Review: Mountain King (Atari 5200)

In this review, we search for the fire spirit in the Atari 5200 game Mountain King. We find out if this puzzle game is worth a play.

This game was released in 1983. It was released to other platforms at the time.

You play a stick figure. You have a number of objectives. The first objective is to collect 1000 points worth of diamonds. Luckily, diamonds are very plentiful in this game. To make matters even better, each diamond pickup is worth 10 points each. So, really, you are collecting 100 of these in an ocean of diamonds.

Once you collect a sufficient number of diamonds, your next goal is to locate the fire spirit. This is where your flashlight comes in handy. It is only visible with your flashlight on. While this is a big mountain, finding the fire spirit isn’t as hard as it sounds. All you need to do is listen for the sound of music. The closer you are to the fire spirit, the louder the music becomes. You can quickly search large sections of the mountain by deliberately falling down several levels. There is no fall damage, but it may take a moment for your stick figure to get up from a particularly large fall.

Once you find the fire spirit, your next objective is to locate the temple as you glitter. Once you find the temple surrounded by fire, you need to go down to the bottom and push up to activate the skull guard. A blue skull will appear, permitting you to enter. You can then climb up the skull and then the pillars to the top where the crown is located. Collect the crown by moving up to the crown and then moving back down.

The stick man should be wearing the crown now. The final part of this game is to make it all the way up to the top of the mountain with the crown on. You must avoid the bats that fly through. If you touch a bat, then you lose the crown and must repeat the previous objectives just to get the crown back. Get to the top of the mountain (apparently, I never got to the top of the mountain) and advance to the next stage which is a harder version of this stage.

You have a limited number of moves. You can shine your flashlight with your fire button. This can be helpful by disallowing you to collect diamonds unnecessarily. Up while running left or right will allow you to jump. Up will make your stick figure shrug. Down will allow you to collect hidden items.

There are a few hidden treasure chests throughout the mountain. Like the fire spirit, these chest are only visible with your flashlight. Find a treasure chest and open it up. You can collect what’s inside for extra points.

A big caveat to this game is the timer. If you run out of time, you die. This isn’t the only threat either. If you run into a fire, you only have seconds to live. If you fall to the bottom of the mountain, a spider will wrap you up in its web. Move around as many times as possible to break free. If you can’t break free in time, the spider will return and eat you. Hard to pull off, but it is possible to break free in time.

The problem I have with this game is the steep learning curve. Even if you figure out one objective, you won’t be able to complete the level without figuring out a number of steps along the way. This is a very annoying aspect of the game.

Another problem I have with this game is the difficulty. I couldn’t for the life of me get the crown up to the top of the mountain. I got somewhat close at one point where I got to see the highest up platform that stretches all the way across the level. Unfortunately, a bat will always find its way onto my level and make it impossible for me to escape because they move way too fast.

Ladders in this game are buggy. If you happen to run on top of them, jumping is disabled. Sometimes you can’t reach the ladder at random (not often) and you end up missing critical jumps.

Jumping is also annoying in this game. It’s very hard to measure the correct jumping distance to move up a level. There’s such little margin for error, it’s very hard to get it right.

Probably the only thing going for this game is that there is a level of uniqueness to this. I don’t remember playing a game with quite this kind of set-up. So, there is a level of originality here.

Overall, this game has a lot of problems with it. The learning curve is steep, the level of difficulty is pretty high, and movement is both annoying and buggy. While this game does have a certain level of uniqueness going for it, that’s about all the positivity I can give this game.

The graphics in this game leave a lot to be desired. Everything is very basic. Your character is about as basic as you can get here. Everything has a sort of flattened down feel to it. There is not much that shines through other than the number of diamonds that dot the screen. The flashlight effect was OK, but nothing huge. It’s hard to find things in the graphics that really wow me.

The audio was interesting. There is music, but it ends up being an instrument to this game. Finding the fire spirit requires hearing music. There are other jingles in this game, though they mostly revolve around you dying. Other then that, there are sparse sound effects to keep you company. I’ll stretch and say it’s passable, but only barely.

Overall, this is a game with a lot of flaws that drag it down. The jumping mechanics is annoying. The ladders are buggy. The learning curve is steep. The difficulty level is high. While there is that sense of originality about this game, that’s one of the few positive things that can be said about this game. The graphics only have a few minor effects going for it. Beyond that, it’s very stripped down. The audio is barely passable largely because of the way it handles some of the jingles. A very average game.

Furthest point in game: Ran out of time taking crown up to the top of the mountain and gave up when time ran out after in annoyance.
High score: 38,570

General gameplay: 14/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 56%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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