The Game: The enemy in an interplanetary war has gone underground, and you’re piloting the ship that’s taking the fight to him. But he hasn’t just hidden away in a hole; he’s hidden away in a very well-defended hole. As if it wasn’t already going to be enough of a tight squeeze navigating subterranean caverns on Mars, you’re now sharing that space with enemy ships and any number of other fatal obstacles. (Fortunately, the enemy also leaves copious numbers of helpful fuel depots for you too.) Once you fight your way to the bottom of the cave, you plant charges on the enemy mothership – meaning that now you have to escape the caverns again, and fast. (John Champeau / AtariAge.com, 2006)
Memories: As much as Caverns Of Mars caught fire on the Atari home computers, you’d think it would’ve been a shoo-in for the company’s consoles. Now, at least, 2600 owners who resisted stepping up to the mighty Atari 8-bit computers can reap the reward for 20+ years of patience. John Champeau, the programmer who finally made good on Coleco’s unfulfilled promise to bring the arcade sleeper hit Ladybug to the 2600, has struck again.
Conquest Of Mars is a great little port of Caverns for the 2600, and it’s a surprisingly faithful one. Obviously, Atari didn’t resist porting this game to the 2600 because it was some kind of insurmountable programming challenge. Even the splash/difficulty select screen is there, and it all looks and plays very smoothly. (Actually, I’d rank Conquest slightly higher than Ladybug in that regard.) Compared to the corresponding difficulty levels in Caverns Of Mars, Conquest is actually tougher to beat, so all those Atari 400 & 800 veterans won’t necessarily be able to beat a rookie the first time out.
It’s also fitting somehow for Cavern to be ported to the 2600 as a homebrew game, since that’s it started life as the first homebrew game for the Atari computers to break through as an officially released title by way of the Atari Program Exchange. Conquest completes the circle in style.