Review by Retro
"One of the deeper Atari 2600 games"
Secret Quest was made in 1989, so it was one of the later Atari 2600 games, but it was also one of the deepest gameplay wise and for an Atari 2600 game, it was VERY innovative. Since it was such a late game and the NES was running strong, this quest of a game unfortunately remained very secret to most video game fans.
There are eight huge levels included in Secret Quest. These eight levels are called space stations. The whole idea of the game is to blow up all eight of the space stations to successfully complete the game. But to do that, you first have to find your way through the long mazes and do several other things in order to survive.
You get to control a weird looking dude who looks to be wearing a red helmet and that always points straight forward. At the beginning of the game, you should find the main weapon you'll be using throughout the game, a sword that sort of reminds me of the ones they used in the Star Wars movies. That's right, this is a sci-fi/adventure game.
The main thing you have to do while playing is to destroy tons of enemies, which can range from chasing traps that open and close real fast, running creatures who are wearing a frog suit, and many others. You need to destroy as many enemies as you can, because when you do, most of them will give you one of two items that you really need. These two items are energy (you get them from what look like fire extinguishers), and oxygen from some sort of electric devices. Sometimes when you enter a room, there will be some out in the open, but you'll mostly have to destroy enemies to get either one.
But that's not all! Somewhere in each level, you will have to find and figure out a detonation code. This detonation code is represented by one, two, or more squares in a certain room. The symbols can be anything such as arrows, umbrella-looking ones, and many others. To change the symbols in this room, you just have to walk against the barrier at the edge of the room. In other words, it won't let you enter this room. When you finally discover the correct code, a certain number of seconds will start counting down on the right side of the screen. This represents the number of seconds you have left before that level explodes. To escape, you have to find the transporter room and enter the transporter (a square that is lit up) to beam yourself out of the level. When you do this, one of the eight squid-looking monsters on the screen will explode, letting you know that you've got through that level. Now it's on to the next one.
The levels in Secret Quest all consist of nothing more than a bunch of rooms full of enemies and that have anywhere from one to four holes on the sides, which lead to another room. Therefore, to make it short, this game is a huge and VERY complicated maze. I hope you have a lot of pencils and paper handy to keep track of where you go and where the important parts of the levels are because if you don't, it is real easy to get lost.
Believe it or not, there is even more to the secret game of Secret Quest. Instead of just changing the color, you can flip the Black & White/Color switch on your Atari 2600 console in order to bring up a few stats which let you know how you're doing on your quest. Finally, there are two squares on the title screen that have a bunch of symbols that let you somehow save your game and continue it even after you've turned off the game! This might have you wondering....all of THIS is in an Atari 2600 game?!?!!
On top of Secret Quest being one of the deeper, if not the deepest game in the Atari 2600 library, almost every aspect of the game is exceptional for the 2600. If you've ever played Pac-Man, Defender, or some of the other early Atari 2600 games, then you know what I mean by flicker. Flicker is when something on the screen totally disappears for a second or two during gameplay, such as the ship in Defender disappearing every time you shoot. There is not one single hint of flicker in Secret Quest and the characters in the game, especially the enemies, have GREAT animation (for this system), the graphics are colorful and well detailed, the control is perfect, and the sounds are crystal clear and well done. However, even though Secret Quest is so deep and so great in almost every way, I can't give the game a perfect score for one simple reason. It's fun, but there are way too many different rooms with too many ways to go, and that makes it too challenging of a game since it's so easy to get lost. Also, it's hard to remember the symbols. Letters or number combinations would've been better.
If you like innovative adventure games that are deep in gameplay and don't mind playing an old game, I would definitely recommend giving Secret Quest a shot. Any Atari 2600 fan, and even non-fans, need to at least play this game just to see how deep it is. I don't care how many Atari 2600 games you've played, you can't help but be marveled at how deep this game is. I recommend playing it and even buying it just so you can see for yourself.
GRAPHICS - For this to be an Atari 2600 game, the graphics are unbelievably detailed and have smooth animation. The rooms are all just squares with holes on the sides, top, and bottom of them, but the characters, the items, and other things have a lot of color and detail to them.
SOUND - The sound effects of the game such as defeating an enemy, the sound of completing a level, and the sound of the energy items sparking, are some of the clearest and I guess you could say, best, for the Atari 2600. Believe it or not, there's even some music. Well, I guess you could call it music. During gameplay, there's always a constant tune that plays and resets after about five or six seconds. It can get repetitive, but it doesn't sound all that bad and it goes with this game.
CONTROL - The control is real loose. You can move your character in any direction, including diagonally, with no sweat, just as long as your controller isn't broken. You won't have to do anything but move where you want to and press the button on your joystick to use your sword and other weapons.
REPLAY VALUE - I always thought this game was fun, for the first couple of levels. After that, the mazes get so complex and it's almost impossible to figure out the detonation code and then get out of the complex in time, that it can get real frustrating. Therefore, I haven't played this game a whole lot, but it's fun to play it from time to time.
OVERALL - Overall, Secret Quest was an unbelievably innovative and deep game for the Atari 2600. Unfortunately, the gameplay wasn't quite as great as everything else in the game. It's also unfortunate that the game was released so late in the Atari 2600's glorious run that it never got noticed by many people.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 07/11/01, Updated 05/20/02
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