Sunday 31 May 2015

Asteroids (Atari 7800 review)

Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Released: 1986

Asteroids is a space shooter that was built directly into Atari 7800 consoles and it could be played if no cartridge was inserted. 

The objective is to gain a high score and you'll face wave after wave of asteroids and UFOs that shoot towards you. Button 1 fires your weapon while Button 2 transports you to another part of the screen. Once you shoot an asteroid it smashes into smaller and smaller pieces that move with greater speed. Holding any direction on the d-pad will move your ship around and it continues its motion for a short while afterwards. In my opinion, it's only worth doing this as a last resort as staying in the centre of the screen covers you from crashing into an asteroid as they can disappear on one side of the screen and reappear on the other. Your bullets can do the same so you don't always have to shoot in the correct direction to hit something. The only slight issue I found is that you can't fully fire in a 360° motion and instead you can only shoot in smaller increments; it's possibly a limitation of the controller but there are times when you can't quite line up with an asteroid that is staring you in the face. In two-player mode you take turns until someone loses a life whereas Competition Play is co-op but you're vulnerable to each other's bullets. The best mode is Team Play though as it's similar to the latter but you can't be hit by friendly fire. The graphics are detailed and the asteroids rotate to show their texture mapping; they also have some nice shading that almost looks like a drop shadow to add depth. There's no real music but the SFX are great with big explosions and a constant heartbeat noise that sounds like Jaws is approaching!

Asteroids is a great update over the Atari 2600 version and the inclusion of a co-op mode is brilliant. While it doesn't add much new to the actual gameplay it looks and plays fantastic and if you're a fan of high score shooters you'll likely enjoy this one.

Random trivia: The World Record in the arcade version of Asteroids stood for 28 years until John McAllistair broke it in 2010 with a score of 41,338,740.

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