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Pheo Phoenix and you might get the impression that it's just another Space Invaders or Galaxian kind of game. Which it is. But it's not a clone as such. Phoenix uses stages rather than waves and, early on, one of those stages is what we'd call today a Boss stage, words that held absolutely no meaning back in the arcades of 1980 because nothing else had such a thing.
Boss or no boss, it's a simple game that looks great, anybody should be able to pick it up and see how far they can make it through.
It sounds a bit off, but we can't have everything. As I've kept banging on about, games would take what worked and add to it. Moving a ship about the bottom of the screen worked, dive bombing enemies worked, different enemy types worked, will a boss work? Let's find out.
|Not so much Phoenix as Thanksgiving Turkey|
But let's see what it's like on the Atari 2600 port, seeing as that's all I have available to me...
It's not terrible. It's smooth, it's not as graphically intense as the arcade screens would have you imagine Phoenix to be, but you've got to keep your wits about you as you avoid dive bombing enemies dancing around the screen.
I'd eventually remember that Phoenix introduced a shield that gave you a brief chance to get your bearings before continuing the fight. Would have been handy too, were it not for the fact that my reflexes for activating it weren't as fast as my reflexes for avoiding incoming fire in the first place. Thinking about having to activate a shield was my problem here.
It's a fun little game though, if only for its pace. It keeps you on your toes, and while the graphics aren't going to knock you out, they are pretty detailed for what they are and what you're seeing them on. The Atari 2600 could do a whole lot worse, as we've seen.
I'm not terribly good with my reactions though, no matter how smooth the gameplay, so more often than not I watched as my Turkey ship suffered yet another hit that I completely walked into without thinking. Five lives went by pretty quickly and, then I caught the game playing itself, kind of, through to the boss stage.
Yeah. Really. My first encounter with the boss was watching it. Nowhere near as grand an encounter as the arcade version, but still something new to tackle.
It would have been nice to play Phoenix 'properly', but for most of us that's out of the question. Back in the day, I'd have been happy with the home console port and happier still with the arcade, but it would have devoured my change - and I still wouldn't have seen the boss if it was down to my level of skill.
You can clearly see progress though. You can see that, for the time being, while Space Invaders or Galaxian have their place, Phoenix is right there with them. It's well worth a look.
Some of the music for Phoenix was composed by German pianist Ludwig van Beethoven, 170 years before the game would be released.
Phoenix, developed by Amstar Electronics, first released in 1980.
Version played: Atari 2600, 1982, via emulation.