Saturday, April 23, 2022

Fort Apocalypse

Name:Fort Apocalypse
Publisher:Synapse Software
Developer:Steve Hales
Time:40 minutes

Like with all popular titles, Choplifter has its knock-offs, though its sort of hard to tell since its vaguely inspired on its own by Defender. Fort Apocalypse is one interesting in a few ways. Firstly, Synapse would be bought by Broderbund not too long in the future, as previously established in my Shamus review. Secondly, this is another early example of set level design.
The game itself is credited to Steve Hales, someone who would be credited for quite a few games as an audio driver programmer. The plot, such as it is, is that aliens have kidnapped some people, and we can't take the fortress they're in with a direct assault. The player, in his rocket copter is to save them.
The game starts, and I'm low on fuel, always a good sign. Fortunately, there is a fuel depot near the start. One can think of Fort Apocalypse as controlling (and animating) the same way as Choplifter did, except by someone who doesn't understand why it worked. The most obvious is that there isn't a proper turning animation, one moment you're facing right, a few later you're facing center, and a few more and you're facing left. This particular bit is unfortunate, since there is considerable reason to attack downward. This is what you're trying to play from moment one, a knock-off.

Note the neat little map between fuel and score
What then struck me as interesting were the enemies. You have a random floating thing you can shoot, and your usual tank enemies. These are actually incredibly annoying, the missiles/bombs they fire seem to be homing attacks. I'm torn between annoying and clever, because they're hard to kill and their attacks are almost impossible to shake off.
Moments before death
Then we get to the real interesting bit, enemy rocket copters. They don't move as intelligently as the player, but they do function the same in every other way. Thus one is treated to the spectacle of the AI trying and failing to take you out, either by shooting below you because they're moving, or just hitting a wall. Other enemies don't have this same problem.
I'm dead, probably because the hitbox for these blocks activated before they showed up
Now, the big problem with all this is that the game respawns enemies at inconsistent lengths. In the opening section there are tanks beneath a large number of various flying enemies, which can rarely be enemy rocket copters. One tank and one rocket copter together are basically unkillable, one or the another needs to be dragged off. Take out the tank, and you'll get shot, take out the copter, and you'll get a bomb in the ship.
And with 8 freed hostages I have won the level
Once you take out those tanks and copters, and the barrels blocking access down, you can enter the underground section of the game, where enemies are much less of a concern and you can start rescuing hostages. Its here that the primary threat ships to a series of lasers and blocks that go off in a sequence. This is nowhere near as hard as the opening section, we're merely down to tricky. The real trouble is getting back should you miss. Its at this point another problem because obvious, you get destroyed if you touch most things. This wouldn't be a problem, except that there's the illusion that we can safely land on the ground, we can't, we just touch the hostages.
...and Plexar can finish it
While the first level is doable, the second one tested my patience too far. The opening section of the level is basically the same as the last one, except this time the objective is getting past a series of blocks. The slow speed of the copter's downward movement plus the number of blocks one has to get past was simply too much for me to continue. I can't say I'm too disappointed in failing.

Generic weapons. 1/10

A strange variety of enemies, including an early attempt at a copy of the player's abilities. 2/10

Rescuing hostages. 1/10

Well, its the thought that counts. 0/10

Player Agency:
Like Choplifter, but measurably worse. 2/10

I don't think the barriers in this game really count as destructible environments. 0/10


Bland and uninspired. 1/10


Generic sounds. 1/10

That's 8.

With this title, I have finally officially reached the halfway point on 1982. That is, I have played more games than I have remaining. Owing to the nature of some games being impossible for me to find or just obviously unplayable, the true number is probably lower.

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