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|Title:||Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom|
|Rating:||3 out of 5|
My experience with Buck Rogers was on TV (series runing 1979-1981) not in the arcades, but the 5200 version is a lot of fun to play. I was a big fan of space battle games in the arcades of the 80s, but never gave this one a try. As the Atari 5200 evolved the games took on more of a 3D look than was attempted on the 2600, quite nicely in Beamrider for the 2600. The use of horizontal moving lines seemed to be the trick-of-the-day for impersonating three dimensions on a flat screen. Not a bad tactic for 1983 and gives Buck Rogers more depth than one might expect in that era.
The Buck Rogers arcade game featured one of those larger more realistic joysticks with a squared-off top giving the player more of a cockpit sensation. This oversized joystick handled the direction of the ship while the buttons controlled speed and firing.
The Buck Rogers arcade controls featured 3 buttons - Fast, Slow and Fire. The speed for the 5200 conversion is handlesd by the joystick (pulling back to slow down) and the fire button maps to either of the 5200's horizontal fire buttons. This made for an easy conversion to the abysmal 5200 controller.
Watching Buck Rogers on TV is a faint memory, but I recall liking the show, although I'm sure it would be difficult to watch with a straight face these days. With that in mind I'm not sure where the origin of the 5200's story eminates. So, anyway...
You play as Buck Rogers in a race to the death, in the 25th century, as you come closer to battling the Mother Ship. You'll face Electron Posts, Alien Saucers and Space Hoppers. You're in for an enduring race, shoot-out and speed-fest!
You begin this single-player game with 3 fighter ships and full tank of fuel. Flying faster will conserve feul, but you'll have to keep a close eye on the horizon as Electron Posts and firing enemies descend. You get an extra life every 20,000 points and a full tank of gas after defeating the Mother ship. At the outset you may feel as though you're playing some sort of downhill slalom skiing game as you cruise through the Electron Posts like skiing gates. But f you don't pass through them, they shoot at you - unlike skiing... for the most part.
Pushing the jouystick forward elevates your ship giving you more speed and better feul economy. Pulling back slows you down to a minimum speed which increases as you venture into higher levels of hte game. Holding the fire button initiates rapid fire which can be helpful. These are your only hope as you get closer to the deadly Mother Ship.
The graphics are pretty good. Very colorful and your ship tilts nicely in reaction to the controller and the scaling of incoming posts and saucers is quite smooth. Despite this I've encountered a few glitches that seem to lock up the game which can be frustrating.
Below your score is a color changing fuel gauge indicating how much is left. Equally useful and rarely implemented in early video games is a graphic showing how many aliens are remaining. When feul is low and you're taking a beating, it can be helpful to know how many more combatants are lurking on the horizon.
The Buck Rogers game is divided into 5 levels, each of which has 4 rounds. Successive rounds bring increasing numbers of Electron Posts, Saucers and Space Hoppers.
The manual states several times that colliding with enemies will kill you. I thoght that was sort of common knowledge in gaming, but apparently there must be some games out there in which you can misfire, slam into an enemy and then go merrily about your violent quest. Um ok...
HIgher speeds will burn less fuel and garner more points. Saucers are more prone to get you when flying low and keep an eye on the rythme of the attack waves. This will allow a bit of forewarning of approaching enemies. Good luck, Buck!
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