The Game: In an enclosed track in space, you pilot a sleek, lone space fighter up against an army of mine-laying opponents. In early rounds of the Omega Race, only a few minelayers activate at a time…but in later rounds, they all deploy their full arsenal at you at once, leaving you to dodge through a deadly maze in zero gravity while trying to turn to draw a bead on your opponents. You can bounce off of the walls of the track, but anything else is deadly to touch. (CBS Electronics, under license from Bally/Midway, 1982)
Memories: Cashing in on Omega Race‘s cult following in arcades – it was Midway‘s direct response to the Newtonian physics of Atari‘s Asteroids – CBS gave its home version of Omega Race the dubious distinction of being playable only with the included Booster Grip joystick “enhancer” – and as many second-hand copies of Omega Race have circulated on the collectors’ market without the Booster Grip, some gamers have been scratching their heads in bewilderment.
The truth is, Omega Race shouldn’t have required the Booster Grip. The CBS-proprietary “enhancement” was a hollow flight-grip with an extra action button, and a cord intended to run parallel to the standard Atari 2600 joystick. The extra action button controls the game’s all-important thrusters, but that could’ve been done the same way it was with Atari’s own cartridge version of Asteroids – by pushing up on the joystick, since Omega Race doesn’t use up or down on the controller. Instead, the game was lumbered with a clumsy controller that tends to slip during game play…consigning an otherwise decent translation of the arcade game to many gamers’ scrap heaps.
Midway also granted the Omega Race license to Coleco for a ColecoVision version, and the original arcade version was slated for a third volume of Midway Arcade’s Greatest Hits for the Playstation…until that third volume, which would also have featured Wizard Of Wor and Satan’s Hollow, was scrapped. Mocked up, but never actually constructed or coded to the best of anyone’s knowledge, was a Coleco mini-arcade edition of Omega Race; how the game would’ve fared with a fixed-matrix LED display is anyone’s guess.