The Game: As the commander of a spacefaring Ark, your mission is to retrieve two members of every species on every planet you visit, in case the constant ruch of asteroids and meteors renders life on those planets extinct. In the initial screen, the large Ark spacecraft is besieged by meteors appearing from every direction, and your job is to use the ship’s weapons the destroy the space rock before they destroy your Ark. After surviving this screen, the Ark descends into low orbit of a planet, and you pilot the scout ship, avoiding planetary defenses to grab two specimens of that planet’s dominant life form with your tractor beam. (Sorry, you don’t get to make crop circles while you’re doing your alien abductions.) If the planetary defenses hit your scout ship, you launch another one, but time is running out – eventually another meteor will plummet from the sky right into the Ark, and you can only defend the Ark if the scout ship has re-docked. When the final destruction of the Cosmic Ark comes at last, the tiny scout ship escapes into deep space… (Imagic, 1982)
Memories: Another addictive entry, though a bit simpler than Atlantis, this game was way ahead of its time – an alien abduction game, even one which gives the player control of the aliens, would go over phenomenally with modern-day UFO enthusiasts.
Like Atlantis, Cosmic Ark ends with the scout ship escaping intact, but to my knowledge, these games never spawned a third chapter for the little ship’s adventures. (But just between you and me, I always thought it would have been neat if you were rescuing the scout ship’s crew in Imagic’s later – and best ever – game, Moonsweeper.)
Still, Cosmic Ark remains one of the 2600’s most unique titles, complete different from anything that came before or after it, or anything that could be found in the arcade.