Monday 25 April 2016

Super Cobra (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Konami, Parker Brothers
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Released: 1983

Super Cobra is a horizontally scrolling shooter and the follow-up to Scramble (1981, Arcades).

Piloting a chopper your mission is to travel 11,000 miles through enemy territory as you face flying saucers, rockets and heavy ground artillery. Your journey is split up into eleven unique stages and you can either fire straight ahead or bomb below. These bombs travel at roughly a 120° angle and it takes a while to adjust to them not travelling straight below as you have to plan ahead. The fuel gauge at the bottom of the screen is vitally important and you must destroy any fuel tanks to keep topping up. Compared to the Colecovision version (1983) the scrolling isn't smooth and this jerkiness can affect your accuracy when firing bombs. The collision detection is spotty at best and it's sometimes pot-luck as to whether you hit a wall and die, or clip straight through to safety. Similarly, the hit detection is strange as bullets frequently fly into an enemy vehicle and cause no damage whatsoever. Despite the above, it's still Super Cobra and there's lots to love gameplay wise. Running low on petrol is genuinely terrifying, especially when the warning sounds are ringing and you're close to the end of a level! Navigating your way through tight spaces while destroying enemies, avoiding rockets and topping up on fuel is always a thrill and this multitasking is what makes the action so great as a core concept. However, I do wish there was more variety in the level design. The game is surprisingly easy and the fact that you can continue your progress when you lose a life is an interesting twist; I actually like this feature as it allows you to see everything the game has to offer while resetting your score as a form of punishment.
The Atari 2600 port of Super Cobra is respectable but it certainly doesn't hold up anywhere near as well as the Colecovision version. Still, the core gameplay idea is solid and if you can look past the flaws and take advantage of the unlimited continues there's enough here to satisfy fans of the genre.
Random trivia: The game was also ported to the rare Adventure Vision handheld in 1982.

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