Aliens are invading Earth and it is up to you to save the world! In Saucer Wars you play the role of Milo Marslender, a rather creative scientist who has made his very own laser turret at home, which is fortunate for him as it is this weapon that he must use against the invading alien saucers. The saucers create rifts in space/time that let them move to different part of the planet at their whim; however, their technology does requires a recharge before it can be re-engaged. Your laser can keep track of this time and when the counter gets to zero, get ready as both you and the aliens will be jumping to a new location. Don’t let this faze you! You have to keep shooting saucer after saucer if you want to save the planet. Don’t give up or it’s the end for humanity!
Such is the story behind Wave 1 Game’s Saucer Wars for the Atari Jaguar. As you may have surmised from the story, this is a shooter where the player controls a twin laser gun to destroy as many saucers as they can in each wave, while avoiding being shot down. Each wave runs for 219 time units (just over 3.6 minutes). Once the timer gets to zero, you are transported to the next section. On screen what you see is the landscape (city, desert, etc) and you have a targeting scope that lights up with the message “target acquired” once you have a saucer within firing range. The timer appears on the top left, the wave number in the top right, with the shield power showing up as a bar in the lower left. Your energy bar appears in the lower right part of the screen.
Though your laser has unlimited fire, you do have to pay attention to your energy bar as the laser will stop working if it gets too hot. You may be tempted to just keep holding the fire button down but that is exactly what you should not do. Believe me, you don’t want to find yourself unable to shoot the saucers as they fly at you relentlessly. You see, if the saucers get too close to you, they will shoot these balls of energy that will deplete your shields. Should you get hit too many times, your shields fail and that’s the end of the game for you. There are seven different types of saucers for you to shoot, each with different point values. Among these are Dreadnoughts, Destroyers, Stealth Ships, Green or Pink Enforcers, Scout Ships and Abductors. The latter ones do exactly that, they abduct humans from the surface! Shoot them before they beam up their human victim! Once you’ve completed the “Terrestrial Stages” of the game, you’ll advance to the “Grid Stages” where the action becomes far more frenetic as now you are moving towards the incoming saucers, which makes them harder targets to hit.
I found Saucer Wars to be enjoyable to play, though I will admit that the action of the game does get repetitive. The Abductor Saucers do add something different to do as you must pay attention to them to rescue the humans caught in their tractor beam. It’s a good thing that there is a distinctive sound effect whenever one of these shows up. This particular aspect of the game is similar to Defender, though here you don’t have to pick up the falling human to save them. Though your gun is pretty powerful (you can shoot down more than one saucer at a time if they are aligned correctly), you have to be mindful of it heating up. This adds an element of strategy to the game as you have to learn how to use your gun efficiently. I think it would have been cool if the game had included power ups to add more variety to the gameplay. Imagine if you suddenly found yourself getting guided missiles, wide-beam lasers, or energy pods that help you replete your shields. Things would become a bit more interesting.
Visually the game looks fine but it won’t win an award for pushing the Jaguar to its limits. The saucers are all large, which makes it easy to identify the type of saucer heading towards you. The displays for time, wave, and score looks sharp and are easy to read. The energy and shield gauges also do their job well. One nifty thing I noticed was what happens to your display when you get hit by the enemy weapons: your screen essentially become a static field so you have no idea where the enemies are. This only lasts for seconds but it might be enough time for another saucer to get close enough to shoot you again. The music and sound effects for the game work well and each area has a distinctive musical tune that plays through. You can listen to the music also before starting the game as there is a menu selection for playing each tune. Controlling your targeting scanner does take some getting used to, though. This is why the game includes a practice mode that let’s you shoot balloons. I recommend giving it a try before going to the actual game.
Saucer Wars is available at the Wave 1 Games web site (https://www.wave1games.net/) in both CD and cartridge format. The packaging includes a glossy manual, an overlay, and a comic book with the story for the game. The repetitive nature of the game (particularly in the early levels) may not appeal to everyone, I still think fun can certainly be had with this title.
Simple shooting action, good sound effects and music, as well as decent graphics make this a fun game to play. More variety added to its gameplay would have taken this up a notch or two.