Panther, Atari 8-bit

This Mastertronic Atari 8-bit budget release from 1987 feels like a budget game – and I don’t mean that as a compliment. It feels like an unfinished, un-polished game.

Panther is an isometric shoot ’em up in the style of Zaxxon, but with very little going on in the game itself.

Panther is a rescue mission, basically. You fly a white… toenail? Whatever the ship is: it doesn’t look like anything recognisable. It certainly doesn’t look like a panther, or deserve to be called that… But anyway: the ship can move left and right and up and down and can shoot one bullet on-screen at a time. Like: whoopie f*ckin’ do

Waves of attacking enemy ships fly at you from time to time, and if you manage to clear them you then get the chance to land and rescue some white, animated stick figures. At least: that seems to be the case some of the time, but not every time. Because whatever the trigger is for initiating these rescues it’s inconsistent and I couldn’t figure it out. Sometimes they happen and sometimes they don’t.

If you do land and sit waiting for the white stick men to board your toenail, attacking enemy ships will sometimes arrive and shoot at you, and the only way of avoiding their bullets is to take off and fly over them (because the enemies seem to mimic your ship’s height and fire pretty accurately). More often than not, though, you’ll end up losing a life during these moments.

Occasionally you’ll get an on-screen warning message saying that you’ve got to “fly under radar“, and if you don’t hug the ground immediately you’ll face a barrage of fast-moving missiles that come at you in a manner that makes them extremely difficult to shoot or avoid.

Panther has no loading screen; no title screen; no options; no high score table, and – if I was being honest – it has very little going for it. You can probably tell by my contempt that I didn’t like the game very much. The isometric scrolling graphics are okay. David Whittaker‘s music is pretty good. But everything else about Panther sucks. Even the single-colour black and white info panel at the bottom of the screen is a cop-out. Panther could’ve been a decent game if Mastertronic had maybe insisted that the programmer polish it up a bit and add a bit more variety. But as it stands: it’s not worthy of anyone’s time and effort.

More: Panther on atarimania.com

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