Allia Quest, programmed by Igor Barzilai, is a shooter that reminds me lot of another classic game - Megamania by Activision. You've got waves of oddly-shaped aliens that swoop at the player in rigid formations, and clearing each wave takes a good deal of patience.
But, the similarities between Megamania and Allia Quest end there, however. This is an odd shooter in that the player shoots at absolutely huge aliens that swoop at him waves of 20 beasties at a time. The aliens are so large, in fact, that only about four of them will fit on the screen at a time. The formations force the player to be patient because you can only blast a couple of bad guys before you have to get out of the way of the rigid formations and the shots the aliens fire. The formations only feature one alien per horizontal plane, so it looks rather like the enemies are swarming at the player in a sort of perverted mambo (yeah, turn that image around in your head for a bit). Once a wave passes the player's ship, it starts again at the top of the screen, meaning you've got to be ready to line up just right and whittle down each wave a few aliens at a time.
One very novel thing about Allia Quest is that the player's ship stats in one spot at the bottom of the screen throughout the entire game. When the controller is moved left or right, the aliens appear to move. That scheme takes some getting used to, but it works very well. I can't help but think Barzilai studied Einstein's theory of relativity and was taken with the notion that a person in, say, a car "feels" like he is motionless while everything else around him is moving.
The graphics here are very nicely done. The aliens are, as I've mentioned, huge and come in several, varied colors. There is no screen flicker to speak of, and the animation is nice and smooth. You even get some nice pinpoints of light in the black background, and that helps maintain the illusion that the contest takes place in space. The player's ship looks a little drab and blob-like, but that doesn't distract from the game at all. This might not be the prettiest game you'll play for the 2600, but the size of the aliens and the colors used add up to some impressive graphics.
As for sound, it's a bit odd. The aliens make a very strange, "puffing" sound when they explode, but at least they disintegrate nicely. The sounds are minimal at best, but there's some interested background racket from time to time. The control is tight, too.
The program itself renders a nice, professional game, and the same is true of the cartridge label and manual. But, that really shouldn't come as a surprise because this game, after all, is sold through AtariAge.com and that group is responsible for the manual and cartridge label. AtariAge tends to put some much-appreciated effort into the homebrews they sell, and they've done another great job with the packaging of Allia Quest. The manual provides all the documentation you need, and even contains a nifty background story.
One thing I noticed about this game is that I really had to give it a few plays before I liked it. For some reason, it didn't grab me immediately. However, after I played it a few times, I found myself hitting that reset button after losing my last ship and mumbling, "I can do better than that!" I do think that's a sign of a pretty good game. Give it a few plays, and you'll be hooked if you like classic shooters.
There are a lot of homebrews out there these days, and Allia Quest is one of the better ones. Pick up a copy next time you're in the market for a solid shooter and feel like supporting the homebrewers out there.