The Atari VCS constantly surprises me and one of the big surprises for me is just how popular development is on the machine and many developers see it as the ultimate programming challenge with all its limitations and as a result we get to see a lot of output. The Wicked Father is another product of the popularity of that challenge.
The story of the game is kept simple: "playing the unconscionable character of the title who has taken out insurance on both his house and family, you enter his world the moment after he has just trapped them in the basement and flooded the property". But don't let the odd and slightly sinister sounding name and story for a game distract too much from the game itself, this is a gem which is worth digging out your emulator or Harmony cartridge to play.
The game itself consists of you controlling your character in a room of platforms, having to reach a door at the other end or different part of the screen (normally a high up place) to escape that room before it completely floods. Whilst moving around and trying to escape, the water is continuing to rise and will keep at the same level as you move from room to room on that level of the building. You need to pass around three or four rooms before you can move up a floor and to safety from the rising water.
HAVE YOU HAD AN ACCIDENT AT HOME OR AT WORK?
There is no time to lose and, the quicker you get through a room with the water still at a manageable level, the better your chances are on the next screen of progressing. If you fall into the water, control becomes more difficult as you try and swim and jump out for safety; stay under for too long and your oxygen will deplete gradually (represented by a series of bars that appear on the side of the screen) until you die and float to the top.
As you progress through the game, the obstacles in each room become harder to negotiate; even at the start, some of the jumps required are pretty pixel perfect - creating a challenge from the off. This may put off some game players who prefer a more gradual increase of difficulty to get them into things. Dying is a bit of a pain as well, as if you have drowned and the flood level is pretty high, the game waits for you to float up to a platform before moving you on.
Graphically the game is kept very simple, but is pretty much standard Atari VCS - but with some nice gradient shading to make up in places. Animation is very limited, as the focus is more on the gameplay mechanics. Presentation is fairly simple with a functional title screen. Sound wise, Junosix makes superb use of the sound chip with some cool synthy music on the title screen, making use of the hardware's very raw sounds. Sound within the game itself is very minimal, but functional enough.
What is pretty impressive is that this seems to be Junosix's first attempt at coding for the machine, so just what else he could produce next I do not know. There isn't a large amount of variety to hold your attention for a very long period apart from the different rooms, but it is the difficulty curve and frustration caused by your own errors which causes you to keep replaying and wanting to beat the game. However, as mentioned earlier - the game could well put off some game players for being a tad too hard to start, and with the controls being a bit too tight. Certainly one of the best Atari VCS games though that have come about in recent years, and I hope to see more from Junosix in the future!