Finally there it is! Scramble for the Atari 8-bit. When I was young, I really loved that game. But I did not own enough pocket money to finish it at the amusement arcade.

Unfortunately there was no original conversion of that game for the Atari XL/XE in the eighties. But now, thanks to PlaySoft, there it is being late for 35 years. Sure there were clones for the XL, like Caverns Of Mars II with its terrible beeping. Or Beta Lyrae, which I still think is great and which I still use to play. Not to forget that horrible Super Cobra module.

PlaySoft, who resides in the United Kingdom (UK), converted this game for the Atari 5200. Astonishingly, he managed to put this game along with all its levels into a 32 KB cartdridge.

Finally, Homesoft converted the Atari 5200 version for the Atari 8-bit. This version counts 27516 bytes. Only a few hours before PlaySoft released his own XL/XE conversion which is 26961 bytes.

While Scramble requires a two-firebutton joystick, the two releases are different. The Atari 5200 joystick has got two fire buttons. Running the Homesoft version, rockets are launched with the fire button and bombs are dropped by pushing the space bar. There is a setting to use the fire button for both rockets and bombs.

Running the PlaySoft conversion using a Sega Megadrive (Genesis) pad which has got two fire buttons number 1 is for rockets and number 2 is for bombs. Sega Pad button B is for rockets (STRIG0) and button C for bombs (PADDLE0).

After loading the game, there is a text screen along with the prompt: "Play Scramble". All items that can be hit to get points are listed along with the highscore list.

Pushing the fire button brings up the options menu. This is where you can adjust several settings. Pushing "1" sets difficulty to easy or normal. Pushing "2" allows to change the width between walls in the caves. Key "3" allows to set the ship's size to normal or small. The opponent rockets' speed can be switched between normal and fast using key "4". Key "5" changes autofire setting to slow, fast or off. Key "6" sets space bar for bombs or Sega Pad C-button or both bombs and rockets with the Atari joystick fire button. Key "7" sets the number of lifes. Finally key "8" sets the caves' scrolling speed.

When the settings are done, one pushes the fire button and the game starts. The player takes the role of an elite pilot who has been commissioned to eliminate a secret base in the enemy territory. Since almost no agent ever managed to advance into this heavily secured area, there is little information available about this base. It is suspected to be at the ground floor of the huge Konami Tower. Your mission is to fly through the enemy country with your Scramble warbird. The enemy country is protected by five zones.

Every zone challenges the player with a new kind of enemy or territory.

Zone 1: Rocky terrain with interceptor rockets
Zone 2: Caves with attacking UFOs
Zone 3: Caves with meteorites which you can only try to avoid
Zone 4: Interceptor rockets on higher postioned bases
Zone 5: Cliffy maze-like skysraper canyons
Zone 6: (well, not really a zone but) The Base

Off you go. You can navigate the warbird into eight directions with the joystick. Since I play using the Atari joystick, I always fire rockets along with a maximum of two bombs. The goal is to manage through all five zones and to destroy the Konami Tower at the end. Once this is completed, the game starts over, but at a higher difficulty level. Sounds quite simple - if there weren't those defensive missiles.

The screen always scrolls from right to left. Best to destroy all ground-located missiles before they are launched and endanger your warbird.

On the lower left there is a display that shows our position in the caves. Below that there is the remaining lives count. The lower middle shows the fuel. If there is no more fuel remaining, the warbird will crash, of course. So better pay attention to the items labled "fuel". Shoot them to increase the fuel supply. On the lower right, the score is displayed along with some flags which symbolize the cave number.

Hitting rockets or ground-placed opponents in the first cave causes normal explosions. In the second cave, the explosions contain an animated Atari logo. In the third cave, this is - no, you have to find out yourself. I managed to cave number five and there are always new logos in the explosion. You get an extra life at 10k points.

The graphics conversion of Scramble is pretty good. The warbird animation is really great. In fact, everything you can shoot is animated with great level of detail. I like most those rockets bouncing at the ground as if they had bees in their bonnets. Just like with the original Arcade machine, the colors in the caves including all items keep changing. There are only sound effects for shots, hits, extra lives and so on but there is no music.

Conclusion: A great action spectacle, which is finally available on the XL/XE. The playability is very good and the game is not too difficult. The graphics are very similar to the original game plus some "slapstick" animations. I like that very much. The sound is typical for a 1981 game.

Scramble requires 64K of RAM and runs on the XL/XE and the QMeg 4.04 operating system.

My assessment

Graphics :  7
Sound    :  6
Game fun : 10

Text: Dirk "Yellow_Man" Troger
Translation: Erhard "Floppydoc" Putz