The Many Faces of . . . Omega Race
By Alan Hewston

This month I will NOT review Commando as I planned. After significant 
research for all potential games to review here, mostly reading Tom's 
"Arcade Conversion List", I see that I do not yet have the Atari 8 bit 
version of Commando, and somehow overlooked the fairly rare Intellivision version - which I do not own. Thank you for last month's feedback, as it will help to make this column improve. Once again, apologies to the TI crowd, as their word is that the TI version of Q*bert is the best.

I'll try to add more info, such as the game's original designer/programmer,  and listing ALL of the classic platforms having an official release. Finally, I forgot to mention last month that I only plan to review the home versions on their native systems. Including emulators will make for too much work for me and I've already got 3500 plus game/versions available.

Thanks go out to fellow video gamer Steven Knox for trading many of his better Atari 8 bit disks. He now has many of my best C64 games, and we'll be trading again, later this Summer. Some bad news I learned is that there is no longer a Colecovision multi-cart available. I should have bought one in the first release - as now the copy righters say "we still have the copyrights on some of those games" . . . bummer.


Omega Race
Creator/Designer
: Ron Haliburton [founder of Arcade Engineering, later sold to Midway]
Classic Platforms: Atari 2600, CV, C64, and Vic 20.
Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

The Omegans await you in their arena of cosmic death. You and your reserve of fighters must prove the Terran race worthy of the Omega Race. Waves (Racks) of Omegans come at you either as Command, Droid, or Death ships, along with an endless supply of Photon and Vapor Mines. It's a fight to the death, and would be a lot more fun if both humans plays could play simultaneously - but that option is only available on the Colecovision.

Omega Race plays much like Asteroids, where thrusting and firing weapons on your ship works the same, and the ships are vector style graphics. Move and shoot the enemy or die. But, now you are pitted against an intelligent foe, trapped in an arena that bounces you off of the inner and outer walls . . . there is no escape . . . no hyperspace . . . no shields.

Learning to play Omega Race on the home systems is initially a fairly frustrating task due to nature of the Controls, or a lack of the proper controller. The Atari 2600 & CV versions do not use the straightforward approach of Asteroids. Instead, 2 controller buttons are used, one to fire weapons and the other for spacecraft thrust. I scored the Controls based upon having the optimum controller type. You mileage will vary, and likely be less if you do not have as good a controller, or selection of controllers to get the one that works well for you. All four versions tend to move you around too fast at the top speed, but this can really save you once you learn to master the controls.

Omega Race is not really a race, but then maybe you can get a better score by playing as if it were. If you have not played your version (s) much, maybe you need to give it a try and really learn how to play with the best controller. Not a game quick to master, it took me quite some time to score 100,000+ points on all 4 versions. Each version varies somewhat in number of starting ships, the score at which bonus ships are given, points scored per enemy type, and which enemy types are present, and how frequently mines are laid.

The Have Nots: Colecovision (32)
This game was probably a real disappointment for Colecovision fans back in the day. This port could have been soo much better than it is. Most of the superior CV capabilities were not used. The Graphics are overdone and to me, just plain bad - not even close to vector graphics. The Sound is Good, but seemed to be the least likely that you'd want to hear over and over of the 4 ports. The CV Gameplay is really good, and nearly perfect with many typical CV added features, such as a pause and the menu driven system to select the various options - "Tunnel", "Astro Gates", "Fast Bounce", "Reflective Walls" and varying difficulty levels, not to mention one or two player, and the ultimate two-player simultaneous Gameplay.

The Controls leave much to be desired. I tried all of my controllers - standard CV, Roller Controller, Amiga, Super Action, Wico, 7800 standard, and even Sega. The Roller Controller is recommended, as you can get pin-point and quick rotations of the ship, but then it is not easy to press its buttons for thrusting and shooting. Regardless of controller used, the CV Controls are very annoying in how they were actually programmed. Instead of moving (thrusting) right away, as in the other 3 versions, there is about a 0.5 second delay before you actually accelerate. You frequently become dead meat whenever the Omegans home in on you. Not the case in the other version, where you can quickly accelerate out of harms way.

Although finishing just out of the medal count, the CV version should have been programmed much better and earned a Gold.

Bronze Medal: Atari 2600 (33)
Just ahead of the Colecovision is the Atari 2600. It is fun and Addictive to play, provided . . . you have Control. I do not have a CBS pack-in Booster-Grip controller, but you can get by without one, and it cannot be used to enhance any other game - that I know of. The 2600 Booster-Grip has a standard 2600 cable with both Male and Female ended plug that goes in series ahead of the standard 2600 stick. With its 2 extra fire buttons, the cylindrical sleeve slides down over the standard 2600 controller. My suggested best alternative is that of a standard Colecovision controller. It will take a bit of time to get used to, but unfortunately you never quite get the exacting control to master this game. The 2600 version is the most challenging to play, because you only get 2 shots instead of 3 or 4, and then the Sprite overlaps are horrible. That is, the object to object collisions occur before you hit an object (sprite or missile) overlap. I think that the CV version also was a bit crude in this respect as well. You only have to be "in the neighborhood" [baseball term] to get wasted. Fortunately, this works both ways, so you kill the Omegans easier as well. Finally, the outer boundary of the arena is not shown, which takes at least one more point away from the Gameplay.

The Sound is very good, and the Graphics are second only to the C64. The Addictiveness score could be higher with better Control.

Silver Medal: Vic 20 (35)
A surprise even to me to see the Vic win a Medal. The Vic 20 Omega Race may be one of the best Vic 20 games out there. The excellent Controls that both Commodore versions support give you that Addictiveness to come back for more. Just like in Asteroids, "What you do is what you get". Each tap of the joystick can line you up exactly where you want to turn or thrust. And, you do not need a special controller to learn this game quickly.

The Graphics are Sound are the worst of the 4, but more like the arcade than the botched up CV version. The Gameplay is pretty much all there, and you get 4 shots on the screen at once, making this port much more Addictive than the previous 2. Have trigger, be happy.

Gold Medal: Commodore 64 (41)
Another victory for the Commodore 64, as this Omega Race version is the best, or tied for the best in Sound, Graphics, Controls, and Addictiveness. Finishing 2nd only to the CV in Gameplay. Not a whole lot needs to be said about the winner - as each of the other ports had some trouble in one or more categories. The C64 provides options for Keyboard, Paddle, and Joystick Controls, and allows you to select the color combinations for the background and objects. This permits a game of invisible Omega Race, if you think that you are really good. Oh yes, both Commodore ports may appear to be missing the outer boundary, but there are the guides along the boundary. Essentially small lights in the positions of the 6 pockets on a billiard table. You can still tell exactly where you are, and then the outer boundary section (between pockets) does light up when you hit, or shoot it.

Come back next time when I plan to review Demon Attack for the Atari 2600, Atari 8 bit, Vic 20, Intellivision and Odyssey 2. No chance for a C64 
victory there.

(Alan Hewston is hoping to increase his collection of C64, Vic 20, or Atari 8 bit floppy disk games. Let me know if you want to trade any disks. Alan can be reached at Hewston95@stratos.net.)

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