At the candy store near my house they always had 3 video games wedged up against the front window. At any particular time the line to play them would be 3 deep. The nearest real arcade was only accessible by car and while the local pizza parlors would have video games, they were usually older titles. The candy store though put in new games like every 3 months plus they hand candy! So it was paradise for me and the other kids who lived in what is/was known as the North End of town. I remember when the game Commando showed up and I must have pumped nearly 20 bucks into the game by the time they rotated it out. Even today when I think of 80s shooters, Commando is always high on my list (war changes a man).
Since I am such a fan of it and Atari, it might come as a surprise to hear that I never played the version for the Atari 2600. I am not sure why. Well, that changed last week when I was digging through my carts and found a battered copy that I must have added to my collection in the late 90s. I cleaned it off and fired it up to see if it lived up to the original.
The graphics are pretty good for the VCS. Although the arcade version of Commando was never this “deserty” or repetitive. You will be fighting your way through a seemingly endless sand strew wasteland in this Commando. Makes me wonder if they couldn’t they have done a color flip to green for the grasslands? Or maybe white for some arctic fighting action? That might have been unlike the original, but since this game is only a xerox of a xerox of the original (like the instruction book and label on the cart seem to be), I don’t think that would have hurt.
The sound is nice. Decent bullets sounds, but the standout is the little but of music they play throughout the game. Yes it gets a bit tiresome, but it is soooooo much better than playing the game in total silence.
The gameplay, while not as complicated as the original game is decent. You need to shoot your enemies while moving forward towards new encounters and the enemies have slight variations in the way that they use “cover”. Most of the time you just need to keep moving to dodge bullets and firing in the hopes that your weak bullets will hit your enemies. I think you will find that if you are on a roll, that you just can keep one step ahead of the enemy soldiers and kill them. My strat was just to move as fast as I could. Which is not a great way to rack up the points.
Oh and if you get in trouble you have access to grenades. The grenade throwing is bit funky though. You need to pull down on the joystick to use them, so if you are trying to dodge you might accidentally use them. Not a huge deal, but I hate when I don’t have that sort of control in a game. If you are “down joystick” prone like me, make sure to pick up grenades whenever you see them.
Commando is almost a decent title. The problem is it just feels like they were trying to make a game that they couldn’t make with the technology available. This was late in Atari 2600’s lifespan, we are talking 1988, so perhaps they realized that they game would never be a huge seller. Real shame because if they could have worked at some machine gun action or even allowing some dangers on the screen, this could have been a decent title. It is enjoyable to play for about 25 minutes, but it is not a title to which you will want to return. I give it 2 out of 5 stars.