The Game: You’re piloting the Dante Dart through the innards of an enormous sentient computer. The computer was originally constructed to defend the galaxy, but now it’s gone haywire and is planning to destroy the galaxy instead. There’s only one problem with such a massive defense computer: its own internal defense mechanisms. Blast through densepack columns and laser gates as they try to fry your ship, and watch out for laser turrets, “byte bats” and other menaces which will pursue you. Your Energy meter is depleted by constant firing, so make every shot count. And your Shield meter drops as you take hits from enemy fire or crash through the defenses with your ship – something you don’t want to do too much of, lest your mission end prematurely and fatally. (Imagic, 1983)
Memories: The scrolling sub-genre of flying through an enclosed space is hardly anything new for the 2600 (witness Atari’s own decent Vanguard translation, Super Cobra, Fantastic Voyage, etc.), but Laser Gates takes this task from a raw “try-not-to-get-killed” level to a puzzle of resource management and timing. Huge stretches of this game will go by where you don’t need to fire a single shot or do a lot of moving around.
As with Vanguard, Laser Gates gives you energy power-ups to help boost your energy and shields (and thus delay the inevitable another minute or two). Unlike Vanguard, Laser Gates doesn’t play Flash Gordon music to you when you succeed in grabbing such a gadget.
And I have to give this game’s designer full marks on good use of the 2600’s audiovisual capabilities. The laser gates themselves are bright, pulsing with energy, and they just look like bad news. They sound worse, though the one thing that sounds worse than the gates themselves is the bone-jarring “crunch” of your ship slamming right into one. It collapses the gate, but knocks a huge dent in your shields’ energy banks.
Not the most original game in the world, but as Imagic almost always did, they found a way to make it fun.