So I’m gone for over a week and what do I come back with? Space Attack, a very bad idea from Mattel. Mattel’s MO was to make, slightly inferior perhaps, ports of their Intellivision games and release them on the 2600 to entice people over to the Intellivision, whether it worked or not is anyone’s guess. Most of the games Mattel ported were simple shooters that didn’t require much use of the Intellivision’s keypad controller, Space Attack, or Space Battle as the INTV port was called, is the major exception. Space battle used eleven of the twelve keypad button, and somehow that all had to be condensed into a single button controller.
The graphics are unimpressive to say the least, there are two different screens in this game and they’re both fairly boring. First of all there is the radar screen, it is green and has squares arranged in rectangles around a center point, the only movements you’ll see are the icons of the friendly and enemy squadrons which are just colored dots. The play screen is also fairly lackluster, I will give credit for the colorful starfield, but at some point it gets a bit too colorful, I’m pretty sure there aren’t teal, green, and brown stars anywhere in the universe. The enemy ships are just a bunch of blue waffles that zip around the screen, I noticed that there are only ever a maximum of three at once, likely to cut down on flicker, but they move fast enough for it not the effect the gameplay.
The sounds are just terrible, even for the 2600 these are just bad. A cavalcade of beeps awaits you, and one of the most disappointing booms I’ve ever received from a 2600 game. The 2600 was capable of far better than this.
In order to condense so many commands into a single button and joystick Mattel made the direction you moved the joystick in conjunction with whether or not the button was held down command each individual squadron. In order to dispatch a squadron you hold the button down and move the stick up, left, or right, and when a squadron meets and enemy you simply move the joystick in the squadron’s designated direction. When described like that it seems fairly simple but I only know this because I have the manual, when I first played this on my Atari Flashback I couldn’t understand the game at all and never made it to the action screen despite many attempts to understand the game. The action is also a bit of a letdown. You move a cursor/crosshair around the screen and shoot at enemies that fly around and be a general nuisance. The cursor moves fast enough but your shots take a little while to get to where they’re going which means you have to lead the enemy by a bit, and since they love hanging around on the edges of the screen there is a bit of waiting involved. A few thiongs I do have to give this game credit for are the explosions destroying other enemies, if you get a pack you can knock out three to four at once, and the real-time mode where the enemies still advance and computer will fight for you while you’re battle an enemy squadron. It really is a pity this game is so boring to play though.
I understand that Mattel was trying to entice gamers over to their console but this just wasn’t the game to do it with. Space Attack was released in 1982, Space Battle was released on the Intellivision in 1980, technically 1979, by the time Space Attack was released Star Raiders, Star Master, and Phaser Patrol were on the market or coming soon. All three of these games knock Space Attack out of the park with their complexity, action, and superior graphics. Mattel just couldn’t hold a candle to the competition. If you want to get a copy of Space Attack then you’re in luck, it’s dirt cheap. Currently you can buy a copy new in the box for six dollars with free shipping, but I honestly don’t know why you would. Space Attack goes to the Collector’s Zone, it’s just boring, and thank goodness Mattel didn’t release their 2600 port of Sea Battle!