Power Lords! Who among us doesn't remember the adventures of Adam Power and his struggles against the dastardly Arkus and his band of evil warriors. If you don’t recognize the name it’s probably because the toy line and associated comic book crashed and burned so fast most people didn’t even take notice. However someone at North American Phillips (NAP) must have thought that Power Lords was going to be a huge hit because games were developed for the 2600, Colecovision, and Odyssey 2. Of these games only the Odyssey 2 version was released (barely) and is considered to be the rarest US released game for the system. All three versions play similarly, but the 2600 and Colecovision versions have an additional stage which makes the game a little more interesting (although that’s not saying much).
The first stage of the game takes place at what appears to be the giant volcano Volcan Rock (Adam Power's base in the series). The goal of this stage is to fly your ship into the volcano and enter the underground base. Of course there's a catch, and in Power Lords that catch takes the shape of a giant freakin' snake! Yes there's a giant snake that shoots lasers from it's eyes guarding the crater. Why? Because this was the 80's and that's what giant snakes did back then ok? So how does one destory a giant laser beam shooting snake? By shooting it of course!
Of course it's not that easy (is it ever that easy?). You can't simply shoot the snake in the head and expect it to go down. No no no... For what ever reason this snake's head is indestructible, so the only way to damage it is to shoot it in it's neck. However in order to get it to show it's neck you'll have to get in close and lure it out of it's little hidey hole and quickly zip down to take a few shots. Keep in mind that the lasers the snake shoots are seriously fast, so this is much harder than it sounds. Adding to the misery are a few ships (one or two depending on your level) which will fly around the top of the screen taking shots at you if you get to close. Also crashing into the ships, snake, or ground it deadly so watch where you're flying! After five shots to the neck (you'll know you scored a hit when the snake changes to a lighter color) he'll hightail it back into the volcano and you're free to enter.
The second stage take place in what appears to be an underground base. The screen looks suspiciously similar to the 2600 version of Zaxxon, which if you've played the 2600 version of Zaxxon you'll know isn't a good thing. Cruddy background graphics aside, this stage is a bit easier than the previous one. Here you must control Adam as he blasts the approaching aliens (which are supposed to represent Arkus and his followers) while avoiding their shots. The aliens will move down the screen at an average pace which gets faster and faster each level. Adam can only move left and right on this stage and he can't move beyond the corridor walls, so make sure you don't get trapped against the side or you'll be a sitting duck. In the Colecovision version there are doors along the corridor you can enter and grab items for points, but they're strangely absent in this version. After shooting a few aliens (or avoiding them) you'll be taken back to the crater screen to try entering the base again.
Power Lords sports four levels of difficulty (with requisite one and two player modes) which control how fast the snake moves, how fast the enemy ships move, and how many ships appear. It also controls how fast the robots move and shoot in the underground section of the game. The starting difficulty it pretty tough, so beginners should try level 7 (slow, one player) until they get used to the game. Although you start out with five lives, you'll find that they go pretty fast.
The 2600 version of Power Lords suffers from the same problem all the other versions suffer from. It's not all that fun to play! The first stage is kind of interesting, but the underground stage feels tacked on and doesn't play nearly as well. The overall difficulty of the game is also rather high, so it makes what appears to be an average game even less fun to play. Had Power Lords been released, it probably would have ended up in the bargain bin faster than the action figures did.