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Cosmic Swarm for Atari 2600
CommaVid is one of those companies whose games are hit or miss. But even when it is a miss, the games usually bring something interesting to the table. So I am always excited when I get the opportunity to play one. Just remember, since the CommaVid games are often more complicated than they appear, read the manual.
Cosmic Swarm is a very good hybrid shooter that requires patience and determination to master, but if you stick with it, you will be rewarded with a compelling and playable gaming experience. So what is the game about? Here is the description, straight from the manual:
The immense WAYPOINT interstellar trade depot floats with its small crew at a distant cross roads between the stars. It should be a quiet place to command. But beware — a dormant colony of giant, alien, mineral-eating termites hidden in one holding section seven have awakened! The Termites invade the main power-conversion chamber and begin assembling a haphazard nest. Your crew is working feverishly, opening crates of tiny remote-controlled planetary-probe ships. Its up to you to pilot a fragile probe ship into the power chamber and clear out the invaders before they jam it totally. By docking with your refueling ship when necessary, and by energizing the nest blocks so your probe ship’s fire can destroy them, you may be able to prevail against the invaders and save WAYPOINT.
Love those descriptions! Now the actual game. It kind of looks like Asteroid and Centipede had a baby. You fly a very Asteroids-looking triangle around the screen, and these termites start coming down and leaving these blocks all over the place. You need to shoot them or the blocks before you are completely blocked in because if you touch a block you die. Once a block is laid, you cannot kill it, except if you take out one of the termites carrying a block. If you do, the blocks in that area will change color, and you can shoot them all.
Movement in the game is the major challenge. Since the controller on the VCS only has one button, CommaVid needed to come up with a clever method that allows you to rotate as well as move around the screen. You do this by holding down the fire button and moving the joystick in any direction. Then, when you let go of the button, you can move in the X and Y-axis. That’s the challenge. You need to train your brain to use the same button to fire when not rotating and for rotating. It took about 15 minutes for me to get it down and in panic situations, I would still mess up. It is not the most elegant system, but it is the best method for the job and to my surprise, it worked out very well most of the time. I just need to stay calm.
So you keep blasting away at these termites, just like in every shooter, but you also need to be mindful of fuel. Every once in a while, a refueling ship will appear. You need to make a connection with that ship like quick. The game ends if you fail to dock with the refueling ship before it returns to the top of the screen — regardless of how many ships you have in reserve. So stay alert.
Cosmic Swarm is another solid title from CommaVid. It is not as good as Mines of Minos, but it has decent graphics, good sound, and like most CommaVid games, interesting gameplay. I give it 3 out 5 stars.