Mountain King

Atari 2600

Review by Rob "Dire 51"

CBS Games


Graphics: 8

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 8

There's a fortune in diamonds hidden deep within the mountain! As an intrepid explorer, you're going to go in and grab as many as you can and get out before you run out of time. However, the diamonds aren't the main reason you're here - hidden in a secret Temple Chamber is the magic crown of an ancient king that ruled a forgotten civilization. If you can get the crown and bring it to the Perpetual Flame on top of the mountain, you'll be forever remembered as the Mountain King! But beware - bats and a giant spider are out to stop you, so tread carefully.

See the little white guy on the screen? That's you. Use the various ladders you see scattered throughout the mountain to move from level to level. All you have is a flashlight, which you use to illuminate treasure chests (kneel on them to pick them up - they're scattered everywhere) and the Flame Spirit. What's the Flame Spirit, you may be asking? Well, once you get 1000 points, the Flame Spirit will make itself known. You have to listen for the music that signifies that it's near. The louder the music, the closer you are to it. It will appear randomly somewhere in the mountain, so be alert. Once you find it (in the spot where the music is loudest, shine the flashlight to see it - keep an eye out, because occasionally it will flash and reveal its location), kneel on it, and your head will be surrounded be a glowing halo. Be warned - on level one, you have an unlimited amount of time to find it, but on every level thereafter, the music will stop playing after a certain amount of time, and the Flame Spirit will vanish. You'll have to get another 1000 points to get it to appear again.

From there, go to the Temple Chamber. It's easy enough to find, as it's the only structure within the mountain. Don't try to approach it from the top or sides, though - the Temple Chamber is protected by a force field that you can't penetrate. Go to the bottom of the Chamber and shine your flashlight to reveal the Skull Spirit. Kneel in the spot where he is, and you'll be able to climb into the Chamber. Do it quickly - if you don't make it up in a few seconds, the way will be closed and you'll have to find the Flame Spirit again.

Before I go any further, let me warn you about two ever-present dangers. The first is the Giant Spider. His lair is on the lowest level of the mountain. Try to stay away from that level, because if you go down there, the Spider will be alerted to your presence. Listen for the sound that announces his arrival, should you find yourself on that level. He'll chase you and trap you in a web if he catches you. Wiggle the joystick back and forth to escape his web. If you don't get out of it before the Spider comes back, he will kill you. If you do get out and he catches you again, he'll trap you in another web.

The other danger is the timer. As you progress through the stages, the amount of time you have to get the Crown and escape gets shorter. Once you're down to 59 seconds on the clock, you'd best get moving.

Once you have the Crown, you'll hear the famous piece of music "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (originally written by Edvard Grieg, composed for Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt in 1876) begin to play. You have to reach the Perpetual Flame with the Crown before the music stops, or you'll have to go back and do it all over again. It's then that the bats come out. They can't hurt you, but they will take the Crown and return it to the Temple Chamber if they catch you, so watch out.

Mountain King is unique in the fact that it was one of the first games to actually use music as a strategic part of the game. Both the Flame Spirit music and "In The Hall of the Mountain King" both sound exceptionally good, considering the VCS' limited sound capabilities. The controls are a little odd - you use the button to shine the flashlight, which works just fine, but you have to press up and a direction to jump. It's not too hard to get used to, though, and with a little practice you'll be jumping like a pro. Also of note is that there are hidden areas to find. On the two peaks of the mountain, you'll find that you can jump quite high, and if you jump from the right spot, you'll see ladders overhead that you'll be able to grab and climb. This takes you to the hidden areas. I don't believe they affect the gameplay or goal at all, but that's an interesting (and possibly not deliberate) Easter Egg to find.

Mountain King is definitely unique enough to warrant a spot in any VCS collector's library. As far as I know, there hasn't quite been another game like it since.


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Last updated: Saturday, September 25, 2004 09:10 AM