Astroblast for the Atari 2600

In 1981, Mattel Electronics released Astrosmash for the Intellivision console. Designed by John Sohl, this was their answer to Atari’s Asteroids. It combines elements of that game with Space Invaders and it is amazing. When Mattel’s M Network started making games for the Atari 2600, they ported Astrosmash over to that console in 1982 as the similarly names, Astroblast.

While the game might be a clone of Astroblast with lower quality graphics, that is the only thing that is lower quality about this game. Astroblast improves on the original formula of the game and amps things up. Making the game faster paced, which keeps it challenging and replayable for a whole lot longer.

You starts the game with 10 laser bases and your job is to shoot or avoid as many Rocks, Spinners, UFOs, and Pulsars as you can. While this might seem like a lot of laser bases, the game moves very quickly. So you will burn through them quickly. Especially if you pick the harder of the two difficulty modes of the game.

The game is played with either a Joystick or Atari Paddle. On this game, I prefer the paddle which allows for quicker movement, even though it requires a lot more control. Since you are constantly firing, I like to set the game to allow for autofire and just keep shooting. That way I can focus most of my energy on dodging.

Unfortunately you can’t just focus on dodging, since Astroblast has an unusual scoring system. You score points for hitting things, but you also lose points for missing. So as the game gets faster paced, you can actually see your score go down.

If this seems like enough of a game, wait there’s more. Rocks actually have an explosion radius. So if you happen to shoot a rock to close to your laser base, you will blow up. While you can let some things pass safely and only lose points, the Spinner needs to be taken out before it lands. If it touches the ground, you lose your laser base.

Astroblast is a frantic shooter with innovative gameplay. I takes a well-made original and despite the limitations of the Atari hardware, manages to improve the experience by focusing on the gameplay. M Networks games are generally pretty good and Astroblast is a real gem. So if you have never played Astrosmash don’t be sad, while Intellivision had the graphics, on this title, Atari had them beat.

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