Now, Cosmic Commuter sure as heck "looks" like an Activision game. The graphics are crisp, colorful and well-defined. There's none of that nasty screen flicker that plagued many a 2600 title. The controls, as usual, are responsive and easy to learn and master. Sadly, the entire game is easy to learn and master -- there's not a whole lot of challenge to speak of in this title, making it a game that's fun for a time but gets boring in a hurry. That's a true shame because it's a great looking game and could have been improved by adding some challenge to the cart.
Cosmic Commuter is best described as a non-violent clone of Defender. The game starts with a bit of a Lunar Lander feel in that the player is given the task of landing a spaceship on a planet without smashing it to pieces. During the opening sequence, of course, the player has to adjust thrust so as to land the spaceship as gently as possible. Once landed, the top portion of the spaceship separates and the player is given the task of picking up eight people on the planet's surface looking for a ride to work. All the while, the player is avoiding asteroids and mines and running over "fuel" pods in order to keep those engines purring. The player, of course, can fire at will at obstacles and get them out of the way.
So, this is a side-scrolling shooter similar to Defender but with a couple of twists. Oh, I forgot to mention the most important twist -- the elements that made Defender such a fun game are all but absent here. Nothing shoots back at the player at all, and the obstacles on the screen are easy to blast, avoid or just fly around. Heck, even running out of fuel is hard because there are opportunities to get more gas all over the place. The game looks very promising at first, but becomes very dull after a time. Honestly, I was able to play this thing for about 30 minutes when I first fired it up and turned it off because I got bored. There's just not enough challenge to make this game as outstanding as it should have been. Like I said, that's a shame.
As for sound, it's effective but nothing outstanding. The term here, I think, is "utilitarian" -- a tone will sound when a passenger is picked up and the engine on the spaceship will start to stutter when the player is low on fuel. Even the visuals are built to provide the player with quick information. When a passenger is in sight, the bottom portion of the screen flashes red to alert the player (by the way, there are eight passengers on every level, but the happy gamer is only required to pick up one). The level ends when the player returns to the larger spaceship, docks with it and takes off for outer space. A new level -- which looks remarkably similar to the previous one -- then starts.
So, I find it hard to rate this game because I do enjoy playing it from time to time, but I really think Activision could have done a lot better. Sure, the company was always in the unique position of competing with itself with each new release, but Activision built a name for itself by churning out high-quality, innovative titles.
Cosmic Commuter just falls a bit short of that reputation. Still, I do believe this game was worth the $2.75 I paid for it and view it as yet another acceptable title in my collection.