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Sea Monster (Bit Corp.)

DoctorSpuds

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How many games has Bit Corporation made?!? (Or at least been credited with making/stealing) I keep finding more and more all the time, as is the case for today’s game. Technically I can’t play this game since the copy I own is in the PAL format and will therefore display improperly on my TV, but I still own a physical copy so it’s okay. It seems though in the definitive list of Bit Corp. games I have reviewed all but two, and soon it shall be one, the one I don’t currently own is Space Tunnel, otherwise known as Cosmic Corridor from Zimag (I’m gonna take my time in acquiring that particular title). In my “Favorite Atari Games (and then some)” list I posted a couple of days ago I mistakenly put the game Space Robot in with the Bit Corp. games, it was actually most likely first released by Goliath in Germany, not Bit Corporation. So, Sea Monster, actually the version I have is See-Monster I had to get a German copy that had somehow made it to the U.S., a game up until a week or so ago I had never heard of, well that’s not actually true I’d seen screenshots and simply assumed it was a hack of Seaquest, yes-yes alright, can I stop interrupting myself and just get on with the review? Is that alright with you self-interrupting brain? Hmmm? Well alright then, this is Sea Monster by Bit Corporation.

 

As is standard with Bit Corp. titles Sea Monster is bright and colorful, but unlike most Bit Corp. releases Sea Monster looks rather crappy. The wave effect at the top of the water is actually rather mesmerizing, and is animated rather well, yes four frames on animation is pretty impressive for a 2600 game, but that’s about where the positives end. All of the sprites are monochrome, and most are all stretched out and just look like shit really. The real problem though is the screen shaking, even on an emulator the screen is juddery and wobbly, when starting the game the screen will attempt to roll, and when playing the screen will move up and down causing the score, the water, and the enemies to move about in a juddering fashion. This game seriously makes Condor Attack look like a well programmed piece of software, since when I’m playing Condor Attack I’m not constantly fearing that the game will somehow strangle itself to death and crash like I am with Sea Monster, and this is on an emulator something meant to be better than the console it was based on.

 

There are no sounds worth talking about in Sea Monster, all you get are various beeps, which when you consider the sound design on many of Bit Corp.’s other games is rather disappointing. I’ve always found Bit Corp. to be a rather musically inclined game developer, always putting music into their games sometimes to the point of detriment. But I must digress; it’s not worth whining about the sound design (or lack of) in a 30 year old 2600 game, so let’s move onto the gameplay.

 

In Sea Monster you are an ugly orange boat dropping depth charges onto giant fish and stuff that are swimming around in the ocean beneath you. Due to the fact that your depth charges fall at an extremely slow speed and the giant fish move at such an extreme speed you’ll be lucky to score any points at all since you’ll be missing 95% of the time, thankfully they pulled a GORF and you’re able to cancel your previous shot by firing again. The point values in this game are very odd, I know I never bring up points in games anymore but I must make an exception for this one. The top level sea beast is worth a measly 10 points on account of it being the largest and easiest to hit, the middle level usually has three smaller beasts swimming in a row, they move slightly faster but since there are more of them they are a bit easier to hit, they are worth 50 points. The bottom most sea creature is the hardest to hit on account of it being the fastest (most of the time), and hardest to hit what with it being so far away from your ship but for some odd reason it’s only worth 30 points despite it being the fastest, most aggressive, and hardest to hit. If you take into account that you will get a 1-up after every 1000 points and the most you’ll get per wave is 50 points you can see how fast the monotony sets in. Also don’t even think of trying to get rollage on this game since the score counter resets at 999,990 points and I’m pretty sure the youngest of us will die of old age before that happened.

 

This is a collector’s item for sure, even if you factor out the game being in PAL. A quick side note, there actually is an NTSC version of this game, it was released in Canada as Seamonster – Monstre des Mers, and the only one currently on Ebay is sitting at over 300 dollars BIN, you’d be better off buying a PAL TV and a PAL 2600 and playing on those than getting the NTSC version. As it is, Sea Monster is the sort of game you get to round off the collection rather than start it, and considering Air Sea Battle, one of the 2600 launch titles, plays better and is more fun than this I’d say it goes into the Collector’s Zone. There are copies up on Ebay, but apart from the one NTSC copy for 300+ dollars you can buy the German version loose from Germany for $15.64 or you can buy it boxed for $23.75 for factory sealed for $29.75, I got lucky and got mine for about 15 dollars but considering these are all PAL versions it ain’t really worth it. Give this game a big ‘ol pass.

 

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Took a look because I was curious as I did the initial work to get Stella to emulate screen rolls & jitter, as seen in these blog entries:

PAL games should have a steady 312 scanlines, variations like 314 or 308 are OK as long as the # is steady and an even value (if odd PAL TVs will display a black & white image). Checked via Stella's debugger and see the scanline count does this when you start a game.
  • 312
  • ... - steady 312 during attract mode
  • 312 - hit GAME RESET
  • 360
  • 380
  • 360
  • 360
  • 360
  • 14
  • 312
  • ... - a steady 312 during the actual game
That's definitely going to cause the screen to roll when you start a new game.

 

During the game the scanline count remains a constant 312. I do not see the score or other info at the top moving. The creatures in the sea, the seafloor, and the ©BIT CORP all shift up/down.

 

Since it's outputting a steady 312 scanlines the up/down movement is on purpose - I believe it's meant to be an underwater distortion effect. I think the effect would have been better if the ©BIT CORP at the bottom did not move.

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Since it's outputting a steady 312 scanlines the up/down movement is on purpose - I believe it's meant to be an underwater distortion effect. I think the effect would have been better if the ©BIT CORP at the bottom did not move.

 

 

Thanks for the clarification! I came to the same conclusion that the vertical movements were intentional, oddly enough that makes it even worse since it was purposely implemented into the game rendering it thoroughly unenjoyable to play. If the programmer had simply left it out it would a far more playable game since I'm not getting headaches from looking at it for prolonged periods of time.

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