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Space Cavern

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Space Cavern
Developer(s) Games by Apollo
Publisher(s) Games by Apollo
Platform(s) Atari 2600
Release date(s) August 25, 1982
Genre(s) Action
Mode(s) Single-player, two-player

Space Cavern is a 1982 shooter video game for the Atari 2600 developed and released by Games by Apollo. Players control a spaceship commander who has landed on a planet and must defend the ship against its hostile creatures. Games by Apollo founder Pat Roper was impressed by the game Demon Attack and tasked Apollo member Dan Oliver with making a game very similar to it. The game was later rereleased as Space Canyon.


Space Cavern gameplay, with the player near the bottom

In Space Cavern, players control a commander of an intergalactic spaceship that is traveling through a previously unknown area in space. The spaceship lands on a mysterious planet inhabited by creatures known as Electrosauri and marsupods, who attempt to attack the crew of the ship.[1]

The player is situated at the bottom of the screen. Moving the joystick left and right moves the character, while moving it up fires left and down fires right. Pressing the button fires upward. The player must shoot the creatures, which come from up and down. If the player touches the beams that are fired by the creatures, they lose a life. An extra life is awarded every 2,000 points;[2] points are earned by destroying enemies, with around 100 being awarded for killing an Electrosaurus and 200 for a marsupod.[3]

There are twenty-four gameplay variations included in Space Cavern; each are playable by one or two players and are activated by modifying the 2600's difficulty switches. The variations include the number of enemies, their speed, the direction of their lasers,[2] and the inclusion of marsupods.[3]


Space Cavern was developed by Games by Apollo. Company founder Pat Roper had flown programmer Ed Salvo out to a Consumer Electronics Show to show him the Imagic video game Demon Attack. Roper, impressed with Imagic's game, decided he wanted to produce one similar to it. He told developer Dan Oliver what he wanted in the game without disclosing his inspiration.[4] Space Cavern was released in 1982. Game publisher Panda rereleased Space Cavern as the identical Space Canyon the following year,[5] and an Atari 5200 port was started but not completed.[4]


Review scores
Publication Score
Allgame 2/5 stars[6]
Arcade Express 7/10[7]

The reviewer for Arcade Express magazine was positive about Space Cavern. The review praised the graphics of the player's death, while criticizing the design of the enemies, and finished the review by opining the game would be more suited for skilled players.[7] TV Gamer‍ '​s review criticized it for being too simple and not requiring much brainpower.[8]

Videogaming Illustrated compared the game positively to Phoenix, and believed that it was "arguably the best space game on the market." The writer opined that it was Games by Apollo's best game, and finished by saying "certainly it is one of the few videogames which offers levels of play suitable for young children as well as for the best players."[3] Bill Kunkel and Arnie Katz wrote that Space Cavern "ought to provide arcade aces with an enjoyable invasion game that will last through hundreds of replays"[9] but criticized the graphics of the enemies.[10]

Brett Alan Weiss, writing for Allgame, gave the game two out of five stars. Weiss wrote the game was not "a particularly engaging gaming experience" and referred to it as "an interesting failure. The designers had a couple of good ideas, but the execution of those ideas in conjunction with the shoot-'em-up action is second rate."[6] In his book Classic Home Video Games, 1972–1984, Weiss wrote that the game's box art was better than the actual game.[5]

A few months after Space Cavern‍ '​s release, Apollo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on November 12, 1982 due to pressure from its advertising agency Benton & Bowles, whom Apollo owed about $4.5 million in debt. Although Roper expected Apollo to return in "smaller form",[11] the company closed in 1983 after reorganization attempts failed.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Space Cavern – Game Instructions". Games by Apollo. August 25, 1982. pp. 3–5. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Schwartz, Michael; Dykman, Joan (February 18, 2003). "Space Cavern – Overview". AllGame. All Media Network. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Conquering: Space Cavern". Videogaming Illustrated. Ion International. October 1982. pp. 25–26. ISSN 0739-4373. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Stilphen, Scott (December 5, 2010). "DP Interviews... Ed Salvo". Digital Press. Retrieved June 7, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Weiss, Brett (March 7, 2012). Classic Home Video Games, 1972–1984: A Complete Reference Guide. McFarland & Company. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7864-8755-4. 
  6. ^ a b Weiss, Brett. "Space Cavern – Review". AllGame. All Media Network. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Space Cavern". Arcade Express 1 (2). Reese Publising Company. August 30, 1982. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Space Cavern". TV Gamer. Boytonbrook. June 1983. p. 32. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  9. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie. "Face the Terrors of the Alien Cave!". Electronic Games. Internet Archive. p. 60. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  10. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie. "Face the Terrors of the Alien Cave!". Electronic Games. Internet Archive. p. 62. Retrieved July 14, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Vid Game Firm Apollo Files Chapter XI". Billboard 94 (48) (Prometheus Global Media). December 4, 1982. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  12. ^ "AGH – Third Party Profile: Apollo". Atari Gaming Headquarters. January 23, 2005. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 

External links[edit]