Atari 5200 Review: SPACE DUNGEON

by Atari

Space Dungeon Pic 1
After playing the 5200 version of Space Dungeon back in 1983, I was surprised to learn that the Taito coin-op of the same name was a dog as far as the gameroom audience was concerned. How could a contest that combined the best elements of Robotron and Venture, along with a slew of original features, pass virtually unnoticed in the arcades of America? Perhaps Space Dungeon is exactly the sort of game that just aches for home translation, where gamers have the chance to sit down and learn the types of tactics and skill necessary to conquer it, without the annoying need to dump token after token into a hungry coin-op machine. This was not lost on Atari when they scooped up the home console rights to this game.

The object of Space Dungeon is to move through a series of connected rooms in search of treasure. Once you've picked up all the artifacts, you must make your way back to the room that contains the words "Collect Bonus." At this point your score is credited for every prize in your possession. From here you move on to the next level.

Each level consists of 36 rooms, stacked six high by six across. As you move from chamber to chamber, your path is plotted on a small grid at the top of the screen. A solid colored block denotes a room that shows your present position. Any room thatis yet unvisited remains blank. Sounds like Venture, right? Well, sort of. Up to a point similarities do exist. But where Venture failed, Space Dungeon excels. This cart is full of the good stuff that seperates good games from great ones -- the element of surprise. Although each room (as far as shape and size are concerned) is identical, no two boards contain the same number of treasures or the same number of aliens. Some compartments will be void of opposition. Others will be teeming with bad guys that are bent on keeping a good distance between you and the loot.

Space Dungeon Pic 2
Gathering the treasure is simple -- you need only to run over the mish-mash of crosses, shields and vessels when they appear. Battling the bad guys is another story. Your circular space craft can fire in eight directions. None of this one shot at a time stuff; this ship is an awesome killing machine. The trick of the matter is learning how to operate two joysticks simultaneously. The right stick is used to move your ship. The left controller aims and fires your lasers. Those of you who are familiar with Robotron's control scheme (who isn't?), will feel right at home. The controversial 5200 controller is well suited for proper maneuvering and firing, so you only have your ineptitude to blame for any loss of life. A handy dual-joystick holder is packaged with the game as well (it's also included with Robotron, the only other game that utilizes the dual-joystick control mechanism).

One feature peculiar to Space Dungeon is the bonus system. Assuming you have acquired all the treasures (or even none at all!), you can move on to the next level by simply entering the "Collect Bonus" square. Another thoughtful bit of programming elminates the dreaded "you gotta start over from the beginning when your man gets hit" situation. When your ship falls prey to an enemy shell or laser blast. all the treasures collected up to that point are redeposited in the room you occupied at death. You are then placed back in the lower left hand corner of the grid. To recapture the treasures you must move to the room that is appropriately marked with an "X". This is far better than having to trudge through the entire level all over again. This entire bonus system adds a healthy dose of strategy -- do you exit a level with only a handful of treasure and try to go to the highest level possible, or should you be greedy and daring and further explore the dungeons for more.. at the risk of having the Thief steal all your hard-earned artifacts, or worse yet, dying withough being able to cash-in? Remember, you don't get ANY points for picking up treasure, you only collect bonus points by taking them to the "Collect Bonus" square.

Space Dungeon offers intruiging, high-tech graphics, riveting audio accompaniment and just the proper amount of strategic viability. The Robotron-esque action will challenge you, and the exploration element of the game will tantalize you. It's arguably the best game on the 5200 and reason enough to own a SuperSystem.

Title Space Dungeon
Publisher Atari
System Atari 5200 SuperSystem
Graphics 9
Sound 8
Gameplay 10
Overall 10
Reviewer Keita Iida

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