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Antarctic Adventure (Colecovision) artwork

Antarctic Adventure (Colecovision) review


"Konami's Antarctic Adventure is a devilishly challenging title, an addicting yet frustrating arctic hustle content to be as cold as the icy continent. Tasked with visiting arctic bases under the strictest of time constraints, the plucky Penta the Penguin will have his hands full dodging fissures in the ice and smiling sea lions all along his way. Both happen to be harmless. Sea lions pop out of fishing holes only to send Penta back a few paces while any icy crevice is shallow enough to..."



Konami's Antarctic Adventure is a devilishly challenging title, an addicting yet frustrating arctic hustle content to be as cold as the icy continent. Tasked with visiting arctic bases under the strictest of time constraints, the plucky Penta the Penguin will have his hands full dodging fissures in the ice and smiling sea lions all along his way. Both happen to be harmless. Sea lions pop out of fishing holes only to send Penta back a few paces while any icy crevice is shallow enough to be hurriedly hopped out of. Yet the price for not clearing either obstacle is steep, bringing Penta's forward waddle to a dead halt. Enough stoppages will leave the penguin out in the cold on the snowy pathways, far from a base when the timer hits zero.

Back to square one for you.

In the early 1980s liquid crystal technology became inexpensive following the research a decade earlier of Wolfgang Helfrich and Martin Schadt. Helfrich and Schadt utilized the work of French physicist Charles-Victor Mauguin on the twisted nematic effect, discovered in 1911, to eliminate the need for crystal current flow and create a display that required low voltages, ideal for use with batteries. LCDs quickly supplanted LED and electroluminescent technology in handheld devices, prevalently wristwatches. In Japan it led to a wave of LCD-based handheld electronic games, such as Nintendo's Game and Watch and Bandai's LCD Solarpower series.

The drawback to early LCD games was that every possible location and state of a game object had to be pre-programmed, with resulting games little more than intricately designed Mealy machines. This limited designers but led to creative use of the technology, a common one the pseudo-3D adventure/racing game. To bring the history lesson full circle we finally come back to Antarctic Adventure, a console development not limited by such restrictions, but directly inspired by titles resulting from those restrictions. If AA seems simple then, it was by design. Antarctic Adventure is a hat tip to the simpler technology of its time.

With that in mind it's entertaining good fun. Guiding Penta in Antarctic Adventure is a simple matter of controlling speed using the up and down directions of the joystick and his on-screen position using left and right. It's an especially adept design for the Colecovision controller. The horizon is a stillframe image, with overlaying obstacles appearing small to create the illusion of distance before sequentially enlarging and entering their potential collision state.

There exists an interesting design difference between the two obstacles. Crevices appear and the player must usually slow to carefully time his leap over them, often because they follow consecutively, catching over-anxious players in groupings of two, three and even four. Sea lions don't appear on the horizon; the fishing holes they pop out of approach, and the player must take his chances. He can circumvent the obstruction but risk worse positioning to clear the next, or he can risk running into an emerging sea lion by choosing to jump instead.

Now and again an arctic tundra will give way to a jagged coastline but graphical slide pieces make no difference. Bends and curves in the road are simulated, however, with controls appropriately stiffening in response to produce the effect. Waldteufel's The Skaters' Waltz sees its Colecovision rendition with tolerable results, accompanying each trek. Fish and flags litter the way to add bonus to your tally. There's little else to say.

Antarctic Adventure provides a unique test of reaction and memorization under the scrutiny of tested time limits. Its exterior is a cute cuddly penguin running errands on the South Pole, thwarted by smiling creatures and comical slips on the ice. Its working code is a snapshot of the early days of an emerging technology capably recreated for a different hardware. While often passed off as mere diversion, Antarctic Adventure is a frustrating and competitive test of reflexes, perhaps even a bit alienating with its unexpected degree of difficulty. Yet its sound and refined design is a tribute to decades of research, because even to arrive at the simplicity of Antarctic Adventure, a lot of complicated work had to happen along the way.

Rating: 6/10

LowerStreetBlues's avatar
Community review by LowerStreetBlues (November 15, 2009)

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zippdementia posted November 16, 2009:

This is... a really good review. You tie history in seamlessly with a discussion about the game mechanics. Story is the most important tool we have in teaching others. You use it well.
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randxian posted November 22, 2009:

Hm. I'm ambivalent about the history lesson. On one hand, I'm glad to
see you were willing to go the extra mile and do some research in an attempt to educate us readers. On other other hand, I feel like this disrupts the flow of the review. Your intro starts fine with a general overview of the game. Then all of a sudden you slam on the brakes and launch into LCD gaming 101. It just doesn't feel right.

However, you do recover a bit by providing vivid descriptions of the graphics and game mechanics. It's obvious you put a lot of time and effort into describing such an obscure game.

I also found a few awkward sentences. For example, "Sea lions don't appear on the horizon; the fishing holes they pop out of approach, and the player must take his chances." I assume this means the sea lions pop out of holes as you, the player, approach said holes.

Overall, this reads like a mediocre review with a lot of potential. Fit your history lesson in a little more casually and this could be a great review.

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LowerStreetBlues posted November 22, 2009:

Cool. I'll do better next time.

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