Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Cobra Triangle | Rare Replay #5

Today we're on to the fifth episode in the series of Rare Replay games.  I'm sticking with the NES again this time, and taking a look at a 1989 release called Cobra Triangle.   I had never heard of this one before I bought this compilation, but that's not entirely surprising as I never had my own NES growing up.  It was co designed by Mark Betteridge and the Stamper brothers, with programming duties also falling to Betteridge.  Tim Stamper and Kevin Bayliss produced the graphics, while David Wise once again composed the music.  The style of game is an isometric racing / combat game, where you take control of a speedboat that can be upgraded as you progress through the stages.

Probably the best thing about the game in my opinion is the wide range of different objectives that it throws at you.  One minute you simply have to get to the end of a course before the time runs out, the next you may be trying to steal armed mines from the enemy and take them up to a designated area on the water to blow them up safely.  Or you may be protecting a bunch of humans from being abducted by evil speedboats, attempting to jump across a series of waterfalls, or in a battle to the death against a sea dragon, giant crab, kraken or ultimately, a great white shark.  Like many NES games of the time though, the difficulty curve can be rather harsh.  You only have a couple of lives and a few continues to try and make your way through the game, and while you can collect more from time to time, you're more than likely to run out before you get to the end of the 25th stage and actually complete the game. 

Avoiding these whirlpools can be aggravating!
For my first few attempts, I did actually persevere without resorting to infinite lives cheat, but could barely manage to get past the 10th stage.  As I want to get all of the milestones in each game, I did turn the cheat on and slog my way through every level.  The one I struggled with the most was the hardest version of the mine defusing stage, as the time limit is extremely tight.  Neither the milestones or the snapshots were particularly challenging this time around.  The toughest one was definitely the one awarded for completing all 25 stages of the game.  It took quite a few attempts, but I got there in the end. Thankfully the addition of save states in Rare Replay meant I could walk away from the game for a bit and come back and try again later.

On certain levels, such as the ones where you are told to race to the finish, or others that just tell you to collect pods, you upgrade your boat by collecting said pods.  The power up system is very reminiscent of something like Gradius, where you have a list of options along the bottom of the screen, which will cycle through as you collect the pods.  At the press of a button you can select the currently highlighted option, upgrading your ship and resetting the bar back to the start.  By doing this you can improve the top speed of your boat, the power and spread of your bullets and eventually be able to shoot heat seeking missiles.  I would recommend upgrading your offensive options before improved the speed of your vehicle, as you will be going up against the sea dragon fairly early in the game and may have a hard time if you only have the pea shooter that you start with.

Overall: 8 out of 10
I do really like the presentation of Cobra Triangle - Rare have once again used the isometric perspective that they are so fond of, but for the most part it works really well here.  It can make lining yourself up with the pods in midair a little tricky, but this isn't a major issue.  Really though, the greatest thing this game has going for it is the variety of game play it offers.  While the eight or so different level types do repeat several times over by the end of the game, each one is very different from the last and they ramp up in complexity as you proceed.  The worst part of the game is the very harsh difficulty - you can get a good deal better at it with perseverance and practise but completing this game fairly and squarely on the paltry number of lives they give you will be an incredibly stiff challenge indeed.  Overall then I think I enjoyed this just a tiny bit more than I did with Slalom.  It is less samey, yet doesn't quite earn true greatness due to the harsh game play.  A solid eight out of ten. 

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