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Fathom (Imagic)

DoctorSpuds

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Imagic was never short on creative game ideas, and in some cases their games were perhaps a bit too unique, if that's even possible... Unfortunately even the great must fall, regardless of their contributions to society, and unfortunately Imagic was no different. Without a doubt Imagic was the most prolific fatality of the crash of '83 and '84, and the rights to their most popular games were handed over to the very company they played second fiddle to, Activision. Now we all know about Imagic's popular games Atlantis, Demon Attack, Cosmic Ark, and Star Voyager to name a few, but this game, while not being all that obscure, is definitely one of Imagic's most ambitious and creative games. Fathom is strange, and without an instruction manual handy, you'll get no explanation... this seemed to be a bit of a theme with Imagic, just as an example, say you had No Escape! without either the box or the manual, the cart doesn't have a picture on it, so what is the game about? I'd think it was something like Squeeze Box or Ram It, not something so unique I'd need an entire paragraph to describe it in any detail. The same goes with Fathom, off the bat I'd assume it's just your standard ship or submarine based shooter, based solely on the title, but then I'd be surprised to see I have an incredible adventure game, unexpected but appreciated, let's just jump into it.

 

This game looks excellent, there is just so much going on. Almost all of the sprites are well defined and multicolored, the wave effects are a damn sight better than the ones in Sea Hunt, and that volcano? Probably the best one on the system (it might be the only one I don't know, but it's good, really good) bar none. The only sprite I feel could have been changed for the better is the dolphin... why is it yellow? Jus-Just why? Otherwise I have very little to complain about for once, the game really does look that good, in fact I'll praise it some more, if only to pad out the length of this paragraph. The game is flicker free, which is rather astonishing considering the large amount of sprites that are crammed into most of them, the only flicker in this game is intentional, and that is to give the impression of a transparent shield that is trapping the damsel in distress, and it works quite well, I have to admit that I've never seen this trick used in any other 2600 games that I can think of off the top of my head, if anybody knows any please tell me in the comments.

 

The sounds in this game are quite simple... No bombastic musical pieces or ear bleeding screeches, I'd classify the sounds in this game as "Okay" nothing special but nothing awful. This game's sounds just may be the definition of bleeps and bloops, with the exception of a very simple bit of music when you accomplish your goal, but otherwise there really is nothing to say here, and in the interest of keeping this review flowing I'm gonna stop padding this paragraph and get into the main event... The gameplay.

 

In this game you control are a yellow dolphin and a giant seagull who collect seahorses and clouds to acquire the three pieces of a trident to save a mermaid trapped behind a barrier of energy, all the while avoiding giant jellyfish, volcanoes, evil birds, and kelp (the most stalwart of foes), so... can we all agree that this is just plain weird, and I think they were on drugs when they made this game. This game has two control styles, one for the dolphin and one for the seagull, the dolphin is nimble enough to weave through tight obstacles but strangely enough you have to hold down the fire button to get it to move. The seagull just has the basic Joust controls but a little floaty-er, nothing to really say since I'm pretty sure most all of us have played Joust in some form or another. The dolphin swims beneath the ocean and collects seahorses, which both unlock items and give health which also doubles as a timer, touch an enemy and your health and therefore your time goes down, its pretty easy to get health back so don't worry if you get hit. The seagull flies through the sky and collects clouds whilst avoiding other evil birds, that are trying to impede it, also there is an erupting volcano that looks very cool and I like it. It's all very simple, and you have to figure out the correct order in which to collect the items that appear once you collect to collectibles, it makes sense in-game. Once you complete the game once it will start over again, except this time there are more collectibles, more screens, and more enemies, and the object order is different. I've never been able to get past the second level of this game, I can get past the first no problem, but the second one kicks my ass and I've never been able to finish it. Words really don't do this game justice, you'll have to play it to get the real experience.

 

Unfortunately this game can get rather pricey, especially in the box, usually having the box add 2-3 times the games value, according to Ebay sellers having this game complete in the box adds 10 times the value since they're trying to sell it for over 140$ which is ridiculous. Usually for a rather rough copy this game will set you back 10-15$, and I think it's worth it, no Collector's Zone today. But seriously 140$? that is just stupid.



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This is a cool game but I can't quite get the hang of it. I like the game's depth (HA!) and originality, though.

 

I also have the Intellivision and TI-99/4a versions; I wouldn't say that any one of them is really heads and tails above the others (I guess the Atari version should be the "worst" by default?), although the 99/4a version supports the Speech Synthesizer, which is cool.

 

As far as the more adventurey Imagic titles go, I prefer Wing War for Coleco.

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