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DoctorSpuds Reviews Things - Capture the Flag (Sirius Software)


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Sorry for missing the review yesterday, but for reasons way within my control I just simply couldn’t (I.E. I was just lazy). I had a friend over yesterday to play some games, and even though the big winner of the night was Pachinko! On Odyssey 2, because he was winning by a country mile the whole time, followed by Survivor by Synapse, since it’s just a damn fun game, the third most played game was Capture the Flag by Sirius on Atari 800 and that’s the game we’re looking at today. Sirius Software is already in my good books since the programmed one of my favorite 2600 games, Worm War I, but I was unaware of how prolific this company was and even though they published mainly on the Apple II they also programmed and sold games for the 2600, 800, and even the VIC-20, so these guys were cultured in the ways of computing. But with every success there is inevitable failure which came in the form of 20th Century Fox basically starving the company to death with a reported 18 million dollars of unpaid royalties, that’s what you get, you program pretty much the entire Fox library on 2600 and then they turn around and stab you in the back intentionally or otherwise.

Graphically this game is astounding. Capture the Flag renders out a huge 3D maze your you to explore and get lost in, sure the walls are all grey with black outlines to differentiate position, but the simple fact that the programmer managed to get a 3D maze that you can explore in 360 degrees on the 800 without the computer exploding or the framerate shitting the bed is amazing. Yeah I said 360 degree movement, you’re not stuck on a grid for this game, you can spin around to your heart’s content. I don’t know how they managed to do this, did they use fractals like what Lucasfilms did with Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus, or did they use some other method? Well they managed to get this game almost one to one on the VIC-20 so I don’t really know. There isn’t really much to look at once you get past the 3D, the only other thing you’ll see is the map at the bottom of the screen that shows your position as well as the other player and the flags they are defending, this can be toggled off though if you want to run blind.

This game has a pretty good soundtrack, and as an added bonus it actually changes the closer the two players are to each other. It starts out as a rather ominous tune that quickly turns into a jazzy toe tapper as you get closer to each other; the music is excellently layered and really gets you into the game. Otherwise there aren’t any sound effects since all of those sound channels are taken up with that wonderful music, very much like Gyruss on 2600. Since there’s nothing else to listen to we’ll just mosey on down to the gameplay and wrap this sucker up.

The premise is simple, get the flag on the other side of the maze while a human, or computer, opponent tries to stop you, if you get tagged by the Defender they get a point, if you, the Invader, get to one of the flags (there are usually two) you get a point. When the Invader gets tagged or gets the flag the maze will reset to another random configuration, yep just like Maze Craze it’s a new one every time. Unfortunately this is where a few cracks begin to show up in the foundation of the game, the maze generation; it’s usually highly biased against the Invader, but can at the same time make the Defender’s job impossible as well. There is usually only one path to the flag, and as you can see from my screenshot sometimes that path is pretty direct, which leaves over half of the maze to act as dead ends, I could have gone for the other flag that is a little further up but if I had the computer play as the Defender then I would be unable to get there since the computer will always take the direct route to the Invader which doesn’t allow the player to slip past the computer or dodge the computer since any route that doesn’t lead to the flag is a dead end, just look at the map and tell me where I can lose the computer. But sometimes the maze is completely biased against the computer since they will appear far away from any of the flags which basically allows the Invader a free point, perhaps the mazes are too random which breaks the flow of the game. I also have to mention the controls, a three legged rhinoceros wading through three feet of cold molasses is more maneuverable than the controls in Capture the Flag, when you’re playing against another person this is fine since you both can’t yourselves, but against a computer you have no chance since the thing can navigate the maze flawlessly and already knows where to find you, and since most of the maze consists of dead ends you will find your time playing this game short and perhaps infuriating.

As a two player game Capture the Flag is pretty fun, though you’ll likely spend most of the time looking at the map at the bottom of the screen instead of the 3D portion of the game, unless you turn it off of course. As a single player game it’s either impossible or too easy, there is no in between, occasionally you’ll get a good maze with multiple paths, but most of the time it’s dead-end city population two, and one knows where everything is, and guess what it ain’t you. At the moment there is only one copy for sale on Ebay it’s $34.99+$2.99 shipping BIN, it’s factory sealed which may explain the somewhat high price, there are no sold listings so I can’t really quote you any historic prices so this is all you have to go on. I’m ignoring the copy from Germany that’s $169.45+$10.73 shipping because that’s just stupid. Unless the prices go down and you have another player I’m gonna give this one to the Collector’s Zone, you just have to have a second player to enjoy this game.

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