Atari is powering ahead with its Recharged series, with Caverns of Mars: Recharged now available for all major systems. Developed by SneakyBox (without longtime Recharged developer Adamvision this time), we checked out the PlayStation 4 version.
Out of all the games in the Recharged line, Caverns of Mars is quite possibly the one players will be least familiar with. Despite being released back in 1981, it’s not part of Atari’s rich arcade legacy – but rather one that came out for Atari’s line of 8-bit home computers. In general, these games didn’t age too well, and because many games for the Atari 400/800 were ports of arcade games there aren’t that many that stand out as true classics that were native to the systems.
Caverns of Mars is an exception, and its downward vertical scrolling still feels rather novel for an arcade-style shooter. The Recharged version is a heavily revamped take that features an Arcade mode, where you essentially chase the biggest possible high score in an endless downward journey where you weave past obstacles and destroy enemies. It’s fairly self explanatory, but a nice twist is that firing your weapons also results in a bit of a kickback, temporarily slowing you down – which you can use to your advantage when moving around safely.
If you prefer a more objective-driven experience, then the game’s Challenge mode breaks up the action into smaller levels with predefined conditions – limiting you to a certain kind of weapon or forcing you to focus on a specific enemy type. If you enjoy it when the action gets mixed up a little, this mode’s the option for you.
There’s an even more interesting way to play both the Arcade and the Challenge mode though, and that’s in co-op – which is quite different from what you might expect since you’re not controlling two crafts at once. Instead, one player steers while the other one shoots. It’s a bit like playing a twin stick shooter where each player gets a thumbstick to control, and you can imagine that you need some decent coordination skills to pull it off effective. As big fans of co-op gameplay we really enjoyed this novel take, but we can see players getting frustrated with this as well, as it’s quite challenging.
Caverns of Mars: Recharged doesn’t scream “arcade classic” like some of the other games in the Recharged series, but it does have that “one more quick run” quality to it that other games have. It also has an excellent art style, with stark blacks for cavern walls that make the colorful backgrounds really pop. If you’ve been enjoying the other games in this series, this is a nice addition to the collection.