Sunday, 1 May 2016

Cosmic Hunter (Microvision review)

Developer: Milton Bradley
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Released: 1981
 

Cosmic Hunter is a seek and capture game that was only released in North America.

 
As a hunter your mission is to capture as many alien creatures as possible. To do this, you must fire your weapon when you're two spaces away from the enemy either vertically or horizontally. Care must be taken though as if you get too close the alien can move in and attack if they're one space away in any direction (including diagonals); take damage and you lose one of your five lives. The other blocks on the screen are barriers to hide behind and there's also four invisible traps that temporarily stun you if walked into. What initially impressed me is how relatively advanced the gameplay is; while most other Microvision titles are simple sports games or basic shooters this one has a more impressive scope. Many of its elements are well thought-out but the A.I. is incredibly smart and it's tough to outwit opponents unless they accidentally walk into a trap. The most challenging part of Cosmic Hunter isn't the actual gameplay though, it's getting used to the awkward control scheme; the directional buttons are very spaced out from each other and I frequently had to take my eye off the screen to see where my thumb should be placed so the game would register an input. This is a constant issue, especially when trying to make fast-paced movements, or trying to capitalise on a stunned opponent.  Similarly, the two Fire buttons are in odd positions, as they sit just above (and to the corners) of the directional inputs; again, this means you sometimes have to stop what you're doing just to shoot. In my opinion, it would have been much better if the developers used the button between the directions (i.e. the input used to start each game) as it would have greatly helped when wanting to make quick-second decisions. Unfortunately these control quirks completely ruin the game as you simply can't react the way you would with a more modern d-pad. If you're really a glutton for punishment there's also a Skill Level 2 setting with even faster enemies and eight hidden traps!
 
Cosmic Hunter is a brilliant idea with tons of potential, but the unorthodox controls tarnish any enjoyment that the game might have. It's a real shame as there's clearly a lot to like, but ultimately it's pretty unplayable and will leave you walking away in frustration before too long.
 
 
 
Random trivia: The only other Microvision game to be released in 1981 was Alien Raiders (a.k.a. Space Blitz).

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