This was when Atari started getting elaborate with their packaging, as a comic book was included with this game that goes into the history of the Yar and the Qotile (which I won't get into), which would all sound incredibly original and all, but the truth of the matter is, Yars' Revenge is actually a rip-off: that's right, it's a bit of a "reverse-engineered" (I guess you would call it) clone of the arcade classic Star Castle.
Star Castle involved a fortress in the center of the screen surrounded by several rings that you had to shoot through in order to destroy it; meanwhile annoying bombs would tail you mercilessly. (Speaking of bombs, it would've been nice if you could have borrowed one from Defender to blow everything up on the screen, but Defender hadn't been created yet, dang it.)
Due to the much-changed graphics and original storyline -- plus I was only about 12 when Yars' Revenge was released -- I NEVER caught the Star Castle similarity until I read about it on the net in the last year. (Slaps forehead...well, like I said, I was 12 or so.)
Anyway, onto this classic game...like I said, you're a giant fly, and your enemy, the Star Castle fortress--uh, I mean the Quotile, sits behind an energy shield, smug as a bug in a rug because fly-thing doesn't have a shield of his own; nyeh! In order to power up your cannon to shoot at the Quotile to destroy it, you must nibble away at the cells of the Quotile's shield (uh, riiiiiight); the shield can either be nibbled away or shot at with your regular missiles until a pathway is cleared so you can fire a shot at the Quotile. Miss, though, and it's back to nibbling away at the shield, or if there's no shield left, if you touch the Quotile, you'll get your cannon then, but if you touch him when he turns into a Swirl (yeah, I know this is sounding weirder and weirder, but trust me, it's classic because...I said so!), you'll die then.
Like Star Castle, there's also a destroyer missile that follows you around and will also kill you upon contact. Instead of the fortress shooting a fireball at you occasionally in Castle, though, the Quotile ITSELF can turn into a deadly Swirl and will launch itself at you at a frenzied speed! Talk about throwing yourself into your work!
One thing that makes this different from Star Castle, though (I mean, besides the fireball/housefly from hell part), is the Neutral Zone, where you can safely reside inside in case you need a breather, as the Quotile's missile won't destroy you then. However, at times the Neutral Zone disappears, and things are gonna get hectic without it...
This is a very fast-paced game indeed, and the great graphics, sounds and controls match up with the pace. Everything works so well here it's almost like this isn't an Atari game, and it's also almost unfair to lump this game up with other stinkers that are involved with the 2600 name, like Pac-Man, anything from Mythicon (which they released only three games for the 2600, which they were all pretty much exactly the same) and Data Age (except for Frankenstein's Monster), etc. The only problem I have with this game, though, is that it does get repetitive after a while, since, once you get good at it, you can go on forever and ever, pretty much, unless you hit the weird glitch where a bunch of letters appear on the screen, which happens after you destroy the Quotile, and you stay at the center of the screen, I think it is (it's been a good 20 years since I played this last).
Still, this is a very interesting, original (idea- story-wise, that is) game, and definitely worth a look, not to mention several plays.
"Yars' Revenge: Kills Bugs Dead" should've been in the ads when it came out, after Atari paid a fee to Raid so they wouldn't be sued. That would've been pretty funny.