Cosmic Ark Review

Developer: Imagic Publisher: Imagic
Release Date: 1982 Also On: None

Sometimes Atari logic baffles me. I mean seriously, if your sun was about to explode and a giant spaceship was coming to save you, would you activate your planetary defense system to keep it from doing so? That seems to be what Imagic wants you to believe. However, despite the fact that the logic of the game is so flawed, the title manages to be a decent game that is worth a look from the Atari 2600 fan.

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The objective of the game is basically broken up into two sections which repeat endlessly until your spaceship runs out of fuel. In the first section, your objective is to prevent your spaceship from being hit by a meteor. You do this by firing out of your ship at the meteors. You lose one fuel unit per shot, but you gain a fuel unit for each hit, so if you do this section well you will break even. Should you get hit by a meteor, your ship will dematerialize and then come back onto the screen from the top once again, at which point you will have to start over. You will also lose ten fuel units as a penalty for being hit.

Assuming that you get by the meteor barrage, your ship will approach the surface of a planet. At this point, you have a limited time to maneuver a smaller space shuttle down toward the planet and attempt to grab two people off the surface of the planet using its tractor beam. You would think that the people would want to be rescued and would therefore stand still, but instead they run around and you have to chase them. You have to hold them in your tractor beam for a second before you secure them on your shuttle.

Making this part of the mission even more dangerous is the fact that there are guns on either side of the screen acting as a planetary defense system, and these guns don’t want you saving the people either. Should these guns hit you, you lose the shuttle and also any people you might have saved up to that point. This game doesn’t get high points in the reality department on account of these things, but it does make the game more challenging and thus more fun.

Although the single-colored black background doesn’t look very impressive, and the guns on the planets don’t either, the people you are trying to save, as well as the spaceship and space shuttle do look pretty good. Even the tractor beam looks pretty good. So overall the graphics are pretty good for a 1982 Atari 2600 title. The sound effects related to the spaceship’s entrance and exit from the screen as well as the sounds of the tractor beam and the space shuttle are decent, but the shots of the spaceship firing at meteors sound too high-pitched to be convincing. Overall, the sound is also pretty good.

Boasting the ability to control the size of the spaceship with the difficulty switches as well as six game modes to choose from, there is sufficient depth to this game to keep you busy for a while. This game has two skill levels for the mission mode (which is what I described above). It also has two skill levels for a mode where all you do is stay in the main spaceship and fire at meteors. It even has two skill levels of a two-player mode where player one controls the spaceship’s firing at meteors alternating with player two controls the shuttle’s attempts to rescue the people off the planets.

For a third-party game, this game has a lot more to it than what one would expect. This game might not be as addictive as Missile Command or Ms. Pac-man, but it is a good game nonetheless. I certainly recommend that anybody who collects Atari 2600 games consider adding this title to their collection.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7.8
Written by Martin Review Guide

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