Monday 31 January 2011

Cosmic Avenger

Word to the wise, steer clear of Minecraft if you plan on maintaining a gaming blog.

Another short review to keep the content flowing. This is Cosmic Avenger, a 1981 arcade game from Universal. Why do you care? Because it's the first side-scrolling shoot-'em-up ever. Yeah... I didn't realise either.

I should have known about this one a lot sooner, but because it's a game by Universal and not someone like Namco or Konami, re-releases are in short supply and the game hence does not see the recognition it deserves. It's simplistic in nature, not too kind on the eye and is beaten by most other arcade shooters on the planet, but it's still a fairly challenging and fun game.

Like the more commonly known Scramble by Konami, Cosmic Avenger arms you with a weapon that shoots forward, and a bomb that arcs down to hit ground targets. The main aim is to survive, avoiding enemy fire and obstacles while trying to rank up a high score. It doesn't get much more interesting than that, though it's worth noting that at least the scenery changes.

Graphics wise, it's nothing special. Limited palettes mean everything is bright and colourful, and that arguably that suggests it hasn't aged well. You're not going to have much joy in the sound department either. It's very clear why this isn't considered a gaming classic, yet some of the best games of the last thirty years (Defender, Gradius, R-Type etc.) owe their lives to this one.

Is it worth hunting down? Probably not. It's an interesting piece of history but its high level of difficulty and lack of refinements seen in later sidescrolling shooters will put off a few. Scramble may be a simpler game, but I feel it's also a better one.

Those with a vendetta against emulation can also pick this game up for the Colecovision, though of course Scramble, Super Cobra (the sequel to Scramble) and the numerous other clones that exist are far easier to find.

But love it or hate it, it's not good to forget that Cosmic Avenger exists. It might not be worth much now, but back in 1981 this was cutting edge.

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