Starquake, Atari 8-bit

Steve Crow‘s classic ZX Spectrum game, Starquake, was converted to the Atari 8-bit by Nick Strange for publisher Bubble Bus Software in 1985.

You control a small alien character called BLOB (Bio-Logically Operated Being) and must re-build the core on an alien planet by finding various pieces of it scattered throughout a huge maze of rooms. These pieces are found inside ‘Cheops Pyramids’ which you open by collecting a variety of pickups that give you access to them.

BLOB has a blaster at his disposal and can generate platforms underneath himself to reach higher places, but cannot jump. There are floating platforms found docked in certain places, and if BLOB stands on top of one he can take off and fly around on them. He is restricted to what he can do while on one, though, and must re-dock a platform if he wants to interact with something on the ground.

Starquake is a decent conversion on the Atari but it does lack colour – compared to the original ZX Spectrum version. And, while Starquake is a classic game with a fair few interesting ideas contained within it, it is also an incredibly difficult game to make any headway in. You need to know what the passwords are for the various teleporters (easy enough to find online), and how to keep your energy levels up (by collecting energy power-ups, although these are not that obvious and aren’t nearly as prevalent as they maybe should be). On top of that you also need to keep refilling your blaster energy, and your platform-making energy, which are frustrations that maybe shouldn’t even be in the game.

Enemies re-spawn in rooms that you visit and can be shot with the blaster, but you can never completely stop them appearing. And since BLOB’s blaster energy doesn’t last long, you can easily find yourself defenceless, with no ammunition to shoot anything.

While Starquake is rightly revered among the retro gaming community for being an attractive and playable game, it is one of those games that is almost impossible to complete. Even with cheats activated. I remember buying the original Spectrum version as a youngster and enjoying messing around with it, but getting anywhere near completing it was just a pipe dream. The same applies to the Atari version. Starquake is fun to play casually, but you’ll almost certainly get nowhere if you try to play it with a view to completing it. Which is a shame, really.

More: Starquake on Wikipedia

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