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Armor Ambush for the Atari 2600
“Hey generic childhood friend want to come over and play some Atari?”
“Did you get any new games?”
“No, but remember when we played Combat last week? That was so much fun! We should play that again.”
“That was alright, but it started to get boring after that first hour.”
“Aww, but we can play jets this time! Did we play jets last week?”
“We pretty much only played jets. Listen, why don’t we go to the movies?”
“Combat is over, my friend, it is time for you to move on. If you don’t want to go to the movies, we can do something else, but no Combat.”
“What if I told you they put out Combat II?”
“They did? Why didn’t you say so, I would try that.”
“They didn’t, but we can play the next best thing, Combat!”
If I could talk to the kid on the phone back in 1994, I would ask him a few things
– Why did you insist all your friends play Combat with you all the time?
– Why is he still playing Atari 2600 in 1994?
– Why oh why did you not pick up a copy of Armor Ambush?
That last question would be the most pertinent (at least in relation to this review). So I would most likely lead with that. I picked up Armor Ambush in a garage sale amongst a dozen other games I bought for a dollar. I looked at the cart, did not for some reason recognize the name, and I put it away until last week. When I fished it out of the box (although I found I have 2 other copies of the game as well — thanks eBay!!) I cannot tell you why Armor Ambush was not on my radar during the heyday of the system, as a Combat addict, the game seems a natural fit. Here is why.
Armor Ambush is a game that takes the tank portion of the original Combat and fleshes out the gameplay, making for a more complete head-to-head combat experience. The controls and look of the tanks are nearly identical, but in Armor Ambush, you can actually switch between your two different tanks, so you need to play more strategically and stay focused on what is going on in different places. Switching is done by pulling down on your joystick. With that quick overview, you have mastered the controls. Now for the gameplay.
The game is a straight-up 2D shooter, but unlike the tank battles in Combat, this version has randomized terrain that will actually affect your movement and shots. Also, the movement of the tanks feels much smoother as does the shooting for an overall higher quality gaming experience. This is exactly how I think Combat II, if it had ever been released, would have played like (or at least I hope it would have). I know they released the prototype ROM for Combat II. When I get to play that, I will feel more empowered to comment on their similarities, but from what I see on the screenshots of it, they have some elements in common.
Sound on the game is pretty much a match for the original Combat, which I always found pretty decent. A nice little musical bit might have jazzed up the title, but it already has enough going for it.
If you are a fan of the original Combat, and like me cannot get your friends to play with you anymore, drop in a copy of Armor Ambush. It might only be the tank portion of Combat, but it is hands down a step above what is available in Combat. That is why I am giving Armor Ambush 4 stars.