Astro War | Retro Review

Factfile
Developed by:Unknown
Published by:Unknown
Released:1983
Format played:Atari 2600

An interesting one this.

At first glance it is ostensibly similar to the likes of R-Type or Project X. A side scrolling blaster, you move your little ship around the screen, blasting anything that comes within range and trying not to bash into one of the enemy waves.

After a few minutes though, Asteroids becomes a reference point. Whilst the side-on view may recall those later shooters, it soon becomes apparent that the waves you are attacking are not enemy craft but rather chunks of rock that disintegrate into smaller parts as you shoot them until they disperse completely.

Not a bad couple of points of comparison, eh. Arguably the greatest game of its genre in R-Type and one of the seminal arcade titles in Asteroids. But that isn’t what makes Astro War interesting.

You see it’s not really clear what this game is. Or who made it. Or what it’s called. Or if it’s really even a game at all.

Alternately known as Astro-War, Astro Wars and Missile War amongst other monickers, it is almost as though you can just take any random adjective, stick War (or Wars) after it and hey, you got yourself a game name.

It’s not really clear where it came from either. It doesn’t appear to have seen a traditional boxed, retail release, rather it appears to be just a bootleg cartridge, likely a blatant rip-off of a genuine IP. Gotta love those 1980s copyright enforcement.

Fascinating stuff, right? Doesn’t stop it being crap though.

For starters, you can only move around about half of the screen. Your ship moves swiftly enough, which is welcome, but you can’t go past an invisible barrier down the centre of the screen. Not that you’d want to, mind. A relentless tide of space boulders come flying at you, splintering off into smaller pieces that then often become impossible to destroy as the collision detection falls asleep and your ship’s fire bounces harnmlessly off them.

And, er, that’s it. Oh wait, occasionally a ship appears for you to shoot. You know, like Asteroids. And when you blow up the screen flashes and the explosion noise sounds like something from Berzerk. And periodicaly the screen changes colour. Otherwise, it is a relentless, unending grind with no sense of danger, progression or incentive to keep playing. After ten minutes of unending repetition I had to stop playing before my eyeballs fell out from sheer boredom.

So it’s like a couple of those classic shooters you like. Except different and crap.

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