Saturday 17 March 2018

Beamrider (Atari 2600 review)

Developer: Cheshire Engineering
Publisher: Activision
Released: 1984

Beamrider is a single-screen shooter that was originally released on the Intellivision in 1983.

Your mission is to destroy the Restrictor Shield surrounding Earth, and fight off hordes of aliens. The playfield allows you to move your ship left and right in order to dodge obstacles and shoot down incoming enemies with your laser. Each wave tasks you with defeating 15 alien saucers in order to reach the Sector Sentinel which can only be destroyed by firing torpedoes (Up on the joystick). What makes the game so enjoyable is that it continues to throw new enemy types and obstacles into the mix for the first 12 waves; eventually, the screen becomes littered with dangerous perils and a ton of strategy is required to work around their unique movements and attack patterns. You're constantly kept on your toes, desperately thinking two steps ahead in order to plan your assault. The ability to gain extra lives by refraining from shooting Yellow Rejuvinators is also a good mechanic to stop you from firing away like a maniac! The controls are smooth, and you can easily switch between lanes in an instant to outsmart a tricky opponent. Shooting the end of wave Sector Sentinel is fun and resembles an optional target practice; there's no penalty for not destroying it, but if you do, the clever part is how high score chasers are rewarded with bonus points based on how many lives you have (allowing skilled players to rack up huge totals). The SFX feature satisfying explosions and background noises that create tension with their gradually rising pitch tones. Likewise, the graphics are outstanding due to neat enemy scaling effects and the illusion of depth created by the playfield grid.

Beamrider is a real evolution of the single-screen shooter genre due to its wide range of hazards, staggered enemy additions, and in-depth scoring system. The graphical style is also very impressive, and rather than being cosmetic, it creates a more immersive and claustrophobic atmosphere that compliments the high-quality gameplay.

Random trivia: The game was also released on various 8-bit computers, the Atari 5200, as well as the Colecovision.

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