Solar Conqueror is the main game for Round 1 of the second season of the Astrocade High Score Club. This game, which takes place in space with you controlling a ship that must shoot baddies, reminds me of Blast Droids, the last game that we played in season 1 of the HSC. However, the similarities are slight. Whereas Blast Droids was a chore to play, Solar Conqueror is fun!
The BASIC bonus game, Space Gauntlet, is an another game that takes place in in the depths of the dark forbidden universe that teams with, you got it!, more baddies. This game, while released on tape for both Bally BASIC and "AstroBASIC," the program has only been archived in 300-baud Bally BASIC format. This means that you'll need the Bally Tape interface to load it.
Season 3, Round 1 will last about three weeks. The round ends on Sunday, February 26'th at 8pm MST.
Solar Conqueror is an 8K cartridge by Astrocade, Inc. released in 1983. This game is among the last official releases for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade. This game was developed at Action Graphics by Scot L. Norris (design and audio), Thomas McHugh (programmer), and Julie Malan (graphics).
In the Bally/Astrocade Game Cartridge and Hardware FAQ, Michael White says that this game "was called Solar Quest in some references in Astrocade newsletters." A game called Solar Quest was released for the Vectrex game system, but (other than taking place in space), this Vectrex game seems unrelated to Solar Conqueror.
For emulation use in MESS, the Solar Conqueror cartridge ROM image (called "solarcnq.bin") is part of this archive:
In the October 24, 1983 issue of the Arcadian newsletter, in The Game Player column, Michael Prosise wrote a positive review of Solar Conqueror, which you can read here:
A pdf of the Solar Conqueror manual is here:
The Solar Conqueror announcement/press release is here:
On March 30, 2011, "Nice and Games" published a video review of Solar Conqueror:
On February 2, 1999, Rob Mitchell retyped the Solor Conqueror manual. I've included it here:
Solar Conqueror Instructions
You are in deep space, test-piloting the latest in space technology, when your home planet Libnah learns of a surprise attack of the diabolical, war hungry DEMENS from the NATIS galaxy. A radiation death-ray threatens to wipe out your entire race. It's up to you to conquer the enemy solar systems!
Solar Conqueror (1-4 players)
As the dreaded DEMENS death-ray gets closer and closer, your computer has classified their solar systems from lightly defensed to almost invincible! It will guide you through harder and harder systems until you have conquered their entire civilization.
Starting the Game
Choose Solar Conqueror by pressing 1 on the keypad or by using remote game selection (pull the trigger on hand control #1, turn the knob until 1 appears on the screen, then pull the trigger again).
Select the number of players (1-4). As the player proceeds from one solar system to another, the game becomes increasingly more difficult. Players can start at a more difficult level by choosing a higher number solar system to begin with. This serves as a handicapping for better players.
Playing the Game
The hand control functions for Solar Conqueror are:
Joystick - Steers the ship and controls its speed
Knob - Has no function
Trigger - Shoots the bullets
The object of the game is to score the most points by destroying enemy defenses, defeating their planets, and conquering their solar systems.
Each player starts by selecting the number of ships on the menu. Ships have 8 possible directions and a maximum speed controlled by the joystick. A ship decelerates when no direction is selected, but it is always in motion. The trigger shoots 1 of 8 possible "in-air" bullets.
You have defeated a planet once you destroy all its weapons. When you have conquered all the planets in a solar system, you advance to the next. Whenever a player is hit, he loses a ship and he gives up his turn to the next player. If a planet is defeated and the player dies, he still moves on to the next planet.
Solar System Number of Planets
1 and 2 2
3 and beyond 4
Planets appear on the right side of the screen, numbered in decreasing order as you get closer to the sun, e.g. in Solar System 1, which has 2 planets, Planet 2 appears first, followed by Planet 1. The more gravity a planet has, the more difficult it is to control your spaceship. The larger the planet, the stronger the planet's gravity. The higher a planet's solar system, the better its defenses. As you fly closer to the planet, the effect of its gravity increases.
The alien defenses have 3 types of weapons:
- Kamikaze combat ships
- Ground-to-air missiles
- Super fighting (killer) satellites
Planets also have dangerous asteroids floating around them.
All alien forces appear near the planet and travel toward the player. Kamikaze ships are essentially flying bombs. True to their name, they will try to crash into you.
Missiles are fired from the planet's surface. If a missile launcher is left after all other weapons and asteroids have been destroyed, it will launch its last missiles and disappear. If there are alien defenses remaining, the launcher will rebuild. A timer appears in the upper left corner to time the rebuilding process. Rebuilding is quicker in higher systems.
Killer satellites have minimal weaponry range but excellent timing and accuracy. And they change size depending on how close they are to the player. In higher systems there are two at once of every weapon!
Whenever you are ready to enter the space vortex to reach your next planet, or to enter hyperspace to reach a new solar system, the pulsating aura near the left edge of the screen surrounds your ship and makes you invisible until you are in range of the next planet. The moment you become visible to each other, the fighting begins!
The number of points you score depends on the type of enemy force you destroy:
Type of Defense Points
Asteroids (large to small) 4, 6, 8, 10
Kamikaze Ships 20
Missile Launchers 50
Killer satellites (large to small) 10, 20, 30, 40
Conquering a planet gives you bonus points equal to the solar system number times 25. Conquering a solar system awards the player a free ship and bonus points equal to the system number times 100.
When playing System 9 and beyond, the same scoring applies, except you are given 2 free ships instead of 1.
Strategies for Winning
Learning to control your spaceship against the ever changing forces of gravity is the most difficult aspect of the game. There is also a SLIPPER built into the ion drives of the ship, which enables you SLIP in one direction and face another without accelerating in the direction of the ship; e.g. accelerate up, then face right for an instant and let go of the joystick. The ship will continue to slide up while the player faces right and strikes a target. Becoming skillful at the SLIPPER will prove a powerful advantage over the enemy.
If you begin at the lowest system, it will be easier to gain extra ships, but you will accumulate points slower and you risk losing ships. Starting higher gives you more points sooner, but be careful: they won't come easy!
To play Solar Conqueror again, press the RESET button, and follow the instructions for starting the game.
As usual, 10 points can be earned this round (excluding bonus points). The play settings for Solar Conqueror are:
# of Ships - 3
Enter System - 1
There is a hyperdrive-like sequence before every solar system. Watching the stars whizz by your "windshield" is neat a few times, but then it gets repetitive and seems to take too long. You can skip this "warp" screen by pulling the trigger.
Solar Conqueror Bonus Points
There are five ways to score bonus points for Solar Conqueror:
1) Highest Solar System and Planet Reached - The player who reaches the furthest in the game will be awarded a bonus point. If you can manage it, take a screenshot of your highest solar system (which is displayed prior to a level beginning).
2) Beating 89,588 points starting on level 1 - Chuck Hirsch scored 89,588 points with three men on the "Official Astrocade Scoreboard," ARCADIAN, 6, no. 11/12 (Oct. 31 1984): 111. Beat his score and you'll get bonus point.
3) Beating 136,742 points starting on level 9 - Thomas Wenzel scored 136,742 points with three men on the "Official Astrocade Scoreboard," ARCADIAN, 6, no. 11/12 (Oct. 31 1984): 111. Beat this impressive score starting from system 9 and earn a bonus point.
4) Spotting a Possible Bug at 10,000 Points - As noted in the December 22, 1983 The Game Player column in the Arcadian newsletter: "Solar Conqueror programming flaw? Maybe. When the score goes over 9,999, it changes to two digits instead of five, and six extra ships are awarded. Also, the sound effects become distorted. What's the story here?" The first person to document what happens at 10,000 points gets a bonus point. If you make a video of this "bug," then you'll earn another bonus point.
5) Documenting the Solar Conqueror Prototypes - There are three prototype versions of Solar Conqueror that are available in the Astrocade software archive. You'll earn a bonus point for each prototype that you play and document. Yes, you can earn up to three bonus points here.
It is possible to earn up to eight Solar Conqueror bonus points. Wow, that's a whole lot of bonus points!
Space Gauntlet (BASIC Bonus Game)
Space Gauntlet is this round's BASIC bonus game. This game was released in 1982 by Tiny Arcade on tape 100 and Supertape 1. It was programmed by Tom McConnell. Space Gauntlet is pretty simple, and it controls quite slowly. I'm not sure how much fun there is to be had here, but I'm putting this game forward for others to try because I like the idea of this game. Unfortunately, I don't think that BASIC has the power to do this game justice. Perhaps the "AstroBASIC" version of this game plays a little better (since "AstroBASIC" runs a little faster than Bally BASIC). It would be double-plus cool to see a machine language homebrew cartridge based on this idea.
Here is the tape that was sent to Bob Fabris of the Arcadian (there was probably a Tiny Arcade labeled version of this tape, but I've not seen it).
You can read the game's instructions here:
There are two different BASIC listing for Space Gauntlet available:
BASIC Listing (as printed on a printer):
BASIC Listing (hand-written):
You can download Space Gauntlet for Bally BASIC here:
Here is a game description of Space Gauntlet from the Winter/Spring 1984 Sourcebook catalog:
You're at the controls of an interstellar cruiser patrolling a remote sector of the galaxy when you encounter the local inhabitants. These denizens of deep space don't "cotton" to strangers and they arrange themselves into two columns, firing missiles and daring you to survive their deadly gauntlet. The longer you survive, the closer the two columns of alien nasties approach (making it more difficult to avoid their missiles). Exiting graphics and excellent play value. One player.
Here are the full instructions (which I've OCR'ed) for Space Gauntlet:
Space Gauntlet Instructions (One Player)
You control a star cruiser patrolling a remote sector of the galaxy when you encounter the local inhabitants.
These denizens of deep-space don't "cotton" to strangers and they arrange themselves into two columns, firing missiles and challenging you to fly between them and survive the deadly gauntlet.
Your objective is to pilot the ship through the attackers, avoid their missiles (the small square objects) and score points by destroying as many of the hostiles as possible.
To accelerate through the columns (down the middle of the screen) pull the joystick back; to slow down, push the stick forward. The engines of the ship work on an action-reaction principle, so it takes a short time to speed up and slow down. Use the ability to change speed to avoid enemy missiles and position the ship to fire at the attackers. (You cannot move "backwards"-i.e. toward the top of the screen, but you can come to a dead stop.)
To fire at the right column of aliens, push the joystick to the right. To fire left, move the stick to the left.
The right column fires missiles at random, while the left column fires missiles that tend to "home in" on your ship.
The longer you survive, the closer the two columns of aliens will approach.
At the start of the game, each alien hit is worth 10 points. At their closest approach, each is worth 50 points.
You have a fleet of four ships with which to engage the enemy.
The game ends when all four have been destroyed.
Press any key for replay
Space Gauntlet Bonus Points
1) Playing Space Gauntlet - You get a bonus point just for playing Space Gauntlet.
2) Highest Score for Space Gauntlet- You can earn another bonus point if score the highest on this game.
3) Video of Space Gauntlet - A bonus point will be awarded to the first person to upload a video of Space Gauntlet containing a full game. If the video is a video review, then you'll earn two points!
High Score Club Rules
Please post all of your scores for both games here. Scores posted on the Bally Alley discussion group will not be accepted. If you post a video score, then please note the score obtained in the video-- as this makes it easier for me to keep track of all the scores.
It's time to conquer the combined power of this round's Solar Gauntlet. Tightly strap yourself into your ship and blast off into space to do battle with the Bally Baddies!