Wednesday 11 March 2015

Up, Up and Away (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Ringblack Software
Publisher: Starcade Software
Released: 1983

Up, Up and Away is a side-scrolling hot-air balloon game that was also included on the Compilation C cassette.

There are five skill levels to play through and your task is to guide your hot air balloon safely through the level while avoiding things like lightning, golf balls, kites and pooping birds! The action is much slower paced than say a side scrolling shooter and while the tough gameplay keeps you on your toes it has kind of a soothing atmosphere! With no weapons to speak of you have to constantly think ahead and react to the ever-changing surroundings; this involves judging the distance between your vehicle and the obstacles as well as factoring in the wind which tries to pull you up and squish your balloon against the top of the screen. The two main things you need to monitor are your sand and fuel levels. The latter constantly depletes so you must remember to land on the bases (i.e. checkpoints) in order to refuel. Sand can be stocked up in the same manner and you can throw it by pressing the fire button. The reasons you'd want to do this are to hit the 'P' markers for extra points and to help make your hot-air balloon lighter when the elements are forcing you towards the ground. The game has a great risk-reward system and it's always a gamble flying past the clouds as you never know if lightning is about to strike! Each skill level adds something different to the gameplay such as kamikaze aeroplanes and windmills that pull you towards them so it's worth playing through to see the differences; be warned though that Levels 4 and 5 are super fast and rock hard! The graphics are primitive but they have a certain charm that fits with the simplistic gameplay. The music is utterly horrendous though and sounds like a child picking up a toy keyboard and hitting random notes!

Up, Up and Away is an enjoyable title that will definitely test your gaming skills. Its interesting mechanics and perfect controls make this a fun, slower-paced arcade experience.

Random trivia: One of the programmers of Up, Up and Away was Gwyll Jones. The only other 8-bit Atari game he worked on was Savage Pond which also appeared on the Compilation C cassette.

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