In Tac/Scan, a space combat shooter game for Atari 2600, the player starts with a squadron of seven individual ships. Throughout the game, ships can be lost in any of the three stages by colliding with a tunnel, getting shot, or coming into contact with an enemy, such as the laser-firing Ahmins from the planet of Ahm.
The player has the ability to earn back and “collect” these ships as the game progresses. The squadron can be reduced to a single ship, but still have several “back-up” ships. However, if the last ship in play is lost, the game ends, even if the player has unused “back-up” ships. This mechanic differs from other games that provide the player with ships sequentially.
Stage 1 involves piloting the ships through waves of attacking enemies. The player can either fire at them or “tac” their ships around them to avoid confrontation. Stage 2 is similar to the first stage, but the perspective changes to a 3-D third-person view from behind the player’s ships. In Stage 3, the player navigates their ships down a space warp tunnel and must avoid touching the tunnel’s sides, or the ships will be lost.
Tac/Scan challenges players to strategically manage their squadron while battling through various stages and obstacles, testing their skills as they progress.