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The Earth Dies Screaming for the Atari 2600
In 1983 20th Century Fox poured through their large archive of movies searching for a movie to turn into a game. What movie would they choose to port? Planet of the Apes? The Omen? One of the Star Wars films? Too obvious, they said, instead they settled on an obscure 1965 British science fiction film directed by Terence Fisher called “The Earth Dies Screaming”. They probably just thought the title sounded cool (and it does), but the gameplay in this 1983 game has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the film. Save for that fact that you are fighting against vaguely alien-like ships. Sorry Willard Parker fans.
So let’s start with the good. The game is a pretty nice looking first-person shooter with free-range of motion. You move, left, right, up and down as you attempt to shoot alien ships and the weapons they are firing at you. All the while, the planet Earth moves below you, giving a pretty good illusion of 3-D motion. You blast away with your gun, trying to kill as many enemies as you can before they blow you up. Not sure where they are? Well lucky for you the game has a primitive HUD. The gun sounds are pretty harsh but satisfying, and the graphics are crisp and… “science-fictiony”.
Now the bad. The game is boring! You can hold the button down! So firing is rapid-fire, which makes aiming, or lack of it, a snap. That pretty much takes care of the alien ships, but the collision detection on the aliens’ shots is a bit off, so sometimes you miss firing, even when shooting straight on. It would help if they included some better visual feedback on blasting the alien shots, but you kind of need to assume you took them out.
So you hold down the button and blast away for about 10 minutes before you realize, wow, there is no real challenge to this game in the long run. Why am I playing this instead of watching the film of the same name?
I would like to give the game 1 star, but I am conflicted because the game has some innovative elements such as the range of motion, the illusion of 3-D and the HUD. So I am giving the game 2 stars, but I am telling you, it is barely 2 stars.