Asteroids Review

By: John Doe

The King of White Knuckle gaming has returned. Asteroids will always have itís place in gaming history and this update pays great homage to the classic. I forgot how much fun some of the "old" games were until I reached for this one. Without a doubt Asteroids is a great remake that everyone should give a whirl, although Generation Next may wonder what all the fuss is about.


I know, I know, if you have to hear any more stories about me running home from school to play Asteroids or any other "dinosaur" game youíre gonna shriek. But itís the truth. I lived 15 minutes from school and I would fly home to play my Atari 2600 versions of Asteroids, Space Invaders, Berzerk...the list goes on. Ah, the humble beginnings of the man who would become the video game equivalent to Roger Ebert, minus his tremendous girth and bad haircut.

Yes these games may seem lame by todayís standards. They didnít look as good or sound as good, but they sure were a heckuva lot better looking than Bea Arthur as Maude, so we did what we had to to survive. Sure there were no real "endings" to games back then, but we considered it reward enough to roll the point counter on Asteroids. That meant you were cool and a great gamer, although we never used the word "gamer" ever.

Fast forward to nowadays time (or the future, as the smart kids call it) and grab a copy of Activisionsí Asteroids. If youíve never experienced the classics of gaming and think that all of your dadís games were boring, repetitive and ugly, think again. I defy anyone to play Asteroids and tell me that it isnít addictive.

For those who are thinking Asteroids might be a Colony Wars type game, sorry. Asteroids is a one screen affair, where if you thrust your space ship off the screen to your right, youíll come out on the left or flying up the top will see you return at the bottom. The same holds true for all directions and the asteroids and other space debris follow that bizarre game physic as well. It may be unsettling at first to those unfamiliar with the limitations of old software. But thatís how things were back in the good old days, dag nabbit.

The genius of Asteroids is in the controls. You can shoot, thrust, flip, activate shields, or hyperspace. Back in 1978 that was a lot of control to worry about when playing, in fact it still is. Your job is to blast the asteroids and keep yourself alive. Thatís it. It sounds simple until you get into the thick of things. Pretty soon, youíll have to use that thrust button and move yourself out of the way. Thatís when things get hairy. The hyperspace button is an odd little device: part angel, part devil. If you press it just as something is going to collide with your ship, it will automatically teleport you to another area of the screen. Most of the time that is a good thing, until there are so many things on screen that you canít tell where your ship is until itís too late. Please donít think that Iím proclaiming "bad game design." Thatís the fun of Asteroids! You know you are gonna get smacked, itís just a matter of when.

Updates to the new version include a ton of wildcard weapons that float through space. Pick these up and you have limited use of a real kick butt weapon that will come in very handy. Youíll get everything from Mines, Homing Missiles, Plasma Drills, Trigger Bombs, Lasers, Smartbombs and even a Wideshot that powers up your blaster. There are 13 new weapons in total and you just may need them all. All of the weapons are color coded so youíll have to remember which one is which. This is where the elements of strategy come in, because you will gain a powerup just by flying into it or it flying into you. If you have a great secondary weapon, you may not want the one that is heading in your direction, so thrust outta the way, toots sweet! If these wildcard weapons sound too much like overkill for an Asteroids he-man like yourself, then play on the Hardcore Setting. No panty waist weapons for you, just the good old blaster. And you had better be good. Asteroids has 5 Zones that are comprised of 15 levels each, not including the final battle with the boss!

The control scheme works well with the regular digital controller although dual shock control is supported (and so is vibration). I personally felt that the digital pad was more natural, but some may prefer the more subtle nuances of the analog control. The best part of Asteroids is in the control. Everything you need to survive is provided, which makes this game so addictive. You have a shield button that drains if you hold it, a hyperspace button that will teleport you out of the frying pan and into the fire, a flip button that will make you ship do an instant 180 degree, a blaster and the aforementioned wildcard weapons. This translates in to a game that comes down to reflexes and skill. You could play this game all the way through without dying, it just depends on how good you are.

Asteroids also offers a multiplayer mode where two players can save the universe together. This adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay because now someone can watch your back and vice versa. For a real hardcore challenge, play a two player game by yourself and try to defend the other ship while attacking the onslaught of enemies. I was surprised that the new game didnít offer a two player mode in which players took turns. This is available in the classic game however, so itís not a total loss.

Graphically Asteroids looks very good. In this updated version, everything is fleshed out. Asteroids, comets, ufoís, you name it. They all have real 3D depth. Luckily the light sourcing enables parts of the asteroids to be seen against the background of space. However sometimes the smaller asteroids are tough to see which adds to the challenge. The animation of the exploding asteroids is fantastic. Youíll see chunks of debris flying everywhere. Asteroids blow apart into smaller asteroids that come at your ship faster than you can say, "Houston we have a problem." If you are good enough to unlock the original Asteroids game, youíll see it in all of itís vector graphics glory. Black background, white line art for the ship and see through white outlined asteroids. Nothing fancy, but neither is Tetris. I guarantee that you will be surprised at how fast and furious the original is.

You canít mention the original without mentioning the games music, of which there is none basically. What you do get instead of music in the original game is this menacing electronic heartbeat sound, which keeps things right on edge. It reminds me a lot of the soundtrack to John Carpenterís movie "Thing". Itís atmosphere, baby. The new revamped Asteroids has a tasty orchestral soundtrack, which is excellent, but to be honest I would have preferred something closer to the original. The new musical score gives the game sort of an action movie feel, so you can pretend youíre playing "Deep Impact" or "Armageddon" although you wonít have to actually land on any of these asteroids or inhale Billy Bob Thorntonís body odor, which Iím sure is pretty darn violent. In fact, if you are really good and reach Level 5 youíll actually have to defend Earth by blasting all the asteroids before they enter Earthís atmosphere. Itís a cool effect watching the ones that got away hit the atmosphere and burn up on the way down to take out New York or "insert the name of your hometown here".

I have only two real complaints with Asteroids. The first complaint concerns the sound effect used for your ships blaster. It is pretty close to the original, and itís pretty weak. It sounds like a toy gun. I was hoping for more "oomph." To be honest I donít know what would have been better, since the blaster is going non stop throughout the entire game. My other complaint is that this game has an ending! Thanks to todayís generation having no attention span, the game programmers felt they needed to bring the game to an end. Well, it was either the attention span thing or the fact that they are planning more for a sequel. Who knows? But itís just a lot easier to blame it on the youth of today. Hey, get over it, you guys get blamed for everything. You should be used to it by now. :)

I highly recommend this game. To be honest I would have reviewed it sooner but I thought "Ah, another boring update of a classic that should have stayed put." I could not have been more wrong. This is the perfect game when you are looking for something that is completely different. No long drawn out storyline, just fast paced arcade action. The best part is anyone can pick it up and play it their way. The one complaint I hear the most from the older generation is that todayís games are too complex. Tell your mom and dad that Asteroids is back, John Doe (who?) said it was awesome and that you should pick up this game to span the gaming generation gap. Reconnect as a family. Okay now Iím going overboard here. But be warned. You wonít get your parents to stop once they start!

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