by Activision Reviewed by: Bill Johnson
Asteroids addicts, look out!! Asteroids is back and better than ever in Activision's latest 3D version of the game. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since Atari released the original Asteroids back in 1979. It was a huge success, and millions of people of all ages became hooked on the game. Activision has done an excellent job of taking Asteroids to the next level, with gameplay, graphics and playing fields that will keep you coming back for more, especially if you're a veteran of the older version (which has also been included in the game -- when you reach a certain level, Classic Asteroids can be unlocked, allowing you to play the original game that started it all).
The original version of Asteroids was played on a black playing field, meant to represent outer space. Activision has added 5 different playing zones with 15 different levels you must complete before moving on to the next level. This version of Asteroids has you up against much more than just asteroids and enemy spaceships. There are six different types of asteroids, and each one has unique characteristics that you must be aware of. There is even one type of asteroid that is indestructible. Your best bet is to just stay as far away as you can from this one. Watch out for the "Crystal Asteroids," which when hit will leave behind fragments that you must also blast immediately, or they will grow into full-sized Crystals very quickly. There are also "Alien Egg Asteroids," which will release baby space worms on impact. These little guys are out to get you, so you'd better be prepared to do some fancy shooting to stay alive. There is even one form of asteroid that will shoot back at you! This is the "Ancient Energy Asteroid," which will absorb your laser's energy and send it right back at you in a powerful way.
Also floating through space are 13 different Wildcard weapons which you can use to your advantage. Many of them are quite effective in keeping you alive, yet will also require a fair amount of practice before you'll become accustomed to them. Once you learn how to use the arsenal that is at your disposal, you'll soon be on your way. This game has added so much more to the original game, including 12 different enemy spaceships. Each one of them has its own individual character, which adds even more depth to the game. There are also fireball comets and space debris to look out for, so you'd better stay on your toes. Some of the smaller asteroids are difficult to see at times, and will sometimes hit you from behind if you're not careful.
This version of Asteroids gives you the choice of piloting three different ships. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it's up to you to choose the one that will best suit your needs and abilities. Some are more maneuverable than others, at the expense of firepower and shield duration.
In addition to the original game's controls of left, right, thrust, fire and hyperspace, this version adds a shield, the wildcard weapon, and a flip button that will instantly turn your ship 180 degrees. This comes in handy when an enemy or asteroid comes at you from behind, and allows you to turn and zap it right away. One nice option on this game is your ability to customize the controller, putting the controls in a comfortable position, which helps you play your best. I would recommend the use of a memory card for this game, which will save your controller preferences for you.
I would also recommend purchasing the analog dual-shock controllers for this game. It is much easier to control the left and right movements of your spaceship with the analog joystick than to use the digital keypad, and really cuts down on fatigue. The dual shock feature also adds a bit of realism to the game, and vibrates as you apply thrust, change direction or get hit. The sound effects are also quite good in the new version of Asteroids, and there is even a narrated outline of each zone, which lets you know what you'll be up against in advance. One other thing I noticed that was different from the original Asteroids game is that you can't cruise through the screens and simply blast alien spaceships. I tried it a few times, and I ended up just flying along with the asteroid and no alien spaceships came out after me. I could be wrong, but the few times I tried it proved unsuccessful.
One of the coolest aspects of the game is the fact that two people can play at once, without having to split the screen. The old version of Asteroids made the players alternate play, forcing one player to sit and watch until the other player lost his ship.
I thought Activision did a very good job on the graphics in this game. Each zone has its own look, which is quite detailed and interesting. The enemy spaceships are also well done. They have their own individual looks, and are in color. The asteroids really look three-dimensional as they rotate and move across the screen, and the six different types really add a lot of variety. The background is nicely detailed as well, with stars and various colors.
I was also pleased with Activision's revival of the classic arcade version of Asteroids in this game, and found myself playing it quite a bit as well. They did a good job of replicating the overall gameplay, but there were a few things I was disappointed with. One was the sound effects. The thrust and fire sounds are different from the original game, and I find it odd that they wouldn't make them sound the same. The graphics and gameplay are also good, but for some reason the display of your score is not too clear. I know that it must not be too easy to duplicate an arcade version of a game onto a system that uses a television screen with less resolution, but I think they could have spent a little more time making it as close to the original as possible. Also, I couldn't imagine why they didn't include the use of the analog joystick option on the dual-shock controller like they did in the new version. Despite the things I didn't like about their classic version, it is still a good enough duplication that most people wouldn't even notice the differences unless they've played the original game as much as I have it's still a great game, and I'll give them credit for a job well done copying it from the arcade version.
This new version of Asteroids is one game that you won't master overnight. It doesn't take long to get used to the controls, but there is so much variety to this version that it will take you some time to get through all the zones. Getting through the first few should have you hooked. This is what makes it such a good game. It is challenging and fun, with excellent gameplay and multiple levels that will keep your attention for quite a while, especially if you're a veteran of the classic version. If you've never played Asteroids before, this is the best version to buy, and just might rekindle the Asteroids craze all over again.
Review Posted On 3 January 1999.
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