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I am a ship adrift in deep space. But I am not alone. I am surrounded by floating rocks and debris. I can rotate left and right, I also have a Thruster to help me move around and I have a Hyperspace button to be pressed in times of deep panic. But my key to survival is my blaster which I must use constantly to blast away at the rocks to split them into smaller and smaller fragments in order to survive.
Basically that is the game play of this simple but addictive game summed up in a nutshell. Asteroids is possibly Atari's most famous and enduring arcade game. The year is 1979 and Star Wars and Close Encounters have been big hits, Sci-Fi is in vogue and more or less anything involving space, space craft and space battles is cool. Every budding young jock wants to be Han-Solo or Luke Skywalker. The SPACE INVADERS invasion is now old hat and a new game is needed to be mastered by the kings of the arcades.
Asteroids fitted the bill perfectly. It was both rock-hard and addictive in equal measures. The cabinet was big and heavy. The controls were complex and needed mastering. There were buttons galore, more than just your left, right and fire setup. The screen was upright and serious looking. Use of vector graphics made the game appear to be more grown up, like the HUD display in a fighter jet, or so I thought at 13 years old. To add to the realism the ship had real inertia. The more you abused the thrust button the more you sped aimlessly out of control. Another neat feature was the fact that you could disappear off one side of the screen and come back on, on the other side thus expanding your world slightly.
UFO's brought you more troubles as they began to randomly appear across the screens spewing out bolts of light in your general direction. An option was the Hyperspace button, but more often than not this would rematerialise you back on the screen directly in the path of another asteroid.
The game also had a secret weapon up its sleeve to keep those coins dropping into it. It was the first arcade game to introduce the now famous High Score chart. Unbelievably before Asteroids games just did not have High Score charts. Now gamers could back up their boasts by having their name up in lights for the whole arcade to see. Hardcore proof that you were, or were not, the main man. At least that is until the arcade owner pulled the plug out at the end of the evening but what the hell you could be famous for five minutes.
The game like all true classics was followed by many sequels. The bastard hard Asteroids Deluxe (1980) which never really had the same impact as the original basically because it had all been seen before and things had moved on. Asteroids (1981) - Atari 2600 - This game was pretty damn good and I spent many long afternoons and evenings round my mate Steve Reeves playing this on his VCS. Space Duel (1982) - This took the asteroids theme one step further with colour and many different floating objects to hit, as well as a funky 2 player mode. Blasteroids (1987) was finally the last real reincarnation of the arcade original.