Review by Retro
Reviewed: 04/07/01 | Updated: 04/30/03
A simplistic, but fun bombing expedition
For as long as I've been playing video games, Canyon Bomber has been one of my favorites for the Atari 2600. It's a very simplistic game that's not deep in the content of its gameplay, but it succeeds in being entertaining and addicting, which is what video gaming is all about.
Either tandem of you and the computer or you and another live opponent (in a two-player game) can play this game simultaneously. There are two different kinds of games that are included in Canyon Bomber. In both games, either two airplanes or two helicopters will be the objects that do the bombing. You and your opponent's aircraft glides across the top of the screen at the same time, with one flying over or under the other. Sometimes the aircraft travels slowly across the screen, and at other times it will haul ass, but they always scroll across the screen in a straight, horizontal line. You can't control the airplanes or the helicopters themselves; you only get to control when they drop a bomb, using the paddle controllers.
In the first kind of game, there are a bunch of different colored blocks stacked on top of each other and sitting inside a canyon. You and your opponent's mission is to get rid of as many of the blocks as possible by dropping bombs on top of them. Even though those are bombs that you're dropping, these 'bombs' just go right through the blocks instead of blowing them up. The lower the blocks are resting in the canyon, the higher the number of points you will earn for making them disappear.
In this game set in the canyon, you can either go up against, or team up with your opponent and/or friend. It depends on what your mindset is. You and your fellow player can compete and see who can get the higher score, or you two can come together as a team and attempt to clear as many canyons as possible. When you drop a bomb and take out some of the blocks, any blocks that are left with no block right under them will plummet until there is a block or the bottom of the canyon to rest on. In one option of this canyon bombing variation, when you take out any of the blocks, none of the blocks will move. Instead, they will stay in their original place no matter what. I guess these blocks are either too lazy to fall down, or too fast asleep to notice that a few of their friends have just been annihilated.
There are also other options of play within this first kind of expedition. You can choose a variation in which you have bars of energy. If you play a game with bars of energy, then every time you drop a bomb that doesn't come in contact with any blocks, a small piece of your bar will be taken away. Also, if you allow your plane or helicopter to pass across the whole screen without even firing one single shot, a small piece of your bar will be chipped away. Once your bar of energy runs out, your game will be over.
The other type of game included in Canyon Bomber is my favorite. In this one, instead of bombing canyons full of blocks, you get to travel to the seas and take out many different kinds of ships that seem to be stationed underwater. There are some freights that resemble small submarines, a few that look like long battleships, and some are just....ships.
Like the aircraft that you have the honor of using, the submerged ships travel at alternating speeds; sometimes they are fast and sometimes they are slow. There are also different depths at which the ships swim across the screen. To accomplish that feat, the developers threw in separate horizontal lines of water that each hold watercraft that cruises or speeds across them. Again, you can't control your aircraft; it automatically flies across the screen on its own pace. You just have to press the button on the paddle controller when you want to drop a bomb. Instead of your bomb falling down and across the screen in a diagonal fashion like it does in the games with the blocks, your bomb will slowly fall straight down in this war against the boats.
To make the action a bit more interesting, you do have something extra to do in this second, and last kind of game. When you first see the screen, you'll notice that there are two dashed lines that are spread out across the entire screen. You can't just drop your bomb and hope it hits any ship that it touches on its way; it's not quite that easy. You have to turn your paddle's wheel left or right, which will move your chalked line up or down. That means you must choose one of the sections of water in which to aim at. Wherever your line is when you press the button to fire at a ship, that is where your bomb will land, or end its downward journey. The bomb won't have a chance to hit any ships other than one that is traveling on the level that you have your line set on.
The further down the ship, the more points it is worth, and the harder it is to hit. For instance, it's real simple to successfully bomb a boat that is traveling at the top level because it's right below your aircraft. But the top-dwellers are worth the least number of points since they are so easy to destroy. On the other hand, ships residing at the bottom of the screen are more difficult to hit because they demand much better timing.
In a game of Canyon Bomber, you are given about five minutes to bomb as many ships or blocks as you can. If you're playing a game in which you have bars of energy, the game won't end until both players' bars run out. Whoever has the most points when time runs out, wins.
For an Atari 2600 game that was made in the 70's (very early in the system's history), Canyon Bomber has good graphics. The ships, planes, and helicopters are basic, but it's easy to tell what they are. The blocks and the water are colorful and well done too. There's not any music in Canyon Bomber, but it does have some cool sound effects. From the sound of a bomb falling as it approaches its blocky targets, to the sound it makes when you successfully bomb a ship, the sound effects are pleasing and memorable, even though there's not many to hear.
Canyon Bomber is an early Atari 2600 classic in my book. It's a lot of fun to play against a friend, and it's one of the few games that is just as much fun to play against the computer. The computer is a good challenge without being overly difficult or too easy. If you have a 2600, it's well worth buying whether you just spend a quarter at a flea market or ten dollars at a website. There are not any complex missions to solve or a great many things to do; it's just a lot of fun bombing. It's even hard for me to believe that a game this basic in context can be so fun and addicting. If I have any complaints, it's that there isn't just a few more varieties of games that are included. But for the ones that are included, this game is a good one.
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