Still, Demon Attack represents some of the most fun one can have with a four-kilobyte game. This thing features fast and frantic arcade action that's ensured the cartridge a spot close to the top of my 2600 software pile since I purchased this title back in 1982. In fact, Demon Attack is one of the best games available for the 2600 and a game that fans of that system just need to own. And, it's a pretty common cart, so it can be found at places like eBay for next to nothing.
Demon Attack is a space shooter with a few twists to keep it interesting. The player guides a shop along a horizontal plane at the bottom of the screen, while trying to blast enemy ships that look a heck of a lot like birds. The attention paid to the enemies really sets this game apart from other 2600 titles because they are very colorful and detailed. Also, there are plenty of different aliens to blast in each wave, so you rarely get that "same song, second verse" quality found in countless 2600 cartridges.
The game starts out quite simple in that birds hover around and are easy to blow out of the sky. As the waves progress, the enemies assume various and increasingly-frustrating characteristics. Some of them divide in half when shot, thus forming two smaller birds that try to swoop down on the player. Some of them expand and contract in size, making it difficult to hit them. The enemies even have different types of weapons -- some shoot long lasers while others shoot scattered bits of energy that remind me of a shotgun blast. That variety is what makes Demon Attack such a fantastic title.
Unique, too, is the way in which the enemies appear. Three show up on the screen then are replaced as each wave progresses. The enemies roar in quickly, with a nifty effect which looks like the ships materialize from bits draw in from either side of the screen. Extra lives are awarded at the end of each wave, providing the player didn't lose a ship during that particular attack.
I've mentioned the graphics, but I can't stress enough how impressive they are on the 2600. The enemy ships actually look like birds made up of many different colors of light. There's not a whole lot of screen flicker here, either, and the pace of the game isn't slowed when a good number of enemy ships are on the screen.
As for sound, that's the typical stuff for the 2600. A pulsing, "doop, doop, doop" is constant in the background and reminds the player that the birds will eventually get him. Bleeps and bloops go off when shots are fired, and the player gets an anger-inducing splash of sound when his last ship is eliminated.
If you are an active 2600 player and you don't have this game, you need to go find it. I'm amazed at just how much fun Imagic managed to cram into four kilobyes with this one, and this game never disappoints.
Now, here's an interesting footnote to Demon Attack. It resembles Phoenix -- an arcade game -- fairly closely. In fact, Atari sued Imagic over this title as the firm purchased the rights to Phoenix and didn't want Demon Attack to cut into sales of that title. In the end, Atari lost the suit, the Phoenix translation to the 2600 isn't all that good, and Demon Attack went on to become one of the most beloved titles for the old Stella console.