I hadn’t seen this 1989 arcade game from Atari Games before, until I played it recently, and even then I found it on the Commodore 64 first, then realised that it was an arcade conversion.
Skull & Crossbones has all the ingredients of a classic arcade action game, but – having played it extensively now – I can see why it failed…
It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why Skull & Crossbones doesn’t play as well as it should, but I think that it’s a combination of a number of things.
The scrolling is jerky, as is the general animation. The hardware seems to use character graphics, rather than smooth-moving sprites. All the player and enemy graphics are beautifully drawn – that has to be said – it’s just that the control of the two player characters, One-Eye and Red Dog, and the general visual movement of the game seem disconcertingly juddery overall.
That said: Skull & Crossbones isn’t a bad game – I’ve played much worse two-player arcade games – but it isn’t brilliant either. It’s merely “mildly interesting”.
The idea is to fight your way from scene to scene; sword-fighting with enemies; digging up buried treasure, and beating the odd boss every now and then. One credit gives you 50 health, so you can keep pumping credits in to stay in the game, but starve at home when you realise you’ve no money left.
Skull & Crossbones is a simultaneous two-player game and is predominantly cooperative, although there are sections where you can duel with your human co-player for bonus. Which is very cool.
If you can ignore the less-than-smooth movement of the graphics you might get a good deal of fun out of Skull & Crossbones – especially if you have someone else to play it with.