Review by Retro
Reviewed: 04/18/01 | Updated: 06/27/03
No aliens allowed
When we think of things that make a video game different from most others, we typically think of something to do with its gameplay. There are always exceptions, however, and Megamania proves that. Space shooters were a dime a dozen back in the Atari 2600's heyday; they were standing on top of the world and still looking up. That was back when the majority of gamers actually enjoyed fun games that had a basic premise, no music, and graphics that were nothing to brag about.
That's what Megamania is, basically. It's just another one of those space shooters in which your ship stays at the bottom of the screen while you simply move left and right shooting all the aliens in the sky overhead. Unlike the majority, Megamania's enemies scroll in one direction, and when they reach the end of one side of the screen, they reappear on the other.
But these aliens are weird.
The most original thing about Megamania is its strange enemies. Instead of using aliens that dance back and forth like most of the old space shooters, this one features everyday items that we humans are used to seeing! In the first level, a dense group of hamburgers scroll across the screen as they drop fire at your upright ship that greatly resembles the Starship Enterprise from the classic show, Star Trek. Using your endless supply of missiles, you must destroy these delicious foods before your time graph at the bottom of the screen runs dry. When time runs out or you come into contact with an enemy or their falling fire, you're dead. But all hope's not lost for sharp shooters, because every 10,000 points that are collected will morph into an extra life.
Once you send each and every evil hamburger to its grave, you simply progress to the next set of enemies that fly around in the same pitch-black background. Next in line are crackers that fall down and to the left for a few seconds and then down and to the right, trying as they may to jam themselves into your ship's throat. That's another thing about Megamania that was pretty unique for its time. Not only do the enemies change into several other forms, but they also have different ways of attacking. Colonies of ants and spinning bow ties tend to stay in the top half of the screen dropping fire at you, while tires and rolling dice are more brave. They're suicidal bombers that just move horizontally as they also make their way down toward your ship in large groups that nearly fill the screen, making you feel all the more claustrophobic.
Though it may sound like it from reading this review, Megamania isn't a cutesy game at all; it's more on the serious and action-packed side. These enemies really do want to kill you! They're so intent on sending you to your resting grounds that when you defeat all of them once, the whole thing repeats itself, only this time, these demons will be much tougher! Just wait until you see how much faster those irons, diamonds, etc. become! Many of them even change their ways of attacking, which really adds to the challenge and replay value. For instance, instead of simply scrolling across the screen, the hamburgers now scroll, stop for a few seconds, and then continue their journey. The crackers seem to fall at much steeper angles, along with being quicker, giving you the impression that they're seeking revenge!
Megamania is a great space shooter, it really is. It manages to be hilarious until you get used to the idea of destroying everyday items. We're used to eating hamburgers, using irons to flatten out clothes, and rolling dice in Yahtzee and other games, but who would've ever thought that they would turn against us like ruthless traitors?! Whether you're laughing or not, the game always proves to be a lot of fun, from start to finish. You know that the game will never end, but that doesn't matter! The simplicity and short-lasting gameplay is what made many Atari games charming.
So why no perfect score of ten? Well, as original as the premise is, Megamania isn't as full of variety as other classic space shooters are. You can always select whether to use normal missiles that just fly straight up after being unleashed, or for much easier killing sprees, you can opt to use guided missiles. You can also choose from a one-player game or a two-player, turn-taking one. But that's it! There aren't over a hundred variations like you'll see in Space Invaders or excellent variety in the gameplay, like you see in the 2600's version of Defender.
Controlling the Starship Enterprise look-alike is a cinch, but you'll find that it doesn't move left and right quickly enough to escape the starving grips of certain waves of enemies. That's really nothing major, but it's noticeable enough to point out. The visuals are basic, so they don't really add anything to the game, and of course, there's no music. Some of the sound effects are very nice, though. When losing a life, your ship slowly disappears while a relevant, futuristic sound is heard. The sound of hitting an enemy is impressive as well.
Graphics and sounds don't matter much in an Atari 2600 game, though; it's just a matter of how playable and fun it is. That Megamania is. It's mega fun, the challenge is right on target, and I'd say it's up there with the best space shooters for the system. One of my pet peeves for Atari 2600 titles is not having enough variations, and that's the only major thing I don't like about Megamania.
But those little nitpicks don't take much at all away from the experience of playing this fun, original space shooter. Are you a fan of the genre? Then get this, what may be the most underrated game of its type for the Atari 2600! Right now!
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