Mountain King
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9  |  Top of the Heap: Mountain King (Atari 2600)
Scoots , 8/15/2003 9:17:17 AM
“Deep inside a long-lost diamond mine is the secret Temple Chamber of a forgotten civilization. There, a priceless Golden Crown sits high on a pedestal, vulnerable to plundering explorers seeking to control its power. But this treasure is jealously guarded by the denizens of the mountain, and whoever has the daring and courage to challenge them, seize the Crown, and escape to the mountaintop with it will become MOUNTAIN KING!”

With those romantic words, your quest begins. Thankfully this is one example of a 2600 game actually living up to the hype of the instruction manual. Speaking of the manual, you’re going to need it. This is one game that you will not figure out just by trial-and-error. Its complexity makes it one of the standout titles for the VCS.

Armed only with your flashlight and your wits, race through the mountain collecting diamonds till you earn a thousand points. This part is easy because the only enemy at this point is the giant spider on the lowest level, and he’s easily avoided. Once you have the requisite number of points you’ll need to find the Flame Spirit. This can be tricky, but you have some help. First of all, when you get close, a mysterious tune starts to play. It gets louder the closer you get to the Flame Spirit. Secondly, when you get close enough you can glimpse a brief “flash” of the Spirit if you’re quick enough to catch it. Shining your flashlight on the spot will prove whether you are in the right area or not. Now that we have the Flame Spirit we can gain entrance to the temple where the crown resides. To enter, approach the temple from the bottom and kneel. The Skull Spirit will now appear and provide the means for entering the temple. Ascend the ladder quickly, or you’ll need to find the Flame Spirit again. Once inside the temple, kneel to gain possession of the crown. A new adventuresome song starts to play and now we must make it to the top of the mountain. For me this was the most frustrating part of the game. Bats will fly at you in the most inopportune moments, stealing the crown and forcing you to start all over at the beginning. You also have a time limit, so don’t dawdle. You’ll need to be well acquainted with the controls in order to quickly leap from a ledge to a dangling ladder before those damn bats swoop down on you or the clock runs out.

Thankfully, Mountain King’s excellent gameplay is paired with graphics and music to match. Your character’s animation is good and the sprites are very well designed. The flashlight effect is a nice touch and adds another welcome element of strategy. Unfortunately, you’ll be scaling the same mountain every time, but it is quite large and the scrolling is perfect. The music is among the very best of any Atari game—excellent tunes and evocative of the spirit of your adventure.

CBS Electronics really exploited the extra memory of the RAM Plus cartridge for all it was worth, cramming in great music, slick graphics, and smooth scrolling from screen to screen. Mountain King is a winner. I give rate it 9 out 10.

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