Review: Old School Overload
I finally get my hands on a copy of the Atari Anniversary Collection that was recently released by Infogrames. If anybody has even an inkling of videogame history, the name Atari should loom large in the foreground, having virtually invented to arcade videogame business, and its cousin, the home videogame console. Some of the games included in this collection are older than some gamers have been alive, and all of them represent a large portion of the origin of the videogame business. There are titles here, without which, we wouldn't have the same gaming experience today that we enjoy.
If you have been a regular Gaming Target reader, you will have noticed that I am what many people refer to as an ?old school? gamer. While I enjoy such fare as Jet Grind Radio and Crazy Taxi (some of my recent favorites), I still feel the pull of those old games from ?way back when?. I remember when Asteroids Deluxe was introduced. Some of my friends thought it sucked because the hyperspace button was replaced with a shield. That was a major debate back then, and now we have debates about which hardware is best. Some things just never change.
But as I get older, and have a son of my own, giving him a sense of history is a high priority on my list. I want him to know what it was like when I was his age (ok, a little older). The name of the game here is Vector Graphics. Before pixels were king, there were white lines against a black background. We didn't even have color back then. Imagine living in a world where arcades were dark places attached to malls and had more pinball machines than cabinets. Imagine when the point of a game was to get the high score, and nothing else. I will take you to that time if you let me.
Atari Anniversary Collection sports 12 classic games from what some people call the golden age of the arcade. I call it ?back when I was your age?. The games included are reproductions of the arcade games, not the home versions that Atari ported later on. Included with the games is a wealth of information, such as reproductions of flyers advertising the games, and shots of the cabinets themselves. To transport gamers back to that time, the image on your television will display the screen as it would have appeared on the cabinet. Certain games seem to be enhanced by this experience, but in most games I find it to be annoying. Thankfully, the player has the option to turn off the ?cabinet screen? and just view the game.
When this game was introduced, it had 5 buttons; this was unheard of at the time. Many arcade owners thought it was too complicated for youngsters, but that line of thinking was quickly abandoned when kids flocked to the cabinet that transported them into space. Star Wars was high on the consciousness of young boys at the time. Anything to do with space was a hit.
The game had (and still does) simple controls by today's standards. Turn left or right, thrust, fire, and if things got too harried for you, a panic button labeled hyperspace. Your goal was to fly around in your little triangular shaped spaceship and shoot the asteroids. One shot would take the large space boulders and divide them in two. Those two smaller boulders would again have to be shot, and if done so, would again divide into two smaller asteroids. These final asteroids would only take one more hit to clear. The screen would start with 4 large boulders and after a couple of minutes; a saucer like ship would glide through the screen with the occasional shot being fired in your direction. As levels progressed, not only do the number of asteroids increase, but the frequency of those pesky alien ships as well.
This was much like Asteroids, but like I mentioned before, replaced the hyperspace feature with shields (a circle that surrounded your ship). Gameplay was much the same as the original. The alien saucers were different this time. They acted more like the asteroids themselves, breaking apart. Instead of merely flying through the asteroid field like in the previous game, these new ships would actually come after you.
Evolution in those days came in small steps. This produced green lines instead of white lines, creating an alien world to fight on. The player is inside a tank, in a field with various geometric shapes to serve as cover. Other tanks appear one at a time, intent on shooting you. One hit is all it takes. Better take cover behind that pyramidic construct. Even though you can see through it (thanks to vector graphics) it will give you the cover needed to give you time to come up with a plan of attack. Every once in a while, a saucer like spaceship will appear. While these are worth more points, they don't shoot back. Choose your targets wisely.