Buraco Negro! (“Black Hole!”)

Buraco Negro!The Game: This is a tale of a futuristic society advanced almost beyond belief. A black hole has been trapped behind a force field, where its gravity won’t snag the chains of space outposts lining the top and bottom of the screen. That gravity will, however, attract stray asteroids, which naturally can do a number on the space stations. This is where you come in: as the captain of an interplanetary street-sweeper, it’s your job to grab the asteroids and deposit them in the maw of the black hole. It’s tricky, business: letting go of an asteroid too far away from the black hole will allow it to drift toward the space stations, but putting your own ship too close to the black hole will put you in harm’s way (and may still let the asteroid escape). The more asteroids you put in the black hole, the bigger and more powerful it becomes (did anyone really think through this method of disposing of the trash?), which will attract more asteroids and cause them to move faster. You can also shoot asteroids, but this will add no points to your score, and stray missiles could destroy space stations. If your ship plummets into the event horizon, or too many space stations are destroyed, there’s suddenly a vacancy for the most dangerous garbage disposal job in the universe. (GST Video, 1984)

Memories: As a rule, I try not to be too critical of a game’s programmer, but this rare title – initially released only in South America, and then later dressed up with a spacey background and released in Europe for the Videopac G7400+ under the incorrectly-translated name Neutron Star – offers so little reward for so much effort that one can only assume its designer was a masochist.

Buraco Negro!Buraco Negro! is actually a really neat idea for a game, and could really be a lot of fun if not for all of the motivation-killing negatives: shooting the asteroids should net at least one measley point, because adding a strong gravitational force to a physics-correct game like Asteroids really makes it a (w)hole different game. But then, intelligence-insultingly, Buraco Negro! isn’t even physics-correct like Asteroids: the asteroids should eventually make their way to the black hole with or without interference, but they don’t – somehow the space stations (represented by division signs when they’re healthy, and a red “X” when destroyed) have more of a pull than the black hole.

Buraco Negro!The biggest thrill to be had here is getting within “grab range” of the black hole and then having to escape; once you’ve done that once or twice, the rest of the game becomes, frankly, a bit boring.

The seeds of an awesome game, even on the Odyssey2, are here, but the basic rules of 2 quartersgameplay need some tweaking for the thing to actually make the leap from “programming exercise” to “fun game.” Fortunately, GST Video – that most mysterious member of the already-rarified fraternity of companies that made third-party games for the Odyssey2 – turned out better games than this, but none of them were sold to the North American market.

Buraco Negro!