Canyon Bomber/Sea Bomber (Atari VCS, 1979)
Crater Digger? Pit Maker?
This game harkens back to a simpler time, when all the human mind could handle was one button.
Picture a canyon extending from mid screen to the bottom in depth and stretching from one side of the screen to the other in width. Now, fill it to the brim with multi-colored blocks, each layer of blocks having its own color, like Breakout only going down. Or, better yet, view a screenshot taken directly from Atari Age's entry for the cart.
Now take some of the flying vehicles from Combat or Air-Sea Battle and have a yellow vehicle fly over this canyon from one direction while a red vehicle flies over from the other. Press the button on your controller to make your bi-plane/bomber/helicopter drop a bomb. The bomb falls through the blocks like a bath toy sinks through bubble bath foam. Drop as many of these bombs as you can, one at a time, before your aircraft flies off the other side. You have no control over your aircraft. It just flies steadily across.
This sequence repeats with different aircraft and different flight speeds until there are no more blocks to hit (which will re-fill the canyon), or until both players accumulate six misses. High score wins. A miss is constituted by failing to release a bomb during a flyover, or releasing a bomb that hits no blocks. A variation of the game is to drop bombs until a player reaches 1000 points or more and misses aren't counted.
A variation of the skill level is "bomb recall". On difficulty "A", once you drop a bomb, you can't drop another until it hits. On difficulty "B", if you drop a bomb that looks like it isn't going to hit anything, you may "recall" it by firing another. The bomb's downward velocity is consistent with gravity, but how long they fall depends upon the speed of the plane they fall from and how close they are to the edge of the canyon. Later in the level, your ability to aim becomes a factor as the targets available become fewer.
The A.I. for the one-player versions of Canyon Bomber is, as the manual describes it, "steady". Dropping a bomb as often as possible is all it does. The funny thing about this is that this A.un-I. initially scored higher than me because I was trying to take careful aim from the beginning of the game. This just wastes time. The key to scoring better than the AI is to bomb the hell out of the canyon in the beginning, when it's impossible to miss blocks, then start being careful and selective when the pickings get slim. It becomes just a matter of hitting at least one block each flyover until your enemy runs out of misses or until your score is higher than theirs. The deeper down a block is, the more points it is worth, so that's what you're aiming for.
Please be aware: while I may be giving you an obvious strategy for playing the game, this does not mean I am recommending that you play it. This bomb-dropper just isn't much fun. Bright colors. Dull gameplay. It may be a good game to play with very young children or very old adults, but even they will grow tired of it quickly and begin whining and wetting themselves in an attempt to get ejected from the living room.
I've tried playing it solo. Meh. I've tried getting my kids to play it with me and with each other. There's just not much call for it in these parts. My son played it for about two minutes before asking if we could play Atari's Bowling again. (We did, and we had fun.)
FYI: Atari had a Canyon Bomber machine in the arcades back in 1977. The display was black and white, featuring blimps and bi-planes to act as your bomb vehicles. The canyon had more of a rocky appearance to it, and the targets were little white circles with numbers on them. The numbers, of course, represented points you earned when you destroyed them. It's available in MAME.
There is somewhat of a saving grace on this cart, though, and that's in the second-fiddle game, Sea Bomber. Sea Bomber is a little like the arcade game Depthcharge. Using your button you drop the bomb. Using your paddle you set the depth at which you'd like your bomb to explode. The bomb vehicles are the same as from Canyon Bomber, but the bombing field this time is a sea-scape, starting off at light blue and darkening as you reach the bottom. Watercraft traverse the screen at different depths and you need to annihilate as many as you can. The deeper they are, the higher they score. Witness the screenshot, also from Atari Age's entry for the Canyon Bomber cart.
Your shots fall straight down, as if through water. You must take into acount your target's speed, depth and direction, the direction and speed of your aircraft, and the speed your shot sinks. If you wait too long to plan a shot, your plane may have taken you beyond dropping range for your chosen prey. From flyover to flyover, the only consistent factor is the speed at which your bomb falls while the speed of the aircraft and watercraft changes from flyover to flyover. Madly bombing and hoping for luck will not serve you well.
If you've got this cart and you've been disappointed with Canyon Bomber, Sea Bomber makes up for it a little.
FYI: Depthcharge is also available in MAME, though there may be other games more similar to Sea Bomber; I just haven't seen them yet.
Hmm, next 1979 game? I honestly don't know . . . it's a surprise! Well, not really, I just don't know what it will be yet.8135