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Space Cavern

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Space Cavern
Cover art
Developer(s)Games by Apollo
Publisher(s)Games by Apollo
Designer(s)Dan Oliver
Platform(s)Atari 2600
ReleaseAugust 25, 1982
Genre(s)Fixed shooter
Mode(s)Single-player, two-player

Space Cavern is a 1982 fixed 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.


Space Cavern gameplay, with the player near the bottom

In Space Cavern, players control the 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 character is situated at the bottom of the screen. Leftward and rightward movements of the joystick correspond to leftward and rightward movements of the character. Moving the joystick upward and downward induces the character to fire left and right respectively. Pressing the controller button results in the character firing upward. The player must shoot enemy creatures that come from the top and bottom before they shoot the player character. Enemy creatures fire beams that cause the player to lose a life whenever contact is made with the character. An extra life is awarded every 2,000 points;[2] points are earned by destroying enemies, with 115 or 165 points awarded for killing an Electrosaurus and 200 points for a Marsupod.[3]

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


Company founder Pat Roper had flown programmer Ed Salvo to a Consumer Electronics Show to show him the Imagic video game Demon Attack. Impressed with Imagic's game, Roper 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 an identical version of Space Cavern under the name Space Canyon the following year,[5] and an Atari 5200 port was started but not completed.[4]

As development neared completion, mounting financial pressures came to a head and Games by Apollo found itself owing nearly $5 million, half of which debt belonged to its advertising agency Benton & Bowles. Games by Apollo faced growing pressure from Benton & Bowles to repay its debts, and a few months after Space Cavern's release, on November 12, 1982, Games by Apollo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Although Roper expected Apollo to "return in smaller form",[6] the company closed in 1983 after reorganization attempts failed.[7]


Review scores
AllGame2/5 stars[8]
Arcade Express7/10[9]

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.[9] TV Gamer's review criticized it for being too simple and not requiring much brainpower.[10]

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 noted its suitability for both young and experienced players.[3] In a review for Video magazine, Bill Kunkel and Arnie Katz did not agree whether Space Cavern's control scheme was unnaturally "cumbersome" or "an exciting departure from the expected". They wrote that the controls were "at least a little controversial" among arcade players.[11]:30 These comments were again reiterated in Video's 1982 Guide to Electronic Games where the control scheme was described as "a little unusual".[12]:52 In a follow-up review for Electronic Games, Kunkel and Katz concluded that the game would entertain arcade players hundreds of times over[13]:60 but criticized the graphics of the enemies.[13]:62 Space Cavern was an honorable mention in the "Best Action Video Game" category at the 1983 Arkie Awards.[14]:108

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".[8] In his book Classic Home Video Games, 1972–1984, Weiss wrote that the game's box art was better than the actual game.[5]


  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. ^ "Vid Game Firm Apollo Files Chapter XI". Billboard. 94 (48). Prometheus Global Media. December 4, 1982. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  7. ^ "AGH – Third Party Profile: Apollo". Atari Gaming Headquarters. January 23, 2005. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Weiss, Brett. "Space Cavern – Review". AllGame. All Media Network. Archived from the original on November 16, 2014. Retrieved July 1, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Space Cavern". Arcade Express. Reese Publishing Company. August 30, 1982. Retrieved July 1, 2014.
  10. ^ "Space Cavern". TV Gamer. Boytonbrook. June 1983. p. 32. Retrieved July 1, 2014.
  11. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (September 1982). "Arcade Alley: Star Wars and Space Caverns". Video. Reese Communications. 6 (6): 30 and 106. ISSN 0147-8907.
  12. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (November 1982). "Video's Guide to Electronic Games". Video. Reese Communications. 6 (8): 47–56, 108. ISSN 0147-8907.
  13. ^ a b Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (October 1982). "Face the Terrors of the Alien Cave!". Electronic Games. Internet Archive. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  14. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (February 1983). "Arcade Alley: The Fourth Annual Arcade Awards". Video. Reese Communications. 6 (11): 30, 108. ISSN 0147-8907.

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