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Into The Eagles Nest - The Atari Times

Into The Eagles Nest


A Goose Egg in This Nest
by David Sherwin

April 19, 2004
I first heard about Into the Eagle's Nest during the dying days of the XE computer line in North America, when rumours abounded that Pandora was going to port its uber-popular maze blaster from other platforms (C64, ST) to the 8-bits. Those rumours died when developers realized that the XEGS just wasn't going to be a big hit, and Pandora dropped their project. Somewhere along the way, though, it seems that Atari picked up rights to Eagle's Nest and refigured it as a XEGS release. Ok -- it was clear ripoff of the Wolfenstein game series, but I can still clearly recall my excitement after reading about Eagle's Nest in a copy of The Atarian. Then, of course, I promptly forgot about it.

Fifteen years later, I happened upon Eagle's Nest and pounced upon it in order to complete my XEGS collection. Was it worth the wait? And, more importantly, was it worth the money?

The answers to both questions is very much like the game itself: a very mixed and equivocal "maybe." Eagle's Nest sure looks like a lot of games, and plays like some others, but it somehow feels like a lot less than the sum of all these great parts. Eagle's Nest isn't a truly terrible game in itself, but it is inferior to Atari's other XEGS releases, and will only likely whet your appetite for Gauntlet. Fans of the genre may well be pleased by this late-era 8-bit blaster, but casual gamers may well want to pass up this one for one of Eagle's more popular predecessors.

Gameplay

Wolfenstein was essentially Berzerk with a Nazi theme, and Eagle's Nest, in turn, adds little new to a genre that was already well-represented in the mid-'80s. Eagle's Nest does vary generic gameplay -- slightly -- by presenting mission "goals" that must be completed before the next level can be reached. The various mission goals to add a level of interest and variety to the game, and elevate it slightly above similar efforts where the only stated goal was survival to the next level, but they're actually less interesting than the challenges that Wolfenstein presented to players in 1982. Still, players can choose from four missions from which to begin, and this variety is a nice touch in the game. Sadly, all mazes are static, and Eagle's Nest has little replay value once you've completed all given missions.

Eagle's Nest is also -- and unaccountably -- almost impossible to play because of the game's high level of difficulty. It's impossible to wipe out enemy soldiers on any given level, as they constantly regenerate and will return to all cleared areas. Weapons and food caches are, however, finite resources, and they aren't nearly numerous enough to be really helpful on the various missions. Enemy soldiers are also unaccountably "dumb", and their only attack method seems to be "smother and shoot". You'd think that this would ease gaming difficulty, but it instead induces player exhaustion. There's little point in playing a shooter when you're just faced with endless hordes of grey, faceless drones without any funky digitized voices (or bouncing smiley faces) to spice up the action.

Gaming controls are generally stiff and unresponsive, and it's just too damn hard to hit the enemy soldiers as they move in for the kill. "Endless hordes of monsters"-type games aren't impossible to play, but they only work (as in Gauntlet) when players can move quickly enough to shoot and / or avoid all incoming targets.

Graphics

Eagle's Nest was patterned both in theme and in visual effects on the groundbreaking Castle Wolfenstein game series, and each of the game's scrolling mazes clearly evokes the feel of those earlier games, albeit with mid-'80s arcade-style graphics. Enemy soldiers are rendered well, bonuses and prizes are clear and distinct, and the game's font, which displays such important facts as health and game score, is appropriate for the game's theme.

It was also, perhaps, a no-brainer for Pandora to replicate the direct-overhead perspective of the Gauntlet games, but the results here are decidedly mixed. With its endless hordes of Nazi soldiers and food powerups, it's impossible not to think of Eagle's Nest just as Gauntlet -- the Nazi Adventure!, but coloured in drab tones and missing any sense of the delight derived from the many interesting graphic details of the Gauntlet game series. Eagle's endless stream of Nazi soldiers ultimately seems both silly (do they really replicate, gather, and attack like the ghosts in Gauntlet?) and exhausting. 

Sound and Music

In-game music is non-existent and sound effects are typically workmanlike, but they are used fairly effectively throughout the game. Wolfenstein's digitized voice samples are, however, sorely missed and I'm not sure why similar ones could not have been included here.

Summary

Eagle's Nest is perched rather awkwardly in Atari's XE gaming catalogue: a hybrid of Gauntlet, Dark Chambers, and Wolfenstein, it incorporates none of them successfully and only underlines the originality of these source games. It's puzzling to thing that Atari sat on the much-superior Commando while releasing this quasi-turkey to much fanfare. Clearly, someone goofed.

Eagle's Nest marked one of the last popular appearances of the overhead-type maze blaster before the first-person shooter took over, and it is therefore more of interest to gaming historians than the gaming fan looking for a bit of quick-and-dirty arcade action. For 8-bit collectors and completists only. 



Ah, the similarity to Castle Wolfenstein is striking...
It's a scrolling Berzerk, er Gauntlet with Nazis!
Into The Eagles Nest
System: 8-Bit
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 75%
Sound & Music Score: 60%
Gameplay Score: 50%
Control Score: 55%

Final Score: 55%



Reader Comments for Into The Eagles Nest

Program History by Cees Beekhuis on 2006-12-15 08:28:38
Hi, I was pointed to this site by one of my workers. I have written this program in 1987 for Pandora in only six weeks. It was released as a Commodore 64 program and received very positive reviews. The problem that they had was lack of knowledge over the Atari 8-bit because it only had a character set of 128 characters, while the Commodore 64 had 256 characters. By using 7 character sets, I was able to sqeeze in the needed data, using the verticale blank to switch between them. Only the main solder is a sprite. The only thing I had from the original 64 game was the maps and the sprites and I had to play the C-64 game to find out what I needed to create. The source was written on an Atari ST on which I had created an editor and assemble which enabled me to compile is seconds, instead of the MAC/64 (if I remember right?) asembler that took ages to compile/assemble. If it is correct then my name is still in the startup screen, although Atari wanted it out of the game. Any questions you can address them to me at cees.beekhuis(a)nl.abnamro.com but please don't put my mail address on your website. Regards, Cees
eagles nest by tharkanoid on 2015-10-22 15:06:38
quite a negative review, i thought it was rather an enjoyable - quality game.
respect to the programmers. modern day games made much better use of atari capabilities, even so, i have all the time in the world for those that made software for atari
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