Thursday 12 March 2015

Dawn Raider (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Geoffrey Storey
Publisher: Atlantis Software
Released: 1988

Dawn Raider is a side-scrolling shoot-em-up with very similar gameplay mechanics to the Arcade title Super Cobra (1981).

The main menu has an awesome rendition of the Beverly Hills Cop theme and every time I play this game I have to stop and listen to the whole thing! The basic premise is to guide your helicopter through an underground maze, avoiding the walls and destroying enemies. Ammo is limited so you have to use it wisely and make sure to top up by shooting the 'A' pods when they appear. Pressing a button will fire your gun straight ahead but you can hold Down as well to unleash a bomb that destroys things below you. Another important part of the gameplay is your fuel gauge; this is displayed at the top of the screen and again you have to constantly monitor it and top up by shooting the 'F' pods. The game is incredibly difficult and even completing the first level is a challenge. Each area is very narrow and you'll need some memorisation and pixel perfect control over your helicopter if you want to succeed. Although the game has four levels the layout is exactly the same in each one, albeit with more enemies and projectiles being thrown your way. Personally, I found taking the top route the easiest to master as you have a little more space to work with. I was also able to progress further by not shooting everything in sight; this sounds counter intuitive but with a limited supply of ammo (and 'A' pods) it's worth trying to dodge as many enemies as possible and conserving your bullets / bombs until near the end of the level. Once you get the hang of the game it's nerve-wracking but great fun and there's a real sense of accomplishment when you manage to conquer Level 1! In terms of graphics and in-game sound effects they're quite primitive but they get the job done.

Some people might dismiss Dawn Raider due to it being a clone but it's actually a great game in its own right. It's tough but highly addictive and if you're anything like me you'll keep trying until you beat that first level...even if it takes you 26 years!

Random trivia: Dawn Raider was programmed by Geoffrey Storey who also developed two other Atari 8-bit games called Money Bags (1987) and Air Rescue (1991).

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