Monday, 6 July 2015

Cavern Commander (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Paul D. Marshall
Publisher: Scorpio Gamesworld Ltd.
Released: 1984

Cavern Commander is a multi-screen arcade game and that was released with both 16K and 32K versions.

The object is to pilot your cavern cruiser through five perilous caves and land on the pad at the end of each one to refuel. Once you've successfully done this the game loops with much faster enemies. You can thrust your vehicle upwards using the fire button and each screen is timed so you can't wait around. Navigating seems daunting to start with as your cruiser is large in size and the caves are narrow. Touching part of the scenery or a floating death sign will instantly make you lose one of your three lives. The collision detection is fair though and definitely in favour of the player as you can clip through walls slightly. Although the game moves along at a slow pace the level layouts are short and basic so you can easily complete the first wave in a couple of minutes. One thing that I found odd was the order of the caves; the third one is the toughest with multiple tight turns to work through yet the final cave is a simple question mark pattern that can be beaten with little effort. The colour palette of the levels changes on a random basis which is a nice idea but some of them make the cave edges blur (especially the purple) even in S-video output. Things start to get a bit more hectic during the second wave of caves as enemies move much quicker and some hide behind the scenery giving you little time to react. However, rather than becoming stale due to the limited number of caves the game actually becomes more fun the more you play. The small areas your vehicle needs to navigate through keeps things tense and the unpredictable enemy patterns require some quick thinking to avoid them.

Cavern Commander is a great game and its simplicity is perfect for high score enthusiasts. It plays really well and I just wish that additional caves and more complicated layouts were available as the gameplay is fun and very addictive.

Random trivia: This was the only Atari 8-bit game published by Scorpio Gamesworld Ltd. Developer Paul D. Marshall worked on seven other titles though including Crazy Cobra (1986) and Rogue (1988).

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