Disk 16, Side 1
This game answers that age-old question that mankind has been puzzling over for decades now: What would happen if somebody combined the book of Exodus with Q*Bert? What kind of treasure troves of inspiration, information, and wonder would one behold if such a cosmic event truly were to occur? Perhaps the entire Judeo-Christian-Islam belief system would be radically altered, creating a new faith, one simply titled “@!#?@!”.
Or, alternatively, someone would make a pretty good Q*Bert clone.
In this game you are playing as a slave named “Little Achmed” building a pyramid for a pharaoh (hence the title). You do this by jumping around on a pyramid, filling in each tile with a color until the entire pyramid has been filled, while a snake and some other creatures/obstacles pursue you, just like Q*Bert. Unlike Q*Bert, however, the enemies have biblical ties, such as the snake being Moses’ snake, and other obstacles being named after the ten plagues of Egypt (frogs, locusts, flies, fire & hail, and even the Angel of Death, who, despite his ominous name, acts pretty much just like the frogs and locusts and stuff). In addition, you are also building a second pyramid at the top of the screen, which is done by collecting bricks laid out at the bottom of the first pyramid (along the river Nile, I guess) and bringing them to the top. Constructing this pyramid takes six rounds that cycle through the plagues, at which point you proceed to the next level where the spaces on the bottom pyramid now cycle through more than one color when you jump on them. Also, of course, everything changes color and moves faster, but do I even need to say that anymore? Isn’t there an acronym I can use?
ECCAMF [eh’kamf]: Everything Changes Color And Moves Faster (otherwise known as what happens at the end of every video game made before 1985).
Also, apparently, there is a love story/triangle/something going on between Little Achmed and the Egyptian deities Isis and Osiris, as between every level a cutscene depicts Achmed and Isis with a heart between them, only for Osiris to steal Isis away while sad music plays. You know, assuming Isis looks like the outline of a diamond (which admittedly morphs into some sort of Egyptian princess or something), and Osiris is actually a cross between an alien and a pancake. Hey, they’re deities; I suppose they can manifest themselves however they want. Osiris sometimes also shows up in the main game to screw up the spaces that you’ve been trying to get changed to the right color, so he’s kind of a jerk. I’m also not entirely sure how both Egyptian deities and Old Testament plagues can co-exist peacefully, so as a distraction from that conundrum I will mention that there’s also a crocodile in this game.
Pharaoh’s Pyramid does exactly what a good clone should: it preserves the core gameplay that made the original game fun, while adding enough distinctions that give it its own identity. The plagues are an odd, but interesting tweak to the enemies from Q*Bert, while the act of building the second pyramid add a unique twist to make it more fun. All in all, a solid game.
Mr. Robot and his Robot Factory
Mr. Robot and his Robot Factory plays as an alternate-universe version of Miner 2049er where OSHA still existed and mankind gave its dangerous, you-must-walk-across-all-the-floors-of-a-place-where-everything-is-trying-to-kill-you jobs to unfeeling, expendable robots. You are the eponymous Mr. Robot who has been placed inside your rainbow-colored robot factory (which, despite the name, neither produces robots nor is much of a factory beyond having some conveyor belts in it) in order to walk across all the floors, eliminating white dots as you go. Much like Miner 2049er, if you fall too far you are immediately killed, though sadly in this game there’s no hilarious squashed-inside-your-hat animation.
Your main antagonists are angry fires!
As levels progress more obstacles are added, such as conveyor belts, elevators, teleporters, magnets that allow you to make large leaps, trampolines that not only bounce you but allow you a safe landing from heights, and, somehow, classically-shaped bombs (you know the type: the round ball with the fuse coming out one end) that serve as explodey platforms. You also make an annoying “beep-boop” sound with every step you take, but fortunately you can turn off the sound effects in the first level by collecting a music note which not only kills that horrible walking noise, but is worth 50 points, to boot!
There are 22 levels in all, though the difficulty ramps up fairly quickly toward the beginning and I’ve never beaten the game without savestates. This is mostly due to the unforgiving controls. Many jumps have to be precision jumps, as often the difference between death and a safe jump is merely a pixel off, and sometimes jumping to a platform below you won’t kill you while just falling to it will. Many levels have only one path through them that isn’t immediately apparent, forcing you to analyze and plan out the whole thing, or waste a few lives doing it wrong until you see what you need to do. The worst levels in this regard are the ones made up almost entirely out of bombs, because if you make a single mistake, well, the platform blows up and you’re totally screwed. Did I also mention that it’s really hard to plan out later levels due to the time limit that only gives you 99 seconds, and that you only start with four lives (though you can get more as your score goes up, and there are some extra lives in a few levels, but not many), and that sometimes you have to act immediately upon entering a level, lest a fire burn you up, or a bomb blow up under you, or some sort of conveyor belt leads you to your doom? Yeah, life for Mr. Robot is not an easy one.
Even with all these challenges, though, the game is still fairly fun. Helping buoy it up a bit is the inclusion of a level editor a la Lode Runner, which is where I spent most of my time just fooling around making Mr. Robot bounce around on trampolines or blow up a lot, though you can create legitimate levels too if that’s your thing.
Rating: B+ (mostly for the inclusion of the level editor, otherwise it’s closer a B-)
Starion. The game that the Internet forgot. In this game you are a flying saucer of some sort, cruising through a space fort for some reason, in order to accomplish some purpose. The game autoscrolls, much like Caverns of Mars and its sequel, but unlike Caverns of Mars you can actually speed up and even move in reverse (though you can never stay still). Your way is blocked by various laser beams, asteroids, and other obstacles too crude to figure out what they are. Also, in time-honored Atari tradition, shooting a fuel tank refills your fuel gauge, which still makes no sense but whatever.
Here’s the problem with this game. After you make some progress into the game you come across a cavern filled with people that you should be able to somehow rescue, a la Choplifter!. The game even makes your trigger send out some sort of beaming device downward toward the people, instead of shooting your gun. However, it is impossible to beam anyone up. You can sit there, hovering over someone with that trigger pressed until your fuel runs out, trying desperately to save this person from whatever horrors can be visited upon a man standing in space somewhere waving his arms while remaining stationary, but you will never be able to rescue him. Ever. This also means that the “castaway” bar at the top will never diminish, and the game becomes somewhat pointless.
I figured I was missing something. So I went online to try to find out what I was missing. What stupid button or keystroke did I have to press in order to get these jerks to get on my spaceship? Unfortunately, it was ultimately a futile task. The only mentions of this game on the Internet at all were on sites like Atarimania, which consisted of a ROM dump and a few screenshots (and no manual). So I still have no idea how to progress in this game, other than flying forward and leaving all those castaways to wave in perpetuity, until either death or the end of time.
Some of the level design was creative, but in the end I was so frustrated by this game’s flaws that it really wasn’t worth it.
That’s it for this side of the disk. Next time: side 2, featuring Baja Bug, Kid Grid, and Protector II. See you then!