Sunday 17 April 2016

Asteroids (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Released: 1981

Asteroids is a single-screen shooter that was first released in the Arcades in 1979.

The objective is to gain a high score by facing waves of asteroids, Satellites and UFOs that dart towards you. The fire button shoots, Down on the joystick transports you to another part of the screen, while holding a direction moves your ship around. You're constantly kept alert by the asteroids that come in varying shapes and once shot they break into smaller, faster pieces that fly off in unpredictable directions. The gameplay is repetitive, yet highly addictive, and the occasional entry of Satellites and UFOs shift the gameplay as they have the ability to shoot back; this forces you to change tactics and focus on quickly destroying them, all the while dodging asteroids. It's great fun and what helps to ratchet up the intensity further is the terrific heartbeat sound effect that harkens back to Space Invaders (1978, Arcades). The controls are excellent too with high responsiveness and smooth rotation of your ship. The game has tons of replayability due to the large number of options on offer; for example, certain modes include a shield which you can use for two seconds at a time, while others allow you to flip your ship around 180° by pressing Down on the joystick. One issue is that your ship can't completely fire in a 360° motion which sometimes leaves you high and dry when an asteroid is approaching. The game also has a habit of dropping you back into a precarious position once you've lost a life which can feel quite cheap. There is some sprite flicker but nothing that affects gameplay. While the graphics are basic the 2600's pallet is put to good use with various colours on screen at the same time.

Asteroids is a fantastic shooter that still holds up well today thanks to its excellent controls and simplistic, yet addictive, gameplay. It has tons of modes on offer that all play well and in my opinion this is a must-own for the 2600, especially if you have a group of friends to battle in a high score competition!
Random trivia: The game was updated in 1986 and released as a built-in game on Atari 7800 consoles.

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