Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Starpath's Communist Mutants From Space -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewStarpath's Communist Mutants From Space for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Communist Mutants From Space
Manufacturer: Starpath
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1982
Part #: AR4101
Rating: 4 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

Rating: Starpath's Communist Mutants From Space Classic Retro Video Game Review Rating
Starpath's Communist Mutants From Space Screenshot:
Starpath's Communist Mutants From Space for Atari 2600 screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

Starpath games were not like other Atari 2600 games. While various third party companies developed for the VCS, they were all confined to it's memory limitations. Starpath (formerly Arcadia) disagreed. They developed a peripheral that allowed larger, more sophisticated, games to be played on the 2600.

While cartridge based games were the norm, the Starpath Super Charger connected to the Atari's cart-slot, the device contained additional RAM memory and a cable that linked it to any tape player. Thus, Starpath games were delivered on cassette and loaded onto the console much like computers of that era. I can't speak for all the games, but Communist Mutants From Space is a great game!

Too often, third-party accessories get written off as oddball notions that didn't catch on. While the Starpath Supercharger may fit that bill, it's worth noting Communist Mutants From Space is a really fun shooter with a lot of options that add interesting features to the game. It's a shame this game was trapped on cassettes rather than the more accessible cartridges, but that was the point of the Starpath device - better games. You should give the ROM a try!

Communist Mutants From Space Story Arc

Starpath's Communist Mutants From Space for Atari 2600 start-up screen

The evil ruler of the planet Rooskee (pun intended, I presume) has launched a diabolical attack. A cunning Mother Creature filled with irradiated vodka transforms helpless slaves captured on peaceful planets into bloodthirsty communist mutants. The commie mutants attack like crazy! You have to vaporize these mutant warriors before they overrun your home planet!

They'll keep coming at you - wave after wave. The more of them you vaporize, the nastier they get. The planet's future is in your hands, but you have a lot of tricks at your disposal.

Communist Mutants From Space Game Play

I liken this game to Galaxian-meets-Phoenix. That comparison is too simple, but you are battling enemies that fly down the screen to attack your horizontal cannon. A boss-style character remains at the top of the screen dispatching more enemies.

Holy shit! Check this out...
The game's programmer, Steven H. Landrum, added an easter egg that activates when holding the fire button during power-on of the Atari 2600. At the top of the screen -
you'll see the usual "HI" on the high scores screen change to his initials, "SHL." The game's option menu offers far more variations than most VCS games and it supports up to four players.

When the menu screen appears, you may be inclined to stop and gaze at it's many options. It looks downright complex compared to most Atari 2600 games. If you wait long enough, the game goes into demo mode and offers a sample of what's to come.

The Game Select switch will return you to this robust listing of options. Familiarize yourself with these options as they let you make some interesting alterations to the game play - from shields and guided missiles to nine levels of difficulty.

Starpath's Communist Mutants From Space for Atari 2600  options screen

PLAY Starts the game action.
PL Selects the number of players (1 to 4)
DIF Selects the difficulty level (1 = easy to 9 = hard)
SH Allows you to activate SHIELDS.
TW Allows you to activate TIME WARP.
PF Gives you PENETRATING FIRE.
GF Gives you GUIDED FIRE.

The Mother Creature instantly begins spawning more mutants in the form of eggs ( the rows of rectangles). When they hatch, they descend on you guns blazing! Some eggs don't hatch - they are actually shield-penetrating bombs in disguise. You want to blast as many eggs as you can before they hatch and taking out the Mother Creature prevents her from repopulating the ranks.

You begin the game with 5 cannons and they are replenished after every odd-numbered wave. Clearing the level gives you a flag - displayed atop the screen. These lives seem excessive in the easier levels, making the game too easy. With all the options afforded the players, one wonders why the number of lives wan't a configurable option form the main screen.

Moving the joystick left and right positions your cannon, like most horizontal shooter. Shields are activated by pulling back on the joystick, but you can only use your shields once per wave. Conversely, pushing the joystick forward activates a Time Warp that slows down your enemies. Again you can only use it once per wave.

Penetrating Fire will tear through an enemy and then take out one more enemy directly behind. Guided Fire lets you "steer" your missile with your joystick. When you begin combining these options at varying levels of difficulty, you'll quickly see how awesome it is to be able to customize your options.

Communist Mutants From Space Difficulty Switches

With players able to set 9 different levels of difficulty, you'd think the console's built-in switches would not be needed. However, the true purpose of these switches is to balance out the players' skills. The switches let you play with your younger brother who wasn't as skilled as you were.

The "A" position makes your cannon's travel speed slow. The "B" position makes it fast. The left difficulty switch is shared by players one and three, while the right switch is shared by players two and four.

Here's a fun thing you can do if you are fortunate enough to own a Starpath accessory. Remember how annoying it was to fast-forward through a rented movie on VHS... to skip over the "coming attractions"? Those Starpath cassettes had the same scenario, but they put the previews at the end of the game. That's right, when you played the tape to load it onto the Atari VCS, you press Stop on the player when "STOP TAPE" appeared. You could then pay the game.

After playing the game, restart the console with the power switch and continue playing the cassette from where it stopped after loading the game. And stop it when "STOP TAPE" appears again. Now you have some previews of upcoming games to check out. That was a powerful feature in the pre-internet age. We scoff at such things today, but in the early 80's being able to deliver game-play clips (non-playable, view only) to the living room TV was a major feat!

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Final Judgement:

Starpath's Communist Mutants From Space

is a really cool shooter that should have reached more gamers in the early 80's but it was trapped on a cassette tape.

We highly recommend you give it a whirl via Stella! And don't forget to get 3 friends to join you - excellent multi-player!

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