The Game: You’re alone, unarmed, in a maze full of bats, bugs and ‘bots, most of whom can kill you on contact (though the robots would happily shoot you rather than catching up with you). Loaded guns appear periodically, giving you a limited number of rounds with which to take out some of these creepy foes, though your shots are best reserved for the robots and spiders, who have a slightly more malicious intent toward you than the bats. If you shoot the bats, others will appear to take their place. If you shoot the ‘bots, the same thing happens, only a faster, sharper-shooting model rolls out every time. Your best bet is to stay on the move, stay armed, conserve your firepower – and don’t be afraid to head back to your safe room at the center of the screen. (Mattel Electronics, 1983)
Memories: An adaptation of one of the Intellivision’s signature games, Night Stalker is actually one of the strongest titles in the tiny Aquarius game library. This isn’t to say that it’s a great port, just that it’s less bad than some of the other Aquarius games.
Graphically, Night Stalker is actually a step up from the Atari 2600 port, Dark Caverns – proving that Aquarius might’ve actually made a slightly larger splash in the industry if it had hit the stores after the 2600 instead of after the Colecovision. The graphics have a finer grain to them than the Atari edition; the game play and controls, however, don’t.
The control scheme – which mimics the Intellivision game’s use of the keypad to fire the player’s weapon – simply doesn’t work on the Aquarius‘ scaled-down six-key keypad. It’s confusing, and the player is likely to wind up spending as much time glancing at the overlay – again – as they spend looking at the screen. The control scheme never quite gets away from being completely counter-intuitive, and that’s a major strike against the game.
Serving as a slightly paradoxical example of both what the Aquarius could get right and what it had a habit of getting horribly wrong, Night Stalker is a game that’s hard to screw up. But in the process of porting it to Mattel’s ill-fated, under-powered computer system, the element of sheer twitchy fun that had followed the game from platform to platform was leeched out of this version…and yet this is about as good as gaming got on the Aquarius.