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Aquattack (Colecovision) artwork

Aquattack (Colecovision) review

"What? Colecovision? We actually cover this platform?"

Aquattack (Colecovision) image

I think most gamers agree that old school titles tend to be challenging. This is mainly because gaming has its roots in the arcades of yore, where cabinets presented crushing opposition as a means of squeezing you for every quarter. It therefore shouldn't come as a surprise that when the first of the home consoles arrived, developers still crafted games that punished their players whilst presenting addictive qualities. To some, this might seem like a nonsensical approach. Why put players through such stringent tests when you weren't receiving additional coinage from them? I believe devs did this because it aided in maintaining the arcade feel when porting a game to a system, such as Colecovision. Unfortunately, maintaining this standard didn't always produce quality in-home entertainment. The game Aquattack springs to mind...

You might not realize how weak of an experience Aquattack offers at first. It starts you off in a speed boat while a low-pitched, catchy tune bumps from your speakers, reminiscent of a cheesy spy film from way back. Occasionally, tanks roll up from the shore and helicopters swoop in from behind and bombard you, sometimes simultaneously to keep you on your toes. Thankfully, you've got an edge on these suckers, because you can fire in nine--count 'em--nine directions thanks to Colecovision's number pad. With a little practice, the tanks become a non-issue, since you can blast them with a diagonal backside shot before they have a chance to mount a major offensive.

Aquattack (Colecovision) image

It took me a while to get acclimated, only because fending off both foes with Colecovision's controller was a nightmare. After about a day of playing, though, I was blasting tanks with finesse and laughing at their charred remains. This first phase proved to be simple and addictive, precisely what I expect from a first-generation title.

You might notice the presence of a distance meter while playing and wonder what that's all about. The big reveal arrives once the numbers reach one hundred, and it's then that your tears begin to flow. That's when the protagonist leaps from his awesome watercraft and grasps a lame hang glider. This is also the point in which the game's control scheme shifts radically, to the point that you're likely to die the instant you enter the second stage. Up and Down on the joystick no longer move you along the river, but raise and lower your glider instead. Confusingly, you have to use Left and Right to strafe vertically across the water, all while ignoring the previously established number keys in favor of the side triggers in order to launch an assault. In other words, you have to flip your brain completely around in order to effectively play this level, because it controls like an entirely different game.

Aquattack (Colecovision) image

This would be dandy if Aquattack didn't sport an arcade-style difficulty rating. The instant you take flight, though, the opponents sitting along the riverfront commence pummeling you with projectiles. Given their speed and aggressiveness, it shouldn't take long before you perish from your wounds. Bear in mind that the game doesn't replenish your health after the first stage, that you only have one life, and that Aquattack predates the now standard home game notion of offering continues. When your beating concludes and your life has ended, you have to take it all from the top. You receive barely any time to get acquainted with the hang glider's control scheme, which means returning to that phase is likely to spell your doom repeatedly. Worse, you have to replay the same level ad nauseam before you can learn to survive for a short amount of time in the second region. To put to another way, it's just not worth the effort.

Aquattack starts off as a decent score attack title, but ends up a frustrating, clunky shooter. It almost has the feel of an arcade game: challenging, addictive (at first), and fast-paced. The only problem is that it forgets to ease up enough to let you enjoy yourself before raining fire upon you. When an Atari-era title is this unforgiving, there's little incentive to play. I expect most retro games to be jaw-jackingly tough, but there comes a point when even they should relent a little.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (January 18, 2015)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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