Telesys was an earnest company with humble beginnings; they just wanted to make good, fun games. Unfortunately Telesys also died a very humble death as they did not find their desired success in the games market. Telesys arrived on the scene in 1982; they released six games and were gone by the end of 1983. Sometimes I’m glad when I learn of the unfortunate demise of a game company, Mythicon and Mystique immediately come to mind, and I’m still waiting for EA to just go away already, but with Telesys I actually wish that they stuck around. None of Telesys’ games were downright awful, they were all creative and even if they weren’t they still put a spin on a tried and true formula, they actually had plans of becoming a full-on real deal software company in 1983, expanding the company in other lucrative directions. Alas it was not meant to be, as Telesys was among the first to fold, alongside Apollo and Imagic. Due to its rather rapid decline Telesys likely wasn’t able to produce their final three games in large quantities or distribute them very well, meaning their final three have become quite uncommon. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on two of their final three, Ram It, and Stargunner, out of the two I feel that Stargunner will make for a more interesting review so I’ll review it first, but I’ll still get around to Ram It. But for the meantime let’s strap into our futuristic fighter craft, gun the engines and blast right into Stargunner by Telesys.
Stargunner isn’t a very complicated looking game; there isn’t really all too much going on here. The background is black which, as you long-time readers will know, is a bit of a sticking point for me, I just feel like the 2600 just doesn’t have enough star-fields. The rolling hills at the bottom of the screen are quite nice; it’s always good to see the 2600 made to go sideways, even if it hates the very idea of it. Enemy designs are extremely simplistic, you have a rotary egg, a bunch of squares, and an alien head, while at the top of the screen there is a road sign having a fit of some sort and dropping logs on your head. The game does have flicker but it is tolerable, at least when there are three enemies on screen, the manual and promo material both show eight enemies which would be a different story entirely. The game does have a very nifty graphical effect that also has gameplay impacts, when you shoot an enemy it will break apart into four pieces, they fly apart very smoothly and remind me of arcade titles like Defender. When an enemy respawns four pieces will converge creating a new enemy, while reducing the risk of you running into a recently rematerialized enemy. So overall the game looks simple but is technically impressive in a few ways and apart from a glaringly absent star-field I have nothing to complain about, let’s move on to the sounds.
I like this game’s soundtrack. When you aren’t firing the game will play a hodgepodge of beeps and tones, though unlike what the description would have you think it isn’t annoying at all and rather fits in with the rest of the game. The explosion noise I feel could have been improved upon, it’s just not quite chunky enough for my liking, but you know what is? The firing sound… It is fantastically chunky, and makes the whole experience feel that much more rewarding, it almost sounds exactly like the shooting noise from defender except with a hint more grit to it. Well so far we have unimpressive graphics, and feel-good sounds, unless the gameplay can knock us outta the park we’re just going to have another run of the mill generic space shooter.
It looks like we have another run of the mill generic space shooter on our hands, though it does do a few things differently. You will be assailed by waves of enemies, the first wave consists of 10 enemies coming at you one at a time, two has 20 coming in twos, and three has 30 attacking in triplets. If you destroy one enemy another will almost immediately take its place keeping the maximum number of enemies on the screen at once. The enemies are stupid, their AI is rather nonexistent, some will just move left, other will move diagonally, most will just go down the screen and rest at the bottom waiting for you to pick them off, others will just sit still and wait patiently for a laser bolt through the brain. Only once did I encounter an enemy that had some semblance of intelligence but he died very quickly since he just followed me. The only thing keeping things from getting boring is Bobo (yes that is its actual name) dropping bombs from the top of the screen, you can’t kill Bobo but Bobo can kill you. He will loosely follow your movements not allowing you to get too comfortable waiting for your enemies to converge at the bottom. I assume the enemies get smarter or faster as the game progresses but I’ve lost all of my lives before that happens. It seems in the higher difficulty game variations the enemies behave more intelligently but I’m not sure since I can’t outrun them and die in seconds, I also noticed that there is a kid’s mode where everything moves slower, awww.
All in all Stargunner is a decent shooter that doesn’t do a whole lot to shake up the formula, by no means is it a bad game it just comes off as rather generic. Unfortunately this is not an inexpensive game, thankfully there has been an influx of cheaper listings but the cheapest you’re gonna get for Stargunner is 25 dollars, though some enterprising individual has decided to price theirs at 140 dollars and still charge you for shipping. Because it’s a rare game I’d say about 20 dollars is a fair price for a worn copy, maybe 25 for one with a good label, but as it is I’d say Stargunner goes to the Collector’s Zone. See ya!