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Seawolf - The Atari Times


Another great game from Manuel Rotschkar
by Ethan C. Nobles

June 21, 2006
I've about decided that whenever Manuel Rotschkar puts together a game, it's safe to buy it. After all, he did a great job with both Gunfight and Star Fire, and Seawolf, released for the Atari 2600 in 2004, is another fantastic title. We Atari fans are lucky, indeed, to have people like Rotschkar out there writing quality homebrews for the 2600.

Seawolf, according to the information on the game over at AtariAge.com, was Rotschkar's entry into the 4K category of the 2004 MiniGame Competition. Also, according to the AtariAge information, Seawolf was influenced by Midway's Sea Wolf and Sea Wolf II, but isn't considered to be a direct port. Obviously, it couldn't be a direct port as the Midway arcade consoles featured periscopes used by players to target and destroy enemy ships. In Seawolf, the player controls a submarine sent on a mission to blast enemy ships while avoiding running out of fuel, running out of ammunition or getting destroyed with a depth charge or other nasty thing.

One of the things that is fascinating about Seawolf is that it "feels" like it was released in the 2600's prime. This game could have easily fit in with the other titles being released for the 2600 in the late 1970s or early 1980s - a solid port of an arcade title featuring easy-to-learn gameplay and simple graphics. In fact, this game would probably have done quite well if it was released around 1980 or so as it fits in very nicely with the type of games that were being sold about that time.

At any rate, the graphics are simple, indeed, but they are very clean, effective and flicker-free. The player's sub is cast is one color, as are most of the enemy ships and the mines that can get in the way of the submarine's torpedoes and a target. The difficulty level ramps up nicely, too, but the game does get difficult in a hurry. The player starts off by shooting at relatively slow freighters, but ships dropping depth charges show up as the game progresses, Red Cross ships will send a player's torpedo right back at him if it's shot and there are some boats that can take a few hits before they sink.

But, the real difficulty in the game isn't really connected to what the enemy's doing at all. Indeed, the really hard thing about this game is making sure you don't run out of fuel or ammunition, as that will cost you a submarine. In a sense, then, the game is timed and the clock just runs faster as the game progresses. Every now and again, supply pods will be sent out that will replenish fuel and torpedoes, but keeping things rolling until then takes some doing in later levels.

The controls in Seawolf are good and tight, and the sounds are above average. Now, rare is the 2600 game that features great sounds, but Rotschkar did a good job of capturing the sounds of ships firing and getting destroyed, torpedoes launching and even managed to put in a dandy "ping" that sounds when the player shoots a Red Cross boat and his projectile is sent screaming back at him. Also, there's a much-appreciated ping that goes off when the supply pod is on the screen.

There's only one game mode here, but the difficulty switches and the 2600's "Color/B&W" switch are used to offer plenty of game options. The player, through the switches, can select how many shots can be fired at once, whether new types of enemy ships are introduced slowly or quickly and whether torpedoes are launched automatically. Indeed, pretty much all the options you could reasonably want are built into the game.

This great game also features some snazzy cartridge art (a well-rendered submarine) and a splashy manual put together by David Exton. The cartridge is even comes in a dandy, ocean blue color to match the nautical theme of the game. The package, in short, is top notch and very professional. The manual explains the ins and outs of the game, too, and includes Rotschkar's lengthy list of acknowledgements. Most interesting is the mention of a demo by Eckhard Stolberg, which was used to create large dragons in Imagic's Dragonfire and big cars in Activision's Grand Prix. What's fascinating about this is the Rotschkar has a good grasp on the 2600's history and is obviously inspired by it. That's a nice touch.

Simply put, if you're an active 2600 fan, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this game over at the AtariAge store. Not only will you support the effort of fantastic homebrewers like Rotschkar, you'll also pick up a game that has that wonderfully-addictive "let me play it just one more time" quality.


(c) XYPE

This game should have been released 20 years ago!
Start counting the colors in this screenshot!
System: 2600
Publisher: XYPE
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 90%
Sound & Music Score: 80%
Gameplay Score: 95%
Control Score: 95%

Final Score: 96%

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