[The 2600er] Secret Quest


Copyright: 1989

Release Date: December 1989

Developer: Axlon

Publisher: Atari

Deisgner: Nolan Bushnell (Designer), Steve DeFrisco (Programmer)

Code: CX26170

Description

It’s been a long time since I’ve last tackled the hostory of Atari 2600 games and it looked fair to me to give the farewell to year 2019 with another game for the platform, although this time the December release date it’s just a best guess ( I always refer to my trustworthy source randomterrain.com). This time we’re talking about another game that came out very late in Atari 2600 lifespan, made in 1989 and it’s Secret Quest, an ambitious (maybe even too much) space opera that could help but just rely of the limited horse power of the console it was developed for. The game and the setting were out of fashion but they were very suitable for the Atari 2600 history, a console that was born during the space adventures age.


E’ passato parecchio dall’ultima volta che ho affrontato la storia dei giochi per Atari 2600 e mi sembrava doveroso lasciare il 2019 con un altro gioco per questa piattaforma, anche se la data di rilascio a Dicembre di questo gioco è solo una supposizione (faccio sempre rferimento alla mia affidabile fonte randomterrain.com). Questa volta parliamo di un altro gioco che è arrivato molto tardi nella vita dell’Atari 2600, uscito nel 1989 e si tratta di Secret Quest, una space opera molto ambiziosa (forse anche troppo) che poteva solo fare affidamento alla limitatissima potenza della console per la quale fu sviluppata. Il gioco in se e l’ambientazione erano ormai fuori moda ma perfettamente aderenti alla sotria dell’Atari 2600, una console nata nell’era delle avventure spaziali.

Below you find other two images related to the game: the back of the box and the label of the cartridge itself.

We read from the back of the box:

Vicious creatures now occupy eight vital space stations in their effort to conquer our peaceful solar system. It is up to you to destroy these locations and their evil inhabitants in order to save the human race. There are 16 different aliens including such monsters as Laser Gate, Medusa, Bear Trap and Dragon. To eliminate them you’ll need and Energy Sword. But that’s not all. These creatures will use up your oxygen supply and sap your strenght. Destroy them and win back enery pods and oxygen bottles. Find sonic keys to open sonic doors; gain access to the station’s re-entry code and then battle your way to the self-destruct mechanism. Once you have inserted the code get to the teleport chanber fast or you’ll be destroyed along with the space station! It’s furious non-stop action. You’ll need speed, courage, combat skills, and a sharp sense of direction. You and only you are mankind’s last hope. Good luck on your quest!

Ports and legacy

Secret Quest is one of the very last games to be distributed for the Atari 2600 (the last one will be Klax) in a period when the console was virtually dead since many years. However there were still a small market for it and the developers were squeezing the last drops of life to try to earn something more, 12 years after the original debut of the console. During a period when the NES were still on the market since 4 years (6 in Japan) and the Genesis with its 16 bits, after the japanese debut, were already available in America, it’s easy to imagine a very limited distribution of the game that however is not rare as you may think (the sales figures say that it went on to sell 16k copies: even too much for a platform totaly irrelevant and that nobody was caring about). To try to understand the historical context in which Secret Quest it was released it’s enought to say that in the same month in America Golden Axe for the Gensis was released and that Ghouls and Ghostst was on the shelves since October. It’s easy to understand why Secret Quest was quickly forgotten and that no porting or sequels were ever planned for it even thoug, starting from atari Flashback 2, the game has always been featured in the list of titles of the famous replica of the Atari 2600.


Secret Quest è uno degli ultimissimi giochi distribuiti per Atari 2600 (l’ultimo sarà Klax) in un periodo quando la console era virtualmente morta già da molti anni. Tuttavia c’era ancora un piccolo mercato per essa e gli sviluppatori spremettero tutto ciò che c’era da spremere per guadagnare ancora qualcosa, 12 anni dopo il debutto della console. In un periodo dove il NES era già sul mercato da 4 anni (da 6 in Giappone) e il Mega Drive con i suoi 16 bit, dopo il debutto nipponico, era già approdato in America, è lecito immaginare una limitatissima diffusione del gioco che tuttavia non è raro come si potrebbe pensare (le vendite si attestarono attorno le 16mila unità: anche troppo per una piattaforma ormai assolutamente irrilevante e che nessuno da anni considerava più). Per capire meglio in che periodo storico si colloca Secret Quest basti pensare che nello stesso mese in America venne rilasciato per Mega Drive Golden Axe e che Ghouls and Ghosts era sugli scaffali già da due mesi. Non è certo strano quindi che Secret Quest fu in fretta dimenticato e che non siano stati distribuiti porting o seguiti, anche se, a partire dall’Atari Flashback 2, tutte le generazioni della riroduzione del celebre 2600 hanno incluso Secret Quest nella lista dei titoli.

Have you played Secret Quest today?

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