For those not familiar with Phoenix, you're faced with squadrons of birds who fly down at your land-based cannon, dipping and soaring while dropping flurries of bombs. As you slide horizontally across the screen, you can either shoot down the winged beasts or protect yourself with a force field.
After four waves of giant birds have been destroyed, you then get to hammer away at the mother ship by relentlessly firing at its protective shield and placing a carefully aimed shot through a revolving window beyond. Unlike in the arcade original, however, the mother ship does not send out flocks of attackers.
Compared to other 2600 games of the genre (Galaxian, Demon Attack, Threshold, etc.), Phoenix is the best of the bunch. It offers a variety of different waves and enemies and adds an extra element of strategy with the option of using your shield. It also provides the perfect amount of challenge to keep folks coming back for more. Cartridges such as Phoenix and Ms. Pac-Man proves that 2600 coin-op ports need not cause arcade buffs to shudder. Too bad it followed on the heels of a slew of piss-poor efforts from Atari (Pac-Man comes immediately to mind) that it scared away many potential buyers -- for good.