Sorcerer's Apprentice (Atari)
Sorcerer’s Apprentice is an odd one to say the least. This was the only one of the four planned Disney games to be released on the 2600; it seems the market fell out from under Atari very soon after this game’s release. What year did this game release on? 1983? Oh, that would explain it. The three other planned Disney games were Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Donald Ducks Speedboat, and Dumbo’s Flying Circus, if you were wondering. All of these games have been recovered and it seems that they were all mostly complete before being scrapped. I know that it takes a lot of creativity to make a game but the premise for Sorcerer’s Apprentice seems so forced that it’s almost comical but I will have to talk about that in the gameplay section and before we can get there we’ll have to get through graphics and sounds so let’s not dawdle and just jump into it.
The game opens with a fantastic title screen with a gigantic picture of Mickey Mouse’s face slap-bang in the center of it, but that’s not where this game’s great graphics end. The game has two play screens and one sub-screen you use to move between the two, the first screen is the mountaintop. The mountaintop consists of two nicely gradiented hills that take up the bottom part of the screen with the rest of it just being a big blue sky. Normally I’d complain about much of the screen going unused but I’ll get to that in the gameplay section as well, suffice to say it’s a decent screen. The second game screen is the well this is where all of the brooms are dumping their buckets of water, this is another decent screen but is a bit more abstract than the first. If you didn’t know those were stairs I’d bet you’d be very confused, but the only thing that really warrants mentioning is the rising water and how the parts of the screen that get submerged change color, it’s a really nice touch. The third screen is basically a transition screen between the two game screens it’s just Mickey climbing down a ladder to a doorway. Speaking of Mickey his sprite is done very well and is very true to the source material, red robe, blue hat, big ears, the works.
The sounds aren’t all that impressive, mostly it’s a bunch of indistinct beeps and boops, with one small exception. The song The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or to be more precise the first two measures of the song will play once in a while, the composition isn’t bad and it’s actually on key which is nice. Otherwise there just isn’t all too much to the game.
This isn’t your standard move-around-the-bottom-of-the-screen-and-shoot-at-things game, it’s your standard move-around-the-bottom-of-the-screen-and-shoot-at-things game with a bit of Apollo’s Lost Luggage thrown in there as well. While in the mountaintop screen all you have to do is shoot the falling projectiles, there are falling stars and meteors for you to shoot. The actions of the first screen tie directly in with the actions of the second screen let me explain. Each star that you miss while on the first screen creates a broom on the second screen resulting in the second screen filling faster and you losing the game more quickly. Every meteor you hit becomes two buckets on the second screen that will drain the water, but it’s not quite that simple. For a bucket to drain the water it must get midway up the screen but the buckets will retreat if a broom gets near so you have to get down into screen two and stop those brooms yourself because there’s no way you’re shooting all of those stars. Unfortunately this game has one Major Flaw, a flaw so major I capitalized the words. Shooting sucks, it sucks so bad. Your shots are guided, they will follow your movements, but if you’re moving while you shoot then the shot will automatically move in that direction while still being guided, there is no option to turn this off. Hitting anything is made ten times harder than it should have been because of this, the stars fall straight down it seems only logical that you should be able to shoot straight up without having to stand completely still thus making it impossible to aim your next shot without ruining your first. Just try to play game 3 I dare you.
Sorcerer’s Apprentice has the makings of a fantastic multitasking shooter/collection type game, and it succeeds in some of it, but it just flounders in its most important aspect. Bad shooters are just no fun and Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a bad shooter. If you want to get a copy of this game for yourself you’ll be looking at 12 for the cheapest loose copy on Ebay and 35 dollars for the cheapest boxed copy. Do yourself a favor and stay away from this one, to the Collector’s Zone for sure.