Review by Retro

"Greed is the root of all evil"

Humans are among the greediest of creatures. When a burglar breaks into a home or a robber decides to steal from a bank, they fail to believe that they're going to be caught by the police and thrown into jail. Greed completely takes over their mind and makes them forget about the harsh consequences. There's only one slice of cake left, and you know you should save it for your girlfriend, but do you? Heck no, you might get slapped later on when she finds out who ate it, but you don't care. You're hungry. Besides, it would only make her gain weight. Greed is the root of all evil, or most of it at least.

Apparently, the same holds true for things that take place in the wet parts of the world. Countless divers who are taking the plunge in search of treasures are being terrorized by schools of sharks and enemy subs that zoom horizontally across the screen. You must use your yellow submarine to dive down deep and rescue as many of the troubled divers as possible in this fast paced underwater shooter.

The idea is to save six divers from the hazards of the deep and then surface to let them go. Doing so will also send you to the next level that is the same in every way except for the increased speed of the enemies. You may be playing the role of the hero, but your submarine isn't invincible by any means. Just one touch from a shark, an enemy sub or its lasers, or the innocent-looking ship that patrols the surface of the water, and you'll explode into tiny fragments faster than you can eat a bite of popcorn shrimp. You must also keep in mind that you don't have any gills and that oxygen inside a closed space that has no ventilation can run out. For this reason, you must keep an eye on your oxygen gauge and surface to the top of the water to prevent running out of air and dying a suffocating death.

Anytime you see a diver, you know that one or more sharp-toothed sharks are hot on his trail as if he's leaking blood. Worried about being amputated by the menacing jaws of the mean fishies, every diver begins swimming much faster once he's only centimeters away from a shark. Either swoop in and pick up the diver while avoiding to touch any enemy in site, or better yet, shoot the nemesis to get it out of the way and then collect the diver. There will be many times when you'll be forced to rid the area of a few sharks or subs when a screen full of them come swimming your way. That's all you'll be doing in your quest that takes place in the sea (nice pun, eh?), but like an enduring classic, it's always a lot of fun.

An interesting concept is the fact that the game speeds up each time you surface, and it won't get any slower the rest of the game. You could keep surfacing with only one diver as an occupant (surfacing without any divers on board will result in the loss of a life) and the enemies will soon reach literally blinding speeds, even if you're only on the first level! In later levels, or after many surfaces, the divers swim so fast you would think they were 20-time Olympic gold medalists.

Once you see those dark blue waters underneath the multicolored sunset and rolling waves of the surface, there's no mistaking that Seaquest was made by Activision. The green, mossy floor of the ocean is nice too, but the real standout is the animation. The sharks open and close their mouths as if they haven't eaten in years; the submarine's propellers are constantly spinning; the divers realistically kick their legs and breathe out air bubbles as they swim for their life. The sounds are impressive too, but they're the game's weakest attribute. The constant homing noise of the lasers isn't bothersome, but it could sound better. Other sounds such as that of your oxygen refilling upon surfacing and the 'ding' that you hear when capturing a distressed diver aren't really memorable, but they get the job done. Like most Atari 2600 games, there's no music whatsoever in Seaquest. If you've ever played Megamania, you'll probably notice that a lot of the sounds in Seaquest greatly resemble the ones heard in the aforementioned space shooter.

Controlling your submarine couldn't be any easier. The controls are real loose, letting you slip between tiny gaps and rescue divers as a starving shark is right on his tail. Shooting your lasers is a cinch as well, since they can be guided. After shooting, you can move your watercraft up and down and your projecting laser will move in the same direction.

Seaquest only has two variations, which is about its only major downfall. One is a one-player game and the other is two-player. In two-player games, you and a friend will take turns; the unlucky second player won't get to take a dip until the first player dies. Flipping the difficulty switch from A to B offers a bit of variety by making your lasers travel through the water at a quicker rate, but it also makes them shorter and skinnier. I've had two speeding tickets so far in my 22-year-old life, so I'm almost a certified speed demon, but I actually prefer using the slower lasers because it's more challenging once the gameplay speeds up like a hurricane and your score nears 100,000 (you get an extra life every 10,000 points, by the way).

Seaquest is a great, overlooked classic for the Atari 2600. Shooting down fish and subs as you rescue divers may not sound like much, but it is boat loads of fun any day of the year. I've found that it's one of the best games to play when you feel like taking a short break to experience an intense, fun-filled game for a few minutes. If you're an avid collector of Atari 2600 carts, do what it takes, even if it means being greedy, to get your hands on a copy of Seaquest. You'll find yourself a lost treasure when you do.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/07/03, Updated 03/07/03


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