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Friday, June 10, 2005

Pocket PC Game -- Atomic Cannon

By: The Editor


Atomic Cannon 2.0 builds upon the original game with added weapons, improved game AI, VGA support and various other enhancements.

For the sake of newcomers, this review covers the basics of Atomic Cannon. It features screenshots and has a streaming video that shows off many features and enhancements of the game. (continued...)

The basic premise of the original Scorched Earth was simple: eliminate the enemy tank by any means necessary. It was a basic 2D game created for DOS with very simple graphics; it was simple to play yet difficult to master. There was a host of weapons at your disposal as well as shields and homing devices. Scorched Earth 1.5 is still available for download over the internet, but if your computer is using the latest version of Windows, you may have difficulty getting it to run.

Today, everyone who remembers the joys of Scorched Earth will delight in Atomic Cannon 2.0 In fact, anyone who remembers Scorched Earth will begin drawing comparisons immediately.


The United Nations banned all atomic and nuclear devices and ordered their destruction. Most were destroyed systematically over a period of years, the only remaining nuclear capable devices were in museums and scattered in hidden secret bunkers around the world.

After global chaos erupted in a heated debate centered on a rogue dictator, world powers were battling in small inhospitable environments where only machines could go. As the start of the new world order unfolded, powers needed the most destructive machines they could find to use in battle, aircraft, and ground soldiers could not be used because of the harsh weather and terrain.

Thus began the resurrection of the Atomic Cannons. They were outfitted with as many kinds of ammunition systems as possible to deter the enemy. It is your mission to command our Atomic Cannon and be victorious...

Stream the Video (256K Streaming Windows Media)

Download the Video (2.26MB Windows Media)


• Over 85 of the biggest weapons
• Beautiful scenery with 25 realistic landscapes
• Fully customizable weapon economy
• Death match and round based game modes
• Six professional music tracks totalling 20 minutes
• Play in either Portrait or Landscape modes
• Multiplayer mode to show your friends who is boss
• Up to 16 players with 5 tanks each
• Awesome graphical refractive wave effects
• Endless humor with talking bots
• Scrollable virtual battle fields
• Radioactive effects with damage over time
• Weather effects which react to the wind

The 2.0 update includes the following major changes:
• 35 new weapons were added.
• Fully customizable weapon buying and economy system.
• Native VGA support for very sharp graphics.
• Shields, armor, life, and many new weapon types.
• Improved the computer’s artificial intelligence.
• All new tank graphics with 4 types of tanks.
• Bigger and better explosion effects.
• And around 200 other changes too numerous to list.


Choosing to play a game will bring you to the Start Game menu. Here, you can choose the number of computer and human players (up to 8 of each), the number of tanks per team (up to 5 per player), the game type (rounds or deathmatch), the land size (up to four times the size of the screen), the difficulty setting (10 different levels), and the wind speed (none to high). The two game modes are interesting, allowing you to destroy your enemies completely in deathmatch or compete for points during rounds.

Being a Scorched Earth purist, I chose to play the computer one-on-one, one tank each on one screen. The first thing I noticed was how spectacular the graphics looked! The snowing/raining backgrounds rank among my favorites, but they are all very impressive. Anyone who has played Snails will recognize the gameplay interface using an arrow to aim with the stylus. A more precise description of your power and aim angle is given at the bottom of the screen. At the top of the screen, you and your opponent’s life or points are displayed.

Your tank does have the ability to move, although the controls are vague at best. You can either choose to move a little or a lot, and the stopping location is fairly random, i.e., you cannot choose to move to an exact point. It takes experience to know how far either will take you. There are only a limited number of moves you can make, so if you choose to move, it must be done wisely.

An effortless victory


According to the Atomic Cannon webpage, there are over 85 weapons at your disposal. Once you begin playing games, you quickly realize several of the weapons are identical (or nearly identical). There are several basic types of weapons in the classic Scorched Earth tradition: earth-creating, earth-destroying, and offensive weapons. The weapons’ animations are done well, with smoke trails on the missiles and collateral damage of the nukes. It takes a while to figure out what some of the weapons do—it’s easy to get the hellfires, stingers, and avenger confused. Landscape is destructible, but no napalm, one of my favorite weapons!

One of the biggest flaws of the game is the inability to choose your weapons at the start of a game. All your weapons are assigned randomly. You can be assigned a lot weapons you do not care for; I happen to prefer using offensive weapons and frequently am assigned many earth-creating and earth-destroying weapons. For a 20 round game, you are assigned exactly 20 weapons, meaning you will be using all of them. It does add to the strategy factor of the game, as you must be proficient will all types of weapons to defeat the higher-level computer opponents, but it should be an option to choose your weapons. In deathmatch games where you use all 10 weapons given at the start, you are given one random weapon for each turn thereafter. Something that the upgrade adds for players familiar with Scorched Earth, is the addition of shields and armor to use with your tank.


There are a whole host of options available upon startup involving gameplay, graphics, audio, controls, and players. The wind can be adjusted, the number of rounds and moves changed, the graphic detail and land type selected, the screen orientation set, the controls modified (assigning tasks to the buttons), and the color of your tank chosen. It is highly likely you’ll be able to find settings which you are happy with. Level backgrounds cannot be picked, however—they appear randomly. There is no music in the Pocket PC version, only sound effects.

The various computer difficulty settings allow you to compete against a worthy opponent. The first three setting are fairly easy, and level four is a slight step up. Level five is where the computer uses movement to force you to change aiming angles and power. Difficulty increases slightly with each higher level. By level ten, the weapons you’re randomly allotted at the start really begin to matter (you might have one nuke and he has two). As you might imagine, you can get quite a war going on if you increase the number of opponents and tanks per opponent. You can compete against friends on the same PDA; multiplayer network support would be a great addition to the game.


Basic Facts
Application name: Atomic Cannon
Tested version: 2.0
Author: Isotope244
Download: Pocket PC (1170KB) - XSCALE, ARM Download Demo Version
Registration: US$ 19.95, Purchase at PocketGear.com


From what I’ve seen, this game has a lot of potential for fun and the upgrade makes it more so. The graphics and the weapon animations are outstanding, and there are many gameplay options to keep you returning for another round. I would like to see the option to for multiplayer bluethooth and internet play in a future version. This would make it a more challenging game and a lot more interesting. I encourage all fans of the original Scorched Earth to give Atomic Cannon 2.0 a try.

:: The final rating is 4 out of 5 stars (****)