Cosmic Ark Review

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Last time on the blog we looked at Atlantis. A game that combined defending the lost city during its death throes with classic arcade action. But this time we’ll be going over the sequel. Cosmic Ark plays completely differently than the previous game. None of the skills you learned from the previous game will help you here at all whatsoever. But fear not! It does continue where Atlantis left off.

PROS: Experimental game ideas gone right.

CONS: The planetary defense system.

SPACE NOAH ADVENTURES: ABDUCTION: Could have been an alternate title.

Remember the little ship that flew away when you finally lost in Atlantis? Well it’s actually a mothership, and it turns out that now you have to rebuild your civilization. How do you do this? By taking a page from the Old Testament, and rounding up pairs of living things. As well as sentient beings. Cosmic Ark  merges Noah’s mission of preserving civilization in the wake of a cataclysm with episodes of Unsolved Mysteries.

In fact you might even want to play this game while the Unsolved Mysteries theme song is playing. It did have a number of episodes centered around U.F.O. sightings, and alien abduction stories. It was one of the creepiest shows on television. But I’m getting away from the topic at hand here, so I’ll refocus.

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Cosmic Ark is broken up into two stages. A space stage, and an alien abduction stage. Both of these stages alternate until you lose. Once again, this is a game about high score. In the space stage your mothership is in the center of the screen. You can shoot lasers above you, below you, and on either side by moving the joystick up, down, left, and right. Asteroids will appear in any direction, and you have to shoot them all. If an asteroid hits the ship, it explodes, and you have to play the stage again. You’ll keep going until the red meter below your score runs out, or until you complete the stage. Every collision drains part of the meter. Explode too many times, and it’s game over.

But if you succeed, you’re sent down to a planet’s surface. In this stage you pilot an away team in their own saucer. You’ll leave the mothership, and fly down to beam up two inhabitants. Once you have them on board, you fly back into the mothership, and go back into space, where you’ll play another round of the space stage. But things don’t go so swimmingly as the game progresses.

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Every time you make it back to the first stage, the asteroids become faster, and the order becomes even more random. Eventually you’ll get to a point where it’s impossible to continue, and you’ll have to accept your final score. The second stage becomes more difficult in a few ways. For one thing, if you don’t abduct beings fast enough, the mothership will sound an alarm. If this happens, you need to quickly get into the mothership, and shoot down asteroids so you can leave, and go back into space. If the ship is hit, you go back to the space stage anyway, but with a much lower bill of health.

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Successive trips to planet surfaces will reveal planetary defense systems. Laser guns will raise, and lower from the left, and right to shoot down your scout ship. If you get shot down you can send another before the alarm goes off. But note that if you are shot down, anyone you’ve abducted will fall to the ground, and you’ll need to abduct them again. So what you’ll need to do is act fast, and abandon the mission when you hear the alarms. Otherwise you risk  your mothership from being destroyed. Worst case scenario is you’ll repeat the same planet after the following space stage. Each planetary visit will change-up the kinds of organisms you’ll need to abduct too.

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Of course, you will, again, get to a point where you’re unable to ward off asteroids, giving you a final score. Fortunately the game controls very well, and is pretty easy to get the hang of. Cosmic Ark stands out from the hundreds of other Atari 2600 games because of just how bizarre it is. Most other sequels will give you more of what you loved about their predecessors. Cosmic Ark takes chances with some weird ideas. But as crazy as it’s going to sound, it’s a lot of fun to play! Part of the fun is obviously the challenge of it all. But it’s also great trying to see what the people of each planet are going to look like. Kidnapping people in a makeshift attempt to rebuild your empire shouldn’t sound compelling. But somehow it is in Cosmic Ark. Demented. Twisted. But somehow a great time. If you have an Atari 2600, pick it up.

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In the end you’ll lose, but once again, there’s a backup plan. When the mothership explodes, your scout ship survives the blast. One can only wonder how things would have gone if this had become a trilogy.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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