system Index S
Sea Devil
Grade: D-
Publisher: L&M Software (1983)
Posted: 2024/2/4

screenshotI really wanted to like this good-looking Defender (Atari XEGS, 1982) clone. You shoot at these tentacled creatures that suggest War of the Worlds-style aliens. Then it dawned on me that this game takes place underwater. I don't know what gave it away - the title perhaps? Anyway that also explains the sonar pings and attractive blue backdrop.

Sea Devil puts you in command of a submarine with rapid-fire guns. The flames shooting from its exhaust may not make any sense but work with me people! A radar display along the top displays "blips" of enemies, and you can thrust left or right to seek them out. The controls feel really good!

As you progress new enemies like divers begin to appear. I wasn't sure if these were good divers or bad divers, but I got points for killing them, so I guess the answer is "bad". There are little yellow cones on the seafloor, but I never really understood what role they play. When your sub explodes it unleashes a scream that makes it sound like it was possessed by the devil. Scary!

Sea Devil seems promising at first but the frame rate struggles to keep up. Your streaming shots look awesome but whether they destroy an enemy or pass right through them is a crapshoot. As the waves progress the game gets progressively less stable and hard to play.

I have a high tolerance for choppy animation and bad collision detection, but the lack of difficulty is an even bigger issue. Enemies are not aggressive and their missiles are more like mines that linger on the screen. The game doesn't get vaguely challenging until about 15 minutes in.

Though technically deficient, Sea Devil gets credit for ambition. It can be fairly enjoyable for a while but it doesn't take long for the boredom to set in. And by the time the real challenge kicks in, it feels like you're fighting the frame rate more than any sea creatures. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 120,250
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Victory (Colecovision)
Missile War (Arcadia 2001)
N-Sub (Sega SG-1000)
Chopper Command (Atari 2600)
Space Armada (Intellivision)

Sea Wolf/Missile
Grade: C
Publisher: Bally (1981)
Posted: 2014/4/6

screenshotAtari fans will recognize this two-in-one cartridge as the Astrocade equivalent of Air-Sea Battle (Atari 2600, 1978). In the Sea Wolf variation two players move submarines along the bottom of the screen, firing torpedoes at ships patrolling above. The huge tankers are sitting ducks, but those little speed boats are tough to hit.

The ships are painted pink and yellow, which ruins the otherwise perfect illusion of a realistic simulation. At first I thought I was supposed to shoot the "other" color, but apparently color doesn't make a difference. Sea Wolf has a few cool features to spice up the derivative action. You can fire two shots at a time, and after depleting your ammo your shooting is briefly suspended during a reload phase.

In addition, a layer of mines lines the center of the screen which can block your shots. The Missile variation is a bit more exciting. In this one you fire at airplanes flying overhead, but you can only move your cannon across your half of the screen. This seems limiting until you realize you can guide your missiles.

The head-to-head action is pretty competitive, especially when you and a friend are both zeroing in on the same small plane. Before each game you enter the duration in seconds, and I'd recommend 111 because it's easy to type and keeps the matches short. There's nothing spectacular about Sea Wolf/Missile, but it has just enough bells and whistles to keep things interesting. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: Missile 111sec
High score: 660
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Robot War/Torpedo Alley (Fairchild Channel F)
Astro Battle (Bally Astrocade)
R-Types (Playstation)
Sea Battle (Intellivision)
Air-Sea Battle (Atari 2600)

Sneaky Snake
Grade: C
Publisher: New Image (1983)
Posted: 2020/6/16

screenshotI was expecting Sneaky Snake to be some kind of lame version of Surround (Atari 2600, 1977), but it turned out to be a full-fledged Centipede (Atari 2600, 1982) clone! That's pretty ambitious for a home brew. You move your little joystick-shaped cannon around the bottom of the screen, rapidly firing through a field of mushrooms at a "snake" that divides and slithers its way to the bottom.

The animation is smooth and the controls feel responsive. The screen does become littered with pixelated artifacts as you clear away mushrooms, and like the mushrooms themselves these fragments are deadly to touch. The spider which was such a menace in the arcade is pretty tame here, moving slowly and always emerging from the same spot. The points you score for hitting him are displayed in the lower left of the screen, which is a nice touch.

Eliminating the snake causes the game to freeze for a second or two as it "resets" for the next wave. Each wave has a new color scheme, adding a sense of progression. At first Sneaky Snake runs disappointingly slow, but the pace picks up quickly. Unfortunately the difficulty does not, and it feels like the faster snakes are actually easier to clear. It's hard to live up to a legendary game like Centipede, but Sneaky Snake gets credit for trying. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 16,693

Grade: A
Publisher: Bally (1985)
Posted: 2020/10/23

screenshotJust when I thought I had reviewed all the best Astrocade games I stumbled upon the modestly-titled Soccer on my multicart. Wowowow. This is one stunning game with no less than fourteen tiny multicolored players scurrying around a well-manicured green field. The game is fast and easy to play.

Each team moves in unison but the players gradually disperse as the action unfolds. I just love how you can turn the knob on the controller to "aim" your passes and shots. It's a feature no other console, classic or otherwise, could provide. The ball changes possession whenever a player passes over it, so it can be hard to tell who has it at times. Still, with enough practice you can methodically pass it down the field.

Score a goal and some truly raucous crowd noise kicks in, albeit briefly. Soccer is also jam-packed with features. You can customize the controls, disable out-of-bounds (yes please), and select between four CPU skill levels. There's even a shootout mode. I played this game with my buddy Brent and we had a blast. Soccer has a level of sophistication you don't expect from a vintage title, with the excellent gameplay to back it up. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Solar Conqueror
Grade: B-
Publisher: Astrocade (1981)
Posted: 2012/5/9

screenshotRare games have a propensity to suck, but Solar Conqueror is a surprisingly satisfying space shooter. The action takes place on a single screen, and I don't think I'd be out of line comparing this to Yars' Revenge (Atari 2600, 1982). The screen is arranged with a planet surface on the right side that launches missiles from its center. In addition to shooting these down, you'll contend with kamikaze ships, asteroids, and satellites that deploy deadly electrical fields.

The electrical field effect looks pretty awesome. Your ship controls like the one in Asteroids, allowing you to thrust and drift while unleashing a rapid-fire stream of shots. The instructions refer to this maneuver as "the SLIPPER". You can fire in eight directions but your ship doesn't seem to want to remain in the diagonal position for some reason.

What's most appealing about Solar Conqueror is the fast, non-stop action. As the waves progress more and more missiles are unleashed, some of which fire their own missiles! Since you can't fly off the screen you may find yourself in some cramped quarters, but that just adds to the challenge. Four people can play, but only by taking turns.

I find it amusing how the game adds a lot of unnecessary stuff to make itself seem more sophisticated. After every few waves a "hyperspace" effect is used to simulate travel to the next star system. This hokey display of giant pixels and grating sound effects can thankfully be skipped with the push of a button. The game displays a long string of numbers and symbols across the top of the screen, which are needlessly confusing. Most of them are totally inconsequential, but in a way they just add to the game's charm. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: 3 ships
High score: 3,030
1 to 4 players 

Space Fortress
Grade: D-
Publisher: Astrovision (1981)
Posted: 2011/4/7

screenshotSpace Fortress is similar to Cosmic Ark (Atari 2600, 1982), but much less refined. And when you're making a lackluster shooter like Cosmic Ark look good, you've really missed the mark! Space Fortress puts you in control of an oriental rug jettisoned into deep space by the human race because it was so [expletive] ugly. You defend yourself from attack using four cannons and fortunately for you, the aliens always approach in your direct line of fire! Dumb-asses. I just hope these guys never wise up and learn to attack diagonally, or we're toast!

There's not a lot of variety in Space Fortress, and as far as I can tell, zero strategy. The game is really only playable at its highest difficulty, which I will admit does pose a serious challenge. You fire a single shot by simply pushing the joystick in whatever direction, which works fine - until the pace picks up. Then the game becomes a major wrist-buster, prompting my friend Scott to proclaim it "even worse than Summer Games!"

When your fortress is finally destroyed, you're subjected to one of the most gratuitous explosion sequences ever witnessed in a video game. Pixelated lines spring forth from your rug for a good 15 seconds, transforming the screen into an ugly mess. It's like the bastard son of that mother ship explosion in Gorf. Scott speculated that this elaborate effect was actually programmed first, leaving about 37 bytes for the remainder of the game. If nothing else, Space Fortress is one of the more mock-worthy titles in my collection. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: 1 base level 9
High score: 3,300
1 player 

Star Battle
Grade: F-
Publisher: Bally (1977)
Posted: 2009/6/13

screenshotI've seen a lot of games try to recreate the dramatic Death Star trench battle from the first Star Wars film, but this has got to be the sorriest of the bunch. Programming the illusion of moving through a trench is surprisingly easy - you just render a static trench with several sections, and then cycle the section colors. But no matter how effective the illusion, it's pretty pointless without some solid gameplay to back it up. Star Battle is sorely lacking in this regard!

You control (and I use the term loosely) an X positioned near the bottom of the screen. At first I thought it was a cross-hair, but it eventually dawned on me that it's supposed to represent an X-Wing fighter! Pressing the fire button lets you fire at the Tie Fighter meandering near the top of the trench.

Your X-Wing bounces around on its own accord, so you really need to wrestle with it and it's impossible to shoot with any precision. The Tie Fighter returns fire, and the winner is the first side to reach a predetermined score. A two-player mode allows a second human to control the tie fighter, but why drag someone else into this mess? Star Battle is so astoundingly bad, you may find yourself looking around and asking, "Is this supposed to be a joke? Okay guys, you can come out now!" © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

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