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Unicum - The Atari Times


Play this fun Arkanoid clone
by Matthias Jaap

January 3, 2002
Although there was an active hobbyist programmer scene, commercial games were always considered to be more professional. A lot of these hobbyist programs were published as type-in listings in famous home computer magazines of that era, like Antics or Happy Computer. However, these hobbyist games were neglected by game reviewers. When the Atari XL was more and more abandoned by the large game companies, type-in games became more important. Obviously, a type-in game from 1987 looked much better than one from 1981.

One of those late type-in games was Unicum. The game was published by German computer magazine "Happy Computer" and awarded as "Listing of the month". This award was rarely given to Atari games because the C64 was much too dominant.

Unicum is an Arkanoid clone. You control a paddle at the bottom of the screen with your joystick/trackball. You have to destroy all the bricks in the level to continue. There are only two ways to destroy bricks: using the bouncing balls and the laser. The laser is an extra item and turns Unicum into an action game. The only disadvantage of this item is that you can easily forget to play the ball. The game starts slowly but gets faster the more you play.

Some bricks are indestructible and others need more than one hit to disappear. Sometimes a disappearing brick releases a bonus item. In addition to the laser there are items for a bonus live, extra points, larger paddle, slower game, glue paddle and next level. You can only have one extra at a time e.g. if you take the "slow" item you will lose your laser. Extras are kept if you switch to the next level.

Unlike Arkanoid, there are no enemies in this game. If you think that the game is too easy you can change the difficulty in the introduction screen. There are also options to change the number of players and the starting level (one to nine).

The two player mode is quite interesting. Both players play at the same time but their area is limited. The area is separated by an invisible wall. If the ball bounces to the halve covered by player two, you can only hope that he/she hits the ball. Nevertheless, the game is of course a lot easier if you play it with a friend. It is also much more fun to play a co-operative game of Arkanoid. If one players loses all lives, the computer will control the paddle.

The graphics of Unicum are well drawn. The colourful introduction screen makes heavy use of raster interrupts. The game graphics are obviously more simple. Every brick and paddle has a shadow and the background image changes after each level. All objects are clearly visible even in "expert" mode.

The intro screen has a short piece of music that is repeated infinitely. The game has no music and plays only a few sound effects. 

Unicum is a game that looks and plays quite professional. The idea of the game is not very original but well done by Andre Christiansen.

There's just something about that name...
Glad to see the 'ole Fuji Logo made it.
This really looks like an amazingly good 8-bit game. Where can I get a copy??
System: 8-Bit
Publisher: Andre Christiansen
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 78%
Sound & Music Score: 65%
Gameplay Score: 83%
Control Score: %

Final Score: 82%

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