Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Top 30 Vertical Shooters for the Atari 2600 #27 Name This Game

Name This Game
US Games

I'm not going to dwell too long on how disappointing the "name" of this game is.  I get it, it was a contest and the game was meant to be re-released with the winning name, but that didn't happen and the whole concept was woefully ill-conceived. So instead, we are stuck with a decent game with a dreadful name.

I say decent game because here we have an excellent, non-traditional vertical shooter that has a lot of flash, but when you break it down, the game sadly requires little strategy to succeed.
What NTG gets right is the spectacle.  This is not your average space shooter.  NTG takes place in the deep sea!  A giant octopus is trying to steal your sunken treasure and it is up to you to guard it with your life.  To make matters worse, the tentacled menace has teamed up with a shark that is also bent on your grisly death.  Your only life line, literally is your buddy who drives a speedboat on the surface and is constantly resupplying you with air as long you can stay alive.  To ward off the aquatic attackers you must brandish your harpoon and beat back their advances.  Shooting the octopus tentacles will stunt their growth and slow down their pursuit.  Shooting the shark will return him to the top of the screen causing him to begin his march all over again. While you are doing all of that, be sure to keep an eye on your air gauge, and if it gets low, hit the air supply line from your buddy.  If you die for any reason, you will lose gold from your treasure pile.  When all of the gold is gone, you are sunk.

Sounds like a lot to manage, right?  Not really. Apart from not running out of air, the basic strategy in this game is just to move back and forth and shoot.  Oh sure, you need to target the arms that are advancing faster and make sure you hit the shark before he gets to you, but a good carpet bombing strategy can handle this most of the time.  Occasionally you have to break off and deal with a credible threat, but that doesn't really become important until late in the game.

Which brings us to the difficulty ramping.  It's slow at first and the levels plod along.  Then, once it really starts to ramp, it goes through the ceiling.  Out of nowhere the arms are descending at an alarming rate and the shark is full speed all of the time.  Pretty soon it is far too much to manage and your game is over.  Steady difficulty ramping can make or break a game.  Look at SpacechaseName This Game has the same issue.  The early levels are almost boring once you understand the game mechanics and the later levels get frustrating too quickly.

I like Name This Game.  I like its non-traditional concept and I think it looks really cool. The colors are vibrant, the sprites well detailed and that giant octopus is great!  But as any honest modern gamer will tell you, great graphics do not make a great game.  The lack of balance in the game play makes it really hard to enjoy this game for long stretches.  I have trouble wanting to play it because of how slow the initial levels are, and it lacks replay factor because it is hard to start over slow and plodding after playing at such a fast pace.

Name This Game needs a good name and better balance to rate higher on this list.

My Top Name this Game Score:  19,930

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