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Asteroids - The Atari Times


Rock on!
by Darryl Brundage

October 2, 2003
The following is a public service announcement, which may cause drowsiness. Thank you for your cooperation, and you have been warned.

Here's what sounds like a HUGE recipe for disaster for a video game: Rocks. Black and white rocks. A black and white spaceship that SHOOTS rocks. Black and white flying saucers attack.

Asleep yet? Sounds like one of the more boring things ever, right? Well, back then, in "the good old days", when remote controls for TVs weren't very common (huh?!), we didn't listen to CDs (they weren't invented yet), our music platforms were either album, 8-track or reel-to-reel tapes (and if anyone reading this isn't as old as I am, I might've just lost half my audience), and dinosaurs still ruled the earth, the arcade industry was still pretty young back then, so the technology was a bit basic. That's right, there was no speech synthesis (gasp!), no polygon graphics (what?), hell, video games didn't even have BLOOD then! And people STILL whined about the violence in video games back then, like in Berzerk! Oh no, we can't offend our huge robot population here, how politically incorrect can you get by shooting robots?!

So, yes, games containing vector graphics (straight lines rather than blocky raster graphics) didn't have color...yet. That would come later. But Asteroids was still great. After all, you have to remember that Space Invaders was still big, and Asteroids took it's black and white gameplay of shooting to including thrusting, being swarmed from all sides, rather than just above, and those U.F.O.s that were, at first, only a bonus, are now a threat to your survival.

You control a spaceship in this one, with asteroids floating all around...but they won't float around for long, since your ship is armed with an endless supply of missiles. Shoot a big asteroid, it splits into two medium-sized ones, shoot one of those, it produces two small ones (geez, quit multiplying already! Are these asteroids or rabbits?), and then shoot one of THOSE and...oh, that's it, those are destroyed. (Whew!) Unfortunately more and more asteroids appear, plus spaceships, which a stray shot from them can either destroy you or an asteroid, producing an even bigger mess. At least these ships are worth big points though. You can also thrust around to escape being rammed by a stray rock, plus you have hyperspace, which will transport you to a different part of the screen, but you have a one in five chance of blowing up upon re-entry. Such is life in the video game world...or death.

Sheer simplicity, sheer classic, with adequate graphics (for back then), especially with the space dust that flies when you shoot an asteroid, cool sound (which probably sounds archaic today, but those deep EXPLOSIONS! Hmmm, maybe if they were in *stereo*...?), and the control was pretty good. Plus it led to Asteroids Deluxe, Space Duel, Blasteroids, and ports all over the place, two of which I still own to this day, which is Asteroids on my Atari 2600 and 7800 consoles.

Oh, and how did we deal with those rampant dinosaurs as we were trying to enjoy our video games? Easy! We just had them confined to several places like Florida, Arizona, Japan, Australia, and a few other parts around the world (ie I'm talking about lizards).

Arguably the most successful and popular video game of all time.
Much too much detail to show up! Click the image for a larger view.
System: Arcade
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 70%
Sound & Music Score: 85%
Gameplay Score: 87%
Control Score: 100%

Final Score: 85%

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