Sunday 2 June 2019

Beach Head (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Kevin Homer
Publisher: Access Software
Released: 1983

Beach Head is a World War II themed shooter that was also released on the Commodore 64 in 1983.

As Chief Commander of land and sea forces in the Pacific, your mission is to capture the enemy fortress of Kuhn-Lin. The gameplay consists of five screens with the first being an overhead map where you can select either Screen 2 or 3; it's a neat idea and the ability to choose your path is novel for the time. In Screen 2 you need to take your ten ship fleet through a hidden passage while avoiding mines and incoming torpedoes. It's a satisfying game of cat and mouse where you're constantly adjusting your speed and angle, all aided by the solid collision detection. Screen 3 tasks you with shooting down incoming aircraft as they attack your fleet; the sprite scaling is excellent and the optional recon planes are a great touch to gain bonus points. In Screen 4, you use heavy guns to blast enemy ships while using Up/Down on the joystick to control the fire angle. What makes this segment so enjoyable is that your radar tells you how long/short you were after each attempt, and in many ways it's reminiscent of the board game Battleship. Screen 5 is an auto-scroller where you drive a tank and fight your way through the island defense system; it's a fun obstacle type course and I really like how enemy patterns change throughout. However, the collision detection is spotty due to the side-angled view, which also makes it difficult to judge spatial distance. The finale is a boss battle where you must land ten shells in the fortress to destroy it. The fortress turret takes a while to turn around, but it's anxiety-inducing due to the fact that it never misses its target once it's facing you; this guarantees you're going to lose some of your tanks, making for intense battles where speed and precision is key.

Beach Head is an exceptional shooter that's loaded with variety and the four difficulty levels provide plenty of replayability. Each screen presents new and exciting challenges for the player, and for a title with so many gameplay styles it's impressive that it succeeds in so many areas.

Random trivia: Kevin Homer also programmed the golf game Leader Board for Atari 8-bit computers (1986).

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