Review: Midnight Mutants (Atari 7800)

In this review, things get rather haunting when we play the Atari 7800 game Midnight Mutants. We find out how well this action adventure game plays.

This game was released in 1990.

The storyline involves a witch being burned alive. Before being burned at the stake, the witch warns the people that a return will happen. Years later, it, well, happens. The protagonist’s grandfather is then captured in a pumpkin. With little left to do, the grandfather summons the protagonist to rescue him.

You start off the game with literally nothing. A positive is the fact that you can communicate with Grampa through some sort of psychic connection. Grampa will continually drop hints to help aid you in your quest. Some of them can be helpful, but gradually piecing together what you need to do will be the ultimate aid in your quest.

The first objective is to locate a knife which is found in the mansion (north from the start). Along the way, you’ll obtain a potion (restores health) and a vial of blood (purifies the blood).

After this, you’ll need to enter the chapel (east from the start) and obtain the cross. You’ll then want to head south to find your way to the woods. Somewhere, there is an axe that will permit you to take down more powerful foes.

As long as you have the axe, you’ll have the basic requirement to take down the zombies in a reasonable fashion. In some rooms, the killing of all zombies will reveal a gem. These gems not only grants you full health, but also increases your maximum health.

Initially, the challenge will be to maintain your health. Later on in the game, the challenge becomes maintaining blood purity. It is one of the few games that uses a duel health system. Run out of either health or blood purity and you die.

While playing this, I noticed significant parallels to both The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II – The Adventures of Link. This is specifically in reference to an adventure game that allows you to increase your maximum health as well as the various items you can use. It’s like the developers played those games and said, “We need something like that, only with a Halloween theme!”

One problem I have is with the awkward angle the game forces on you. You can either aim left, right, at a 45 degree angle north east, or at a 45 degree angle south west. This awkward perspective takes some getting used to – and something that didn’t strike me as necessary.

Another more significant problem I have with this game is a lack of a password or save system. This means that dying at any time means you start over to the very beginning. The further you are into the game, the more frustrating this factor becomes.

On a more positive note, this is certainly one of the more “full” games I’ve played on the 7800. While it doesn’t really compare well to NES games on a technological front, you could do a whole lot worse on this system.

Generally speaking, while there is a lot of content for an Atari 7800 game here, there are plenty of small problems to point to here. The game borrows heavily from the Zelda series. The duel health system is a rather strange thing to implement. The lack of any kind of save system is probably the games biggest problem. The awkward angle controls didn’t help much. It is also a game that is, at times, confusing. So, you may need to pull up a guide while playing this one. An OK game, though nothing big for the time.

The graphics are half decent. It is nothing amazing for a game of its time, but it wasn’t bad either. There were some slowdowns when there were many enemies on screen. The bosses were decently drawn, though. Decent, but nothing amazing here.

The audio wasn’t bad. The music was pretty decent and the game actually laid out the music nicely. Finally, an Atari 7800 game that doesn’t have significant gaps in music during play. The sound effects were pretty decent too.

Overall, this was an OK game. It’s a game to play when you want a late 80s adventure game that wasn’t a Zelda game. There’s some similarities of play here. The angle system is a bit clunky to work with, the lack of a save feature was a major hindrance, and it can be confusing to play at times. While the open world concept is nice to see, a guide may be recommended to have. The health system was a little odd to see. The graphics were not bad and the sound is pretty decent. A decent play once you get past the originality issues.

Furthest point in game: Found the mega blaster in one run. Obtained the heart of purity in another run, but died shortly after. Found most gems and, of course, defeated the ram boss. Died fighting the skeleton boss in another run.

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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