"But before that, know that Atari Advanced contains some awesome examples of retro gaming (as well as some stinkers). Inside you'll find nostalgic renditions of Asteroids, Super Breakout and, best of all, Missile Command. "
Siblings should not be used for important stuff. I sent mine down Game to collect me a copy of Taito Legends and the dappy wench came back with Atari Anniversary Advance, a suspicious lack of change and a pair of new shoes.
However, I am not the type to complain when fate throws me a tight sounding collection of games from my foggy past that slots into my portable console of choice. I am, however, the type to complain bitterly when one rather sizeable flaw makes the entire cart a useless collection of faded memories.
But before that, know that Atari Advanced contains some awesome examples of retro gaming (as well as some stinkers). Inside you'll find nostalgic renditions of Asteroids, Super Breakout and, best of all, Missile Command.
Let's explore these great games briefly: Asteroids gives you a simple craft in the middle of an asteroid storm. Your mission is simply to blow the crap out of these intergalactic chunks of debris with your simple single-shot weapon before they mash you into space dust! What makes the game is that moving your ship within the confines of space can easily send you into an out-of-control momentum surge which is nigh-on impossible to halt and may very well send you careering into a passing meteor. There's no rhyme or reason for this: you have no plot, no backstory and ultimately no purpose other than to rack up as many points as you can before your demise.
Super Breakout makes things even simpler. You control a paddle that moves horizontally across the base of the screen in order to deflect a cube-shaped ball into destroyable blocks situated above you. It's classic! It's addictive! It's simplicity itself concluding in a huge one-more-go factor doseage! And it serves no purpose other than to rack up as big a score as you can before you let three of your balls slip off the bottom of the screen.
Missile Command should draw content sighs from anyone who remembers its bulky and brave cabinet from the arcades of old. Your nameless cityscape is under attack from a torrential downpour of unidentified missiles! To counteract this breach of manners, you need to respond in kind by blowing them up the aggressive strikes your own onslaught of explosive mayhem -- but be warned! You only have a limited stock of missiles to play with, and if you don't defend these greedily, munition stockpiles can be annihilated, lowering your defensive capabilities even further. Your missiles must be launched quickly and cleverly, utilising their blast radius to take out as many hostiles as possible. And you do all this in the pursuit of dialling up those points.
The remaining games include the pretty awesome Tempest, which sees you rotating around a series of differing shapes to shoot down at the rascals scaling up at you. Dodge, shoot and score your heart out until your three lives are exhausted. Centipede is a rather lacking take on the Space Invaders formulae that has you shooting random creepy-crawlys instead of aliens, the games namesake coming from the segmented monstrosity that you must exterminate in each level. All for the pursuit of points. Finally, there's Battlezone, a rudimentary first-person shooter that was unfair and awkward when it saw the light of day in the early eighties and remains so now. When the ungainly view lets you align your crosshair with any of the wire-frame tanks that surge from the foreground, you can blow them up for truth, honour, justice and the pursuit of a mighty score.
There's also Atari Trivia Challenge which contains questions that nobody gives a damn about, such as "What was the name of the designer behind the original Breakout". It's as crap as it sounds.
At this stage of the review, I have mentioned the point collection aspect that the games all share a grand total of six times, which should be clue enough that the aim of each game is to take on and attempt to better previous high scores. Time has been proven that this simple and effective formula coupled with the awesome reply factor of most of these classics is a runaway success and the very reason why such basic efforts are still remembered so fondly in out current age of photo-realism and epic plotlines. On the first playthrough of my accidentally purchase, I spent literally hours trying to beat my then-top score of 129 on Super Breakout, and I know I would be spending many more doing the same. Note: . Past tense.
Atari Anniversary Advanced doesn't save its high scores.
It doesn't care about the hours I've spent in Asteroids, darting in-between the chalk outlined meteors of crushing doom. It doesn't care about how many times I've saved my cityscape from a bombardment of artillery in Missile Command, and it doesn't care about my heroic efforts to thwart a slew of blood-crazed bugs in Centipede. Every game I start isn't the brave attempt to leapfrog my previous efforts it should be; it's a clean slate. I can't challenge random lackeys to attempt to outdo my majestic highest scores; I can simply ask them to take on my best in that playthrough. The games here have been neutered in a foul and degrading manner, and dammit, Atari should know better.
What should have been a collection of games that would receive the dedication they deserve strewn on them has become a five minute stopgap. For these antique games within are not the problem; they still have what it takes to ensnare players into frantic and simplistic genius. What went wrong here was simply laziness on behalf of Atari and a lack of foresight that smudges what it should shine.
And to think I could be playing Operation Wolf right now. Siblings can be so cruel....
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