The Many Faces of . . . Asteroids
By Alan Hewston

ďAsteroids all around me donít know where to run, Iím somewhere between the Moon and the Sun, Iím in command of three ships and thereís more on the way, Iím a Space Cadet and I know how to play, Hyperspace! . . . . I'm shooting my rockets all over then place" - from the Pac-Man Fever Album, where Buckner and Garcia got it right. "Just shoot baby" - IMHO Asteroids Is the ultimate shooter - you can move about and fire towards any place on the screen; your enemies fill the screen and come at you from every direction, in various sizes, shapes and speeds; some are dumb, but others can be smart. Then throw in an escape clause too - yep, just "Hyperspace" outta that spot and try a new one. Loads of action but yet simplicity. I read that this was the first arcade game that promoted a high score listing, where you entered your initials - surely giving it even more attention and crowds back in the day.

This game was copied and home-brewed or pirated and cloned onto every system under the Sun, but only officially released on a few ports. But mostly on the 2600 where it sold millions of carts and really convinced Atari to dump lots of effort into the 2600 and keep it going. The 7800 version was possibly planned as 3-D Asteroids, but was released as Asteroids.

4 player mode on the Atari 800 is awesome - Iíll set it up at CCAG2K1

Arcade Game Designed in 1979 by Atari : Lyle Rains and Ed Logg

Classic Platforms: Atari 2600 (Brad Stewart), 8 bit (Todd Frye), 7800 (?) & Apple II (?)

Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

Sequels: Asteroids Deluxe 1980 by Atari: Dave Shepperd and Lyle Rains; 1987 Blasteroids

Disqualified: Apple II (N/A),
Like many of you, I do not own an Apple II or any disk-only systems - which is the only reason for this disqualification. Iíve seen the box for the Atarisoft in adds, and an Apple II Asteroids screen shot, but have not verified that combined there was an official release. From the screen shot, it appears to be a pretty good version and having played other vector style games on the Apple II, I know that despite being monochrome, the Graphics would still fetch a 9+. After all, the arcade version was in B&W. My guess is that a Bronze medal would have been earned by the Apple II.

Bronze Medal: Atari 2600 (37)
This port sold like wildfire and I'm sure that you've seen dozens of them. The Controls are perfect (10), and never let you down. The Gameplay is nice (8), loaded with 66 game selections, 2 children's version, and then 64 combinations of these options (1 or 2 players; choice of Hyperspace, Shields, Flip Over and nothing; bonus lives at every 5K, 10K, 20K, or none; fast or slow Asteroids). Then include the A/B difficulty switch on/off to add UFO's - making a total of about 165 different game combinations. Whew! That can keep you coming back for more, or just puke. It would be nice to have a pause or a 2 player simultaneous game, but this is the 2600. The Graphics are a bit clunky, only 3 sizes of Asteroids but decent (6) enough to not take away from the Gameplay. Well, then you only get 2 shots to fire, but the screen can still fill up with quite a lot of colored asteroid debris, more than enough to satisfy the pallet. The Sound and background effects are decent (6), but monotonous. The Addictiveness gets a cool (7), as you will enjoy this game, but not the boring game #1.

Silver Medal: Atari 8 bit (43)
A very impressive game, but could have been programmed a bit better. The Graphics are pretty good (7) but get hit the hardest here, due to inconsistent sprite collision detection. Sometimes you get right on top of an Asteroid, and do not collide, whereas other times its not even close to you and you get wasted. The asteroids are all white, save for their blackness when overlapping - which unfortunately can lead to a temporary invisible ďblackĒ asteroid when 2 are identical and/or overlapped. The UFO's and Satellites are yellow, and each of the 1 to 4 player's ships is a different color, matching their score - adding some nice use of color and ease of play to the home computer version. The Controls are flawless (10). The Gameplay is excellent (10) and gives us all the options we really need: pause; 2 to 4 player simultaneous action, and 3 players and 4 player teams; starting skills of Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert; Hyperspace options on or shields, flip over or none (the default); Patrols are: standard patrol, melee, combat, teams and co-op. Using the 4-port Atari 800 really rocks as you can play 4 players with sticks simultaneously. Yeah Baby! The Sound is crisp (8), with all the effects that are needed, but nothing special. The Addictiveness is very enjoyable (8), (a 10 for a 4 player game) but you might prefer the gold medal winner more. This 8 bit version came in both cart and disk format.

Gold Medal: Atari 7800 (46)
This port is clearly the best and earns the highest overall score I've given out for any game to date - what an entrance for the 7800 - the system that Atari committed suicide on. The Controls are perfect (10) for me, but I suggest using 2600 sticks, which is all you need. The control response to accelerating is very quick compared with the other ports, but it can be mastered. The are no glitches to the outstanding (9) Gameplay, but there are fewer options here than the 8 bit. There are no 3 or 4 player options, and Hyperspace is always active (ie no flip over, shields or none). These are really minor options though as most of us play solo or 2 players at best. The Gameplay allows an infinite number of shots to be fired, unlike being limited to 2 or 4 rounds in the other versions. The Sound is superb (9), with even more effects that are pleasing to the ear. The Graphics are fantastic (9), with 3-D rotating Asteroids, background stars and a full-screen play field, with action right over top of the scores. The debris breaking up varies a lot in direction and speed, making the game less predictable, and fresh. The Addictiveness is also earns top billing (9) as this is a game that will really entertain you for a long time. Quick find a partner and play combat Asteroids.

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