Atari Poop

Atari Poop – Sorcerer

Sorcerer - Cart

Sorcerer, by Mythicon Inc. Note the awesome sorcerer with the red robe and badass wand. He seems to be on the edge of a cliff inside a large cave or narrow ravine. Just from this image alone, you know you’re in for something special. It’s obvious as soon as your brain registers the magnitude of awesome of what your eyes are seeing.

So you pop the cartridge into your console, flick the power switch from “Off” to “On,” and come face to face with the most soul-destroying disappointment, a game that looks like its sole purpose was to eradicate every last shred of humanity found in the people who played it. This is what happens when a programmer actively seeks to make a game that will give you Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Sorcerer - Screen 1

It’s a bird! It’s a turd? WTF is it?!

Above, you have the first screen in the game. That flying saucer-like thing is…well, I don’t know what it is. It moves around erratically and if you manage to jump on it, you can use it to fly around. I guess this is level 1 or something. I’m also guessing that white thing is a cloud. Also, that purple pants and shirt-wearing dude with the black belt and a floating pink head is Sorcerer. You feel that? That is a part of you dying. Try to remember what it was like to not feel that because it isn’t ever going away.

You leave the screen on the right and are met successively with the next 6 screens. 7 “levels” in total. That’s it. They have different enemies, in as much as they are different colours and sizes, though they all move the same way and have the same attack. The only exception is the 7th, where you’re left with the same cloud from the 1st screen, but now it shoots lightning bolts at you.

Sorcerer - Screen 2Sorcerer - Screen 3

Sorcerer - Screen 4Sorcerer - Screen 5

Sorcerer - Screen 6Sorcerer - Screen 7

Once you’ve passed all these screens, it starts over with screen two (the one that has what I’m assuming is the 2600’s attempt at displaying three players from the Montréal Canadiens without hockey sticks) unless you chose to pass on high-jacking the little hoverboard from screen one, in which case, instead of lightning bolts, screen seven/one will just have the hoverboard again. The whole time, you are inexplicably driven to press on, almost expecting a new screen to eventually turn up, like a boss battle or something, but it never does, does it? Well, maybe if you could just get a little farther next time… just a little farther.

Unsurprisingly at this point, I’m now going to tell you the gameplay is painfully boring. The “enemies” are bizarre-looking, which just might be the closest you’ll get to something positive about the game. I’ve already mentioned the hockey players. They are followed by bodiless Rastafarians, Pepsi-themed scorpions, the dancing torsos of the aforementioned Rastafarians, and cyclopses with offset eyes and no noses. Regardless of what they look like, their movements are erratic and unpredictable, and where they appear at first on the screen is also random, but the unpredictability and randomness is done in such a way that you almost feel like you can decipher a pattern every step of the way, only to be let down. The effect is maddening.

Other than the lightning, you can kill all the enemies. If you do (and if you manage to avoid the lightning), you get a “prize”. Here, have a look:

Sorcerer - Treasure 4 Sorcerer - Treasure 2 Sorcerer - Treasure 3 Sorcerer - Treasure 1

So collecting those, over and over (as they loop once you get the fourth) is the only incentive the game gives you to keep playing. There are no points for collecting them, or doing anything else for that matter since there are no points at all (there is technically a mode you can play with points, but I couldn’t get it to work). So why would anyone bother with playing? Why bother killing the enemies? Watch this video and skip to about 0:15.

The music in this game does something I don’t believe had been done before or since in video games. When an enemy is on the screen, it sounds like there are two tracks playing simultaneously. The result is a cacaphnous mess best described by a room full of screaming babies playing over some bizarre combination of  the most random heavy metal guitar solo and dubstep. Once the enemies are killed, the screaming babies stop. The player immediately feels a sense of relief. However, this feeling is fleeting because one can now hear the main track more clearly. Though you’d never imagine it was possible, this track is even worse to listen to than a room full of screaming babies. Thankfully, you only need to step to the next screen to have it drown out the screaming babies, though again, relief is temporary. It only takes a few seconds for the screaming to be too much, so the player has to kill the enemies to ease his or her pain, and thus the cycle continues infinitely.

So there you have it, the “levels,” the enemies, and the music conspiring to push the limits of your sanity. The music alone will haunt your dreams for weeks, even after only playing the game a few minutes. It all takes a devastating toll on a gamer’s psyche. It changes them, forever. Those of us who have played this game can recognize each other simply by looking into the other’s eyes, even at a distance. We can see that there’s something missing. Some people call it a soul, others call it inner spirit. Regardless, if you’ve played this game, that part of you has died and is gone forever.

One final note on the game, and one final insult to the plethora of injuries: once you die in the game, you are brought back to the beginning and get a little surprise. I haven’t mentioned this, but there’s a smiling face on the screen at all times. Is it there to mock us? The answer is clear once you’ve died. When you die, just beneath the smiling face, before you hit a button and start playing again, there’s a clear message to the player, just in case it wasn’t already obvious that this game is out to destroy you. It’s as clear as day: a hand, with a thumb on the side and a fully extended middle finger.

Sorcerer - FU