From Slug Russell’s “Spacewar,” the first video game ever made, to “Halo 3,” blowing stuff up has always been a staple of video game entertainment. It’s a concept that is hard to screw up, and yet Atari managed to do just that with “Air-Sea Battle.”
PRESS FIRE TO START
The concept behind “Air-Sea Battle” is similar to one of Atari’s most classic games, “Combat,” which was the pack-in cart with the 2600. In that game players basically tried to shoot each other in a variety of combat situations. With this game, the concept isn’t to destroy each other but shoot moving targets instead. It’s like a video game of a carnival shooting gallery, minus all the fun.
Although the cart includes 27 different variations of a few different games, there is very little difference between them. Basically, players play as either a stationary or mobile cannon and attempt to shoot the constantly moving targets within the allotted time.
PLAYER 1 – READY!
Simple concepts to a game do not necessarily make it bad. In fact, some of the best and most memorable games of all-time are very simplistic (i.e. “Pac-Man,” “Space Invaders”). Of course, it is possible that a concept can be so primitive that there’s no fun or challenge to be had in playing it. This is why “Air-Sea Battle” fails miserably.
Attempting to shoot moving targets as they slide across the screen could have been a fun game, but it’s extremely boring as presented here. In the games where you’re able to move your cannon to chase the targets there’s at least some dexterity and action involved making for a bare minimum of fun. However, in the games where your cannon is stationary and can only shoot in three different directions there’s very little challenge other than trying to time your shots correctly. Once you get the timing down there’s no appeal at all.
I suppose this game would be fun for very young children considering how basic the concept is as well as how easy it is to play. But this game clearly isn’t intended to be a game for kids, but a run-of-the-mill action game. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how it plays.
The controls to the games within “Air-Sea Battle” vary depending on which individual game is played. In some you’re able to move your cannon back and forth, while it’s stationary in others. I’m surprised this game didn’t utilize the paddle controllers considering the sliding concept and the need for quick movements. For the most part, the actual response is satisfactory.
The only problem is in the games with stationary cannons where you must push down on the joystick (and hold it) to make the cannon fire straight up and push up on the joystick to lower the cannon to a 30-degree angle. This is completely backwards logic! Even after extended play it was something I was unable to get used to.
SPRITES & PIXELS
To criticize such a lame and boring game for having equally lame and boring graphics would be redundant and futile… but I’ll do it anyway. The graphics to “Air-Sea Battle” are extremely primitive, even by Atari 2600 standards. Everything is blocky, monochrome and just barely reflects the actual item it’s supposed to represent. The only redeeming quality this game has as far as aesthetics is the distinct shades of blue running horizontally across the screen. Otherwise, it’s ugly to look at.
It’s hard to critically analyze a game that only has two sounds: the sound of a shot being fired and the sound of something exploding. I have heard even worse sounds in an Atari game, but there’s definitely nothing noteworthy about the acoustics here.
INSERT COIN TO CONTINUE
Each individual game on the cart consists of rounds that last 2 minutes and 16 seconds (why such a random number?). I could barely get through 30 seconds of any given game, so the re-play factor to this cart is not only minimal but negative. Again, young children might like it and it might hold their attention for a little while, but otherwise “Air-Sea Battle” has no replay-ability.
From the title alone, I’ll bet “Air-Sea Battle” mislead a lot of consumers back in the day. Bad games have as much lasting power as masterpieces, and this one certainly belongs in the Hall of Shame.
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