Monday 28 September 2020

Cosmic Ark (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Imagic
Publisher: Imagic
Released: 1982

Cosmic Ark is a shooter that's exclusive to the Atari 2600 console.

Piloting the Cosmic Ark, your mission is to rescue creatures before the sun of Alpha Ro fades. There's two distinct gameplay scenes, with the first tasking you with pressing the joystick in the direction of incoming meteors to destroy them. The gameplay is seriously intense and it never allows you to take a moment to relax, resulting in a somewhat stressful experience that always errs on the right side of fun. A big part of this is that the difficulty curve is spot-on and it gently eases you in before unleashing an absolute onslaught of meteors your way! Being a stationary target adds to the anxiety and I love how the sound of meteors heading your way seems to increase in treble noise as the wave continues. The second scene tasks you with exiting the Ark in a shuttleship and rescuing two creatures using its tractor beam. Care must be taken to avoid the defence systems that move up/down and fire at intervals, and a warning sound will alert you if the Ark is in danger of incoming meteor attacks. It's very much a game of 'cat and mouse' and the most enjoyable aspect is the constant battle of trying to rescue as many creatures as possible, while giving yourself enough time to protect the Ark from impending doom. This multitasking feature gives the scene a real edge and the controls respond admirably throughout. A nice touch is how the creatures change their appearance after the first few waves, which includes separate animations; this provides incentive to keep playing in the hope that other species appear. Also, the scrolling backgrounds that twist and rotate are mightily impressive and perfectly suit the space theme.

Cosmic Ark is a terrific game and somewhat of a technical showcase for the console given its refined graphics and overall presentation. Thankfully the action is just as impressive and its solid controls, twitch-based gameplay and multi-screen approach result in an exceptional title that quickly gets your heart-rate pumping!

Random trivia: The awesome background effects were actually created due to a bug in the Atari 2600 hardware.

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