Saturday 22 January 2011

Space Dungeon

Classic Game Room is a bit hit-and-miss as far as i'm concerned. On one hand, it's nice to see obscure games and I do often enjoy their reviewing style. On the other, it's clearly aimed at a North American audience, doesn't often do its research and likes the Sega 32X. Nobody with sense likes the 32X.

But kudos to them for pointing out SPACE DUNGEON's existence, a 1981 arcade game by Taito. Its a Robotron 2084 clone released before Robotron 2084, and is arguably better than William's classic? Surely not!

Space Dungeon differs from Robotron 2084 in numerous ways. There's fewer enemies on screen at once, but to compensate there are multiple screens, hence the "dungeon" bit. Enemies enter the screen from the sides and constantly respawn, making things extremely difficult, and rather than give you the goal of slaughtering everything that moves, Space Dungeon is more about collecting items and getting to an exit without dying.

The items are optional, but will give you extra points if you can finish the level with them. It's one of those games where the concept is easier to grasp if you see it in action - these still screenshots I have in this post don't really do the game justice, partly because it's a challenge to both stay alive and take screenshots at the same time, but partly because the graphics can be misleading when nothing is happening.

But Space Dungeon is clearly a wonderful game, and potentially the best game I've played so far this year. Perhaps it's not as pretty or as nice to listen to as Robotron 2084, but from a gameplay perspective this is actually a step above what Williams would do a year later. Of course it could also be argued at a simpler experience is a better one in these sorts of circumstances - if I'd been reviewing Robotron 2084, I wouldn't have to have tagged on that comment about the screenshots being rubbish.

But this is definitely one to look out for. And when I say "look out for", I mean "download and play in MAME", because it's an exceptionally rare arcade cabinet and only saw one home port... for the Atari 5200. 99.9% of you will never see this game in the wild (it's apparently available as part of Taito Legends: Power-Up for the PSP but none of their home console compilations) and though it hasn't aged amazingly well, this is still a fun game to play today.

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