Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Top 30 Vertical Shooters for the Atari 2600 #23

Buck Rogers and the Planet of Zoom

Honestly, I'm not sure how relevant Buck Rogers was when I was a young.  I had no real idea who he was.  I knew he was some kind of space ranger or something, but that was about it.  I was much more familiar with Duck Dodgers, but that's another story.

I had Buck Rogers and the Planet of Zoom when I was a kid, but back then you just kind of bought video games because you saw them, not necessarily because they were touting a particular character license.  (That being said, I desperately wanted, and later got, the Spider-Man game...)

The game is sort of an unusual vertical shooter since you only really use half of the screen and the targets come to you.  In that way it is a lot like Solaris (which we will get to).  Also, your horizontal movement influences the movement of the enemy targets.  This is due to environmental movement in the game, but in effect you can steer the targets into your line of fire.  There are two screens that make up each level, one is planetside where you must clear gates by flying between pylons while avoiding or blasting enemies. The second screen puts you in space against the enemy fleet and mothership.  The game works in an odd way in that you have to clear a set number of gates to leave the planet and you must destroy a set number of enemy ships to challenge the mother ship.  There is also a time limit to complete each level.  The time limit gets shorter each time around and the gates and ships required increase.  This creates a difficulty ramp pinch that ultimately demands a near perfect run to complete. Your score is also calculated by time.  The longer you survive, the higher your score.  It runs like a stopwatch.  Enemy targets you clear are added to your score.

Buck Rogers is not a bad game, but it does have a few hiccups that keep it from being truly great.  Most obviously there is the flicker.  Buck Rogers is a flicker-fest on par with Pac-man.  Your ship is made of two parts and both flicker.  The mothership is made of two parts and both flicker.  The gates flicker, the enemies flicker, the background of the planet's surface flickers, the enemy ships look like they are flickering, but its hard to tell.  All of that flicker is both distracting and seizure inducing.

Despite the flicker, collision detection isn't as bad as you might think.  There are still some missed shots or some gates that clip you even when they maybe shouldn't, but overall it's not quite the disaster it could be.  The difficulty ramps pretty well, if a bit slowly, but it can be a bit of a letdown to start over after playing at higher levels.  The game feels really sluggish by comparison.  Worst of all, though, is that the game just isn't quite as fun as it sounds like it would be.  The challenge is there, but the fun wears off faster than it should.

Buck Rogers and the Planet of Zoom is decent and provides some good challenge, but it's not a part of my collection that gets a lot of consistent play.

My Top Buck Rogers Score: 876,172 LV13

No comments:

Post a Comment