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Protector - The Atari Times

Protector


Songbird resurrects another classic shooter
by Bruce Clarke

May 24, 2001
About two weeks ago I ordered a copy of Protector from Songbird Productions.

Right off the bat I was impressed with the quality of the manual, the cart label and especially the cardboard box. I compared the Protector box side-by-side with a couple of other mint Jaguar boxes. Except for the missing UPC code on the bottom and the fact that the Songbird cart seems to be on a slightly thinner paper stock, I'm hard-pressed to see much difference in quality or look. The box is easily up to any commercial standards that you might expect, and looks slicker than a lot of "big professional company" packages. Frankly I almost thought it was overkill: instead of a cardboard and glossy brochure, I'd have rather had a nice controller overlay. Still, that's a minor comment - certainly the packaging looks terrific considering Songbird is a "one man" production. The plastic shell and label look excellent and could easily pass for an "official" Atari product.

When you power up the cart, the red Jaguar logo and rotating cube are bypassed. Instead you get a black screen with some music, followed by the Songbird Productions logo and a "title page" for Protector .I thought this title page looked a little flat and plain, and doesn't quite mesh with the rest of the cart in terms of graphics quality.

Protector itself is a very good 'clone' of the old Williams arcade classic Defender; you fly left and right over a scrolling landscape and blast baddies as they try to kidnap humans on the landscape surface. The movement of the various alien ships (landers, mutants) is pretty similar to the original game. There are a few minor additions to the game: at the end of every fourth wave you have to survive a meteor shower, and you can collect "power-up" prizes from the remains of some of the enemies after they are destroyed. These power-ups can then be used between rounds to purchase additional shields, smart bombs, etc.

The controller input is very well-done and has just the right level of sensitivity. Protector's graphics are very well-done, although for the most part don't really "show off" the Jaguar's "eye-candy" abilities like say Tempest 2000 or Atari Karts do. The scrolling backgrounds, foregrounds, sprite movements, etc. are all very smooth and high frame rate with little or no flicker.

The explosions look particularly good: when a ship explodes it sprays out a flower of white sparks that looks very sharp. In the height of battle the screen can be full of enemies , exploding orange fireballs, and white sparks, yet there's very little slow-down. The intensity of blast-em gameplay reminded me at times of T2K.

Some more good points are the music and sound effects. Normally I wouldn't bother to comment on these, but in Protector the background music and sound effects are well-suited to the game, and definitely set the mood. If you've ever played Alien vs Predator you know how subtle but well-done sound can really enhance a game.

One nitpick is that the colourful outer space backdrop and foregrounds don't change very often. Protector's foreground landscape seems to change every two waves. I'd like to have seen more variety, say a change after every wave. This way there would have been a more immediate pay-off or 'reward' for completing a wave: "Hey, I've never seen that before."

My other nit is with the difficulty level: I've played the game on both easy and medium difficulties, and I can't really tell the difference. Medium seems to me to be about right, but the easy level stills seems just as hard. I think the easy level should be more easier, or perhaps have an extra, simpler 'Wimp' level.

Overall I'm very pleased with Protector, and would rate it as one of the better games for the Jaguar. I don't think it's quite at the level of Tempest 2000 or DOOM, but it is pretty close.

This is what's known as a static 80's style title screen. ;-)
Unlike Defender 2000, you don't concentrate on the radar so much to play.
The explosions are nicely rendered.
I dunno... Somehow I expected "Ye Olde Shoppe" to have some grimy space pirate behind a counter...
Protector
System: Jaguar
Publisher: Songbird
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: %
Sound & Music Score: %
Gameplay Score: %
Control Score: %

Final Score: 88%



Reader Comments for Protector

Asteroids by Gregory D. George on 2006-10-02 23:28:21
I only wish you could shoot the asteroids. Can you do that in the SE version?
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