Originality in games is not a dead concept though it is getting harder and harder to find as more and more games fill the same genres while attempting to stand out from the rest with a unique concept, visual style, gameplay element(s), or some mix of the three. Some games succeed at originality and other don’t, but the game I’m looking at today isn’t even trying to be original, in fact it almost seems to relish how generic it is, but it shouldn’t have been this way. Threshold is a game made by On-Line Systems, aka Sierra, which was ported to a multitude of home computers and consoles in the early 80’s. Just looking at the screenshots it’s very obvious that this is a Galaxian clone, every single set of screenshots on Mobygames looks almost identical, with the exception of one. The 2600 version of Threshold barely resembles the game it is based on, and instead of copying Galaxian it seems the programmer Warren Schwader (The original programmer of Threshold at Sierra) decided to copy a different top-down shooter instead, but we’ll get to that in the gameplay section, so let’s start where we always do, the graphics.
Sparse, very sparse. The only graphical element of not is the rainbow flashing border, other than that you get to look at some of the most generic player and enemy sprites this side of Space Invaders. I will at least credit the game for the amount of different enemy designs but that doesn’t save the inevitable boredom the visuals give after prolonged play. In the other versions of the game there is a friendly mother ship that will emerge after every wave and a cutscene will play, not so in this version you are simply left to wallow in the pits of boredom. Will the sounds alleviate my boredom? I sorely doubt it.
My doubts were well placed as this is one of the most generic and disappointing soundtracks to a space shooter I’ve ever hear. What is the main thing you need for a good shooter, a good explosion of course, and Threshold is very lacking in anything resembling a good explosion. All you get are some beeps, and trills with nothing resembling anything and everything resembling nothing. Just writing about this game is making me bored and distracted, I’d better finish this up soon before I just abandon the thing entirely.
So which top-down shooter does this game borrow from? Megamania? Galaxian? Guardian? Worm War I? GORF? Well take your pick because this game is so generic it could be any of them. All you do is fight wave after wave of differently behaving enemies until you lose all of your lives. Some enemies behave in ways that vaguely resemble Megamania so I’m just going to say that the programmer borrowed most from that one. A string of enemies will slowly move down the screen, passing you, and then reappear at the top of the screen, forever. In the other version you had a fuel meter that acted as your end of wave bonus and time limit, I here it’s just your bonus and you can run it down without anything happening, not really motivating is it? This game also get’s it’s difficulty wrong, in that you are started out on the most difficult game mode, one is the hardest and three is the easiest, and if your difficulty switches are set to B, like they normally would be, then enemy shots will follow you instead of just going straight.
Threshold is generic as generic can be there is no interesting story, in fact the box and manual can barely muster a paragraph setting up the scenario. There is no engaging gameplay, just shoot until you win and then do it all over again until you love. It is an uninspiring snoozefest of a game that doesn’t even seem to be trying to be new or different. Because this is a Tigervision game the prices are gonna be stupid and upon checking Ebay it looks like I’m correct. Loose copies of Threshold are listed between 25 and 50 dollars while boxed copies are listed at 100 and 150 dollars. Just avoid this one, you’re not missing anything that you couldn’t find in any other shooter on the 2600, it’s straight to the Collector’s Zone for this one.