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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Atax (Amiga)

Wasn't the Amiga an awesome machine? So many fantastic games, and such a giant leap over the 8-bit computers. Yep, truly superb.

I tried to play a couple of those fantastic games today, games that I knew had been very well reviewed. But their fragile discs had succumbed to the ravages of time, and I was thwarted. Frustrated, I picked up the first game in one of the piles, a game I had never heard of before. A game called Atax.

Oh dear.

To be fair, I wasn't expecting much, given that the game is from the School of Minimalist Packaging. You get a double-cassette sized case, one disk, and the cover art, which has the "instructions" printed on the reverse. There are three lines for the scenario, and a whopping eleven for the gameplay.

Still, this is a vertically-scrolling shoot 'em up, not brain surgery or rocket science. I'm all for getting down to the business of blasting. There was every chance that the game itself could have been a hidden gem.

Those hopes were dispelled upon hitting the fire button.

To start with, Atax has the worst opening to a game that I can remember. An interminable, nonsensical bas-relief message scrolls up the screen, reiterating the scenario that you've already read twice on the packaging. I timed it for a laugh - it takes a minute and forty-five seconds. About twenty-five of those seconds are taken up with the word "Atax" scrolling repeatedly up the screen, as if the programmer remembered what fun it was to do that on the computers in Boots or Dixons and put it in on a nostalgic whim. And as you can press fire to skip this intro, it's utterly pointless.


See? I don't make this stuff up.

As for the game itself... it's a rubbish vertically-scrolling shooter, spread over six distinct levels, with a rubbish, Galaga-esque challenging stage between the scrolling bits. Enemies consist of black blobs and rubbish shapes, with the occasional TIE-Fighter rip-off thrown in, just to remind you it's a sci-fi shooter. And they all move in stupid patterns. Oh, and the volume goes up and down by itself, whenever it feels like it.


Look, it's the ice level! How exciting.

The best thing I can say about Atax is that at least it ran for me where others had failed. I might have been better off it hadn't. Atax is the very epitome of the phrase, "just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should". Just because the programmer could write a functioning Amiga game, it doesn't mean he should have. It's a dire game, and there's absolutely no chance of me ever playing it again.

Oh well. They can't all be good.

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