By Scott Stilphen
The game is based on the Venture Line arcade coin-op of the same name. The VCS version was programmed under sub-contract by Ed Temple of Individeo for Coleco. It's an 8K game with 4 different game variations for either 1 or 2 players. A sell sheet (shown below) from Coleco's 1983 press kit had this to say: "THE SKY'S THE LIMIT! Get ready to loop, climb and dive your way on a dangerous airborne mission unlike any other! While dodging rising air balloons, you must release the hard-to-open gate controls. Once you've opened the gates, test your flying accuracy through an unearthly maze that's ridden with deadly enemies. It takes a real pro to reach 'THE END'!"
The objective is the same - traverse across 3 different screens of an airport (called Adventure Land in the arcade flyer) and then through the Maze Tunnel (2 different screens) to reach "the end" (last screen). You start with 5 airplanes without any chance to earn more. You're given missions to accomplish before you're able to advance, while trying to avoid or destroy hot air balloons. The 1st mission is to destroy the airport terminal. The 2nd is to destroy the rocket. The 3rd and every mission after is to destroy both. The difficulty ranges from easiest (game 1) to hardest (game 4) - the difference is the length of time it takes for the balloons to become aggressive.
Scoring is as follows:
Bricks (terminal or rocket buildings) - 150 points
Blue Balloon - 200 points
Green Balloon - 500 points
Red Balloon - 800 points
Rocket - 2,000 points
Green Drop - 500 points
Twinkle Monster - 1,000 points
Bouncing Ball - 500 points
Flying Points - The longer your plane survives the pipe maze, the more points you earn (in 40 point increments).
I must warn you now that the balloons are a tough enemy! They can hide in the top and bottom margins, and retain their "place" from screen-to-screen. This means if you're about to go off the screen to the next screen, a balloon that's at the opposite side of the screen will now be on the same side as you (on the next screen). The more time you spend on the airport screens, the more aggressive the balloons will become (denoted by their colors- blue, green, and red).
When your mission is completed, a gate at the end of the airport opens up, allowing you passage into the maze (while also treating you to that familiar musical tune). Once inside, you have to avoid or destroy green drops and a Twinkle Monster to reach the final screen, which requires landing the plane inside a hanger fiercely-guarded by bouncing balls.
Overall, the game is very polished, with nice little animations and sounds. The game is lacking the acceleration button from the arcade game, but you won't miss it. The controls for climbing and diving work opposite from the arcade version, but I find the controls with this version more-intuitive (ex: pulling back make the plane climb). There's also a scoring trick I've discovered (described on the Easter egg entry) that allows you to roll the score. Looping is one lost classic that definitely lives up to that description. I archived the game from Ed English in 2003 and it was released later that year. Here's a copy of the manual that was created for it.
Coleco's flyer for the game.
Reproduction box. 250 boxed copies were made.
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