikes the target to some effect. Please note that for this project I am only considering NTSC North American releases and only those games released during the original run of the VCS (hence no homebews).
I've spent countless hours playing these games, both historically and recently. Along the way, I have enjoyed some old favorites and discovered some new ones! Where will your favorite shooter rank? Is Space Invaders overrated? All will be revealed over the course of the next 30 days!
Didn't Make the Cut
For some games, the dream ends before the ranking even begins. Here is a quick look at some shooters that weren't tough enough to make the cut.
Air Raid (Men-a-Vision)
What a disaster. Thank goodness there are only a small handful of copies in the world. Air Raid is a complete mess. A decent enough idea, but miserable collision detection and repetitive bland game play take Air Raid right off the plate. Not like you'd go buy a copy to play anyway, but if you get the chance, you are better off with almost any other game on this list. I've seen numerous shots go RIGHT THROUGH enemy targets. Boo.
Like most of Bomb's games, Assault feels like a game that was 75% developed and then released. This one really wants to be a Demon Attack clone and features some nice looking enemies and a swank mothership, but the game play is weak and the challenge low.
Canyon Bomber (Atari)
I realize this is an early release and therefore a bit simplistic, but Canyon Bomber thrives on two-player action to make it fun, and even then it can be a stretch. The idea is nice, but being so early also forces it to miss out on game play elements that could have been developed and implemented with sufficient time and experience coding for the 6502.
Condor Attack/Vulture Attack (Ultravision/K-Tel)
We'll do this in one shot since they are the exact same, very bad game. Part Galaxian, part Phoenix, but not a quarter as fun as either, these games are total dullsville. These games define the idea that mega-rare does not mean mega-popular or mega-fun.
Demons to Diamonds (Atari)
I'll take some heat for this one because I know it has its following, but much like Canyon Bomber, Demons to Diamonds really wants two-players in order to generate any real fun. Smack talk and competition are what drives this game, not challenging game play or design. D2D is fun, but it's not Top 30 fun.
Space Tunnel (Puzzy/Bit-Corp)
Seriously, what is this crap. Sloppy controls, touchy collision detection and minimal challenge, I really don't understand this game at all. It looks like the vertical levels of a game like Vanguard, but it plays like something from Mythicon. Pass.
Activision doesn't lay too many eggs, but they do with Spider Fighter. Move to the left, shoot a lot, repeat. Boring. There is absolutely no challenge in this game. Only one level presents a deviation from the recipe above and that just requires a bit of patience. I think the idea behind the game is pretty interesting, but the execution fails to live up to that potential.
Warplock (Data Age)
Here's a game that looks absolutely great, but plays like a nap. The collision detection is barely there, but as long as you take your time and are careful you can max this baby out in a few minutes. Enemy behavior is dreadfully redundant and as long as you don't get cheap-shot killed, you'll be off to dreamland before you know it. Sure you only get one life, but it's all you'll need. Oh, and turn the volume off because the game play "music" provokes violence.
Now that you know who's not on the list, it's time to start guessing who ranked where. How high up is River Raid? It's a classic, but is it top 10 material? What about Carnival or Shootin' Gallery, which one is better? Millipede or Centipede?
The answers to these questions and more all January long as we rank the Top 30 vertical shooters for the Atari 2600. Join us, won't you? And feel free to chime in, complain, argue, and berate as you see fit. That's what the Comments section is all about!
See you tomorrow!