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Homebreviews - part 37

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Nathan Strum


Time again to dust off the ol' 7800.




Failsafe is an unofficial sequel to the Atari 5200 game Countermeasure. Having never played Countermeasure, I can't judge Failsafe's success as a sequel, only on its own merits as a standalone title.


The goal of the game is to drive a tank across hostile enemy territory, while destroying enemy gun emplacements, jeeps, terrorists and cruise missiles, while collecting pieces to a code that will allow you to to disarm a nuclear missile before they can launch it. To help you in this task, you can collect power-ups to increase your speed, make you temporarily invulnerable, freeze your enemies, extend your firing range, and so on. If all of your tanks are destroyed or you fail to enter the code in time, the bad guys win.


The controls are simple - just move and shoot. However, your tank moves frustratingly slow (especially when you encounter certain types of terrain), which makes it all the more imperative to pick up power-ups whenever you can. You can move and fire in eight directions, but the 45° angles aren't actually 45°, which takes some getting used to, since you have to line up shots at odd angles. The plus side is that the enemies actually do shoot at 45° angles, so you can sneak up on them. The sound effects are minimal, but adequate. The graphics are detailed, but the limited color palette makes the game rather plain looking, and it's difficult to read the tiny letters that distinguish the power-ups. Generally, I just pick up anything I run across, and hope it's something useful. Unique icons or different colors would have helped make them more distinct. There's good variety to the terrain, although sometimes you're forced to slog your way through nearly impassible sections that can make the game more frustrating than fun. The 7800's second fire button isn't used for anything special, which is too bad. It would have been nice to be able to pick up and save a power-up for later use.


Failsafe plays very much like Strategy X does on the 2600 - you drive a tank, you shoot some stuff. But from a 7800 title, I'd hope for something more - like less linear progression, or requiring the player to get out of the tank and fight hand-to-hand or switch vehicles (like Taito's Front Line). Still, Failsafe is a pretty good game as it is, and there are multiple difficulty settings which let you find a good match for your skill level.

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