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Mountain King Reviewed by Adam Wallace on . Rating: 64%
Mountain King
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  • Review Score:

  • B-
There are certain games that stick out in my memory for a variety of reasons, good or bad. River Raid stuck out positively with its simple mechanics and endless challenges. Raiders of the Lost Ark stuck out negatively due to its obtuse mechanics and frustrating puzzles that had no clues. Mountain King always stuck out due to its insane difficulty and strange addictive quality that kept me returning for more punishment. I played the Atari 2600 version a lot when I was younger, and the Atari 5200 provides a prettier version of the same addictive pain.

Mountain King has a very simple premise. Your goal is to steal the King's Crown and get it to the top of the mountain. That may sound simple, but the execution provides some real lunacy. After collecting enough diamonds, your goal is to find the Flame Spirit which serves as the key to reach the crown. You home it on its random location by listening to the volume of the music, an absolutely ingenious idea for 1983. After taking the Flame to the altar and getting the Crown, the race to the mountain peak (and the controller-throwing insanity) begins. You have only a minute to get from the altar to the mountaintop while dodging bats that'll steal the Crown if they touch you. Succeeding provides the kind of ecstasy that rivals beating a boss in Dark Souls; failing over and over again provides a bunch of broken controllers.

Mountain King (Atari 5200)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The visuals on the Atari 5200 version are the best of all the console releases. Even though the graphics are still quite simple for the time, the creature designs are better detailed, the scrolling is much smoother, and there's just more going on. The music, which plays a major role in the actual gameplay, sounds richer that the beeping chiptunes of the Atari 2600 version. About the only real fault with the Atari 5200 version is with the controls. Now, for a moment, let's assume you managed to get a 5200 controller other than the crappy, fragile stock controllers that the system came with. Controls are still very slippery. I found myself fumbling several times when trying to kneel to steal the Crown. Since the jumping depends on pressing the stick at an upward angle rather than using one of the buttons, the jumping is not as precise as it needed to be, artificially inflating the challenge.

Mountain King is one of the toughest games of the second generation, reminding me a lot of infuriatingly difficult platformers like Super Meat Boy. It also has that strange addictive quality that makes you want to keep trying over and over. The Atari 5200 version is the best looking version, but, regardless of which second gen console you have, it's worth checking out to see where masochistic difficulty truly started.
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