Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom

Atari 5200

Review by Clint Dyer

Sega

Shoot'em-up

Graphics: 6

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 5

Overall: 5


Game ScreenI played Buck Rogers in the arcade until the cows came home. Then, I shot them with my Buck Rogers space ship and played some more. It was probably the first sit-down game that I played and one of the better classic sit-down games at making the player feel like he/she was really in the cockpit of the plane controlling the ship. The 5200 version, of course, canít match that feel. That aside, the 5200 version is as disappointing as all the other versions of the game. None of the home versions of this game have even come close to capturing the feel, fun and variety of the arcade machine. They all leave out levels and while thatís common in home video games (especially those offered by Sega), in this case, it takes a lot of the variety out of the game and makes the game a lot less fun. As a game in itself, Buck Rogers isnít much of one.

The arcade game starts out in the trenches, where you have to shoot your way through the level, defeating a certain number of enemies before your fuel timer runs out to finish the level. The trench aspect doesnít add a lot to the game and really has nothing to do with the gameplay, it does add a bit of variety to the game. After you finish the first level, the game goes to a flat "world" where you have to slalom your way through a certain number of towers while avoiding or shooting enemies. This is where the 5200 version starts off. You start on the flat world and you have to slalom your way through a certain number of towers, then you go onto the next level. The second level is the same thing, only enemies appear from behind you that you can shoot. After a certain number of towers, you move onto the third level where a bigger variety of enemies (in the 5200 version, 2) come at you from the front and back a bit faster than the previous level, which makes them harder to hit. After this level, you go into space where you have to shoot enemies appearing behind you to reach the "mother ship". Hit the mother enemy dead center, and you start the levels all over again. Every level after that is the same as the precious four levels, only a bit faster and harder with different colors. No new enemies, no new tricks or anything. Not much in the way of variety, destroying anything that this game could be.

The most interesting part of the arcade game is the fuel meter. If you miss too many towers your fuel dwindles, and if you run out of fuel, you lose a life. In the arcade game, the player is forced to keep an eye on this meter to make sure you have enough fuel to complete the level. Unfortunately, this isnít the case with the 5200 version, as all you really need to do is pay attention to the enemies on the screen and where the next towers are coming from. Fuel wonít be a factor. It would be much more interesting if as in Zaxxon the player had to pick up fuel power ups in order to advance.

Control isnít great in the game, especially if youíve got a non-centering 5200 joystick. Making your way through the towers isnít impossible, but it is far less forgiving than it should be. You get hit sometimes when youíre not even close to towers, especially when youíre trying to get to the other side of the screen quickly. Conversely, the enemies are extremely easy to hit. It seems at times that you donít even need to be close to take out an enemy, which makes it so that you just have to keep your finger constantly pressing the fire button and eventually, youíre going to hit them.

Graphics are very colorful, but in the way of detail, there isnít much there. The enemies and main ship are poorly drawn and the towers jump to the front of the screen (scale) poorly. There are no cool backgrounds or any other neat graphics to make the game seem more interesting than it is, or detract from the fact that there isnít much in the way of gameplay in this cart.

While Buck Rogers certainly isnít the worst shooter Iíve ever played, there are a lot better ones for the 5200, such as Beamrider, River Raid and Star Wars: Arcade to name a few. Play them instead and youíll have much more fun!

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Last updated: Sunday, February 08, 2004 12:42 PM