AGH Atari 8-Bit Computer Review:

by APX (Atari)

Caverns of Mars
Shortly after Caverns of Mars was first released, I had heard rumors about the new Atari game, so I immediately borrowed the game from a friend to play it and see what the fuss was all about.

About six hours later, my mother dragged me away....

In this scrolling space game, you're responsible for destroying a Martian basse. In order to do so, you need to penetrate a series of caverns to the lowest level, where an explodable device sits; arm it and start the countdown (by touching it); then escape before it goes off. The game starts with you at the top of the cavern. It begins slowly scrolling up so you get the sensation of descending the cavern. By moving the joystick right and left, you can maneuver from side-to-side, and by moving it back and forth, you can increase or decrease your rate of descent as well.

While you're descending through scenic Mars, you must destroy various installations. By pressing the joystick button, you launch two missiles downward from each side of your ship. If you hit a fuel canister (imaginatively labelled "FUEL") your fuel supply increases by 5 (of 100). If you hit other installations, you just plain destroy them. The idea is to wreak as much havoc as possible on the way down.

You can see only a limited section of the caverns, so you never know what's going to come next. You maneuver through the passageway twisting back and forth, and suddenly the screen is filled with Martian ships you must avoid, and try to blow up. But you must not collide with the ships or the wall.

If your first descent is successful you begin again. Only this time, there are floating space mines, and force doors that open and close, and things begin to shoot back at you. Completely horizontal passages appear, requiring you to be ready for them and use nearly the full vertical screen's worth of maneuvering to get through. It gets harder and harder until you are destroyed, or somehow succeed in navigating all five caverns.

Caverns of Mars has that something special; something that can't be explained in words. I guess the best explanation would be that it's one of those games that will keep you coming back for more, until your fingers get cramps from holding the joystick, or until you're totally frustrated. Regardless of the result, you're guaranteed to have one heck of a ride.

Title Caverns of Mars
Publisher APX (Atari)
System Atari 400/800/XL/XE
Graphics 6
Sound 5
Gameplay 8
Overall 8
Reviewer Keita Iida

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