The Game: As the pilot of a lone space cruiser, you must try to clear the spaceways of a swarm of free-floating asteroids, but the job isn’t easy – Newton’s laws of motion must be obeyed, even by asteroids. When you blow a big rock into little chunks, those chunks go zipping off in opposite directions with the speed and force imparted by the amount of energy you used to dispel them. To that screenful of bite-sized chunks o’ death, add an unpredictable hyperspace escape mechanism and a pesky UFO that likes to pop in and shoot at you, and you’re between several large rocks and a hard place. (Activision, 1999)
Memories: Another entry in the race to revive as many video game classics as possible (at least the popular ones – I don’t see anyone reviving Bagman…), Activision’s update of Asteroids is fairly straightforward. This is the same company which produced such a winning resurrection of Space Invaders, so we can trust that these people know what makes for a good Retro Revival.
Much like Space Invaders, the 1999 version of Asteroids is gracefully updated but essentially faithful to the original game play. Of all the games dragged into service once more at the end of the century, Asteroids probably looks the most shockingly different, trading its point-to-point vector line graphics in for sleekly rendered 3-D asteroids and background reminiscent of the planet and nebula that graced nearly every episode of Babylon 5. Such modern touches as weapon-enhancing and shield-enhancing power-ups also make an appearance. Other than that, the game remains largely the same.
The control scheme is a little more complicated than the all-button scheme of the arcade game, but then again, most of us have spent so much more time with the single-joystick-and-button Atari 2600 version of the game that we’re a little spoiled on its simplicity.
Somewhere on this new version, supposedly, is an emulation of the original arcade game, but for those who don’t have the patience to try every key combination or buy the official strategy guide to find out how to get to the emulation, there’s a decent emulation of Asteroids available on the first Atari volume of Arcade’s Greatest Hits.