The Dreadnaught Factor
Unfortunately, for the most part, their record on the 5200 is somewhat less astounding. Now before you have me fried in liquid badger vomit and fed to the neighbors rat terrier, hear me out! See, most of Activision's 5200 titles are nothing more than *slightly* updated 2600 games. Pitfall, for instance, has better trees. Ooh. Wow. I bet thousands of people bought it just to admire the foliage. Or not. What about Kaboom? Umm, some cheesy 'buildings' on the top of the screen that looked like they were nabbed from the 2600's Superman game. Blech. I can't imagine anyone buying it if they already had a 2600.
And that, frankly, was the problem. Who was going to shell out 30 bones for a remake of a 2600 game that looks just like the 2600 game? Not many did, to be sure. Yeah, the games were still the same great hits that made Atari a household name, but it wasn't enough, not on a next gen system. This is yet another reason why the poor Super System never took off like the 2600 did. However, all is not bad.
Activision eventually got the hint, and put out some very playable games. The one I'm gonna review here, namely The Dreadnaught Factor, is one of their best. DF, as I'll call it, is a top down shooter with a twist. Instead of traversing a few different levels and fighting bosses, you are tasked with defending your world from an enemy armada. Armed with only a few fighters, you must assail huge, multi-screen behemoths (think X-Wings fighting Star destroyers) and take them out before they force your planet to open a Wal-Mart franchise *cough*, I mean, before they wipe you out.
Each of the ships is HUGE, and you can, if you want to set the difficulty high enough, fight hundreds of them. What makes this game so cool, is that each ship is bristling with lazers, missiles, scanning towers, command centers, exhaust ports and engines. Here's where it gets fun. You cannot take the ship out on a single pass, and you're on a time budget (the enemy fleet moves steadily closer to your planet), so you have to prioritize your targets. You see, all the targets actually serve a purpose. As you take out the engines, for instance, the ship will slow to a crawl, giving you more time to take it out. Knock out all the command centers, and the withering barrage of weapons fire becomes a trickle. Kill the exhaust ports, and the ship blows up. You get the picture.
It's this added layer of strategy which really draws you in. Sure the game is fast and frantic, like any good shooter, but you'll find yourself planning out your attack runs, trying out new approaches. There are quite a few different (and BIG) ships designs in the enemy fleet, each requiring a different approach. I find myself always popping this game in to see if I can get farther than the last time I played. The limited time really gets you sweating, too.
So, how does it break down? The graphics are average, neither being noticeably bad, or pushing the limits. The big starships look good, and convey a sense of scale and menace. All in all, not bad at all. The sound is good too, if not stellar. all the requisite stuff is here, and all of it fits. Nothing out of the ordinary though.
Gameplay is where this game is king. The controls are just dandy, and as I've explained above, this game is absolutely a blast to play. Modern shooters could take a lesson from this game, with it's strategic approach to action. If you want to see what Activision COULD have done on the 5200 if they had really wanted to, this game will give you a good idea. I love it. It sits right next to Rescue on Fractulus on the shelf, for easy grabs.