AGH Atari 2600 Review:

by Sega

Buck Rogers
If you've read my review of Congo Bongo, you already know that Sega was too ambitious for its own good with respect to porting over its graphically peerless (for its time) coin-op title. Sadly, it's the same thing all over again with Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom, which wowed everyone in the arcades but never had a fighting chance on the 2600 in replicating the astounding visuals of its coin-op brethren.

In this semi-first person shooter, you maneuver your ship sideways by moving your joystick left and right, while moving the stick forward and back increases and decreases your speed, respectively. At the top of the screen is a fuel meter, and contrary to how things normally work, you can conserve more fuel by traveling at a higher speed. As you would expect, the faster you go, the more risk you have of crashing into one of the many ostacles that you'll encounter. Going slow burns fuel faster than a gas guzzling muscle car from the 1960's.

There are two screens in Buck Rogers. In the first screen, you're flying just above the planet's surface and your goal is to guide your ship through twenty "gates" (they're actually just two posts that form gates), but toward the end of the course, flying saucers and other enemies begin to appear. They can also be zapped to reduce the goal counter. In other words, any combination of going through twenty posts or shooting enemies will do. Once you advance to the second screen, which takes place in outer space, your task is to destroy fifteen saucers. Then it's time to take on the Mother Ship, a large white object that requires two shots -- one each to its left and right sides -- to destroy. You're then shuttled back to the first stage, which features more saucers and hoppers and higher goals on the planet's surface.

As you would expect, the 2600 version of Buck Rogers is stripped down from the arcade game in a big way. The Star Wars-like trench sequence is completely missing, and the graphics are simplified to the extreme. On the bright side, however, game play is quick and modestly challenging enough to inspire several repeat plays. For fans of this genre, the Imagic's superior Moonsweeper gets the nod over this one, although Buck Rogers isn't too bad of an alternative.

Title Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom
Publisher Sega
System Atari 2600 (VCS)
Graphics 6
Sound 6
Gameplay 5
Overall 5
Reviewer Keita Iida

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