Review: Desert Falcon (Atari 7800)

In this review, we get ready to fly in the Atari 7800 game Desert Falcon. We find out how well this shooter game plays.

This game was released 1987.

When I heard of the title, I probably immediately thought of what a lot of other people might think of: another flight simulator, or, at least, something to do with an airplane or helicopter or something. Definitely a wrong assumption there. You literally take control of a bird and fly through Egyptian desert settings.

You start on the ground. If you want to take flight, you press down. Once in the air, you can move left, right, up, and down. The upshot is that it is easier to evade foes while flying through the air. The downside is that you can’t collect some items and you are required to fly at the lowest level for others. Another downside is that you are forced to take a continual auto-scrolling flight path while in the air.

You can land on the ground by simply moving the bird all the way down. There are a number of good reasons to land. For one, you stop the auto-scrolling for the most part. The only thing is tat you can’t move backwards. It is also possible to collect not only the gems (otherwise requires at least the lowest level of flight to collect), but also the hieroglyphs (requires you to walk on them to pick them up).

While the gems net points, the hieroglyphs on the ground are much more nuanced. The game allows you to collect three at a time. Once you collect the third hieroglyph, you can obtain any number of different power-ups. Most of the combinations net you extra points only. Others grant you the ability to speed up, allow for faster shots, and even grant you temporarily invulnerability. What the combinations are and how to get what you want is purely trial and error. Sometimes, collecting three of the same hieroglyph grants you a bonus (whatever that bonus even is, I’m not entirely sure).

If you make it to the end of the stage, you’ll square off a giant Sphinx. The Sphinx will fire shots directly out in front. You have to get the correct elevation to do any damage. The upshot is the fact that the boss only requires one shot to defeat it.

After this, you fly into a bonus area filled with gems. You have a limited amount of time to collect the gems. What you collect can net you a huge bonus before starting the next stage.

In total, you have 4 free lives to work with. For every 20,000 points, you get a free life. Dying is fairly easy in this game if you aren’t careful. An enemy can do this, but the obstacles can also knock you senseless as well.

The problem I had with this game is the complex aiming in this game. You have to constantly account for elevation. If you are off by even a little bit, the shot will zip past the enemy. I wish there was more leeway in terms of hitting enemies. On earlier levels, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. In later levels, however, this can be an extremely critical issue.

Generally speaking, this isn’t a bad game. It is a bit strange to say the least. The elevation issue can be a frustrating aspect of the game. Still, the power-ups made things interesting (if somewhat unpredictable).

Graphics has its strengths and weaknesses. A strength is the constantly changing environment. A weakness is the fact that it’s hard to tell how elevated the enemies are at times. The only ones that weren’t that bad were the fixed small Sphinx locations. Of course, they represent a small number of enemies in the game (as far as I got anyway). Another problem with the graphics is the fact that it can be hard to see some of the enemy shots as the bullets can blend in to the ground.

There was no real music to speak of in this game. The flying portions have a two note bassline. the walking portions have a weird arpeggio sound. Beyond that, you are merely treated to some sound half way decent sound effects. Could have been stronger in this department.

Overall, this was a half decent game save for some issues here and there. The elevation can be quite difficult to work with. The item pickups are unpredictable (neither good or a bad thing). The free lives are, at least, a little generous here. The graphics had its hits and misses. The sound, meanwhile, could have been better. A strange game to play, though not all that bad.

Furthest point in game: Level 5: 39,409

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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