Review: Venture for the Atari 2600
I read about Venture in a book before I ever saw it in an arcade. This was back in the 80's of course. After reading those few descriptive pages I was anxious to play. Surely, after all my mental preparation, I could at least get to the third level on my first quarter. Turned out the third level wasn't that easy to reach.
Ironically, there isn't any third level in the Atari 2600 home version of Venture. But the two levels that the game does offer are surprisingly well done.
The game consists of two levels, or halls, both of which contain four unique rooms, or chambers. Inside each chamber there lies a treasure that you, a smiley-face archer named Winky, must try to capture. Each treasure is protected by some sort of monster (or in one case moving walls). When you are not inside a chamber you see a map-like overhead view of the entire hall. Included in the view are representations of each of its rooms, of Winky, and of the molar-shaped "hall monsters". When all four treasures on one level have been captured, the other level must be faced.
The score-conscious among us will find it interesting to note that Winky receives no points for monsters killed before their treasure is taken. Only those shot on the way out contribute to your score. This encourages experienced players to avoid monsters on the way in, and take time to attack them while leaving. Less experienced players (those that just want to survive) will find it easier to enter a chamber with their arrows flying, grab the treasure, and run.
If Winky spends too much time in a particular chamber, an impatient hall monster will come in after him. This forces the player to keep on the move, as hall monsters are indestructible. Hall monsters always enter a chamber from the top left side, so plan your escape accordingly. Once outside in the main hall there will be six hall monsters to keep your blood pressure elevated until you enter the next chamber. They always assume the same evenly strewn formation when Winky exits a chamber, regardless of their positions when he entered it.
This game has a unique, if cumbersome, approach to setting the skill level. In Venture there is only one game variation. The player must use combinations of difficulty switch settings to select the skill level the game starts on. It works like this:
Left Difficulty on B + Right Difficulty on B = Start on First hall in Slow mode
Left Difficulty on B + Right Difficulty on A = Start on First hall in Fast mode
Left Difficulty on A + Right Difficulty on B = Start on Second hall in Slow mode
Left Difficulty on A + Right Difficulty on A = Start on Second hall in Fast mode
My favorite touch in the game has to be the treasure in the lower (spider) room of the second hall. It's a green key, shaped exactly like the keys in Adventure! But more than that, it is a salute from one Atari 2600 adventure game to another.
Atari 2600 Venture is a respectable translation of the arcade game. The graphics are good and there are several unique treasures and monsters. The feel of the arcade game is maintained, especially in the haphazard assault that you face from your enemies. Unfortunately, after the two levels have been completed once, few surprises remain for the player. The action gets faster and you can always try to top your personal high score, but that's about it.
Is Venture truly an adventure game? Well, it's actually more of a maneuvering contest. A good adventure game should be fun to play regardless of points or scores. In this case, there wouldn't be much long-term replay value without the scoring system. But adventure fans should find some enjoyment in the themes and challenges of the game. Think of Venture as a "quickie" adventure game next time you have a few minutes to kill.
reviewed by Randy
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