|Mention pre-R-Type side scrolling games, and one of the first to
come to mind is usually Scramble, or Super Cobra yet in those days,
there were actually a number of such games: Mars, Snap Jack, Jump Bug, Moon Patrol,
and Space Odyssey, to name a few. Vanguard not only had several kinds of
scrolling, but a final Boss as well ("Luther Destroys The Gond!").
Universal offered a standard side-scroller of its own: Cosmic Avenger.
Cosmic Avenger was a classic side-scroller of that time: you flew a small fighter
over a scrolling landscape (right to left, as usual), fighting and destroying targets in
the air and land, as well as underwater. Like in several other such games, you could fire
bullets and drop a bomb (one of each at a time), as well as move up, down, left and right;
moving right would move you towards the middle of the screen and increase the speed at
which the playfield scrolled.
The game consisted of three distinct phases: first, you
flew over a mountainous terrain filled with towers, several kinds of missile launchers,
and fuel tanks. The missile launchers were ones that fired rockets straight up; ones that
fired tiny missiles that self-destructed with deadly explosions; and ones that fired
guided missiles once you flew past them, so you were threatened from behind. While dealing
with all of this, you also had to contend with green UFOs, which randomly appeared and
tried to either shoot you or ram you. Their erratic, bouncing movements made them
unpredictable and very dangerous, especially as several could attack you at once.
Once past this area, you encountered a flat plain with long, wide plateaus. The only
enemies, aside from the UFOs, were tank-like launching platforms, which launched roundish
missiles at you. These particular enemies appeared one at a time, but were quite deadly.
If you managed to get past here, it was down into a cavernous underwater area (which, as
with most such games, did not affect your fighter or weaponry in the least). Here you
dealt with torpedo-firing submarines gently bobbing up and down, fuel tanks, and those
guided rocket-launchers, but this time firing BEFORE you reached them. Soon you reached
open sea, where there were submarines and fuel tanks; there were no rockets, but bombs did
fall from above. Then, back into the caverns, and, once past this, you started over, with
different-colored mountains that were higher, giving you less room to maneuver.
This was a difficult game, and would have been nearly impossible, except for the fact that
most enemy objects could destroy each other. About the only exceptions were: submarines
could not harm each other, and UFOs could not harm each other. Therefore, much of the
destruction was not caused directly by you, and indeed, it was possible to move in such a
way that the guided rockets could be made to pass you, so YOU could make them fly ahead as
a guided weapon! However something was destroyed, you received the points.
Graphics, sound, and the rest were all as good as any other game from that time, but Cosmic
Avenger just never did as well as Scramble or Vanguard. I myself
only encountered it in one place: The Dream Machine arcade in the now-gone Dutchess Mall.
A pity- it was another underrated game.
So of course, it appeared on the ColecoVision... where else would it?
Now, in order to understand this review fully, you have to remember that Cosmic
Avenger was among the first batch of games to be released for the ColecoVision in
1982, and that Cosmic Avenger was a 1981 game. Therefore, any home system trying
to bring this game home had to bring home a very recent game in an era when most of us
were still playing the 1977 Atari VCS, but tremendous advances in arcade graphics and
sound were being made. Did Coleco succeed? Yes- very much so.
Cosmic Avenger is a fine arcade to-home translation. All of the more than one
dozen enemy elements are here, behaving as they did in the arcade version. All three
stages are here. Your fighter is multi-colored and sharply detailed, and, although the
enemies are single-colored here, they actually still look like their arcade counterparts:
you can instantly recognize anything. In that fall of 1982, we were awed that any home
game could possibly be like that, especially a recent arcade game! Why, even the
submarines still bobbed up and down, who would've thought that a home version...!
Of course, it is not a perfect translation. As mentioned above, much of the multi-color
detail is lost, and some things- like the way you go through short tunnels to enter or
leave the water- are gone; here, it is as if a force-field dam contains the water. Sound,
however, is amazingly accurate, as is the gameplay, except for the fact that UFOs, unlike
the arcade version, can only approach you from the front at first- although, if they get
past you, they may then approach from behind. Scrolling is not as smooth as the arcade,
although it is much better than Zaxxon, Front Line, or even Sky Jaguar.
Even so, the game is colorful and nicely detailed. In fact, the plains part has horizontal
stripes that actually look as if they are made of many shades of brown and gray, which may
explain why Video Games Player magazine in 1983 claimed that the ColecoVision could show
256 colors and shades.
Cosmic Avenger is a good game in its own right, and, thanks to Coleco, a good
home version has existed for almost 25 years now. Back in 1982, it really was phenomenal,
and it still ranks as one of my favorites.