Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Countdown to Doomsday


Review by · November 28, 2000

Long before Lucas ever dreamed up the noble Jedi knight…
Long before the Vulcans could tell the difference between a mind meld and a pop tart…
Long before the Robinson’s robot ever flailed his hooks about wildly…
There was…

In 1928, the Depression-era world first saw what would soon become a national icon. Anthony “Buck” Rogers was born in the August issue of Amazing Stories. Over the decades, Buck went on to conquer radio, TV, and even the silver screen, but like his contemporary Flash Gordon (a no-talent hack, by the way), he faded into all but obscurity in his later years. However, a few video games were created in his honor, including Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Countdown to Doomsday. Here’s my review.

No one knows where he came from. There are many rumors, but all of them are conflicting. Some say he was an astronaut who got stuck in cryo-sleep for 500 years. Others say he got caught in a landslide and was kept alive by radioactive materials. And we cannot forget those who claim that he was frozen at the North Pole for centuries. However, all will agree that the great Buck Rogers has done more for the New Earth Organization, or NEO, than any other man. Not only has he gone on countless nearly impossible missions against the evil Russo American Mercantile with flawless performance, but he has also inspired countless denizens of the solar system to take up arms for the defense of the Earth’s greenery.

We are just one of those groups of concerned people. If we are fortunate, we may survive our first battles against the horrible gennies. Perhaps we shall destroy a RAM base and free a planet from slavery. Maybe, if we are truly lucky, we will even wind up saving the entire solar system from the enemy’s evil claws! And of course, there is always that miniscule hope of all hopes that somehow, somewhere, we might just do the impossible – get Buck’s autograph…


BR: CDtDD is a primitive strategy game with a few pen-and-paper RPG elements mixed in. Your job is to explore the solar system for enemy bases in order to help destroy the Doom’s Day device, but most of that time is spent exploring the many dungeons with your six highly customizable heroes. You start out by building your party out of three races (Human, Desert Runner, and Tinker) and four possible careers (Warrior, Rocket Jock, Rogue, and Medic), each with their own randomized stats. The game lets you reroll your stats as often as you wish, allowing for a party of super humans if you’re patient enough to wait for those perfect stats to roll up. After you’ve decided on that, you get to decide which skills your characters will have, such as Demolition and Stealth. While some abilities are useful in battle, others help out while exploring and destroying the enemy bases. There are 10 levels to each skill, and for each experience level you gain, you get four more levels to assign to your skills.

As you explore the many enemy facilities and such, set events will occur. These range from something as simple as finding a cache of grenades to being attacked by an evil alien mind-control pod. Depending on which skills you decided to train your characters in and what course of action you choose to take, you will be capable of taking advantage of (or at least surviving) these surprises. Due to the fact that you only get so many points and that it takes a long time to gain levels, you must always be careful when assigning points. The many secrets that you are sure to miss on one trip through the game almost force you to go through again.

Obviously, the game would not be complete without a wonderful little battle system, and the game’s makers made sure not to leave it out. As you perform your espionage wonders, you are forced into some combat situations from time to time. Whenever an enemy attacks, the game zooms into battle mode. The battlefield is an expanded version of the area you were in when you got into the fight, occasionally cluttered with plant growth and other obstacles.

Combat consists of turns, and combat order is randomly chosen. Each character gets a chance to move, change gear, and attack each turn, but sadly, there are no magic spells or special moves. Each weapon type has its own strengths and weaknesses though, preventing the battles from being boring and repetitive. For example, shooting a mirror-coated robot with a laser is less effective than hitting it with a rocket launcher.

Once you defeat the enemy units, you gain the usual credits and experience along with whatever spoils are there. The battles are simple, but they are very enjoyable, aside from the slightly bothersome loading times.

Also, when in space, you can enter spaceship combat. Your trusty vehicle, the Maelstrom Rider, occasionally encounters enemy ships, and depending on your actions, you may wind up in a galactic dogfight. Space battle takes place from your ship’s view screen, and each side gets to take turns trying to blow up the other. You can try to close in on the enemy, fire lasers and such at them, ram them, or even board them if you can cripple them enough, but all of that depends on the skill of your pilots. If their Piloting skill is less than the enemy’s, then you may wind up being blown to pieces by the faster ship before you can fire. Space combat is based on luck far more than on skill, and like the more terrestrial form of fighting, has a decent difficulty level. Don’t expect to beat off a heavy RAM cruiser without some sort of scratch.

All in all, the game is rather unique and definitely has a few things you haven’t seen before. When I first got it, I thought it would be a waste of time, but I am pleased to say that this game should have gotten more publicity and fame than it did. As a final plus to the game, there is a save-anywhere option included that really helps out at times. Gameplay gets an 89%.

BR (let’s just leave it at that for the rest of the review) is quite ugly. It’s not gruesome-zombie-ugly or South-Park-ugly. No, this is corny-eight-year-old-kid-drawn-comic-book-ugly. Outside of combat, you control a goofy astronaut who wanders through one high-tech fortress after another, not seeming to realize that every area of the game is simply a different colored version of the last place. Even the town layouts were the same. The repetitiveness of the areas got on your nerves after a while, even if the quality of it wasn’t horrible. The battle graphics were similarly poor.

Once combat starts, you view your party of extra-small characters facing off against the enemy party’s extra-small characters. With only the exceptions of a few specialty enemies, none of the characters were larger than those of such NES games as Dragon Warrior, but they were actually animated to a point. Weapons fired off cheesy laser beams and missiles that were rather bland, but some of the bigger weapons did have decent explosions and flame storms. It was dull, but not unbearable.

When in space battle, things got better. The enemy ships were large and colorful, and each type had its own particular appearance. As you fired your K-Cannons and missiles, you could see the damage done to the foe, and as its condition got worse and worse, so did the image on screen. Once it died, it would explode into a million tiny pieces in that satisfying way that ships tend to explode.

One of the only other good parts was that when you would reach a random event like brain chiggers trying to eat you or lasers firing at you, a small, animated screen would show up and let you see what was going on with a little movie. While most information on your surroundings is given to you in text form, the visual aids were helpful and had a good amount of detail. Graphics get a 73%.

Depending on you tastes, you will either love or hate the music in this game. When considering words to describe it with, I am instantly reminded of that classic TV hit “Lost in Space”. If you can stand the theme song to that show, then you will love the grainy and motivational Buck Rogers tunes that are played throughout. If you can’t, then I’m afraid that you will have to hit the Mute button and just play something else. Sadly, this is one of those games where the music, although a bit ridiculous, helps set the mood and really holds it all together.

As for sound effects, the game is okay. While the lasers sound like lasers and the needle guns sound like needle guns, you will undoubtedly wonder where they got the noise for your heat ray. Screams and roars were included, as well as a few nice explosion sounds. There was some voice acting used for countdowns and such, but it was quite rare and not very good. Sound/Music gets an 80%.

If this game did anything worthy of praise, it was getting the feel of the real thing correctly. As the tale of sinister evil unfolds, you will be shown so many cheap plot twists and predictable characters that you’ll be sure to crack a smile or two. You are forced to deal with the noble Martian Desert Runners, the kind-yet-creepy Venusian Lowlanders, and even the evil and greedy French frogmen (sorry Feena) of Mercury. It’s all so poorly planned out, random, and pathetic that you have to love it.

The execution was also done admirably. Although character development is almost nonexistent, each of the many people you meet has just a bit of individuality that lets you understand why they do what they do. It is done in a way that makes it seem less like a video game and more like a bad, low budget, sci-fi adventure series, a concept that, somehow, has always seemed to work. I don’t know why, but I liked it. Storyline gets an 86%.

The controls were a bit strange in one area, but not quite bad. As you walked about outside of battle, your vertical motion was slanted at an angle that takes a while to get used to. Also, in battle, you occasionally have trouble moving diagonally, and there is no way to call off your move. Sometimes, that one square of motion you miss can have big impacts on the battle, but it isn’t that big of a problem usually. Controls get an 80%.

By the way, if you happen to be playing through this kooky little adventure and get stuck at some point, check out my walkthrough at www.gamefaqs.com! I almost guarantee that all of your questions will be answered, and if you have any tips, cheats, bits of info, or other things for me that I left out, send them in for a spot in the Special Thanks section. For more information on Buck Rogers and his amazing adventures, check out www.buck-rogers.com. It’s your one-stop Bucky shop!

If you have played through countless medieval RPGs and feel that one more dragon slaying will drive you out of your mind, this may just be the game for you. It lacks the wonderfully written plot and magnetic characters that make many games great, but it just keeps you interested in its own special way. It’s got an okay difficulty rating, especially if you find the secret areas, and if you don’t mind spending the money, I’d have to recommend all of you who are looking for something different to try this out. Overall, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Countdown to Doom’s Day gets an 88%, and I’m just glad I won’t have to write that out again for a long time.

Gameplay – Will Buck manage to stop the nuclear meltdown before all is lost? Tune in next week for… 89%
Graphics – I could draw a better astronaut. 73%
Sound/Music – DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!!! 80%
Storyline – Stan Lee would be proud. 86%
Controls – No big problems. 80%
Overall – Good to the last drop. 88%

Overall Score 88
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Andrew DeMario

Andrew DeMario

Andrew went by several names here, starting as a reader reviewer under the name Dancin' Homer. Later known as Slime until we switched to real names, Andrew officially joined RPGFan as a staff reviewer in 2001 and wrote reviews until 2009. Andrew's focus on retro RPGs and games most others were unwilling to subject themselves to were his specialty.