A closer look at: Super Demon Attack

Title: Super Demon Attack
Platform: TI-99/4a
Publisher: Imagic
Year: 1983

They just don’t make cover art like they used to.

Demon Attack was one of those games you could almost trip over back in the day. It was everywhere. Originally an Atari VCS title (and supposed knockoff of the Atari arcade game Phoenix), Imagic ported it to just about every major console and computer platform available at the time. The usual suspects like the Intellivision, Atari 400/800, and Commodore 64 received a port, and even relatively obscure machines like the IBM PCjr., TRS-80 Color Computer and Odyssey 2 played host to a port of Demon Attack.

Texas Instruments’ TI-99/4a computer was no exception. Though the addition of the “Super” prefix on the TI-99/4a version would have you believe that it is a sequel to the original game, it is actually yet another port of the original Demon Attack…but snazzier.

In a premise normally reserved for antagonists more extraterrestrial than demonic, Super Demon Attack places you in control of a laser cannon on the moon, where you are Earth’s last defense against an onslaught of invading demons (though why they throw themselves at you on the moon instead of just going straight to Earth is anyone’s guess). You fire up at them, destroying waves of invaders before flying up to meet the master demon ship, referred to by the instruction manual as Pandemonium.

The visuals in Super Demon Attack are fairly striking.  The same can be said for its ominous music, which does not appear in any other version of Demon Attack. The background graphics are very crisp, if not as detailed as those of the Commodore or PCjr. versions. But even before starting the game, this is already a better-looking and better-sounding Demon Attack than most of the other versions.

But the in-game graphics are where Super Demon Attack really earns its “Super” moniker. For starters, the enemies encountered in Super Demon Attack are no longer the generic swooping bird- and bug-like things found in other Demon Attack games, but rather are decidedly and identifiably, well, demonic. Instead, we have things that resemble snake-haired monkey heads (“Medusa Monkeys,” as I like to call them), bat-winged skulls, monster spiders, tentacled goblins, two-headed dragons. and flying vampire snakes. Each of these monsters gets its own unsettling musical theme, as well.

Beware these possessed ruffians and their lethal Lawn Jarts!

As if that weren’t enough, there’s also a boss level (this is missing in the Atari 2600 and Odyssey versions). Tangentially, as a veteran of other versions of Demon Attack, I expected this the first time I played Super Demon Attack; I’d seen the big angry cheeseburger-looking thing in the Intellivision edition and the snaggletoothed cyclops demon in the Commodore port. What I didn’t expect was that it would be a gargantuan goat-horned Cyberdemon overlord straight out of Doom, sitting on the throne of hell itself. Surely this must be the game’s ultimate enemy? Well, as if that weren’t enough, once the Cyberdemon’s guard is defeated, the disembodied head of Dracula appears and spits fireballs at you from behind the cover of an indestructible giant eyeball. Surprise!

And as if THAT weren’t enough…Dracula seems to have invisible hair. Verily, his sorcery knows no bounds.

The Cyberdemon’s first job out of college -as Dracula’s henchman- before landing his big break in Doom. No, but seriously, he WILL eat your soul.

For a 1983 game, this is some freaky stuff. Even in 2011, the first time I played this, I was a little taken aback by it. Playing Super Demon Attack after playing other TI-99/4a games -innocuous knockoffs of popular and equally innocuous arcade games, or said arcade games themselves- is like going from The Brady Bunch to The Exorcist, in a delightfully wacky kind of way.

Super Demon Attack is very different from every other rendition of Demon Attack. But the most important thing that it shares with them is that it’s a damn fun game to play. Its speed and pace aren’t as frantic as those of its siblings, but the excellent music, sharp graphics, solid gameplay, and occult twist make this one definitely worth exploring for ’99ers and the TI-curious. I’d easily categorize it as one of the best games available for the TI-99/4a.

Super Demon Attack was originally intended to feature voice synthesis when used with the TI’s Voice Synthesizer, but this was taken out of the game. We are left to wonder how much more amazing this game would have been…

(Now, what does anything about this game have to do with silver space dinosaurs with airplane parts and missiles shoved up their asses?)

(c) 2012 Jeffery Koss


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