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Omega Race (CBS Electronics)

DoctorSpuds

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There is nothing worse than a common game that is locked behind an obscure peripheral. In the case of most Atari games with these obscure peripherals you can still play the game normally since these things only act as a substitute for the standard controller. Milton Bradley Games and many of the games slated to be released by Amiga are prime examples of this, there are three games however that ARE locked behind this wall of inaccessibility, Sentinel by Atari which required the usage of an XE light gun as well as Star Raiders with the Video Touch Pad, and Omega Race by CBS Electronics that required their own proprietary Booster Grip Adaptor. Well, I don’t have an XE light gun, but I do have a Booster Grip Adaptor, so I think it’s fairly obvious which game we’re looking at today. Omega Race really was a flash in the pan; it arrived in arcades, got several home console ports (Atari 2600 and Colecovision) as well as a few home computer ports (Vic-20, C64) and was then promptly forgotten about. So without further ado let’s look at the forgotten classic (?)Omega Race.
 
Well, this is a bit awkward; there isn’t enough game to actually give an entire paragraph to each category, without a lot of padding of course, so I’m just gonna give it a paragraph and see how it works out.
 
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So, graphics, well Omega Race doesn’t have too many of them, in fact I think the most graphically complex thing on show is the Bally logo when you start the game up. It’s just a black screen with a blue rectangle in the center, and a bunch of circles, stars, and triangles moving around it. That’s it, not counting the score and rack number.  I would say the graphics are fairly impressive with the amount of stuff they got on-screen but the flicker is pretty hefty when you go to certain parts of the screen so that knocks it down a bit. Sounds are barebones as well, a shooting noise, an explosion noise, an engine noise, and an end of level jingle, that’s all you’re getting here. Gameplay is fairly simple, imagine Asteroids, but there is a box in the middle of the screen and the asteroids don’t move right off the bat. Actually it’s a bit more complex than that, but not by much. When you start there is a single enemy moving around the ‘track’ attempting to destroy you, while there are a bunch of circles at the bottom of the screen not doing much of anything. When you destroy the enemy one of the circles ‘wakes up’ and turns into a new enemy. You can destroy the circles in fact I’d recommend it, it makes the game much easier, as the mobile enemies have a nasty habit of knowing exactly where you’re going to go and shooting you. The only thing that really sets this game apart from a game like Asteroids is the Booster Grip Adaptor, which simply adds an extra button to the standard Atari joystick by slotting over the stick itself. The Booster Grip isn’t at all uncomfortable to use but I’m just confused as to why CBS decided to use it in the first place when they could have just copied the controls to Asteroids and not used the expensive add-on in the first place.
 
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Omega Race is a simple, barebones space shooter that is locked behind an all too expensive peripheral, and for that alone I have to send it to the Collector’s Zone. If you want to get a copy of Omega Race it’ll cost you at least 7 dollars for a loose copy and as much as 180 dollars for a boxed copy, I got lucky and found the first loose Booster Grip to be listed on Ebay in forever and snagged it for 20 dollars. So the absolute cheapest you’re going to be able to play this game for is 27 dollars… That just isn’t worth it, and for the price you’d pay for one CIB you’d be able to buy a working Colecovision, C64, or Vic-20 and just play their far superior versions. Just no…



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Interestingly, the Commodore versions can be played with standard paddles or joystick which goes to show that the Booster Grip was invented to make the 2600 game stand out from the competition, not that the game really requires it.

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I liked the arcade game (admittedly, there's not much depth there either), but always felt CBS completely missed the mark on this port. The flicker is obnoxious, and controls are sluggish and imprecise. Why this needed to be a "RAM+" cartridge is beyond me. Likewise the need for the "Booster Grip", unless CBS was planning/hoping to use it for more games.

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IIRC, you can also plug a Colecovision controller into the 2600 and use that with Omega Race, with the two side buttons acting as the main fire button and booster.

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