Yeah the Atari version of Koronis Rift does seem like a rush job. It's a shame too since the concept was rather fantastic and the graphics were superb for the era. A little bit more play testing and they could have squashed some of the bugs that kept this from becoming a classic...My own review of the game:
The difficulty is extremely off putting right from the start. Saucers target you immediately and can kill you in just a few hits. In the C64 version, saucers seem to miss you more often, giving you a better chance to explore and accessorize your tank. Not to mention, the game play and cursor movement are a bit more smooth, making the enemies a little easier to shoot down. I think the general idea is for you to only spend a few minutes on each rift since everything gets stronger during the course of the level, however there just doesn't seem to be enough time to explore, loot and equip yourself sufficiently to keep up with the increasing power of the saucers which get stronger based on total playtime.
The menus are very frustrating to navigate - accidentally having your cursor over the wrong place in your ship when moving a module around can mean overwriting your currently selected weapon, effectively ending the game. The C64 didn't let you move the cursor as the item was moving on the conveyor belt, so this isn't as much of a problem (you can still add a module over an existing one immediately after looting, though).
Any and all upgrades you get at the start of the game don't really seem to do much to enhance your tank, most of the time, equipping a new module or weapon is more of a liability than the power boost is worth. Not to mention the fact that the description of the modules in the instruction book are terrible at best. For those interested:Laser
= Gun that does a particular type of damage based on color. Enemies of that same color, tend to be able to take more damage of that color type before being shot down, but not to the point where its worth swapping weapons. The biggest problem with the guns in the game is that your generator and power reserve never seem to be able to keep up with them. You often find yourself with a new gun that can only be fired once every few seconds, leaving you vulnerable in the shield generation department...Shield
= Here's one of the things that simply isn't explained properly in the manual. Shields aren't "strong" or "weak" against lasers of different types to the point where its detrimental to have the wrong type equipped. Each shield you find has a certain number of hitpoints against all the different color types, just some (quite marginally) moreso than others depending on the color of the icon. Shields do regenerate, but at a rate relative to the power of your generator. I can't quite tell, but it seems like they regenerate faster when your power reserve is full.battery
= gives more power for gun shots - better battery means more shots fired between recharging for your gun.generator
= powers modules - insufficient power means your tank runs slower. also allows your gun and shield to recharge faster.radar
= points to the nearest module in that rift that has the same alien insegnia on it. Will point nowhere if there is not one of this type in the area.ECM
= i can't get this to do anything. Saucers still approach you when it's equipped at the same frequency, they still hit you at the same rate, they aren't any easier to avoid.Drive
= makes your tank marginally faster, not worth it really.steering
= makes your tank rotate faster, again not worth the slot.Mapper
= shows a map of the area in the second window at the top.Sound
= plays a lucasfilm game song in the background, sells for a lot of credits, otherwise pointless far as I can tell.crosshair
= still not sure how this works. I equipped it and none of the ships were easier to target.Saucer
= as explained above, equip when a saucer is near and it will slow down. didn't actually test this one myself...There are a few fun bonuses I found playing through the levels:
- All the hulks on the bottom part of rift 6 look like the giant gray toads - I think destroying one will make the others disappear as well, but I could be wrong about this. If you send out the repotech robot, it will open its giant mouth and swallow it - you can return to your ship for a new one.
- Hulk #4 in rift 7 (the first hulk you encounter) looks like a blue version of the craft from ballblazer. If you loot it, you will get an undocumented module that looks sort of like a TV. Activating it will play a really bad version of what sounds like the ballblazer song.
- Hulk #3 in rift 11 (also first you see) looks like a pink ballblazer craft. Looting it reveals a similar module that if activated plays a really bad version of the Rescue on Fractalus intro music.
While I understand that you need the detonator to blow up the enemy base in Rift 20, you can also use the RT unit and "loot" the enemy base, upon which it will also be destroyed. Then rift 20 can be cleaned completely, without any other effect. Is this a bug or a feature?
I think what is supposed to be happening here is the repotech robot is delivering the detonator to the enemy base, thereby destroying it. I tried several times to loot the base without the detonator equipped - the base still explodes but the game is put into the frozen mode you described earlier where the RT blows up the hulk but doesn't return. Saucers don't come because the repotech robot is still out hovering at the spot where the base explodes. You can force the robot to come back to your tank by deploying it again - it will bring an iconless module with the starting gear alien identification icon. Analyzing this in your ship will show it's worth 0 across the board. At this point, the game is perpetually stuck since there's nowhere to go the saucers will just get more difficult until you die.
What's the fifth panel good for? I haven't found any module in any rift that brings that to live (including the UFO or the crosshair). It just remains empty.
The 5th screen does appear to be pointless.Very Quick walkthrough for those interested in seeing the end of this:Map of the Rifts
- Go straight to rift 4, drive forward and loot the hulk for the detonator.
- Go to rift 5, grab the shield module at 3, the power reserve at 6 and the generator at 1.
- Skip all the other rifts and go to rift 20.
- I seem to recall the enemy base is at point 5. If you do a 180 right as you land and go in between the mountains you should see it. All the other "hulks" are just bases with guns that I think you can skip. They shoot a gray laser that is absorbed by all your shield's colors. Fortunately, your tank has a longer range and can shoot them from a distance if you position yourself right. Try to ignore all the saucers that come at you, your shield and generator should be good enough if you rushed here to absorb any of the damage they can do. At the last base, equip your detonator and send out the repotech robot, the base will explode and you'll be greeted by a very lackluster end screen.
I think I can finally put this beast to rest after all these years.