Saturday 1 December 2018

Kaboom! (Atari 5200 review)

Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision
Released: 1983

Kaboom! is an action game that was originally released on the Atari 2600 in 1981.

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. The standard 5200 controller does an above-average job of affording you precision in your movements, and its analog nature works much better than a digital joystick for meticulously controlling the speed of your water buckets (e.g. rather than only having one speed). That said, when compared to the paddle controller used in the Atari 2600 original, the 5200 controller definitely comes up short due to its over-sensitivity on the horizontal axis, leading to many annoying bomb explosions. The gameplay quickly peaks in difficulty, but when you do get on a roll it's thrilling and hypnotic, and never has a videogame created a perfect combination of zen-like gameplay and complete, unabashed carnage. 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! This port features some interesting additions, such as a pleasant jingle that plays whenever you catch a bomb, and a two player option where one person controls the Mad Bomber; the latter is a great idea for creating your own wave patterns. What's disappointing though is how little attention Activision paid to the graphics; sure, there's now a skyline background, but in reality, the game looks almost identical to the Atari 2600 original from two years prior.

Kaboom! is a brilliant title that's held back from true greatness by its somewhat imprecise inputs on the 5200. However, if you're willing to look past the controller issues there's still a fantastically addictive game here, and the inclusion of a two player competitive mode makes this worth the price of admission alone.

Random trivia: An updated version of Kaboom! was planned for release on the Super Nintendo in 1993/1994, but was ultimately cancelled.

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