The Game: Alien ships are sliding toward you on a gridwork of energy; as the pilot of the Beamrider, your job is to destroy them before they get too close to home (i.e. the bottom of the screen). They can fire back, though, and while in some cases you can return fire and intercept their shots, it depends on what kind of weaponry they’re using. When you run out of Beamriders, the aliens take over. (Activision, 1984)
Memories: With the abandoned 2600 prototype of Tempest being the closest thing to an exception, Beamrider was the only attempt to the bring that arcade game’s style of action to the 2600. And in the end, Beamrider more closely resembles the one-line idea that led to Tempest: “First Person Space Invaders“.
All this talk of Beamrider‘s various inspirations and precursors, however, isn’t meant to detract from the game – which is actually quite a bit of fun – or say that it’s a ripoff. In some ways, Beamrider is like the Odyssey2 game Attack Of The Timelord!, only set on Tempest‘s sole flat-plane board. The different kinds of ammo and obstacles from the Odyssey2 game are reflected here, with a little bit of a pseudo 3-D, you-can-see-’em-coming element. That Activision pulled it off so well, compared to the aforementioned Tempest work-in-progress, may have something to do with Atari not further refining their first-party title.
One odd thing about Beamrider is that it pauses before each round begins, whether you’ve lost a life or advanced to the next level; the player has to move the joystick to signal he’s ready for the new round to begin. This is an interesting concept, and not a bad one – thanks, Activision, for giving us a chance to rest our wrists – but as Beamrider cartridges changed hands later without the instruction manual in tow, I chuckle to think how many people just sat there and wondered what was going on with their stalled game!