Time Warp - The Atari Times
A jump to the left, and a step to the- Oops, wrong Time Warp!
by Rob AdairAugust 7, 2007
If you're a big follower of the Atari 2600 during it's heyday, odds are you've probably heard about the Canadian discount store known as Zeller's. This company was similar to stores like Ames, Wal-Mart, and places of that nature. However, one thing that Zeller's was known for doing was publishing Atari 2600 games under their own label, possibly in an effort to 'cash in' on the craze that was sweeping the world at the time. The one noticeable thing about their games was that they came in a generic box with a small picture on the front, and a single piece of paper giving the details on how to play. A lot of times their 'games' would be rip-offs of other existing games, sometimes with new names to them. However, I recently discovered a (possibly) original gem made by them called Time Warp. And no, it has nothing to do with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, sorry folks!
Instead, this game has you placed in a spacecraft of some kind (the cover art makes it look like a futuristic passenger jetliner with weapons attached, but I don't know honestly!) flying through what looks like a cave, while taking on several enemies that attack you from the right side of the screen. After surviving a few rounds, you'll go into an 'underground' cave where you fly through a treacherous corridor and attempt to dock with a refueling station (I'd guess.) After that, it's back to blasting targets again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The graphics aren't one of the game's strongest suits, I'm sorry to say. Yeah, I know graphics weren't exactly the big thing on the Atari 2600, but for it's standards at the time, things could've been a bit better. The 'cave' that you fly through is basically a couple of purple curving lines made to look like jagged spots in the cave. Your ship looks like a simple passenger jet, except it's very very tiny. In fact, I'd think that it's only about five or six pixels long. Not to mention the way it shakes a little as it flies seems a tad bit on the strange side. I will give them credit for some of the enemies, like the helicopters and the UFOs, even if the latter looks a little like jellyfish. Also, when you defeat the last enemy, instead of it vanishing, it 'morphs' into the next enemy in the sequence and spawns several more of it from there. A rather nice effect. The refueling sequence (as I've called it) has the dock at the right side of the screen which looks nice, but the 'cave' you fly through is pretty dull. There are treacherous twists and turns, but there's no real detail to the cave.
Yes, I admit I'm being very harsh here, but that's because in terms of sound effects, there is hardly anything to speak of. When an enemy shoots at you, you'll hear a 'pshew' sound that sounds kind of like the hockey stick being swung in Activision's Ice Hockey. The other sound is a dull, but loud, explosion when an enemy or your ship gets hit. In addition, for some strange reason that I cannot comprehend, the sounds tend to repeat two or three times when they happen. One possibility may be because it's trying to imitate an echo within the cave, but to be perfectly honest, the only saving grace is that there's actually sound.
The game comes in two phases. First, you fly through the 'cave' shooting at various targets that attempt to shoot you. Go figure, right. One interesting quirk is how the enemies can 'slant' their shots, making them go a little diagonally instead of straight forwards. This is an interesting quirk which should keep players on their toes. After defeating enough enemy targets, you'll proceed to the other half, which involves you flying through one of several narrow passages (big cave shown on entire screen) to get to the docking port on the other side of the screen. This is where steady hands and careful hand-eye coordination come into place, since one false move can easily wreck your ship while you're flying through the corridors. After that, it's back to blasting more enemies. While it's standard shoot-em-up fare, the fact you 'refuel' in between rounds is an interesting touch, especially how you fly through those passages to do so. One thing I like about this game is how it presents a good challenge on the default settings, but you can play other variations for easier gameplay.
The controls come in two different schemes: One for when you're taking on your enemy targets, and one for when you're navigating through the passages to refuel. In the first half, you can maneuver up and down as well as pull back or accelerate forward. You use the button to shoot at your enemies, and while you can only have one shot onscreen at a time, you can hold down the button for continuous fire to give you an advantage over your enemies. When you're in the refueling section, you can speed up or slow down by pushing the joystick left to brake or right to accelerate. The controls here are perfect in terms of response in that you can move up or down just a hair to avoid crashing when the passage goes up or down suddenly. The only problem I had was sometimes you end up coming out of the wrong passage and in your effort to reach the dock, you crash into it.
I will say this for Time Warp: It's nothing really new, but it is unique in that it's one of (possibly) few original games produced by Zeller's. The simple gameplay with two different phases is retained well, and it presents a solid challenge to players, meaning that it's definitely worth a try at least once.
What's with the past tense stuff (e.g. "This company was similar to stores like Ames, Wal-Mart, and places of that nature"). This store IS like those stores. It's still here; no "was" required".
The funny thing is, when I bought Atari games there myself in 85 or 86, I remember them being the normal boxes, and I can't remember there being any pirate carts. Perhaps the pirate stock didn't make it through the crash.