Pop Quiz. Name me some early 80ís Namco designed/Midway licensed titles.
Pac-Man, yes. No, Ms. Pac-Man was Midway only. Galaxian was the 70s. Keep
going. Galaga, right. Any others? How about Bosconian? Bosco-what?!
Thatís right, the "other" space game that ran on Galaga hardware. The one
that everyone today seems to have forgotten about (probably because most
Bosconian machines were converted to still-profitable Galaga over the years).
What of the big celebrityís unknown twin brother? Is he as good as his famous
sibling? The answer might surprise you, but I find Bosconian to be a superior
game. Now before all you loyal Galaga fans start howling for my blood, hear
me out. They may be space-shooters with common hardware, but they really are
two different games, so a direct comparison would be foolish. Itís just my
opinion that in the areas which are comparable Bosconian does everything at
least as well as Galaga, and some things better.
Bosconianís gameplay I can best describe as a hybrid of Galaga and Time
Pilot, with its own unique flavor thrown in. Your ship is always in the
center of the screen, but can fly all over the map, which scrolls with the
direction of the ship. Each map has a preset number of starbases, and your
objective is to destroy all the starbases on each map. The starbases are far
from defenseless, sending out ramships, formations, and spy ships to attack
you at a distance, while shooting bullets and launching missiles in close.
The map is also littered with asteroids and mines, making even ordinary flying
hazardous. The ramships gain more speed and cunning with each round, while
the map gets more cluttered with space junk. If you take too long clearing
the map, the game goes into "Condition Red" and throws swarms of baddies at
you until you clear the level or die. The threat of "Condition Red" adds a
good sense of urgency to the game. It encourages the player to be efficient,
but without inspiring undue panic.
Of course, the common hardware means the graphics and sound are very
similar to Galaga, so if you like them on Galaga, chances are youíll like them
on Bosconian, too. Of course it was 1981, but for that time the graphics are
very good, and I think still hold their own even today. The music is decent,
if unspectacular. Sound effects are pretty good, though players not used to
early 80s sound may find them irritating. Bosconian also has something Galaga
lacked, namely speech. Any speech in early video games was a pretty big deal,
and from what I remember, Bosconian was one of those games that made sure
everyone knew it talked. In fact I still remembered Bosconian saying, "Blast
off!" long after I had forgotten the name of the game itself.
What really distinguishes Bosconian from Galaga in my mind is the
challenge factor. Galaga gives you a few stages and a bonus stage, a few more
stages and a bonus stage, etc. Once you learn how the baddies move, the only
thing standing between you and maximum points on Galaga is practice and a bit
of memorization. Bosconian is not like this. The only thing in Bosconian
that is the same every time is the number and placement of starbases on each
level. Otherwise the asteroids, mines, and enemy attacks are never the same
twice. This is quite unlike Galaga, where you always pretty much know exactly
what youíre dealing with. I like a game that I know is going to put up a
fight no matter how good I get at it, and Bosconian, much to its credit, is
one of those games. Itís a shame that Galaga did such a good job pushing
Bosconian out of the spotlight, because Bosconian is a game that should be
much better known than it is.
"Spy ship sighted!" Time to go blow up some more starbases.