Fathom

Atari 2600

Review by Clint Dyer

Imagic

Action

Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 4

Overall: 6


fathom.gif (1900 bytes)Fathom is an interesting title, if nothing else. The goal of the game is to rescue the imprisoned Neptina (Neptuneís daughter) from her underwater entrapment. To achieve the goal, you have to find stars located on different screens, both underwater and in the air. Which leads to the main catch. You get to play a dolphin (what is it with me and dolphins in this issue???) and a seagull, a first for a video game (playing two different characters).

You start the game as a dolphin and have to swim down the screens, avoiding enemies that take points away from your "score", while picking up seahorses. Picking up enough seahorses will reveal a bird icon at the bottom of the screen, which will allow you to turn into the bird. In one of the screens, if you pick up all the seahorses, a star will appear and give you a piece of the trident that is needed to rescue Neptina. All the way at the bottom of the water screens is Neptina, waiting to be rescued. Going all the way to the top of the water scenes and jumping out of the water, will allow you to turn into the seagull (if youíve picked up enough seahorses, of course).

As the seagull, you fly around to different sky scenes, where you touch pink clouds. Touching all the pink clouds in a specific scene will make a star appear. If you take too long in this task of picking up the stars, the clouds will turn gray, causing points to be taken from your score when touched. Black birds also fly through the scenes that you have to avoid, or more points will be taken from your score.

The score in the game isnít really a score at all, more like a life meter. If it reaches zero, the game is over, no continues, no extra lives, thatís it. Extra score can be gained in the air by touching pink clouds on scenes that have previously been cleared, or touching seahorses in the underwater scenes.

My main problem with this game is the control. As the dolphin, you press the button to swim, but instead of the fluid motion of Dolphin, you get this clunky dolphin that doesnít react very well at all, which makes it hard to accomplish your tasks of avoiding the enemies and picking up the seahorses. In the air, you press the button to flap the seagullís wings, the more times you press it, the faster the seagull will fly. While I donít have a problem with that, I do have a problem with the fact that the bird keeps going and is all but uncontrollable when you arenít flapping your wings. Control, overall, leaves a lot to be desired.

Graphics in the game are not as impressive as some of Imagicís other games. The animation of the dolphin (which looks more like a fish than a dolphin) and bird is poor and the colors overall are bland and unexciting. If it werenít for the graphically impressive "cell" in which Neptina is trapped and some semi-impressive landscape (volcanoes), this game would be a total dud, graphically. And while on the subject of duds, the sounds in this game are some of the worst sounds Iíve heard in a 2600 game. Not that there are a lot of them (maybe 2 or 3 different sounds), but the ones there are poor in comparison to a game like Dolphin.

Gameplay, while intriguing, is rather repetitive. Itís nice that new scenes are opened up through each of the levels, but itís not nice that theyíre basically the same old thing. As a child, I never made it past level 3 of this game, and replaying it again to write this review, I know why. I was bored with it! In addition to the repetitiveness, the game increases in difficulty like climbing a cliff! The first level is pretty easy, the second level is much more challenging and the third level is just about impossible (as I remember from my childhood). I can only imagine the difficulty on the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh levels.

Overall, the title isnít horrible to play. Play Dolphin (or just about any other game) and youíll have more fun than playing this poorly done game.

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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:24 PM