Review: The Dreadnaught Factor (Atari 5200)

In this review, we go on the defensive as we play the Atari 5200 game, The Dreadnaught Factor. We find out how well this top down shooter plays.

This game was released in 1984. It is a port from the Intellivision.

You play as a single ship. The goal is to destroy the incoming dreadnaught before it destroys your base.

For every flyover you do that doesn’t destroy the ship, the dradnaught will reduce the distance. If you get destroyed, then the dreadnaught will also reduce the distance. If the dreadnaught reaches your space port or you lose all of your lives, then the dreadnaught will destroy your space port and it will be game over.

By default, you are set for level 1. This, however, can be changed at the start screen. You can play anywhere between level 1 to level 7. However, once you have selected that level, you’ll play that level until you either complete your mission or you perish. If you want to try a different level, you have to quit your current game and use the number pad to select a new level. Your score will also be reset to zero.

You have two methods of attack: the main laser gun and the bomb. With the main laser gun, you’ll be able to destroy any surface weaponry on the ship. While this doesn’t actually get you any closer to destroying the ship, it will make subsequent runs easier as there will be fewer pieces of equipment trying to destroy you. How aggressive the on-board weapons are depends on the level. On level 1, they rarely fire. By level 3, they frequently fire at you. By level 4, some are also rotating to get after you on top of it all.

Meanwhile, the bombs are the weapon that you use to destroy the dreadnaughts. Along the top of the ship are vents. If you destroy every vent on the ship, then it will be destroyed and you’ll have successfully destroyed the dreadnaught. How many dreadnaughts you take on depends entirely on the level you select. In the first 2 levels, you only have the 1. Level 3 features 2 of them. Level 4 features at least 5 (died on this one). Don’t know about later levels, but I got the idea.

After level 3, there are a variety of dreadnaughts that you can take on. Some are skinny. This makes hitting targets easier, but the firepower is also concentrated where you are. There is one that is wide and absolutely loaded with weapons. No real place to hide, ultimately. Of course, you’ll always take on at least one triangular shaped one which can be easy or hard, depending on the level you select.

The good news is that you have a lot of lives. Exactly how many, I’m not sure. For every free life you have left over after defeating the dreadnaughts counts towards your bonus points at the end of the level. The distance left over also adds to your bonus points in your final tally.

A particularly big problem I have with this game is the fact that the level system is quite archaic. You can only take on one level. You have to select which level on the number pad. It would have been better to have levels that follow each other instead like most other games. While I get that this may be a case of trying something different, I don’t think it really worked.

In total, there are 7 levels. This may sound limited, but the way the dreadnaughts increase actually means there is a lot to experience.

A good part of this game is the fact that it is very approachable. Level 1 and 2 allow players to get used to the controls and figure out what is needed to complete levels. It also challenges experienced players in later levels as well.

Another pitfall of this game is the fact that there is no high level scoring system.

While this is a pretty good game, the level system does spoil the fun by quite a bit. Still, once you navigate your way around the game enough, it can be workable, but end up being a rather segmented game. There is good news in that the game is capable of both being approachable (earlier levels) as well as challenging (later levels). So, it can appeal to players of many different skill levels.

The graphics are fairly reasonable. While not amazing necessarily, it is pretty good.

There is no music, but there is some pretty decent sound effects. So, a fairly poor showing here.

Overall, this is an alright game. What really holds this game back is the segmented levels and an inability to play one after the other. Still, this game is both approachable and challenging depending on which level you select. The graphics are fairly decent, but the audio only has decent sound effects and nothing else. A decent game overall.

Died by the 5th dreadnaught on level 4.
High score: 5,027 (hard to score points in this game)

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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