There’s trouble at sea!
Ah yes, Data Age – one of the many sub-standard game publishers that popped up in the early 80’s to cash in on the success of the Atari 2600. The studio quickly ended up in inevitable bankruptcy when their poor quality games helped cause the great North American video game crash. With games like Sssnake, Bugs, and Warplock they did little to excite the average 2600 gamer. In my recent Halloween feature I mentioned probably their most famous game, Frankenstein’s Monster, which is actually rather good. This time I will look at one of their most infamous games – aquatic themed platformer Airlock. Is it really as bad as everyone says it is? Well there is only one way to find out, with a definitive HPP review!
Airlock gets off to a really good start. When you turn the game on you are presented with a really nice title screen showing a submarine in the sea with fish and sharks swimming around it. I actually sat there for a while just admiring this because it looked so nice. But it certainly lulled me into a false sense of security as unfortunately the same can’t be said for the terrible game that comes after it. Airlock is a very basic and very short platform game where you are trying to make your way to the surface within a strict time limit. Airlock actually reminded me a lot of an old game I used to play on the BBC Micro computers at school, which was made entirely in BASIC, called Tower Bridge. The idea is to guide your little man through each of the four airlocks flicking the two switches to open the next one and eventually escape. Once you move into the next airlock the previous one fills with water. You have less than a minute in which to complete each screen and then it just starts all over again. Each airlock has three cabins, which you much jump through, and a monster moving back and forth trying to stop you. The monster in each airlock moves at a different speed and can be avoided by simply jumping over it. If you get hit by the monster then you die and it’s right back to the start. As annoying as this is though I did like the death sequence when you get caught, it’s very similar in nature to the impressive title screen. If you manage to complete the screen then you just do the same thing all over again, only a little bit harder. There really isn’t really a great deal more to Airlock, it might be set in the depths but depth is something this game definitely doesn’t have!
The in-game graphics in Airlock are downright awful with incredibly simple sprites and a basic blocky design. This is really disappointing to see after the majestic title screen. The characters that you avoid are not even animated in any way! The sound isn’t much better with just a few different bleeps and bloops for the key moments of action. The gameplay is the worst part though, as the unresponsive controls in Airlock result in almost constant cheap deaths that will have you shouting profanities at the screen on a regular basis. With games like this shocker it’s no wonder that Data Age have the reputation they do, this one should be thrown in the sea where it belongs or put into an Airlock of its own for all eternity and forgotten about!
Available on: Atari 2600 (reviewed) ; Publisher: Data Age ; Developer: Data Age ; Players: 1-2 ; Released: 1982 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: N/A