Atari 2600 – Phaser Patrol


Or “The return of the Metal Phoenix!”

My favorite boys deliver another game.
You may remember Arcadia and their Supercharger-addon for the Atari 2600.
It added a bit more power to the system and this arcade shooter, Phaser Patrol, came bundled with it.
Another fun fact: it’s frikkin’ amazing.

You are the pilot of an interstellar spaceship and you have to fight an alien armada.
The Dracons are on a mission to destroy humanity, so give ’em a taste of your manmade missiles!

The game consists of two parts.
The first part is finding your target on the map.
Take a look:


The boxes marked with an ‘X’ are undiscovered territories.
They clear up by either warping to them or by destroying nearby Dracons.
Dracons, your main target, are those buff-looking spaceships.
More of them appear over time, so don’t think you only need to fight a handful.
Lastly, there are those spheres.
They’re friendly planets. Visits them to refuel and repair your ship.
That’s all you need to know.
Highlight a Dracon, press the fire button and warp into the battlefield.
You need to flip the difficulty switch if you want to change game mode.
The battle mode is in first person and looks like this:


In the middle of the screen is your crosshair.
It locks onto enemies and missiles will automatically hit.
Sounds easy, but the Dracons are fast and move erratically.
The number under your crosshair shows how far away enemies are.
You also have access to a minimap at the bottom.
If you get shot you might lose your shield or your rocket launcher and you will take damage.
You start out with 10 000 energy points and every action will reduce it some extent.
If it hits zero, the game is over.
That’s why the friendly planets are so important.
Anyway, when all enemies are destroyed you can return to the map screen and take on the next Dracon fleet.
When humanity is saved you get a grade based on the time you took and the damage you’ve received.
After that, you can play another round. It’s randomized.

So…where to start with my praise?
Well, the game looks fantastic.
The battle mode won me over instantly with all the colorful stars, the detailed action (lots of explosions) and the readable minimap.
It’s quite rare to see a useful version.
Heck, even the map screen has a constant light show at the bottom of the screen.
It’s like Arcadia really cared about the extra power of their Supercharger.
Audio is also great with actions like warping, shooting or flying all having different sound effects that never annoy.
Again, a rare feat.
The most important part: gameplay.
No complaints either (sorry).
The action is fast paced and really rewards skill, your ship taking different kinds of damage is unique (so far) and demands a bit of tactical thinking and having a repair shop/planet adds a welcomed layer of fairness.

I would have liked another gameplay mode (cartridge space was limited tho) and some might say the game is a tad too easy but that aside…it’s pretty much the perfect game for the Atari 2600.
Dragonstomper isn’t dethroned as the best game for the system but it has to share its place from now on.




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