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|Rating:||4 out of 5|
Asteroids was the second Atari 2600 game I bought - the first was Space Invaders. I had to fight the temptation to give Asteroids a full 5-ship rating. Come on - it's fucking Asteroids! I could sit for hours shooting those colorful blocky rocks and the occasional alien spaceship.
Asteroids has become so prevalent as a classic game that many of us forget the arcade version didn't use a joystick - all buttons! The joystick was a welcome change for me, but made it hard to go back to the arcade cabinet. This home version had a lot of options (66 in total) from hyperspace and shields to 180° flips. The difficulty wasn't the same, but my 2600 wasn't trying to earn a living off kids & their quarters.
I dumped untold quantities of quarters into Asteroids cabinets in the early 80's. The advent of Asteroids Deluxe only increased my addictive need for quarters. Damn, I loved that game! But my income in the early 80's was zilch - like most lazy teens. One Christmas a buddy got an Atari 2600 VCS and a copy of Asteroids. The arcade version was obviously superior, but the allure of saving all those quarters won me over immediately.
As you casually saunter around, on Cosmic Space Patrol, in your Cosmic Spacecraft a large mass of intergalactic material shows up on the visual particle counter and appears to be heading right at you. Your choices are maneuver around it or vaporize it with photon torpedoes. As you make this decision, you realize you're surrounded by asteroids of varying size - all deadly. Suddenly, a UFO sights you and opens fire! Shit!
Like Space Invaders, Asteroids is an infinite game where your demise is only temporarily averted with each closing wave of decimated space rocks. Shifting the joystick determines your rotational direction, pressing forward provides thrust and pulling back initiates different features depending on the game variant you've chosen.
In addition to the 66 game variations, you can add to the cosmic mayhem by switching the Difficulty Switch to the "A" position where UFOs and Satellites will engage you in a firefight. The "B" setting is for normal beginner play sans UFOs.
Of the 66 variations my favorite is the Flip in which your Cosmic Spacecraft flips 180° - very helpful when besieged by asteroids. Additionally there are 2-player variants for all the options that range from when additional lives are awarded (including - NEVER) to Hyperspace, shields and no features.
The arcade version featured Hyperspace which always put me in a worse position than when I activated it. Shields were a pretty cool option, but I never timed it right and large passing rocks took too long to pass me by. Flip was definitely my favorite.
The simplicity of shooting colorful rocks overshadow's the uniqueness of this 2600 game. It actually takes a lot of memory (a lot for the 2600, that is) to move around all those asteroids. Asteroids was one of the first games to use a technique called "bank switching" which doubles the amount of available memory. Since the 2600 could only address 4 KB of ROM, bank switching allowed the additional memory needed without the players noticing any gaps in game play.