Thursday 15 March 2018

Kaboom! (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision
Released: 1981

Kaboom! is an action game that uses either a joystick or a paddle controller.

You control three water buckets, and your job is to catch the bombs thrown by the Mad Bomber at the top of the screen. This takes place across short waves of increasing speed, and once you've lost all three buckets it's game over; however, a new bucket is given for every 1,000 points. While joysticks work okay for the first few waves, they're a determent to progressing, as they only move at a single speed. In contrast, the paddles are an absolute necessity and allow you to move around the playfield at the speed dictated by your dial spin. They're a joy to use and their precision and dexterity results in you feeling totally in control. The gameplay quickly peaks in difficulty and while I can see how the sharp increase in speed could deter some players, the real key is to 'zone out' and allow your reactions to take over; when you do get on a roll you'll find yourself holding your breath, completely in awe (or disbelief!) of your ninja-like gaming skills as chaos rains down upon the playfield. It's thrilling, hypnotic, and never has a videogame created a perfect combination of zen-like gameplay and complete, unabashed carnage. In turn, this motivates you to keep trying to beat your high score and the sense of satisfaction you get from doing so is second-to-none. I also like that the game relies on you pressing the fire button before each wave, as it gives you a chance to calm your nerves before the next hectic onslaught! A subtle, yet fantastic part of the gameplay is the SFX, as they increase in pitch every time you reach a new wave; this creates tension and anticipation for just how crazy the next wave will be!

Kaboom! is a unique and maddeningly addictive game that shines in every aspect. Using the paddle controllers is essential, and in doing so, you'll really feel like you've earned your high score due to the extreme reactions and skill that's required to last more than a handful of waves!

Random trivia: In 1983, the game was ported to the Atari 5200 and Atari 8-bit computers.

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