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Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.2.8    Hard Disk: 10 MB

Atomic Cannon
July 25, 2006 | Marcus Albers

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Long ago, when computers ran off of floppy discs and you'd never need more than 256KB of RAM, I remember playing a game that really captured my imagination and attention. The game was simply called Artillery. Two cannons were placed at opposite sides of a randomly-generated terrain (a simple outline of mountains and valleys). The idea was to set the angle and power of your shot and lob shells at the other player's cannon. The first player to successfully destroy the other's cannon was the winner.

In the years since, there have been a number of variations on this game. The Team 17 classic Worms is one of the most well-known of this particular genre. There was even a game available for the old Commodore Amiga that had you lobbing cows over a mountain while trying to avoid a giant floating penguin (No, really! It's true). But the game that really set the genre on fire, so to speak, was a PC version called Scorched Earth. Not only did this version up the ante as far as graphics, but it introduced the use of weapons other than the standard artillery shells, from pile-drivers that continually pounded on an opponent's tank to explosives that created impressive craters. This particular version of the game itself has been ported, imported, revamped and re-imagined so many times that it should be a genre in and of itself.

One of the latest clones of the classic Scorched Earth is Atomic Cannon, by Isotope 244. So, what does this one offer that the others are lacking? Is there anything begging us to give this game a second look? Definitely.

Atomic Cannon takes the Scorched Earth formula, and ups it one further. There is an impressive array of weapons available here. 85 different weapons, to be exact. These range from the standard shells to rockets to plutonium nukes, with a few pigs and cows thrown in for good measure. There are a number of different terrains, from sandy desert locations to rocky mountain cliffs to rolling meadows. A host of gameplay options and a nice soundtrack round out the package.

Gameplay for Atomic Cannon is very similar to Scorched Earth. At the start of the game, you and your human and/or AI opponents are set on a randomly generated playfield. The first player takes a shot at the available targets with one of their available weapons. Hit or miss, the turn then moves on to the next player, who takes a shot at a target. Once each player has had a chance to take a shot, the round is over, and the turns start over again. Now is your chance to make changes to your power and angle to try and get closer to hitting your intended target. Don't worry about getting killed too soon, since with the exception of a few rare weapons, it will take multiple hits to take out a tank. Unless, of course, the other players decide to gang up against you, then it could be curtains before you get your second shot off!

The gameplay may seem the same as any other artillery game, but it is the weapons that really set this one apart. The weapons are split into a few categories, such as rockets, bombs, beams, organic, etc. Certain weapons, like the artillery shell, do little damage. Some weapons, like the plutonium nuke do a lot of damage. And then there are the weapons that you wouldn't expect to do massive amounts of damage, like the pig or the cow. Hurling these barnyard bullets at your opponent will deal out the most damage nearly any other weapon in the game. The weapons are at once disturbing and fascinating.

The most fascinating thing about the weapons, and something that makes Atomic Cannon stand out from the crowd, are the graphic effects put into use here. The rockets, instead of leaving pixilated static trails, actually put out plumes of smoke that envelop the tank that is firing the rocket. As the rocket nears the apex of its arc, the smoke trails off, and the glowing rocket exhaust is visible before it plummets to its ultimate destination. The resulting explosions are varied and impressive, as well. Glowing debris and smoldering craters are to be had once the weapon hits the ground. Some weapons produce an acidic after- effect that sits on the ground, slowly damaging any tank that is unfortunate enough to be on top of it. The most impressive of the explosions has to be the atomic weapons. Once they detonate, the screen goes white briefly, and then the player is treated to a sweet looking shockwave that blasts across the screen. Very impressive, indeed.


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