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Asteroids - The Atari Times


Making the galaxy safe once more in Asteroids!
by Darryl Brundage

November 10, 2003
Hey, you wanna hear something funny? Check this out: when a bunch of experts evaluated several certain games several years ago, they gave their "expert" opinions on what would and wouldn't work in the arcades.

Asteroids was one of them.

And how'd they summarize it? They said it was "'too dull -- the graphics are boring'". They predicted that it, along with Pac-Man and Defender, would all be big flops--ah HA HA HA HA HA HA! (Source: JoyStik magazine, September, 1982, issue #1, "Future Waves" column)

Yeah, Asteroids was suuuuuuuch a flop that it was followed by Asteroids Deluxe, Space Duel, Blasteroids (several years later) and it was released on all kinds of platforms and re-releases years later. Pretty pathetic! (Maybe those "experts" also predicted a few years later that the movie Ishtar would also be a big hit; do you think these guys work in the entertainment industry anymore?)

And, of course, hot off the heals of the huge arcade smash (oh, and speaking of certain peoples' heads I wanna smash in..."experts", chuckle) came the 2600 port of the game.

Unfortunately, Asteroids had to have a pretty big cosmetic change, since the original arcade version's graphics consisted of vector (straight lines), while the 2600 had to rely on a tv's raster graphics (squares basically) to create the look, and it would turn out to be a bit of an ugly one at that. Back then, arcade games had much more power and memory, while the home systems at the time had considerably less powerful hardware, so emulating vectors on the 2600 -- not to mention a LOT of them -- was totally out of the question (although Starpath would succeed in a sort of vector look with their Suicide Mission game, but of course their Supercharger increased the 2600's RAM memory big time in order for this to be possible). However, if you overlook the graphics, this is a decent adaption of the arcade game, as long as you put the difficulty switch on A (which I'll get to that in a minute).

Unless you've spent most of your life in a cave, you already know the gameplay: it consists of you controlling a squadron of ships in space totally filled with asteroids (I'll bet the real estate out there isn't worth diddly). One hit splits a full-sized asteroid into two medium-sized rocks, a shot to one of those will turn it, in turn, into two small ones, and finally shooting one of those will destroy the small asteroid for good.

Unfortunately with rocks and shots (hey, maybe that was the original name for this game?) flying everywhere on the screen, things are going to get pretty messy -- not to mention crowded -- so pressing thrust is a must (man, I gotta quit rhyming here...) in order to get your ship out of a tight situation, and hyperspace will instantly transport your ship elsewhere, but you could end up in a worse situation than before ("is the glass half full or half empty?" you gotta ask yourself constantly while playing) or you could blow up upon re-entry (sigh, no-frills travel...). Also making things interesting are U.F.O.s that come out from time to time and shoot at you, but they're worth a lot of points if you can nail them; I don't know where they come from or why they're shooting at your ship (maybe they saw Ishtar?), but aliens are usually the bad guys in any video game, and Asteroids is no exception.

If you ignore the blah graphics, though, this is a good version, although the game DOES look pretty ugly: the only cool-looking graphics in here are the small asteroids and the U.F.O.s, in my opinion. (I also heard from a friend's friend that he thought this game sucked because "the asteroids were pink", but hey, kids will be kids [i. e. they'll say stupid things], so if he wanted to miss out on a fun game, so be it!) The sound fares a little better, though, especially in regards to the U.F.O.s when they emerge, but not by much, as the sound is also kind of boring. 

One big mistake Atari made, though, was that the instant you shot the last onscreen asteroid, a new batch of rocks from outer space hell would instantly appear, which would kill you if you were at the left or right side of the screen (where new ones always appear), since you got a pause for a few seconds on the original in between waves. However, you learn from this mistake fast, so it's no biggie, really, and at least the controls respond decently anyway, which will help save your butt if they're applied well.

The main thing to do to enjoy this game, though, is to turn the difficulty switch on A, or else no U.F.O.s will come out. I still remember the night I got this game (and was immediately invited over to a friend's to spend the night, of course; heh) and we started playing it without reading the instructions fully (also of course), so we went through several games without having a single U.F. O. ever come out, until we ran across that little tidbit in the instruction manual (oops!), and we never looked back after that.

There's also over 60 game variations, where you can choose from nifty things like hyperspace, flip (which instantly flips your ship around at just the tug of a joystick, which is helpful if you find yourself surrounded), shields, which are weird, as they make you pass through an asteroid without blowing up, so it's not like the shield function on Asteroids Deluxe (but only for two seconds, then YOU will blow up...ok!), and other variations won't give you any of those features at all, if you want your game to be more challenging.

So, I would say to just overlook the cosmetic differences for this cosmic shoot-'em-up and enjoy, but hey, you already OWN this, don't you?

Not too shabby, especially for something that was supposed to fail.


(c) Atari

The greatest game of all time.
Shoot the rocks, avoid the UFO's, and... Well, you know what to do.
System: 2600
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 60%
Sound & Music Score: 65%
Gameplay Score: 85%
Control Score: 85%

Final Score: 88%

Reader Comments for Asteroids

A great game by Randy Johnson on 2014-07-24 19:51:20
I've always loved this game but I once read what a critic wrote about it. He wrote that the asteroids on the Atari 2600 version look like blobs of sherbert and that this game should've been called Sherbert Shooter.
Unlike the arcade version, the Atari 2600 Asteroids is in color. It has 66 game variations. Game 33 is easiest and if you set the difficulty switches to B, there are no UFOs.
This is a great game but the Atari 7800 Asteroids is superior.
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