Desert Falcon

Atari 7800

Review by Rob "Dire 51"



Graphics: 9

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

There's a fortune in the Pharoah's treasure scattered across the endless desert. Legend has it it was stolen from the Pharoah's tomb centuries ago by grave robbers, but horrible beasts killed them all and the treasure was lost. No one who has entered the desert has ever returned. But you, the Desert Falcon, are going to brave the trackless desert and get as much treasure as possible. However, the beasts that kiled the thieves still roam the sands, and won't hesitate to kill anyone that enters their domain...

At first glance, Desert Falcon resembles the classic Sega arcade hit Zaxxon, just with an ancient Egyptian theme rather than a science fiction theme. Unlike Zaxxon, though, there's a little more strategy to be had in Desert Falcon. The same basic gameplay is the same - fly upwards in a 3/4 overhead perspective, shooting creatures and dodging obstacles. Unlike Zaxxon, there's no fuel to worry about. The Desert Falcon also has the ability to land and hop along the ground or swim in the various rivers that pepper the landscape. You'll see various treasures scattered across the sands - golden eggs, silver bars and rubies. You must either land and hop up to them to pick them up, or fly down as low as you can to get them, so that the Desert Falcon is practically hovering.

You'll also notice several hieroglyphs strewn all over the sand. What these do, when combined in groups of three, give the Desert Falcon powers - or cripple him. For instance, picking up the right combination of hieroglyphs might give you invincibility, or perhaps you'll be shackled to that you can only hop and not fly. Experimentation with the different hieroglyph combos is the key to finding out what each combo does. Once you have three hieroglyphs, you'll see a readout at the bottom of the screen that tells you what the combo does (activate it by pressing the right button). If you don't like it, don't activate it, and grab another three hieroglyphs to get another power.

Besides the various obstacles that dot the landscape (pyramids, obelisks, firepots and the like), you will also face a relentless wave of beasts that do their best to kill the Desert Falcon. You must either avoid them or shoot them. Since the Desert Falcon has an unlimited supply of spears, hold down the left button and fire away! Be warned that spears can destroy treasures, so be careful where you shoot. At the end of every stage, you'll face the master of the beasts, the Howling Sphinx. It fires blasts at you from its eyes and spits beasts out of its mouth. You must shoot him between the eyes to move into the bonus round. Once there, you must pick up as many treasures as possible before the time runs out and you go to the next stage.

Desert Falcon's graphics and animation are simply superb. The Desert Falcon animates very smoothly, and the creatures are all imaginatively designed (my favorite enemies are the first ones you encounter, the Phantom Gliders). The first time I saw the Howling Sphinx in action (not that he actually does much, mind you), my jaw dropped - I had never seen anything like it before, and I was thoroughly impressed by it. Still am to this day, actually. The music and sound effects are all above average - a neat little Egyptian-sounding tune opens the game, and a similar one plays when the game ends. Also, when the Desert Falcon gets hit and dies, you hear a cartoony "dizzy" sound, and you can even see the stars rotating around his head! The controls are easy enough to get used to, once you orient yourself to the perspective. Speaking of which, that's the one negative thing I can say about the game. It can be difficult to judge your altitude in comparison to some objects at times, resulting in unnecessary collisions. On the plus side, you can judge how high the beasts are in relation to you by looking at how far away they are from their shadows on the ground.

Desert Falcon has been my favorite 7800 game from the moment I first played it back in 1988, and it remains so to this day. If you're a fan of the arcade Zaxxon, games with an ancient Egyptian motif, or just good SHMUPS in general, then you owe it to yourself to check Desert Falcon out.


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Last updated: Sunday, October 31, 2004 12:16 PM