Telesys was most certainly not one to back down from new ideas and unique game concepts, which lead to the creation of such gems as, Coconuts, Fast Food, and the focus of today’s review, Cosmic Creeps. Cosmic Creeps is rather unique among games of its genre, it’s one of the only shooters where you shoot from the top of the screen, and is most certainly the only shooter so confusing that you may not actually get to the shooting portion of the game. Yes it’s one of those kinds of games, the type where consultation of the manual is necessary for the complete enjoyment of the game, well maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s certainly cryptic. The box art is certainly one of the more standout on the 2600, due in large part to how absolutely strange it is, you have a Buck Rogers lookin’ guy just sort of flying by unassisted by any means of propulsion, while pulling some kids in space helmets along on a rope while green aliens, who are not fighting back I might add, are being shot and killed by a large space ship. Also one of the kids has a teddy bear and it also has its own space helmet that could have been used to save another person but was instead put on a stuffed bear, because why not? If the game is anywhere near as confusing as the box art then we’re in for a wild ride.
Oh yeah this ride is gonna be wild, you start the game and will be instantly confused. There is a sort of vertically scrolling obstacle course with fireballs emerging from the sides of the screen, while what appears to be a very high resolution sun, or planet, moves side to side at the bottom of the screen, all of this is going on while a large grey spaceship, which looks incredible, just sits at the top of the screen going nowhere and doing nothing. My goodness that was an incredibly long sentence, I hope I never have to do that again. There is also a little spaceman getting bopped around by the fireballs, at least on the intro/demo screen, don’t worry; he won’t be around for long. If and/or when you get to the shooting stage nothing much changes, the vertically scrolling stuff is still there even though it has no pertinence to the game anymore, the fireballs are gone and are replaced with some new creatures. Two of the three creatures that appear on the screen are the Cosmic Creeps, they’re suitably sci-fi what with their green and yellow skin and their bright red uniforms, just like on the box art. The third demon creature is a Cosmic Kid, it looks like a kid, and is a perfect example of why this game is so disappointing, almost nothing is animated, it’s just still sprites sliding around the screen, the only things that actually have animation are the fireballs but they are only visible for about 1/10 of the actual game, the creeps only flash between green and yellow skin so it doesn’t really count as animation.
Sounds are pretty standard as far as 2600 games go. There is a rumble for the engine, there are chirps and blips to indicate the appearance of an enemy, simple generic things like that. The only sounds that I find remotely noteworthy are the explosion noises, they are just so chunky, and since you can sometimes get enemies in a destruction loop you can hear the chunky crunchy explosion noise over and over again. There are also vaguely musical noises whenever you start the game and whenever you progress to the next ‘planet’, I’ll explain that in a moment, but since there is nothing that makes me want to press the mute button I’ll let it pass.
Alright so this is where the game gets both confusing and boring, the gameplay. To start off with you play as the Orbinaut (no relation to Sonic the Hedgehog), who must traverse the obstacle course to the ship at the top of the screen; you can select its starting position from the intro screen. When you get to the top of the screen, dodging fireballs all the way you stand beneath the ship and the real game begins. A Cosmic Kid followed by two Cosmic Creeps will appear from the bottom left of the screen and it’s your job to destroy the creeps without hitting the kid, you can still shoot him and be fine though simply hold up on the joystick to make another kid appear. The creeps have two speeds comically slow and fast, if a fast alien hits your kid in the back the kid is toast, and you lose more of your precious time. Oh wait! I completely forgot to mention the timer; can you guess what it is? Of course you couldn’t it’s the big orange circle at the bottom of the screen, every time it hits the sides of the screen it sinks a pixel lower, and when it’s all gone your time is up, to keep playing you have to have 5000+ points otherwise it’s game over, unfortunately spawning another kid makes the ‘thing’ sink an extra pixel but the child is worth 1500 points so it’s a trade off. Each creep is worth 100 points while a saved child is worth 1500 but a lost child will detract from your precious time so it’s a trade off, there is strategy but it’s intermixed with a hearty helping of luck as well. If you’re unfortunate enough to have a slow moving child spawn right before a fast moving creep you’ll lose the child guaranteed unless you’re the best shot on the planet, but I doubt that since your shots move as slow as molasses and require you to shoot way ahead of the creeps to even have a chance of hitting them.
Cosmic Creeps had the potential to be a very good game, but is ultimately hindered by an unclear starting objective, and lackluster verging on boring gameplay since it’s entirely possible to get the creeps in an endless loop of death where you simply fire at regular intervals and they all move right into your shots. The only thing that really sets it apart is the graphics which are, at a glance, extremely good, but the beauty is only skin deep as this is one of the most shallow games on the system, you can get some fun out of it, but it will be fleeting. Copies of this game are relatively cheap usually falling into the sub $10 range, with handle copies being a tad more expensive, boxed copies are few and far between but the only boxed copy currently listed is sitting at a hefty $65 + $11 shipping, 15-25 dollars is the recommended purchase price for this game boxed however so just take your time with this one. Unfortunately I have to condemn this game to the Collectors Zone for just being a mediocre verging on bad and mildly confusing game that is simply overshadowed by other, better games.