Seaquest was released in 1982, but I probably got in 1984 after the Great Video Game Crash when a guy could pick Atari cartridges out of the Kay-Bee Toys bargain bin for $5 a pop. That is undeniably how I acquired Seaquest. If I had paid $10 for it, though, I would have still been satisfied, because it was definitely a great game by Atari 2600 standards.
In the game, you were a large yellow submarine cruising through a TV screen-sized section of ocean picking up divers and shooting both sharks and rogue submarines. You could not leave that screen (i.e., the screen was fixed; there was no scrolling), but the divers and the enemies came at you from both directions, requiring you to keep on eye on the left and one on the right. Complicating matters was the fact that your air supply was limited. If you did not surface before the timer at the bottom of the screen ran out, you would drown (or suffocate or whatever happens to people on submarines which have run out of air). When you collected six divers, you advanced to the next round. While the game mechanics never changed, the rounds grew progressively harder, with more and faster enemies.
Seaquest’s gameplay was pretty good, but what really sold it were the graphics and sounds. The graphics left a lot to the imagination (as all games of the time did); there was no hint as to how the divers entered the sub, for example. But they filled in a lot as well. The ocean was bright blue, there was a hint of a horizon at the surface, and the sharks had jaws that opened and closed. The sound when the sub replenished air or exploded was palpable, making you feel that you really were tanking up or being blown up. There were among the best graphics and sounds of the 2600, or at least of the 2600 games that I had.
Beyond all this, Seaquest had a pretty enticing commericial.
And there was one other special element about Seaquest. If you got a high score, you would be inducted into the Seaquest Hall of Fame. If you could a score above 50,000, take a picture of the screen displaying that score, and send it into Activision, they would send you a “Sea Club” patch. I actually did get a high enough score and a picture of it, but for some reason I never sent it in to get my patch. I regret that to this very day.
So if you like picking up divers and blowing up sharks, you’ll want to give Seaquest a try. Who know? You might even make it into the club.