Phoenix (Atari 2600)

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Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (39520)
Written on  :  Feb 21, 2012
Platform  :  Atari 2600
Rating  :  3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars
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Your standard Atari shooter, with an unique storyline

The Good

In this game, you pilot a spaceship who has the task of getting rid of birds trying to protect a giant mothership that's draining all the resources of your planet. Phoenix is similar to Space Invaders in some way, but what sets these two games apart are the different gameplay mechanics.

In Invaders, clearing a wave of aliens and you repeat the process. Here, there are five different levels - including a boss level. Also, not only can you move left or right and fire your ship at your enemies, you can also launch your shield for those that are swooping at you.

Some of the levels also have their individual challenges. You may shoot aliens in the first two levels, like you do in Invaders. But the same tactic doesn't work in the levels after that. The boss, the mothership, has quite a few defense mechanisms, but you can always tell if you destroyed it because of the screen flashes.

When it comes to graphics, each sprite isn't blocky like most sprites in other 2600 games, except the mothership. I guess the bigger the sprites are, the more blocky they get. The animation is smooth. When I was playing levels three and four, I like the way the wings of the phoenixes are generated.

Most of the Atari 2600's games that I played have virtually no background music and a few sound effects here and there. In Phoenix, there are two pieces of music, with each one spanning two levels. The sound effects are great, even though they were the standard of most Atari 2600 shooters. Controlling your ship is simple. It plays like Space Invaders, but pressing down on the joystick activates your shield. This is useful for enemies to crash into if they try to swoop you. There were many times that the enemy just got me before I proceeded to the next level.

The Bad

I felt that the Atari 2600 version isn't as detailed as the coin-op version. Apart from the major graphics, including the enemies and the mothership, the little elements that are found in the coin-op, such as the starry background and the birds surrounding the mothership, are missing in this version.

The Bottom Line

So who would like Phoenix? Basically, anyone who has played other shooters such as Centipede or Space Invaders, but like something different for a change. It is based on Invaders but it has a unique storyline as well as different gameplay mechanics. It is meant to be a "score attack" game, and it is addictive as you keep trying to reach level five so you can destroy the mothership.

It's a shame that Phoenix wasn't popular enough to warrant a release on other platforms, since each platform would host a better version of it. All I can say is if you want the superior version, then you better hunt down the coin-op from eBay or somewhere else.