Friday 1 November 2019

Gun Boat (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: General Masters Corporation
Publisher: ALA Software
Released: 1983

Gun Boat is an action game that shares similarities with River Rescue (1983, Atari 8-bit).

The objective is to collect treasure in the river and bring it to the dock to score 200 points. If you hit the scenery or a police boat you lose 100 points, and the game ends when you've lost all five lives. Left and right on the joystick controls your speed, while up and down allows you to dodge the incoming shells that are fired by the police. The worst part of the gameplay is that you will have seen everything it has to offer within the first 20 seconds; there's literally no variation to the scenery (which seems to loop endlessly) and there aren't any additional enemy types or hazards to spice things up. It does nothing to engage the player, and once boredom sets in you'll be wishing for the ability to potentially run out of fuel as in River Raid (1982, Atari 2600) to make things marginally interesting. A major flaw is that the police boats aren't animated correctly, and instead they somehow have the ability to clip through the scenery and reappear after shifting themselves horizontally! This leads to many cheap deaths and the only way to somewhat compensate for this bug is to wait for them to teleport when a bend is approaching. Another weird programming quirk is that enemy shells never fire directly ahead, and instead their shots always bend to the left or right after launching. This might sound like an innocuous comment, but it does mean that the already limited real estate is even more cramped, considering you're having to avoid the scenery, coast guard and their shots that have a 15° spread angle! Even the controls are terrible and inputs will often be interrupted for a split-second while you're continuously holding up or down on the joystick; in a twitch-based game this is completely unforgivable.

Gun Boat is an utterly forgettable title that skimps on gameplay features to provide you with seconds worth of content before it blows its load and repeats the same segment ad nauseum. It's full of programming issues too and more closely resembles an early prototype than a completed and feature-rich game.

Random trivia: ALA Software published 37 Atari 8-bit titles in 1983, including Alien Attack, and Wizards and Dragons.

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