Thursday 12 May 2016

Sea Duel (Microvision review)

Developer: Milton Bradley
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Released: 1980

Sea Duel is a turn-based strategy title that shares many similarities with the classic guessing game Battleship.

Battling the computer or competitively against a friend, the objective is to defeat your opponent by scoring six points. To do this, you control either a Submarine (represented by a one pixel dot) or a Destroyer (represented by a three pixel line) and use its unique method of attack; for example, the Destroyer fires a nine pixel blast surrounding the player, while the Sub launches one pixel projectiles from distance. While inputting your moves you must take into account your remaining ammo and fuel and then watch the action to see how your opponent reacts. The cat-and-mouse nature of the battles is highly enjoyable and the fact that each game only lasts for a couple of minutes makes it perfectly suited to the handheld format. For such a simple concept it actually has a surprising amount of replayability; that's partly due to the fantastically addictive gameplay, but also because the two vehicles play so differently to each other that the action never gets tedious. The multiplayer option is particularly entertaining as you secretly input commands and then brag about every hit you manage to dish out! Another nice feature is that before you accept all your inputted moves you can change your mind and clear everything; this avoids any potential frustration and leaves you feeling in complete control. Overall, almost every part of the game is well designed to create a cohesive whole where everything compliments each other. There's even some satisfying explosion SFX throughout (as well as a cool 'blast' effect where the screen turns black!) and the intro even includes a short jingle with a pixel based graphic of the American flag... all of which are incredibly advanced for a Microvision game! My only minor quibble is that I wish there was an option to have unlimited (or at least a heavily increased amount of) fuel so that you could play more defensively and strategically, rather than always attacking to avoid becoming an inoperable, lame duck.
Sea Duel is the standout gem in the Microvision library and there's tons of fun to be had whether you're playing alone or with a friend. It makes great use of the system's strengths and manages to draw you in with its pick-up-and-play nature, awesome gameplay and interesting combat system.
Random trivia: The game was released under many different names including Bataille Navalle (France), Duel (Netherlands) and See-Duell (Germany).

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