Saturday, January 4, 2020

Game 20: Night Stalker

Name:Night Stalker
Genre:Top-Down Shooter
Time:Under an hour
Normally, the time up there is an indicator that I haven't really played this much. Not true, I'm an avid fan of the six or so really good Intellivision games, this, Astrosmash, Bombsquad, Utopia, some others I forget the names of. There's a problem with any Intellivision game in that they'll get tiring really quickly and I'll forget about them for long periods of time. I guess there's another problem, only a problem if its 2020 and you just download this crap off the internet without paying any attention to what you're doing. The Intellivision controller was unique. Four buttons on the side, a keypad in the middle and a rotating disc in the bottom. This is a lot better than it sounds. Keep in mind this is before anyone had the bright idea to put two sticks on your controller or anything that didn't look like it came straight out of the arcades. There were these overlays that went into the keypad, telling you what to do. This meant that you could shoot in one direction and move in another. Although here that's not quite the case.
Now, Night Stalker, no relation to the TV series, is a game about some guy trapped in a maze with a bunch of deadly robots, spiders and bats. The objective is to get the highest score. You do this, of course, by killing things. You can't just start blasting away, no, you have to find the gun first. The first time on any life, this happens right in front of the bunker you start in. The bunker is a nigh indestructible bunker. After, it appears randomly, anywhere from a safe-ish corridor to right in front of the robots spawning point.
The main gameplay loops consists of you getting the gun, lining up your shot carefully, and trying to avoid your enemy's errant shots. The energy blasts move slightly faster than the player, which makes lining shots up tricky. That's ultimately where you'll love or hate this game. As you score higher, the enemy robot becomes stronger, and sometimes more of them show up. From taking more damage to becoming clever to ultimately being able to destroy the bunker. I think I've only ever seen that once. The non-robot enemies are not lethal, they only stun you. Eventually the bats make way for more robots.

There's only the one weapon, the gun. Holds six shots and generally feels good...for 1982, but still good nonetheless. 2/10

As I mentioned, the enemies ramp up as you score higher. I think this functions as a good learning curve, and as a warm-up when you know what you're doing. 4/10

There are none. 0/10

One, never-ending level. 1/10

Player Agency:
While I generally like how the controls are set up, I do have some issues. I'm not in love with having to stay still to fire and I'm even less in love with sometimes accidentally taking a turn when I meant to go straight. 3/10

There really isn't any. 0/10

The almost constant sounding of a machine's deep drones plus the spooky looking walls give off a weird feeling of being trapped in a weird cave. Yet, the cover art shows a man-made maze. With an open sky. Huh. 4/10

The design has all the typical Intellivision designs, particularly in the humans. Everything is visually distinct, but nobody is going to confuse this with something visually interesting. 2/10

The backstory, while well-written, is a couple of paragraphs. 0/10

If you've ever heard what an Intellivision sounds like, its exactly like that. If you haven't, its low-bit sounds that usually succeed in making explosions and thunder. 1/10

That is 17. Which, as of now, makes it the best game until 1989. I do not think it'll hold that title for too long, however. Just a hunch.

Users on Mobygames gave it a 3.7 out of 5. Which makes sense, if you are someone who rates Intellivision games on Mobygames, you are going to like Night Stalker. There are no contemporary reviews listed on Moby, but we do have some modern ones. These range from basically my sentiments to "Berzerk, but worse". Curiously, there's a version for the Atari 2600 called Dark Cavern, which drew further comparisons with Wizard of Wor.
Meanwhile, users of GameFAQs rated it slightly higher at 3.9 out of 5. Their choice of difficulty echoes my own, but somehow they figure a game session to be 7 hours and some of them somehow completed this. This neverending arcade style shooter. Uh...okay.

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