When you see the name Cobra Triangle, what comes to mind? A snake probably, right? Or, like, some kind of group of shapes with a triangle? Exactly. Me too. And when you see the cover art for Cobra Triangle, you’ll likely think of the same things beyond the fact that it at least features a giant serpent chilling in front of speedboat that’s running through clearly treacherous waters.
“Wait, what?“, you think to yourself when seeing the speedboat. Why is that Loch Ness Monster-like beast side-eying a speedboat?! That’s when you put the game in your NES (or *cough* emulator *cough*) and start playing.
Oooooh, now it makes sense. I’m a speedboat attacking other speedboats through a water maze and… What. The. Hell.
Yeah, so here’s the thing, Cobra Triangle’s name and presentation don’t make much sense. You’re not offered much of a storyline—like, at all—and you’re left to put the pieces together yourself. I suppose this is wise in some sort of “let’s get the kids to use their imaginations!”-type-of-way, but a semblance of a narrative could have helped this game gain more attention when it was released in 1989. Instead, I feel like its developer (the once-mighty Rare) just put it out there as a means of making more bread. And that’s fine, because it actually ended up being one of the most memorable games from my childhood. But still, if it had been more popular, I feel like a remake or sequel of some sort could have happened.
This is all beside the point, because Cobra Triangle is absolutely insane.
Look, I’m not throwing out this hyperbole to get your attention or make sure you keep reading. It’s just a bizarre game, primarily for the reasons that I mentioned earlier. Again, the protagonist is an unnamed speedboat that is clearly on some sort of mission to save someone, perhaps the world, against an army of other speedboats and giant monsters. There’s the aforementioned serpent, a crab that attacks like it’s scrambling eggs (inside joke, sorry), an octopus that will kill you at least once, and a shark that’s an absolute jerk. That’s right: you don’t really know why you’re going after all these baddies. What you do know, though, is that you have to do it. If you don’t, maybe these bastards will take over the world beyond the seas. CAN YOU IMAGINE THE HORROR?! Also, if you choose to not kill the bad guys, chances are very high they will kill you instead—or at least blow up the speedboat you’re driving around the rivers and oceans.
Because the game was developed by Rare aka the same folks behind R.C. Pro-Am—a game we will surely discuss at another time on this site—the comparisons began rolling out when people played Cobra Triangle. But really, there’s not that much to compare between the two. Yes, you get power-ups much like you do R.C. Pro-Am and there’s a certain racing element to it because you can’t run out of time. However, there are a bunch of other games with very similar elements. A countdown-to-death clock is ubiquitous in titles on early consoles and so is the chance to power-up. To be fair, those power-ups are ones that improve over time as you collect specific items—in Cobra Triangle’s case, golden nugget-like things—so that’s Pro-Am-ish. The same goes for the isometric perspective used in the game, and that’s where the similarities end.
Cobra Triangle is very much its own monster, and it’s one packed with a slew of weird-as-hell things that make it so unique. There are multiple missions where you are literally saving people from being hauled away by opposing boats. What?! There are multiple missions that are damn-near impossible as you’re forced to perfectly time your jumps over waterfalls all while missing tide pools and dealing with shifting currents. If that sounds insane, it is, but I’d like to point you to this article’s title and remind you that the entire game—or at least Rare at the time of its development—is off its rocker.
Further proving that point is the fact you can fly from one stage to the next, but you can never actually fly during gameplay. So, basically, it’s a huge tease watching the propeller emerge from the top of your bad-ass boat… only to watch it disappear for the next few minutes when you land and take on a new group of aqua punks. Why Rare didn’t include least one stage with flying is beyond me, especially because they could have retooled it slightly to have more stages overall. Yes, this is your classic old-school game where there are groups of slightly modified stages being thrown at you before the final battle. The power-ups do allow for a change in gameplay dynamics, though, because if you’re going to be screwed if you don’t get the homing missiles by a certain stage. Like, good luck defeating the crab (the second boss) without them.
To say the world could use an updated/upgraded Cobra Triangle feels redundant after writing all of that, but I’ll say it anyway: THE WORLD COULD USE ANOTHER COBRA TRIANGLE. If it’s possible to raise money and create another River City Ransom, then I believe the same should happen for a gem like Cobra Triangle. We need more over-the-top, Jerry Bruckheimer-levels-of-absurdity speedboat games, damn it.