Suicide Mission (Starpath)
Alright… A show of hands, who here has played Asteroids? Hmmm, okay, that’s a good number of you, who here has played the 2600 port? Oh, even more of you, that’s interesting, who here thinks the 2600 port of asteroids is a good port? Well there go a few hands, alright a few more. Who here has heard of Suicide Mission? Well that’s not many hands at all… how disappointing. Last one, who here thinks that Suicide Mission, a game that many of you haven’t heard of is as good, if not better than the 2600 port of Asteroids, and is approaching the arcade version quality-wise? All of you!? Well I did word it quite specifically so I can’t fault you for that. Suicide mission is quite the technical marvel, so was the 2600 port of Asteroids but it had its flaws, mainly that it was so easy a child could roll the score counter, Suicide Mission however takes the Asteroids concept and shakes it up quite a bit if its for the better or for the worse, we’ll find out all in good time.. This game’s story resembles that of Fantastic Journey more so than Asteroids, you maneuver a microscopic submarine to destroy an abscess that is perilously close to a human heart, the abscess is leaking all sorts of nastiness into the bloodstream and it’s your job to blast these fools to wiggly worm-y bits.
I won’t sugarcoat this, the game looks awful, and depending on the TV you use you won’t be able to play this game at all. Let me explain, this game uses a rather unique method of rendering to display this game, every other row of horizontal pixels is used to display objects, this is likely to ease up on the memory since this game displays a lot of objects at the same time, the main drawback of this is that you have NO vertical lines only single pixels, and on televisions with large amounts of color bleed or if they are simply blurry you won’t be able to see ANYTHING. It doesn’t help that Starpath chose some of the worst color schemes for this game imaginable, the first level has a hot pink background, the second is blue, the third is a brownish green, and the fourth is salmon colored, these are all very strong colors and for an old worn out tube its simply murder to try and display tiny dots in the midst of this colorful carnage. I know they were trying to emulate the vector graphics of the arcade somewhat but in my opinion it backfired horrendously and now on many screens the game is simply unplayable. Besides there really isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the in-game graphics, almost everything is either a wavy line, or an indistinguishable blob. The title screen has a cool skull and crossbones on it, but it would be nice if it was colored in with solid colors not dots and horizontal lines. The box art is the best looking thing about this game, at least the caduceus on the front tells you that the games is vaguely medical themed.
There are very few sounds in this game; all you’ll really hear is the sound of your little sub blasting away and the sounds of the virus getting hit. There is also a beeping noise that plays occasionally which I assume to be the heartbeat, and whenever the ‘Deadly Little Virus’ shows up you will hear it, since it is the most annoying sound in the game, hello high pitched trilling I haven’t missed you. Then there is the screen heat-up noise, it definitely sounds like somebody is screaming in pain, if you’re wondering what screen heat-up means, unfortunately absolutely I have no clue.
The gameplay is where the meat of this game is at, and if it hasn’t become abundantly clear yet this Suicide Mission is basically Asteroids with a fresh coat of paint and a few changes. First of you don’t keep your momentum like in Asteroids here you stop dead when you let go of that joystick. Second of all the Viruses in this game act much more like the asteroids in the Asteroids arcade game, they move with much more randomness than the 2600 port. Third of all there is the ‘Screens’ mechanic, I have no idea what this is for and how to use it, when you hold back on the joystick the border of the screen changes from black to grey to white while the system screams at you, hold back too long and the screen nukes itself killing all of the viruses and yourself causing you to start the round over again, as far as I can tell this is completely pointless (assistance in the comments would be highly appreciated). Otherwise it’s all your basic Asteroids fare; you fly around and shoot large objects that fracture into smaller objects, which fracture into smaller objects, and occasionally a saucer-like object will home in on you and you have to quickly destroy it. The panic warp has been removed for the ‘Screens’ function which I’m fine with since I never used it in the first place. The main difference between Suicide Mission and Asteroids on the 2600 is the graphics and the asteroid behavior, since in the 2600 port of Asteroids the titular asteroids simply floated vertically and had little chance of reaching your ship as long as you stayed still. In Suicide Mission you’ll be weaving your way between tendrils of virus in a desperate bid to stay alive, I find this to be the more fun alternative, even if the game looks like shit.
This game falls somewhat lower on the ladder of must-have games for the 2600, the real let down is the graphics, since they fall quite short of what we’ve come to expect from Starpath, unfortunately it seems this is a bit more pricey than some of the others we’ve looked at so far with current Ebay listings running about 40-50$ for an opened copy and 60-80$ for a sealed copy (at the moment there is a sealed copy on Ebay for 20$ so get it while you can if you want it). I’m not gonna shout from the rooftops to get this game, but if you find it cheap enough I’d say go for it.