Before we start on the review there is just something that I want to clear up a little about this game. Night Stalker is Dark Cavern. It may have a slightly different design round the score and lives bit and it maybe a little slower than Dark Cavern. But it is still the exact same game.
The reason I mention this is because I had a very long and tedious conversation about this with some guys on an IRC channel a while ago. He had Dark Cavern for the Atari as well as Night Stalker for the Intellivision from which it was ported from. Then in typical troll fashion he started to berate me citing that the Atari Night Stalker was some knock off.
I stood my ground saying that it was the same game just released by Telegames with slight, and only slight, modifications. Anyway long story short. I won, he lost and called me the typical troll things of n00b and such before retiring to some dark corner of the net.
Night Stalker is a maze shooter by Telegames for the PAL version Atari 2600. It was released in 1989 and is a re-release of Dark Cavern, initially released in 1982 by M Network as a port of Night Stalker on the Intellivision done that same year.
Because of the limited hardware on the Atari 2600 compared to the Intellivision a direct port of Night Stalker was not possible. So M Network did a reworking of the game for use on the Atari. What resulted was a graphically stripped down version with a different maze layout. However in trade off the Atari version was slightly faster than the Intellivision version. However though, I have to put the complicated history of this game to one side and give you guys my opinion on this one.
Night Stalker, or Dark Cavern if you prefer to call it that, is just a simple maze shooter. The aim is simply to survive and get the highest score you can. Which is easily said and just as easily done if I am to be honest about this one. At the start of the game the robots that chase you round the static maze are pretty slow and clumsy. They will trundle their way round the maze and fire only in front of them. So as long as you can sneak round the back of them, which in the early parts of the games is incredibly easy, you will have no issue in picking them off. However as the game progresses the speed at which the robots move starts to get faster and they gain the ability to fire in front and behind them.
Yet this still does not offer any amount of decent challenge. Because once you have mastered the ability to quickly shoot from the cover of a corner it takes very little effort to dispatch the robots. The only challenge comes from avoiding the bats and snake things, making sure you don’t run out bullets and not being blocked in by the robots, which can happen if you get cocky.
Keeping your bullets stockpiled doesn’t take much effort as they are spawned at pretty regular intervals. You just have to avoid the snake looking things, which deplete your ammo reserves if they hit you. And talking of stockpiling; your lives can be stockpiled easily as you get a new one every couple of thousand. So as the game gets faster you find your lives getting ever greater by the minute.
I have to be honest though it’s still a good game. It might not be as good as other maze shooters like Berzerk. Or even be as good as the original Intellivision version. But it’s still fun to play when you want to waste some time. It’s easy to get high scores on this game if you just pay attention and don’t let yourself get too sloppy on the controls.
Your number one enemy on this game will always be yourself. I have easily hit 6 figure numbers on this game and the only reason I have died is because I have let myself slip into a state of content arrogance. It’s certainly not a looker of a game. Because lets be honest it is simply a grey maze with a blue background. Which is a shame because the humble 2600 was capable of richer graphics. However the trade off is that it has a nice, smooth frame rate. But still it’s pretty poor to look at.
All in all it’s a pretty competent and average game that is still fun to play in short bursts. Graphically is decent for the system but the sounds may sometimes get annoying after a while. Gameplay is about average for an Atari title and that’s why I am giving this game a 3 out of 5.
Certainly a nice collectors item if you can find the Silver Telegames version. Good luck finding it though, it wasn’t a massive release.