Air-Sea Battle Review

Developer: Atari Publisher: Atari
Release Date: 1977 Also On:

I’m surprised this game hasn’t been reviewed by the other guy yet. Air-Sea Battle is one of the original launch titles for the Atari 2600. Like Combat, this is one that most owners of the system would remember because it was so common they might as well have made tiled floors out of it after the 2600 tanked. In general, the system’s launch titles were pretty much as basic as it gets. The bare minimum in terms of depth and graphics. However, we all know launch titles are sometimes the most memorable. So how does Air-Sea Battle compare to a legend like Combat?

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Graphically, this is pretty standard Atari. So standard, in fact, that similar arrangements were ripped off all throughout the 2600’s life span. Air-Sea battle features very basic playing fields with the minimum suggestion of ships, turrets, planes, and the like. The color schemes aren’t anything that will wow you, but they do their job. Decent amount of variety for the most part, but it’s all pretty simple. Maybe a little too simple. Air-Sea Battle doesn’t seem to have that nostalgic ‘remember when’ feel to it graphically. It does its job, but that’s about all it does. Most of the variety you’ll find here involves simply adjustments in sprite design. Hardly a graphical feat of any merit.

Air-Sea Battle also has standard 2600 sound, just like the graphics. Whereas everyone who’s played Combat or grew up with it remembers the tread-sound of the tanks or the sound of hits, there really isn’t anything memorable in Air-Sea Battle. Basic bullet sounds and basic explosions. That’s about it. I understand this is one of their first titles, but it really doesn’t have the ‘oomph’ to it that a game like Combat does. Could have made it a bit more exciting.

The gameplay in Air-Sea Battle is also as basic as it gets. You have several variations on what is essentially the same game: shooting at targets with some thing and trying to beat your opponent within the time limit or by reaching a certain number of points. Talk about boring. The computer is pathetically easy and even though it can be fun with another player, it’s not nearly as engaging and rage-inducing as a good round or two of Combat. The variations are all so similar that Air-Sea Battle will likely only hold your attention for a few minutes. There are only so many planes, ships, and happy faces I can shoot at before I yawn. Yes, you heard me right, one of the game variations is supposed to simulate a target range at a fair, but let’s face it, it’s the planes and ships again, just different sprites. You can check it out here to see what I mean:

In terms of creativity, Air-Sea Battle wasn’t actually a new idea really. I understand it’s an early game and for a launch title it was certainly new at the time, but you already had Combat to check out and it was leagues better than this. They tried to make Air-Sea Battle more competitive as opposed to one-on-one battles, but it made it a hell of a lot more boring in the long run. Can’t really say there’s anything creative here, Anti-Aircraft, which is partially included in this title, came out in the arcades two years prior.

Though Air-Sea Battle can be fun with friends, it’s not something you’re likely to come back to otherwise. Playing the computer is embarrassing and even with a friend you really won’t have too much fun because there isn’t exactly a lot of skill to it. In some levels you can get more points for harder to hit objects, but so what? It lacks the competitive feel of Combat, which is what made that game really stand out. Unless you’re playing against someone who sucks, you won’t have too much fun with this nor will you likely come back to it often. I guess for length it’s okay, though. You can have short games and there are a variety of different ways to play, I just don’t want to.

Air-Sea Battle is a title that hasn’t really aged well. In the proper setting, it could maybe, a little, kind-of be fun, but that depends on the players involved and not the game itself. The computer is pathetic, and a quick run with a friend really isn’t enjoyable unless you start getting on each others’ nerves and swearing ensues. Otherwise, there is no way you’re playing this alone and I doubt you’ll have too many friends at hand that will suggest, “Hey, want to play Air-Sea Battle?” Unlike Combat, which is still a lot of fun to this day, this is definitely not something you’re going to be reaching for soon or often.

Graphics: 4.5
Sound: 4
Gameplay: 5.5
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 4.5
Final: 4.7
Written by Stan Review Guide

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