Alright ladies and gentlemen, the word of the day is satisfaction. What is the most satisfying game you’ve ever played? I think that I may have just inadvertently stumbled upon one of the most satisfying games in the 2600 library, and it’s from our good friends at Fox. Not at all based on the 1964 movie of the same name, The Earth Dies Screaming is a fun little space shooter and is an excellent example of excellent sounds and graphics overpowering subpar/standard gameplay to make something truly magical. So without further ado, let me elaborate.
The graphics pretty much do everything right. Starfield? Check. Explosions that make your room light up like a Christmas tree? Check. Cool scrolling planet with bonus atmosphere? Check. Score that rolls up when you get points? Check. This is seriously a very advanced looking game, the fluidity of the planet scrolling is amazing, seriously, I can’t name a single game that does it better. The turret is also surprisingly well done the smoothness of its scrolling is rather hypnotizing. Apart from that it’s the little touches that make this game so cool. The rolling score is fantastic, the radar screen with a horizontal bar going down it, the flashing of the turret heads, the gentle strobe effects when you get damages or when an enemy slips past, it all compounds to make a very lively screen that isn’t at all boring to look at. So you take these fantastic graphics and then you couple them with the sounds and what do you get? Well let me tell you all about it.
There is never a quiet moment in this game, you’re constantly getting bombarded with the sounds of engines the sounds of gunfire, explosions, alarms, the game is never silent. This is what I want in a space shooter like this; frantic, fast paced, energetic action and the sounds play a huge role in that. A big reason why I’m not too fond of Star Ship is because it was too soft and too quiet, though I probably didn’t say that in my review of it. In The Earth Dies Screaming it is a constant barrage of action that gets you pumped and hyped up even if you’re looking at an empty screen, atmosphere, that’s it, the game has atmosphere and I feel that the combination of the sounds and graphics totally make up for its rather standard lackluster gameplay.
This is you’re fairly average space shooter with a few twists to help it stand out from the rest. Your turret will automatically track the vertical position of any enemy on screen, you still have to move and aim vertically but that could perhaps be seen as hand holding. I can understand why they did this because the game would be impossibly difficult otherwise because this game, even on the lowest settings, is pretty darn fast. You are attacked by three enemies at a time, they are trying to get down to the planet and sometimes back up again, your goal is to not let them get to the planet’s surface/breach the atmosphere. The enemy ships also move in three dimensions, another reason why your turret is automated somewhat, you need the up and down movements to move you forwards and backwards. Yes, this is one of the few games in the Atari library where the enemies can be behind you and you wouldn’t know it. It all sort of boils down to you just shooting anything that moves as the enemies move and shoot to quickly for you to do anything particularly strategic and you’ll get shot by just about every enemy you run into. Thankfully you can get hit plenty of times, I don’t really know what the game over criteria are as I usually button mash the whole time and have a crap ton of fun doing it.
Who knows perhaps this game relies heavily on strategy and I’ve barely experienced any of it, I really need to read the manual, but still it’s a great time even if you have no clue what’s going on. Unfortunately this is where I come to prices, and due to this being one of TCF’s more obscure titles it will cost a pretty penny. I paid 20$ for my loose copy and checking on Ebay that seems to be about the norm, boxed copies are just ludicrously expensive at 250-330 dollars, but these are from a known scalper so they’re probably only worth half that new. Speaking of new, there’s a NOS box sitting at 65$ free shipping, so of you must own this game boxed then just get that one while it’s still here. Yeah, if you can get a loose copy for around 15$ then I’d say pick it up, otherwise just stay away or emulate it.