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Asteroids Deluxe - The Atari Times

Asteroids Deluxe

How do you screw up a classic?
by Matthias Jaap

September 4, 2001
One of Atari's all-time classics is Asteroids. Can the updated ST version live up to its famous ancestor?

One of the things that almost all shoot 'em ups have in common is the crazy space ship pilot who has nothing better to do than to fly alone against a whole alien armada with hardly any support. While the pilot battles for the survival of the human race, the rest of mankind enjoys watching his battle and has a good time. You play, obviously, the space ship pilot in Asteroids Deluxe. Asteroids was one of Atari's most famous arcade games and was even built into certain 7800 models and was and delivered as a pack-in product for the ST. Atari sold an Atari 520STFM with a couple of games in Britain and Asteroids Deluxe was one of them. It was also one of the few ST games that were programmed by Atari themselves.

For all of those who are not familiar with Asteroids here is a short description of the gameplay. You control a ship in an area of space that is filled with lots of asteroids. The ship can activate laser bombs to destroy the asteroids. If you hit a big or medium asteroid it will be split into smaller and faster ones. You can not travel freely - only rotating clockwise and anticlockwise is possible. There is also a thrust available which starts the ship's engines for a short time.

In addition to the asteroids there are also some nasty alien ships which move around the screen and shoot at you. Asteroids Deluxe introduces new alien types: there is an alien ship which releases smaller objects once you hit it for the first time. These objects start chasing you around the screen. The second addition is the force shield which protects you from laser fire and asteroids for a short time. One feature of the first Asteroids is missing: the hyperspace. However, it has been replaced by the shield feature.

The original arcade game was one of the first games that utilized vector graphics. The ST version, however, uses animated bitmaps. These asteroids look plain and boring and it wouldn't have been very difficult to have more than three different looks for the objects. They are also perfectly round and look more like a moon than asteroids. The ship is easily recognizable and is just an orange triangle. The laser fire consists of tiny red spots which are hard to see. The explosions are nothing special and look like the graphics designer has discovered the spray can for the first time.

There is no music in the game just sound effects. The monotone sound in the background is the classic Asteroids "theme." Which, of course, is meant to sound like the pounding of the player's heart. The more asteroids are on the screen, the faster the pounding, the more excited the player gets.

It always remains a mystery to me why Atari never choose to sponsor a major innovative game concept instead of just porting over one game from their classic game library. At that time, Megaroids was available which is in many ways similar to Asteroids Deluxe but runs in mono and color resolutions. The only addition to the arcade version is a title screen. There are now much better versions of Asteroids available - Asteroids Deluxe looks and sounds boring.

Bottom line: This simple remake of an arcade classic misses both the classic-ness of the arcade original and lacks any innovative ideas.

Cool looking ship, but that's about the only thing cool in this rendition of Asteroids.
I like the look of the asteroids, but it just doesn't compare to the vector splendor of the original.
Asteroids Deluxe
System: Atari-ST
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 22%
Sound & Music Score: 8%
Gameplay Score: 45%
Control Score: %

Final Score: 38%

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