Magnavox's answer to Asteroids is one of the best Odyssey² games. You control a ship that has to blast its way past randomly drifting satellites, "hunter-killers" that home in on you, and high-powered UFOs that shoot relentlessly. Your ship is protected by a rotating blue shield that only goes down when it's hit or when you fire. Destroy something, and its explosion can start a chain reaction destroying other objects on screen.
Satellite Attack's graphics are simple but effective. To create the illusion of rotating, shimmering objects, the programmer used the old trick of rapidly cycling back and forth between the O2's built-in plus sign (+) and multiplication sign (x) characters. For the hunter-killer graphics, X's cycle with circles. It's a sneaky bit of graphical trickery, but it works. The satellites float around in a semi-random, circular pattern, which is effective at conveying the sense that you're in a zero-gravity environment. The graphics that depict your ship and shield are custom-made for this game and are quite good. The sound effects, consisting almost entirely of explosion noises, are well-done and fitting.
When you play Satellite Attack you won't have any doubt about which arcade game Magnavox was trying to imitate. However, one element of Satellite Attack truly sets it apart from Asteroids: the shield. The rotating blue dot field surrounding your ship is the only thing between survival and utter disaster. It can absorb exactly one hit from anything -- a regular satellite, a hunter-killer, even a single shot from the enemy vessels' powerful lasers. Once the shield absorbs damage (or you fire your own lasers), it goes down and takes about three seconds to recharge, during which time you are left unprotected. Success in Satellite Attack therefore requires you to carefully manage the time when your shield is down. The best way to do this is to almost forego firing entirely and use your shielded vessel as a battering ram, taking out hunter-killers when they appear and picking off the smaller satellites only when it's safe. It's imperative that the shield be at full strength when the enemy UFOs show up, so you need to develop the ability to sense when they will appear. When the time approaches, try to position your ship in such a way that satellites lie between it and the edges of the screen. That way, the UFO won't have a clear line of fire when it appears. If it gets a direct bead on you, you're going down -- shield or not.
One other aspect of Satellite Attack that I must comment on is the "death" sequence. One hit on your unshielded vessel will destroy it and end your game, but even after being struck, you don't just disappear in a little puff of smoke like in so many other games of this era. Instead, your ship starts sparking and changing color furiously -- as if it were getting ready to explode -- and you can even continue to control the doomed vessel for a few seconds before it finally blows up. You can't fire or earn any more points during this sequence, but it's so much more satisfying than a simple "Boom, Game Over" ending would have been.
Featuring really addictive play, Satellite Attack is a great effort, and is probably Magnavox's best Odyssey² release. It's much more than just a warmed-over Asteroids.
All Reviewer Ratings:
|Eric C. Novak||5.0||5.0||3.5||-||4.6|