Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Sears Submarine Commander -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewSears Submarine Commander for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Submarine Commander
Manufacturer: Sears
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1982
Part #: 49-75142
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

Rating: Sears Submarine Commander Classic Retro Video Game Review Rating
Sears Submarine Commander Screenshot:
Sears Submarine Commander for Atari 2600 screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

Submarine Commander is one of those games that taxes your ability to "fill in the gaps" where 8 bit pixels fail to paint the whole picture. I could have said it was "graphically challenged" or "looks like Hell", but it's a better game than first glance might reveal. There are a slew of crappy looking one-dimensional games out there for the Atari 2600, but submarine Commander isn't one of them. Someone put a good deal of thought into it and gave it life beyond a simple single-screen game.

Several guages are available to provide information and status during the game. Sound is also used to alert you to incoming PT boats before they appear on screen. Attributes like this make the game more interesting than just a simple shooter. After all, your goal is sinking as many boats as you can. Moving the action via a 360° periscope was pretty slick for a game of it's vintage!

Submarine Commander Story Arc

You are the captain of a submarine tasked with protecting your country. Your sub is equipped with many new features including a radar scope, sonar depth charge detector, status indicators, fuel gauge, engine temperature gauge, and torpedoes. commanding from the helm, it's up to you to pilot your sub using your periscope to scan the ocean and detect enemy vessels. Destroy enemy ships before they destroy you. With limited supplies you must keep an eye on your fuel and energy levels. Every maneuver costs you fuel. When the fuel runs out, your mission is over.

Submarine Commander Game Play

There are 8 game variations - 4 if you don't count the 1 and 2-player differences. These variations primarily determine which types of ships have the capability to drop depth charges on your sub. The most difficult variant has all ships depth charging your ass. Scoring comes from sinking ships - tankers requiring 2 hits. Each enemy ship is worth more points if destroyed from farther away. Far away ships display at half their size and are surrounded by blue sky - indicating their further distance from your submarine.

Holy shit! Check this out...
Sears, Roebuck and Co. was the largest retailer in the US in the 70s (about 900 stores). They became involved in videogames when Atari pitched its first home console to the retailer, based around the game Pong. No toy or hi-fi stores were interested in it and Sears was a last resort. Sears demanded a re-branding and exclusivity. At Christmas 1975 about 150,000 Sears
Tele-Gaming Pong consoles were sold in the US. Two years later, when the Atari 2600 was released, Sears, Roebuck and Co. also published re-branded versions of games through their chain of stores.

Your mission is to sink as many ships as possible while avoiding depth charges and maintaining an adequate fuel supply. As mentioned yo have quite a few gauges to ensure your sub's energy and avoid depth charges. Your sub bergins with 3000 units of fuel and 2 torpedo launchers. Your fuel level is proportional to the engine temperature, so you need to monitor the engine temperature gauge at the top center of the screen.

You can move right and left with the joystick as well as move it up & down to change your viewing distance - you'll see the change in the green vertical bars of the open waters. The fire button launches torpedoes. It all sounds simple enough but this simple looking game has a set of gauges and indicators that give status and take your concentration off that depth charge that's about to blow you up. Or you might be flailing around trying to avoid attack, not realizing you're closing in on zero fuel.

The more maneuvers you make, the hotter the engine gets. Every torpedo launched uses three units of fuel and every depth charge hit costs 300-377 units of fuel. When all the fuel runs out, the temperature gauge turns black, and the game is over. You can't kick ass without fuel. This is one of the cool aspects of the game - its not just shoot or be shot. There are other elements to monitor, which actually can distract you from your assault mission.

Depth charges are shown on the depth charge detector gauge which alerts you to the proximity and the danger-level of a depth charge. Sonar will help identify the location of enemy ships before you can see them through the periscope. This lets you to fire a torpedo before the enemy drops a depth charge.

Submarine Commander Gauges & Displays

Submarine Commander Difficulty Switch Settings

Since Submarine Commander has 2-player options, the difficulty switches toggle one or two players between Novice (B) and Expert (A). The Expert level changes the amount of damage your sub incurs from depth charge hits. In Expert move every time your sub is hit by a depth charge, the damage could cause the loss of one of your gauges. See! Those gauges really are useful!

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

Sears Submarine Commander

is not a visually pleasing experience, but it comes with enough interesting features that almost make up for it's blocky objects. It won't become a favorite, but it shouldn't be dismissed as a simplistic shooter on the high seas. The gauges give it dimension beyond just shooting at passing boats. It's worth trying.

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