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Cosmic Conflict/ 2076 Star Command (Magnavox)

DoctorSpuds

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The Odyssey 2 was unfortunately lacking in many key genres its competitors dominated in, in today’s case the ‘F.P.S.S’ or the First-Person Space Shooter. As far as I know the odyssey 2 only had one (please correct me if I’m wrong) and that game is Cosmic Conflict, or 2076 STAR COMMAND as the cartridge states boldly. Sadly this game emphasizes why the Odyssey 2 struggled, in my opinion, it’s not a bad game but I would hesitate to call it a ‘good’ game. Almost all of the Odyssey 2’s competitors had FAR more and some FAR superior games of the same genre, I know I’ve listed them off before but the 2600 had: Star Ship, Starmaster, Star Raiders, Star Voyager, Phaser Patrol, and Space Attack (that’s a lot of stars). All but two in my opinion are far better to play that Cosmic Conflict, even Intellivision wins out with Space Battle and Space Spartans.

 

The graphics look fine, very basic, but very clean. Your HUD is the bare basics with an enemy count on the left and an energy counter on the right, and occasionally “ALERT” will flash in the center top indicate an incoming enemy, and you have an overly large crosshair that isn’t really necessary to aim. There are three different types of enemy ship to blast; there is a classic rocket ship, a ship that looks rather naughty, and a TIE fighter from Star Wars, basic stuff. The game itself runs quite smoothly the movement of enemy ships; whether scrolling across the screen or scaling in from a distance do so with minimal choppiness. Smooth as well is the movement of the –rather standard looking- starfield, as well as the scaling of your shots as they travel towards your enemies. The explosion also looks nice, now that I think about it; I’m out of graphics to talk about (except one) so let’s move briskly along to the sounds.

 

They’re alright I guess… No they’re pretty crappy. There are three sounds, the sound of the ALARM which is just a beeping noise, the sound of your ship firing which is a high pitched *ping* sound, and the explosion, you or them it doesn’t matter it’s the same either way. It could be worse though, the programmers could have added obnoxious rocket sound effects that play constantly in the background so I won’t complain too much. A distinct lack of sound effects is something that I take away from most Odyssey 2 games, from my experience the Odyssey 2 is at least par with the 2600 when it comes to sound capabilities and the 2600 was able to do some pretty neat stuff. I running out of meaningful things to say at this point so let us move on to the gameplay.

 

Simple, simple, simple, is the word I’d use to describe this game, and I have. You move your crosshair around the screen and shoot enemies that either scroll past you or scale in from the background; enemies like to move at angles to make blasting them a bit more difficult but all it means is that you’ll miss a couple shots. Unlike many games from the era this game has an ending, when you destroy 15 enemies you get a MESSAGE FROM STAR COMMAND, that says something along the lines of “you did it have a cookie” that’s it… reset the game and start again. Oh I forgot to mention, none of the enemies fire back at you, the only time you might get hit is when one of those TIE fighters gets too close and the screen flashes red and when you blast all five of them the game basically turns into a shooting gallery of unarmed, unprotected spacecraft, as a result the game is quite easy.

 

This game has no other difficulty settings, it’s just the same thing over and over again with little to no variation. It’s good for a couple rounds every now and again but there is almost no replay value to this game at all. So I must unfortunately relegate this game to the Collector’s Zone, but thankfully this game is fairly cheap from the right outlets, beware Ebay, people like to over-charge for this game in particular.

 



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I was honestly underwhelmed and a bit disappointed by this game when I first played it. I had played Star Ship on the Atari and loved that, and expected Cosmic Conflict! would be analogous. It sort of is...except for how anticlimactic it is. Shoot 15 things as fast as possible, using as little firepower as possible.

 

This game encapsulates the problem with so many almost-good-but-not-quite Odyssey 2 games: scoring. So many Odyssey games are races to 10 points or exercises in resource management (as this one is) which yield no reward or satisfaction for doing the things necessary to attain those goals (ex. shooting space invaders). The goal is essentially to be as efficient as possible, which IMO as far as video games are concerned, is not its own reward. Thankfully Magnavox figured it out with the Challenger Series (read: arcade clone) titles.

 

Even Star Ship offered some rudimentary drama as you battle and maneuver for those last extra points while the timer is about to expire, and even some perfunctory risk/reward gameplay elements ("Will I be able to squeeze past this asteroid cluster to get a shot off at this high-value space robot?"). Cosmic Conflict! has none of that, unfortunately.

 

I don't know why this, of all Odyssey games, should be overpriced since it's common as dirt, but that's eBay for you.

 

Interestingly, there was a game called Cosmic Patrol for the TRS-80 that was a clone of Cosmic Conflict!. It's the only instance I know of where an Odyssey game was cloned for another platform! :P

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I was honestly underwhelmed and a bit disappointed by this game when I first played it. I had played Star Ship on the Atari and loved that, and expected Cosmic Conflict! would be analogous. It sort of is...except for how anticlimactic it is. Shoot 15 things as fast as possible, using as little firepower as possible.

 

This game encapsulates the problem with so many almost-good-but-not-quite Odyssey 2 games: scoring. So many Odyssey games are races to 10 points or exercises in resource management (as this one is) which yield no reward or satisfaction for doing the things necessary to attain those goals (ex. shooting space invaders). The goal is essentially to be as efficient as possible, which IMO as far as video games are concerned, is not its own reward. Thankfully Magnavox figured it out with the Challenger Series (read: arcade clone) titles.

 

I think the real pity is that Magnavox never tried this genre again with the challenger series, and this if the only fpss that the system got. We've seen how good some of those challenger series games are and I can only wish that they tried again, but it seems that its never meant to be.

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I agree. It's too bad they didn't attempt something in the vein of Star Raiders. Although, considering the Odyssey (okay, Videopac) couldn't even run a chess game without some additional hardware, I wonder if it would have had the horsepower.

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I agree. It's too bad they didn't attempt something in the vein of Star Raiders. Although, considering the Odyssey (okay, Videopac) couldn't even run a chess game without some additional hardware, I wonder if it would have had the horsepower.

 

On a basic level both the consoles are fairly comparable, but the 2600 hardware was utilized better by the programmers, and as we all know from CBS some cartridges had extra RAM packed into the cartridges for extra power. Perhaps Magnavox/Philips chose the wrong chip to power their console or any other number of reasons, but the outcome was a console that was graphically inferior and simply failed to perform as well as the competition. For crying out loud the thing could barely even do background graphics. I still very much enjoy the console but I still feel that it's inferior to the 2600, if anything it feels more like the Channel F than anything (rude to say perhaps but it just doesn't feel all there it had potential but it could never quite reach it.) Except with the third party games those really showed off what the system was capable of.

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What's interesting is that Philips acquired Magnavox in 1974, followed by that Philips acquired Signetics in 1975. Those who know their console history are thinking about the 1292 APVS family including the Interton VC-4000 (which is debated when it actually was released), and also about the Emerson Arcadia 2001 family a few years into the 80's when they read about Signetics.

 

I'm not sure that the Signetics 2650 is any better micro controller than the Intel 8048 is, or for that matter if graphics, sound or anything else within e.g. the VC-4000 is any better than what the G7000 offers. Of course even if Philips owned Signetics, it isn't the same thing as they had full and cheap access to parts from a different company in the family, and perhaps they got better specs & deals buying from other suppliers.

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