Sea Monster - Atari 2600 (Re-Review post)
April 28, 2011

This is my Sea Monster review, being reposted before it goes into the void.

A game's name should stand out, and Sea Monster definitely does that. It might strike up thoughts of a vicious Liopleurodon, it's mouth drawn open in a deafening roar, power metal booming in the background. Let's also not forget the lightning, lots of lightning. Unfortunately, the game is not as awesome as its distinct and succinct name. Rather, it's a genre exercise that should not surprise anyone as to why it's so obscure. It's worth taking a short look at, and then putting away. The controls are the saving grace to a game with shoddy graphics, familiar gameplay, and rehashed sounds.

Most developers had the creativity in mind to come up with setups for 2600 games. Many of these were filled with unpronounceable or outright silly names for planets that make you think of sweaty teenagers dressing up as elves. Bit Corp., developers of Sea Monster, thought the name and concept was awesome enough that they didn't need an elaborate setup. All the manual and box say is that you're on a boat being attacked by sea monsters. What do you do? Are you a bad enough dude to kill sea monsters while on a boat? No wrestling around with silly names or politics. At the same time, it lacks creativity. What would it be like if other games were like this? You were in the garden and a centipede came along... or you were just walking outside and invaders came down from space... or you were climbing a building and heard a scream, only to see an ape throwing barrels down at you. Just doesn't have the same effect, and it feels lazy.

The plot to the game sums up the gameplay. You're on a boat, and you have to kill sea monsters. Your boat sits on the surface of the ocean and can only move left or right. The sea monsters are down below you, moving right to left, some of the shooting projectiles up at you. To kill the beasts you have to hit the fire button and drop down a projectile directly onto them. As you make kills, you gain points. Reach 1000 points and get a free life, but good luck getting that far. As you advance, the game becomes faster and harder. Two players can also take turns on the game and try to outscore one another.

There are only three different types of sea monsters: one near the surface that looks like an octopus, one in the middle that looks like... hell, I don't know, a scorpion? Lastly, there's one on the bottom that looks like someone stretched out the bug ship from Yars' Revenge. These graphics, though well colored, are dull and incomprehensible. You can somehow make a boat out of your character, but the creatures below? Your guess is as good as any. The manual says nothing about what they are, and it really looks like the developers just slapped some pixels together that might look like a creature and said, "Use your imaginations!" That is part of the beauty of Atari, that you had to use your imagination while playing, but this one really wanted you to stretch. Again, it feels lazy. True, even games like Demon Attack had some strange enema designs, but they didn't look so hastily slapped together.

Even look at the ocean floor. Is that supposed to be coral? It looks like someone took a basic paint program, held down the left click on a mouse, and scribbled around in random directions. Sure, it's not fair to expect major detail from Atari 2600, but we've seen much better than this before.
Basically, this game is Demon Attack, except you're near the top of the screen shooting downward, and enemies don't come in waves. That's right, there are no levels in this game. When you hit an enemy, it dies, stays dead for a short while, and then respawns. Yet, your own respawning seems to take forever, and about a third of the time you respawn in right next to a projectile and die again.

And both of the last factors only back up the statement that this game is slapped together. It looks and feels more like a cherishable homebrew than a professionally made game. But there's a little charm in it.

The game is as repetitive as any other 2600 action game, but it balances out its repetition with fast gameplay. The controls are very tight and responsive, so there's no worry of blaming a mishap on them. Honestly, the blend of fast gameplay, expert timing, and increasing difficulty keeps this game from being a complete dud. It's lightly fun, but the main problem is the inauthentic feel and the fact that the game feels slapped together. It plays like so many other games before it, and there really isn't any incentive to play this rather than any of its many predecessors.

Sea Monster is not by any means awful. It's not misunderstood either. It's a tad trite, but it's lightly fun and worth checking out for 2600 action game fans. The gameplay does what it should. It's challenging and it's well paced. Beyond that, it's nothing major. What it all comes down to is whether or not this game is more worth playing than better action titles like Demon Attack and Phoenix, and the answer is no. It's no replacement for the great space shooters out there, but for esoteric players and collectors, it's a real catch.

[Joe apologizes to anyone injured by the last pun. Relief fund forthcoming.]

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wolfqueen001 wolfqueen001 - May 17, 2011 (10:16 AM)
Posting to get the reply link for your blog since, when the tourney is archived, the link to the forum post I used earlier will die after a while.

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