AGH Atari 2600 Review:

by Starpath

After the incredible success of Star Raiders for the Atari 400/800 computers, it was only a matter of time until variations and takeoffs were deviced for other game playing systems. For the 2600, you have a choice of four versions: Star Raiders from Atari, Starmaster from Activision, Star Voyager from Imagic and Phaser Patrol from Starpath. Phaser Patrol was the pack-in game for the Starpath Supercharger, and it does a terrific job of demonstrating the abilities of the add-on device. For those of you who are not familiar with the Supercharger, it's a add-on that provides an additional 6K of memory for the 2600, along with an input port so that a standard cassette recorder may be connected to the 2600 to load tapes containing games.

Like Star Raiders, Phaser Patrol is a game played in two phases: navigation and space battle. In the navigation phase, the screen shows a checkerboard grid of 36 sectors. Each sector is marked with one of three symbols designating Dracon fighters, a friendly starbase or contents unknown. You choose a destination by moving the white cursor with your joystick to a distant sector and pressing the red button to warp there.

Upon flying into a sector occupied by Dracons, your condition alert indicator lights up red. In addition to that indicator, you have four others indicating the status of your shields (operational, damaged, or destroyed), computer (helps in navigation and firing), long-range scanners, and torpedos.

A radar screen in the center bottom portion of yoour display shows the location of Dracon attackers, both in and outside your view area. Your mission clock shows elapsed time, an energy gauge indicates your reserve, and, finally, a message display gives you important messages concerning ship damage, combat performance, etc. Sound complicated?

Well, it's definitely a lot to absorb, but once you get immersed in the play of the game, it's second nature to keep one eye on yor instrument panel and the other on your window into space. That's where the real action takes place.

In the center of your window is a phaser torpedo sight with a range finder blow it. Hidden along the stars in each sector are a varying number of Dracon fighters. Your mission is to navigate around the sector attacking the Dracons, and eventually destroy them. To do this, you use your joystick. Pull back, and the ship climbs. Push forward, and it dives. Move left or right, and the ship will, too. As soon as your phaser torpedo sight is locked on target, press the red firing button and your torpedo will chase the Dracon and destroy it. Miss the first shot, and the Dracon has a good crack at you. As your energy gets low, you must find a sector with a friendly starbase where you can refuel.

It's difficult to pick from among the four 2600 clones, since they're all exceptionally crafted. But I'll give the nod to Phaser Patrol because it's better looking and sounding. Hey, it might not be fair, what with the game having the luxury of additional memory and storage space. But such are the breaks in the high-stakes battle for intergalactic supremacy.

Title Phaser Patrol
Publisher Starpath
System Atari 2600 (VCS)
Graphics 8
Sound 6
Gameplay 7
Overall 7
Reviewer Keita Iida

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