BY JAMES BOTTORFF
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Asteroids first invaded arcades some 20 years ago. The game became an instant hit, not because it was a life-changing experience, but because there was little else to plug quarters into.
Now, in attempt to ride the recent wave of hurling space object mania, Activision has reinvented the arcade classic for a new generation of game players.
How do you update a classic?
For starters, incorporate a story line. No you won’t find Bruce Willis as a renegade meteor fighter or Morgan Freeman as a president facing the end of the world.
What you will find is a story of futuristic mining grounds threatened by space debris. Your job is to clear the mess in order to provide safe passage for both military and civilian spacecraft.
While the story fills two pages of the manual quite nicely, it does little to add to the game’s premise, which remains faithful to the original.
As in the disco-era version, the new Asteroids treats you to a constant barrage of space rock and extraterrestrial craft. As the meteors and UFO’s cross the screen, you must shoot everything to pieces while avoiding collisions.
Of course, a black and white, two-dimensional shooter probably wouldn’t fare too well in today’s gaming market, so while the premise remains the same, the game does have a new look.
The ’90s Asteroids is in full color with three-dimensional rocks, backgrounds, spaceships and explosions. The graphics are crisp and certainly in tune with today’s systems, but do little to keep you engaged.
To begin with, the backgrounds are static images that only change when you reach a new zone. Granted the first time around it was a simple black background, but the new colorful backdrops aren’t much of an improvement.
In addition, the asteroids and enemy craft, of which there are plenty, grow boring after only a few of the game’s levels.
Fortunately, the gameplay enhancements go a long way to make up for the feeble graphical update. You can choose from three ships, the Dagger, Rapier and Longsword. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses in the form of shields, weapons and speed.
You can also improve your craft’s performance by collecting power-ups that increase your firepower, improve your maneuverability and strengthen your defensive abilities.
Asteroids is another attempt to relive those arcade days gone by. Unfortunately, such games often fail, and Asteroids is no exception. While the new version is fun in small doses, it falls short of capturing the addictive enjoyment found in the original.