Friday 16 March 2018

Taz / Asterix (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Released: 1983

Taz is a single-screen action game that was released in Europe as Asterix.

You have three lives and your objective as Taz is to avoid dynamite and eat as much food as possible, while moving between eight horizontal tables. Once you've gobbled 50 pieces, a new food type will enter and the speed increases. The gameplay has the perfect risk-reward element where constant strategy is required in order to decide whether to chase an item that's heading towards the edge of the screen, or potentially face the danger of dynamite blowing up in your mouth! The chaotic action is mesmerising and the steadily increasing pace tests your reflexes to the limit in a similar fashion to Kaboom! (1981, Atari 2600). It's just as much about pattern recognition, and gaining a high score relies on you quickly identifying where the 'safe' items are in relation to the dynamite as everything flies into the screen; while it's sneaky, I love the inclusion of tomatoes, as their red sprite mirrors the colour of the dynamite, keeping you second guessing yourself at first glance! To help, the controls are rock-solid and expertly navigating Taz around the playfield while avoiding hazards is a breeze; so much so in fact that it's very gratifying to collect several items in a row during one sweep of the joystick! The inclusion of level progression would have been nice, but the fact that each wave has a new food item helps to keep you engaged. A minor flaw is that some patterns loop for long stretches of time, allowing you to rack up points without even moving. Graphically, there's zero flicker despite tons of sprites being visible at one time, and there's even a nicely detailed drawing of Taz on the title screen.

Taz is a simple, yet wonderfully crafted title that successfully blends reaction-based gameplay with fun, arcade-style action. Complimenting this are the solid controls that make every failure your own doing, which in turn motivates you to keep progressing until you beat your previous high score.

Random trivia: The Asterix version features different items to collect including shields, lamps and helmets.

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