Space Panic (Coleco)
I think it’s fair to say that the Colecovision WAS the home arcade system, Atari tried with the 2600 with mixed results, and around the time the Colecovision came out Atari tried again with the 5200, with… uh… even more mixed results. I suppose you could argue that both the Colecovision and the Atari 5200 had very similar flaws, in that the standard controllers were awful, either in design or build quality, or both. In the end the Colecovision was somewhat victorious, and then the market crashed and the Colecovision died, while the 2600 soldiered on, so it was Atari who still had the last laugh. But we’re not talking about a 5200 game today, mainly because mine doesn’t work (go figure), today we’ll be talking about a Colecovision game, and an arcade port at that. Today we’ll be looking at Mr. Do’s Cas- I mean Space Panic, which is basically Mr. Do’s Castle in space. Funnily enough both Space Panic and Mr. Do’s Castle were made and owned by Universal, so I guess I can’t really say that this game is a rip-off since it’s made by the same company. So does this game put the Colecovision to the test? Or is it a disappointing waste of time, money, and air?
Kind of the latter… This game looks quite basic for a Colecovision game, it’s not completely garbage but it’s really not doing anything new. While definitely leaps and bounds past the 2600, it still feels, and looks rather boring, despite the contrasting colors of the lime green floors and the purple ladders, it all looks a bit muted, like the color settings on my screen are a bit off, but they’re not I checked. The little space dude you move around is decently represented, his head is a different color to his space suit and his tiny shovel, which appears to resemble a loaf of bread, or perhaps a baguette is also a different color. The Space Monsters, at least the red ones resemble angry somewhat squashed tomatoes, and in my opinion look rather silly. That’s the weird thing with this game, everything is always just good enough, nothing is absolutely terrible, but there is nothing truly standout either. Your HUD has your basic information on it, lives, score, and oxygen/timer, again nothing very interesting at all. I feel that all of this reeks of wasted opportunity, I know the original arcade version was nothing special either, but this was a home console, this is the perfect place to improve the game, to perhaps outshine and make obsolete the arcade game entirely, this game had a lot of potential, and it’s so very sad that much of it was wasted.
Oh my goodness that little opening jingle is an absolute earworm, I can’t get that tune out of my head, and I hate it. Otherwise the sounds are a standard Colecovision affair, the walking sound is rather annoying, the sounds made by the Space Monsters as they fall into and subsequently try to escape from the holes is also absolutely awful. Otherwise the only other sound of any note is the jingle that is played when you complete a level, it sounds so very sparkly and outer space-esque, it’s really quite nice to listen to. Apart from those it’s just your standard affair of the classic noises we’ve all come to love like ‘Bleep’ and ‘Bloop’ and ‘grdrgrdrgrdr’ and ‘chvvvvvvv’, y’know the classics.
This game is your basic arcade affair, you have platforms with ladders, both you and your enemies use these ladders to move about, you must dig holes into the platforms, when an enemy falls into your trap you bury them/ force them through the hole to fall to their death, either way you’re killing them. As we all know the Colecovision controller is not very good at doing its job, and unfortunately you HAVE to use a Colecovision controller for this game since it uses more than just one button. Digging and filling the hole you just dug are mapped to each of the side buttons, one digs, the other fills, and because of that this game will give you a wonderful hand cramp, (I know there are a lot of people who like the Colecovision controller, I don’t, you may find the controls completely adequate, I don’t, please voice your opinions in the comments section, and please be civil.) I can only wish that both functions were mapped to the same button, but seeing as that is not the case we have to make do with what we’ve got. There are three different enemy types you will encounter: the basic Creature, which is red, the Boss, which is green, and the Don, which is blue. Each enemy type has to fall through a certain number of floors in one go to be destroyed; the Creature needs to fall through one floor, the Boss through two, and the Don through three. This adds a large amount of challenge to the game, and also a hefty amount of frustration, since the enemies never go where you want them to, and if an enemy falls into the hole they will fill it in when they escape, which makes getting rid of a Don whilst surrounded by Bosses or vice versa quite annoying since all your holes will be filled in and you’ll run out of oxygen and die.
This game is quite enjoyable in the earlier levels, but quickly turns to frustration when the more difficult creatures are introduced. Due to the game’s commonality and cheap price it’s still rather worth it, but it’s not really a ‘must-buy’, you can find copies as low as six bucks on EBay, and probably cheaper in the wild, so if you see one for cheap enough pick it up, there is a slight chance you won’t regret it.