This is the third time that I have written about Scramble. All the way back in 2012, I wrote about Bob DeCrescenzo’s 7800 version and, then, just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about John Champeau’s 2600 version. Imagine my surprise when I found out that a 5200 version had recently been developed. To save you having to look up my previous blogs, here is my info on the arcade version:
‘Scramble is a video game developed by Konami in 1981 and distributed in the United States by Stern. It is a side scrolling ‘shoot ‘em up’ with outstanding graphics and game play. In Scramble, you control an aircraft with the goal of getting as far into the Scramble system as possible. In addition to controlling the movements of the aircraft, you must also use your guns and bombs to destroy rockets, UFO’s, and fuel tanks. You must keep an eye on your own fuel and destroy a fuel tank to increase your fuel level.
In Scramble the terrain is constantly changing, and you must fight your way through six stages:
- Stage 1: Launching rockets
- Stage 2: UFO’s
- Stage 3: Meteors
- Stage 4: Launching rockets from tall buildings
- Stage 5: Mazes
- Stage 6: Base
The Scramble arcade units were powered by two Z80 CPU’s and two AY-3-8910 sound generators. It was ported to the Commodore 64, Vic 20, and Vectrex, but not to any Atari systems. Scramble was succeeded by ‘Super Cobra’ which was ported to the Atari 2600, 5200, and 8-bit systems.’
Thanks to Paul Lay, it is now possible to play Scramble on the Atari 5200. At this stage, you can download it to play on a 5200 emulator or on real hardware via an Atarimax cart.
Paul had worked on the graphics for Scramble a while back but didn’t really get started on programming it until the beginning of this year. For the most part Paul worked on it, quietly, by himself, but, then, Harvey Kong Tin (long time Atari graphics artist) pitched in and helped with the graphics.
Paul’s Scramble 5200 is extremely well done, plays like the arcade, and includes all six arcade levels. Paul takes advantage of the 5200’s keyboard controller to allow several options as follows:
- Difficulty (normal or easy)
- Tunnels (wide or narrow)
- Ship size (normal or small)
- Rockets (normal or fast)
- Auto Fire (off, fast, or slow)
- Trigger 1 (missiles or both)
- Lives (3, 4, or 5)
- Scroll (normal or fast)
One area where Paul’s Scramble shines is with the sound. Unlike TIA sound on 2600 and 7800, Scramble for the 5200 takes advantage of the 5200’s pokey chip. The Defender inspired ship explosions do differ from the arcade version, but are a blast (pun intended)! Also, the stage and score are at the bottom of the screen versus the top in the arcade version.
Scramble 5200 is addictive and takes a lot of practice. I have played for hours and have only made it to level 6 once. The game options, that Paul has programmed in, make it easy to get started and work your way up in difficulty.
Scramble 5200 would have been a massive hit back in the day and would have helped the 5200 live up to its billing as the ‘Super System’. Scramble for the 2600 and 7800 systems are awesome, must have games for those systems, but Scramble 5200 is as close to the arcade as you are going to get, unless you go and buy yourself an authentic arcade unit.
Let’s hope Paul authorizes a cart/manual/box release for Scramble 5200. Not only do I highly recommend this game, I want to be the first in line to order a copy!!!