Seaquest is a very straightforward game. As the pilot of a submarine, the player’s sole task is to rescue treasure-divers from the clutches of sharks and enemy submarines. Shooting enemies and rescuing allies provides points for as long as a player has lives.
Taking place on a single screen, players evade or destroy waves of enemy subs and sharks as they enter view. Occasionally, a treasure-diver will float onto the screen. With six divers onboard, returning to the surface will end the “stage” and players will begin anew with a full supply of oxygen. Oh yeah, players have an ever-depleting supply of oxygen they need to be wary of.
The simplicity of the gameplay coupled with the relatively unimaginative concept of the game lead to me losing interest quickly. Not Steve Cartwright’s best.
With a score of 35,000 points in Activision Anthology, players will unlock the “Sub Club” patch. Originally players had to achieve 50,000 points. For me, this would be a futile effort reminiscent of scoring 100,000 points in Laser Blast. I say this because that was another game that I found less than stellar, yet I still went after the patch. I’m not going to do that anytime soon with Seaquest.
Steve Cartwright’s attempt to introduce proper dental hygiene to youngsters may not have been the most effective method, but damn if it isn’t fun. Plaque Attack was released for the Atari 2600 in 1983 and is a shoot ‘em up where players control a tube of toothpaste and destroy junk food before they rot a person’s teeth.
Positioned between the junk food and the pearly whites, players shoot their toothpaste at the junk food as it attacks in waves. Every “stage” sees an alteration to the wave pattern and type of junk food. The game’s difficulty picks up pretty quickly but it makes for a good score attack game. Another novel premise coupled with great gameplay and some pretty visuals makes Plaque Attack a highly recommendable Atari 2600 game.
Scoring 7,500 and 10,000 points in the Activision Anthology version unlocks a new gameplay mode (whirl mode) and the “No Plaque Attack” badge. The original requirement was 35,000 points, so like most games in this compilation, it’s much more attainable.
Frostbite Bailey’s method of building igloos is a little out there. By jumping on nearby ice floes his igloo magically constructs itself one block at a time. Yeah, he’s getting some help from above.
With each igloo built Frostbite gets a little tougher. Hazards like geese, crabs, and clams begin appearing and try to push him off of the floes, which change shape and come in different patterns. Eventually a menacing polar bear begins prowling on the mainland, making it difficult to enter the igloo once it has been built. It’s not all bad though. As more animals adjust to his presence, fish begin traveling with the floes and catching them grants many points.
Frostbite’s difficulty ramps up nicely and the simple gameplay was addicting. I was able to improve game after game as I tried to unlock the new gameplay mode and patch in Activision Anthology – 4,000 and 12,000 points respectively. The simple and fun arcade-style gameplay on display make this my favorite game from Steve Cartwright at this point, and Frostbite is a game I intend on returning to more than once, despite the frigid weather.
Steve Cartwright’s second game for Activision, Megamania, riffed off of the formula popularized by Space Invaders and seen in practically every other game in the early eighties. Megamania was released in 1982 for the Atari 2600 and bears a close resemblance to Sega’s Astro Blaster arcade game.
Piloting what looks like the USS Enterprise, players must blast through waves of enemies zigzagging across the screen. These take the shape of seemingly random objects such as hamburgers and bow ties. Each enemy class has a unique pattern and typically, the difficulty increases with each defeated wave.
I found a few interesting mechanics at work in Megamania. Firstly, after firing I could control my shot, moving it to the left or right. This was beneficial as Megamania was pretty tough. Secondly was the energy meter which effectively provided a time limit for defeating a wave and provided points if any was leftover. Lastly, some of the waves descended towards the ground (all the while zigzagging) but would keep cycling through from the top, meaning I had to defeat every enemy.
Activision Anthology unlockables included a commercial, a patch, and a gameplay mode which were unlocked with scores of 5,000 to 45,000 points. The trippy commercial features a theme song of sorts performed by The Tubes. The starfield gameplay mode attempts to be as wondrous but doesn’t quite make it.
Barnstorming is the first game designed by Steve Cartwright, the fifth member of Activision’s design team – their first hire in a sense. Released for the Atari 2600 in 1982, Barnstorming takes a simple concept and flies with it.
As the pilot of an old-school biplane, the player is tasked with flying through a set number of barns littered amongst windmills and flocks of geese. A time attack game ultimately, the goal is to fly through 10, 15, or 25 barns as fast as possible. Crashing into windmills and flying through flocks of geese slows the biplane down and in the first three games these obstacles, like the barns, are located in set positions. The fourth game mode is comprised of random object placement so it can’t be overcome with sheer memorization.
Barnstorming was another fun concept in video game form that was executed superbly. As I’ve played through Activision’s Atari 2600 catalog chronologically the audio/visual quality of their games has consistently improved and this game was no exception. An impressive feat considering this was Steve Cartwright’s first professional output. Completion of the first stage in under 30 or so seconds unlocks Barnstorming’scommercial in Activision Anthology. I flew the coop on this game before I unlocking it so adding this hyperlink is my first time watching the commercial.