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DoctorSpuds Reviews Things - Air Raid (Men-A-Vision)


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We are going to start with the defacto ‘rare’ game in the 2600 library, Air Raid. Very little is known about this cartridge, and it seems that every step taken towards finally knowing who created this oddity leads further down a rabbit hole of craziness, and red herrings. I have browsed through several Air Raid centric threads and it has been suggested that the creators were drug smuggling members of the Cuban cartel, or even participated in slavery. But it seems that the only promising lead has turned up cold since the only guy who seemed to be going any earnest research into the game has not divulged any further information, which would lead one to assume that there was nothing at the end of that particular tunnel. It is generally assumed that all 25 known copies are pre-production promotional copies that would have been sent out to stores to drum up interest in the game, this would also explain the bright blue coloration of the cartridges since they likely used any plastic they could come up with. It seems however that nobody wanted this game since no orders were placed and the company likely folded shortly afterwards. I remember reading somewhere (so you know it’s true) that employees were trying to give these away for free, so you know it’s gotta be a good game. Then again Men-A-Vision did pick a horrible time to try to break into the games market, as I recall 1982 was a bit of a company killer. Sadly the story of this game overshadows the game itself since there is really very little to talk about when it comes to playing the actual game itself.

I’ve heard it said that Air Raid is a highly modified version of Space Jockey, but I honestly don’t think so. There is very little to look at with this game, and for some reason Stella is acting a fool when it comes to this game in particular, since it flickers between B&W and color except the background is a vibrant magenta when it’s in color, so I was forced to use Z26 to play this game properly. There are several different enemies you will be fighting against in this game, first are the upside-down rocket propelled houses, then there are the stick figure airplanes, the generic flying saucers, and the propeller propelled jumbo jets. Most of the sprites are fairly colorful, but all are chucky beyond compare, and then there is you, an attack jet of some sort, that has its wings constantly fall of and reconnect themselves, it truly is a baffling animation. At the bottom of the screen you have a life counter and some large brown buildings smoothly scrolling left to right, believe it or not these four buildings are supposed to be the city of Manhattan, these buildings are essential to the gameplay so I’ll talk more about them there, but so far this is looking pretty grim.

Thankfully the sounds are absolutely blissful. Air Raid has some of the chunkiest firing and explosion noises I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, there aren’t many sounds, but the few this game has are fantastic.

This is a shoot ‘em up, simple as it gets, but Air Raid somehow get’s it very wrong. The goal of the game is extremely simple; shoot all the enemies before they fall to earth, if several enemies get past you the buildings will slowly crumble more and more before exploding in a blaze of glory. There are a maximum of three enemies on screen at once, some will fall faster than others, the houses and the saucers tend to fall slower than the planes. Enemies will also fire on you to make your life more difficult, occasionally an enemy will have a vertical white line flash through it, and I have no idea what that means, but it frightens me. The one thing though that kills this game for me is the hit detection, it’s completely random, and for the propeller planes I’m pretty sure you have to hit the direct center pixel for it to register. You will see plenty of shots pass right through the enemies, though it seems that your hit chance is increased if you keep your ship directly beneath the falling enemies when your shot makes contact, at least, that’s what it looked like to me.

Air Raid is a simple game that is broken by a simple issue, the inability to actually hit your targets, couple that with repetitive gameplay that doesn’t really escalate in difficulty and you have a prime recipe for disaster. Thankfully the game does have some replay value with the game variations, but since I can’t find a single manual scan I have no clue what they change. Normally such a game would be seen as worthless by the collecting community at large, but rarity has a tendency to inflate the perceived value of a game, and it truly has here since a CIB copy of Air Raid sold for over $30,000 at auction, and loose copies have sold for at least a tenth of that which would still place them in the thousands of dollars. If I had the funds to buy this game, I would not, since I would also need a safe to keep it in, and what’s the point of a game that can never be played? Just buy a reproduction copy off of Etsy or something… Also are all the copies in PAL? I’ve seen that it runs at 290 scanlines, while a standard North American game runs around 260, and a PAL game runs at 300+, I’m askin’ for a friend here.

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