Cosmic Conflict! Odyssey^2, 1978
Okay, as I said in a previous entry: for flavor I'm trying to include close-up photos of the player-controlled avatars in these games. It doesn't really work for something like Blackjack, and honestly, it doesn't really work for something like this game, never-the-less, here's what you control in this universe:
That's your targeting reticle in Cosmic Conflict! The game consists of you "piloting" that reticle (1st person piloting perspective, inverted vertical movement) and maneuvering that reticle over enemy Imperial Ships. Just so you know, the ships move smoothly. There's no blinking or jumping, like there is in the Atari 1st person space shooter, Star Ship. There's a starfield, ships to shoot and your space-windshield reticle. What else should there be? You're in space, after all. The ships to be blown apart come in different colors, but there are only three shape-types. Two of them just move across the screen either horizontally or diagonally (never vertically). The third shape-type starts from waaaay far away as a tiny dot that scales closer and closer as your ALERT klaxon sounds. If you don't manage to shoot it, it will be destroyed by your deflector shields before it can fire a shot.
Um, why are we shooting these ships that can't even fire back? Because scraping ship parts off of our windshields annoy us, that's why, and that's good enough reason for me.
This game actually has a backstory, sort of -- you aren't just any pilot, the manual calls you a "legendary hero" of the Earth Federation! You have your own star fighter, too, CENTURION (caps theirs). In other words, you're not some peon at the bottom trying to make a name for themselves. You are an established, bonefide hero from the get-go. This goes a long way towards explaining why this game feels so easy.
Your mission is to shoot down (apart, really) 15 fighters using the least amount of megajoules possible, because that's the sort of goal legendary heroes set for themselves when energy is tight in their society. You start with 1000 megajoules. You burn 1 megajoule per second just flying your ship. You burn 10 megajoules every time you fire and you lose 50 when a ship splatters on your windshield (vacuum shield?). The maximum top high-score in this game would be 850 if you could make all the ships sit in the center of the screen and rapid-fire through them all in less than a second.
No, you can't do it that way, and there isn't a cheat-code either. (Just what exactly is a cheat-code anyway? Must be some future invention for when people are lame.)
This is my high score, meaning, it took me about a minute to blow away 15 ships assuming I made every shot (which I think I did). Not a great score, and I'm not posting it to brag but rather to illustrate a point of sorts.
This is the first home videogame in the chronology, about which I cared enough to want to improve my high score! I didn't spend hours doing it (only about 30 minutes) but I did want to do better. Why?
The messages, man. It's all about the messages.
If you run out of megajoules before destroying 15 enemy ships the following scrolls across your screen:MESSAGE FROM STAR COMMAND: YOU ARE RETIRED IN DISGRACE.
That's actually pretty fitting. There's no reason any sighted mammal with two opposable thumbs shouldn't be able to complete this game before their megajoules run out. If you can't, then you're either doing it on purpose (to see the message, like I did) or you just don't care enough about destroying the enemy. That would make you a frackin' traitor, by the way. Jerk.
The other messages are pats on the back.
MESSAGE FROM STAR COMMAND: CEASE FIRE. ENEMY DESTROYED.
MESSAGE FROM STAR COMMAND: GOOD WORK. GALAXY SAVED AGAIN.
(same as above): CONGRATULATIONS. YOU ARE PROMOTED TO COMMODORE.(ditto): ENEMY RETREATING. GOOD SHOOTING.
The first time I saw the "promoted" message, was when I hit my high score. So, I thought the messages were connected to score levels. I hoped, that if I scored anything over 0800, I'd get a message like "DARTH VADER IS YOUR BITCH" or some such. Alas, I wasn't able to achieve that score before I decided it was time to move on.
I did some experimenting with LOW scores: I killed 14 enemies and let myself run out of megajoules until I was in the 20s before I killed the final enemy. Low score = 0010 and message was the same "promotion" message as when I got 0794. Really, saving energy must only be your character's goal. Star Command just wants you to frag the enemy windshield stains.
Um, what was my point? Oh, yeah: Rankings are cool and promote play, even if it's just to see what rankings are available. I know that these aren't "rankings" technically, but they did keep me coming back to see what I could "achieve". They made the little universe feel less little.
I should say something about the sound. The sound is good. No, you shouldn't be able to hear explosions in space, but we'll let that go. The fired shot sounds and the alert klaxon are very effective.
For the record, I enjoyed this game. Easy to play, hard (for me) to perfect. I still want to break 800, even if it won't make Darth Vader my bitch. Variations might've been interesting, but, for a change, I think that this one version cart gets it right enough.
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