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Super Cobra - The Atari Times

Super Cobra

A Misunderstood Gem?
by Ethan C. Nobles

January 27, 2006
I suppose it's true - no matter how much of a dog it is, even the worst Atari 2600 game is cherished by someone. I've seen Super Cobra maligned over the years so much that I never bothered to pick up a copy. When I found one for the right price, I snagged it and decided to see for myself whether it was rotten or not. In spite of all the bad press this title has received, I've found it to be a pretty good port of a classic, side-scrolling shooter. I enjoy the heck out of this game and wonder why it's been bashed over the years.

Super Cobra, of course, is a port of Stern's fantastic arcade game from 1981. The Atari 2600 port was released by Parker Brothers in 1983. The goal of Super Cobra is pretty simple - blast everything that moves while guiding a helicopter through a series of mountain ranges and tunnels. The player's helicopter is equipped with both bombs and bullets. The helicopter is a terrible gas-guzzler, and the player must take care to blow up fuel tanks in order to stay aloft. The arcade version of Super Cobra was good and challenging, with rockets, annoying UFO-type things which hover around, artillery and narrow caves. If one survives the "obstacle course" his goal is to grab some loot. If he successfully grabs the loot, he is rewarded for his theft with another trip through the obstacle course.

In the arcades, Super Cobra was difficult as all get-out. Indeed, Super Cobra and it's predecessor, the fantastic Scramble, rank among some of the most difficult games I've played in the arcades. The Atari 2600 port isn't nearly as hard, but is still difficult enough to cause one to cuss at the game a bit upon getting destroyed for about the 20th time in one sitting. There are unlimited continues in the game and that's a good thing because you'll probably need them to make it through all 11 levels of the obstacle course to the booty. I'm still amazed, by the way, that the ultimate goal of this game is to commit theft. It seems to me there are less dangerous ways to steal some loot. Hey, this is a video game from the 1980s, after all. How many of them really made sense?

Naturally, this isn't a perfect arcade conversion. The graphics pale when compared to the arcade game, but that should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the beloved 2600, should it? The mountains are made up of a series of horizontal lines, and the helicopter and enemies are simple, small sprites which come in one color apiece. Indeed, the graphics are a bit bland. The scrolling, too, is more than a bit jerky and rough and the screen flicker is very noticeable.

Fortunately, the gameplay is preserved pretty well. The control is tight enough to allow for some precision flying through narrow caverns. Of course, the arcade game featured a button to fire and another to drop bombs. That layout is impossible on the 2600, so the fire button alternates between firing bullets and dropping bombs. Actually, that scheme works out pretty well.

The sound is pretty good, too, featuring the opening theme which kicked off both Super Cobra and Scramble. The explosions and such are of the typical, 2600 variety, but they fit well with the game.

All in all, I can't find much fault with this game as Parker Brothers did a great job considering the limitations of the 2600. This game is considered to be horrible by a lot of people, and I think that's good in a way -- Super Cobra isn't hard to find, and grabbing one for a good price isn't much of a challenge.

Super Cobra

(c) Parker Brothers

PB games were always pretty boss.
The scrolling isn't that great.
Super Cobra
System: 2600
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 75%
Sound & Music Score: 85%
Gameplay Score: 90%
Control Score: 90%

Final Score: 90%

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