Atari 2600 Friday’s #11 – Cosmic Ark
Can you believe this is already the eleventh Atari Friday? Well you’d better, because this week I’m bringing you Cosmic Ark. Cosmic Ark is apparently a sequel to Atlantis, and is believed to be the first video game sequel. There are also apparent;y two versions of the game, one where the star field background is permanent, and one where the star field can be toggled on and off with the “TV Type” switch due to a hardware bug in the Atari itself.
The Story: You are gathering specimens from different planets to bring on board the Ark, which contains the survivors of Atlantis.
From the Manual: “The sun of Alpha Ro is fading fast! Soon it will flicker out. The Cosmic Ark races to save creatures from doomed planets in that solar system. Meteor showers bombard the Ark, threatening its Atlantean crew – and planetary defense systems make this mission of mercy doubly treacherous! Time and energy slip away – work fast or these defenseless little beasties will disappear for all time. The Cosmic Ark has traveled thousands of light years in order to preserve the many exotic species peculiar to the Alpha Ro solar system. When that sun novas, life on planets there will wither and die. Nothing about this mission is easy. Heavy meteor activity throughout the system makes travel hazardous. And each planet has an automatic defense system that cannot be knocked out. Can the Ark succeed in saving the many helpless creatures of Alpha Ro? Can the Cosmic Ark survive? How many planets can you reach?”
From the Box: I can only find pictures of the silver box here that looks like it has text, but is unreadable. if anyone has a good shot of the box they can send me or has the text itself they can send me, it would be much appreciated. otherwise I will have to try and remember this if I ever come across a box.
The Game Play: So there are actually apparently two different areas you play the game in. Lets look at them one at a time.
So the first area is referred to as the Meteor Shower by the manual itself. Lets note that it appear the Ark is always in the middle of the screen. In this first area you need to protect the Ark from meteor’s. You do this by shooting them down, which only requires tilting the joystick in their direction. You don’t need to push the red button to do so, only tilt the joystick. It does say that you need to return the joystick to the middle between shots. So that’s it, shoot down meteor’s, first area sounds easy enough.
The second area is the Shuttle ship Rescue. If you survive the Meteor shower, the Ark moves to a planet, once in position you can launch a shuttle by pulling the joystick towards you. Now, the goal here is to abduct, I mean rescue, the animals on the planet. To do this, just line up your shuttle above them and push the red button to tractor beam them up, remember to hold the button until they are on the shuttle (you’ll get an audio blip confirmation). Also, there are automated defense turrets on each side of the screen that will fire the at the shuttle if you get too close. You need to get two creatures, and you do have a time limit to do this. If you get hit by fire from the turrets you’ll lose a creature, and the shuttle will return to the ark. If you manage to get both in time, the ship moves on to another planet. If however you fail and the time limit klaxon goes off, immediately return to your ship to protect it from……you guessed it….more meteor’s. If the ark survives you return to the same planet to finish your job.
There are no set amount of lives in Cosmic ark, just a fuel limit. You begin with 40 units of fuel, represented by a bar at he bottom of the screen appearing only during meteor stages. Destroying a meteor gains you one unit, capturing a beast gains you ten, capturing both before time runs out completely refills your fuel, firing at a meteor costs one unit, and a meteor hitting the ark costs ten units. The game ends when you run out of fuel.
The Controls: Up, down, left, right on joystick for ark firing and same plus diagonal for shuttle movement. Red button activates tractor beam.
Post Review: Alright, first thing I notice is how fast everything moves. once the game starts, meteors come at you one per second or more almost immediately. Once on the planet, you notice how fast and spastic the beasts are. The auto turrets have no care how close you are as they shoot on beam across the screen as they move up and down. The time limit feels like it is maybe 15 seconds. overall, this feels like a hard game, which may be why they chose to go by fuel rather than lives in an attempt to make each play last more than 1 minute.
The High Score: 5480