Air-Sea Battle was one of the nine original launch titles for the Atari 2600 when it was released in September 1977. On the surface it looks like a standard early “shooting gallery” style game with some fun variety. Allowing you shoot at both air and naval targets vs. an opponent or the computer.
The game was designed by Larry Kaplan. Kaplan is a video game legend, best know as the designer and programmer for the 1981 Atari 2600 Kaboom! and for co-founding a little company called Activision. Before he left Atari for Activision, Kaplan created Air-Sea Battle (1977), Street Racer (1977), Brain Games (1978), and Bowling (1979).
Note: If you have not played it, Bowling is an amazing Atari game.
The game looks pretty good. A nice combination of boxy targets, that do resemble what you are shooting at. But what is really special is the background, which has a nice broad gradient. The more I stare at it while playing it, the more I fell in love with it. I want to paint a wall these colors.
You will probably sit down to try this game an find it underwhelming when you do. That is because as a single player game, Air Sea Battle does not shine. It isn’t terrible, it just gets boring rather quickly.
To make the game fun you just need to add another person. Like many Atari 2600 titles, the real joy of the game is unlocked in two-player mode. Sadly a lot of reviews of this game online don’t seem to realize that. Which makes sense, it is easy to overlook unless you played the game during its original release with your buddies.
If you are willing to give the game a try, take my advice and just play two-player using the Game 1 or Game 2 mode. The difference between the two being your ability to guide your shots.
So if you are ready, fire up the game and take control an anti-aircraft weapon and start knocking things out of the sky! The game speed? Not very quick, so you know what to do, start talking trash to your opponent.
This is just one of those games that works a lot better when you lay into your opponent. Of course, that is not the only thing. Much like in the classic head to head Atari game, Frogs and Flies, it is being able to just rob your player of victory that is most enjoyable.
Air-Sea Battle does not work well as a single-player game, but if you have a friend, it is worth your time. It might not make anyone’s top ten list of Atari games, but as a two-player game, it is a ball.