20th Century Fox was, admittedly, one of the strangest publishers on the 2600. This was, in the most part, due to their partnership with Sirius Software Inc., the TCF classics Fast Eddie, Deadly Duck, Beany Bopper, and Worm War 1, were from Red Sirius, and they are all undeniably weird. And because Fox also owned the rights to many films they were also the “Movie Tie-In game” publisher as well, and as such they released several games based on their films and various IP’s. Somehow despite their vast library of IP’s Fox grabbed some of the weirdest ones and made games out of them. Movies like the ill-fated Megaforce, Porky’s, Flash Gordon (debatably), M*A*S*H* (not a movie but okay), Alien, and the subject of today’s review… Fantastic Voyage, based on the movie of the same name, which came out in 1966, 16 years before this game came out (yeah I’d say that was timely). On a side note, today’s review is the first one I’m writing in Microsoft Word… before this I was using Notepad, which was dreadful. Admittedly this is the 2007 version of Word, which in my opinion is still one of the best versions, no adds or online connectivity, it feels so liberating.
This game’s graphics are rather clever, since there is more than initially meets the eye. You have a very basic Heads Up Display, it has a timer clock, a heartbeat monitor, and a number indicating the number of patients saved. There is the score, of course, at the top of the screen, and in the center is where all the interesting bits lie. You fly a goofy little submarine between two parallel lines, which indicate the walls of an artery; these walls have a very pleasant gradient to them, in fact this whole game is very easy on the eyes. The enemies you encounter are also very basic in design; perhaps they are too basic, since despite having the manual on hand, I still can’t figure out what is what. Okay so I’ve managed to glean a few things from the manual… Those needle-shaped things are Defense Cells, the little star thingies are Antibodies, the key shaped things are Enzymes, the large bulbous things are Blood Cells (I think), and the bacteria shaped things are Bacteria. The enemy design is admittedly rather garbage, but the game redeems itself, somewhat, with a rather clever trick, to imitate the contraction of a clogged artery one of the walls will actually move nearer to its parallel, narrowing the artery. In other games this may not be to mind blowing, but this it Atari, and just about anything is mind blowing on this hardware.
This game’s sounds are absolutely annoying, and I can credit it to one thing: the heart monitor. It’s just a constant beeping, and every time you miss something it beeps faster and faster, getting incredibly annoying very quickly. The other sounds don’t fare much better, there is a little jingle that plays to indicate a change in phases, and it’s also very awful to listen to, and the ‘music’ (?) that plays when you clear a blood clot actually made me cover my ears the first time I heard it. The only sounds I actually like are the sounds you make when you shoot and the sound an enemy makes when it’s destroyed, both are very chunky and gratifying. I would recommend muting this game’s sounds if only to be spared that awful heart monitor noise, you can see the heart rate just fine on the HUD, you don’t need to hear it.
This game is a very basic top down shooter, but with a lemony twist, killing some enemies will make you lose the game faster. Allow me to explain… Unlike in your classic shooter, where you can miss as many enemies as you like, In Fantastic Voyage you NEED to kill all the enemies otherwise the patient who you are currently trying to save will die. But… Not everything you see floating around in the artery is an enemy, Enzymes when shot actually benefit the patient by lowering their heart rate, Defense Cells can be shot and they won’t affect the patient or can be left alone completely and they still won’t affect the patient. Other’s will harm the patient if destroyed, mainly the Blood Cells, they act moreso as obstacles than actual enemies, since destroying them will actually make the patient die faster, they’re also annoying because they’re the largest object in the game and you HAVE to avoid them. Then there are the indestructible Clotlets that guard The Clot, The Clot requires 15 shots to be destroyed all the while avoiding the, again, indestructible Clotlets, destroy The Clot and the patient is saved and on to the next level.
Fantastic Voyage is better than it has any right to be, I won’t call this a great game or anything, its hovering right around average. If you can find this game out there for cheaper than 10$ then go for it, it really can’t hurt, and you may just enjoy yourself. Also I’d like to give kudos to one of the previous owners of my particular cartridge and manual, since you actually used the high score thing that was in the backs of many manuals at the time, and you did way better than I could ever hope to. So, to Amy L. Cooper from Madison Wisconsin, or thereabouts, who got to Level 5 with a score of 432,202, I have your copy of Fantastic Voyage, and why did you get that good?