Review: Sorcerer for the Atari 2600

 

Recently I decided try an unfamiliar classic game to see what I missed out on years ago. Sorcerer, by Mythicon, looked unique and interesting at first glance so I put it to the test.

In this game the player takes on the role of a Sorcerer who must fight wave after wave of evil creatures sent forth to conquer the land. At the beginning of the game, as well as at the start of each new life, the Sorcerer is given an opportunity to catch a flying platform that allows him/her to roam freely about the screen rather than being earthbound at the bottom. From there, gameplay flows from left to right across consecutive screens, with each screen bringing another challenge that must be faced.

 

Observations:

Pressing "Select" allows the player to skip over the practice game and move on to the scoring versions. There are five basic opponents that the player must face during this game, as well as a Lightening Storm that heralds the beginning of each new wave. Zapped enemies bring 30 points apiece. In order of appearance they are:

 

( named by me for this review )

Wizards > Black-and-red figures that tend to stay near ground level.

Flaming Masks > They are more elusive than Wizards, floating around center-screen.

Cats > These appear after 1000 points are scored and behave much like the Masks.

Snakes > Abstract squiggly creatures that appear after 2000 points. They tend to keep low.

Cyclops > Evasive smiling faces that enter the picture following a score of 3000.

 

The Lightening Storm screen consists of a cloud that continually drops electrical bolts that the Sorcerer must navigate through. This is the most troublesome of all obstacles, mainly because there is a greater element of luck required for success. As the player's score increases the bolts become more erratic. The instructions* recommend trying ball controllers (as an alternative to joysticks) and it would be especially interesting to see what kind of advantage they provide on this screen.

 

There are four treasures to be had, each worth 80 points. In sequence they are:

Golden Cup > Treasure Chest > Amulet > Gold Bar > repeat

 

Critique:

Sorcerer has several things going for it. The graphics are probably above average for a 2600 game. The different types of creatures and treasures keep things interesting, and the game adds a new twist for every thousand points the player scores. There is also a haunting musical theme that is linked to the action in a clever way.

 

On the other hand, catching the flying platform quickly becomes an irritating ritual. In addition, simple strategies that work early in the game generally work all-too-well later on. Many gamers will be able to reach the highest attainable score after one or two evenings of play (although there is a second, faster level that can provide some extra challenge).

 

Upon reaching the game's ultimate score of 9999, I found that scoring stops and gameplay continues as usual. This is a little disappointing because the instructions imply that you will "discover what finally happens to the Forces of Evil" before you reach that score. Well okay, I guess technically that is true. They become faster and harder to defeat.

 

Sorcerer mixes elements of games as different as Pitfall and Demon Attack, and fans of either of those may find some short-term enjoyment in it. This game lacks the complexity and challenge of those two, however, and gamers of 1983 might have been best advised to try before buying.

 

* I referred to a text version of the instructions found at the famous Atari 2600 Nexus web site.

 

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reviewed by Randy

6/99

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