Asteroids

Asteroids & Asteroids Deluxe

I was in my local off-licence one morning at the end of October buying a few bottles of... breakfast, and there on the counter was a DVD of the original Halloween film. It was 2.49, and I thought to myself "Ah what the hell. Saves me downloading it, and a bit of classic blood and mayhem at this time of year is always nice." I bought the DVD knowing full well I'd probably only watch it that once. I did, and it was great. Simple, available and briefly entertaining.

Well, one month on and Asteroids appears on XBLA for three and a half quid. I seem to remember enjoying this classic piece of vector driven history so I thought to myself, "Ah what the hell. Saves me loading it up on MAME, and I can play it while liggin' out on the sofa drinking my... breakfast." So I did, and it was pretty good. Simple, available and briefly entertaining.

But now I have to haul myself off the sofa and take to the laborious toil of slaving over a review (it's an easy life, but someone's got to do it), and I'm forced to question whether Stainless Games has actually achieved anything with this latest re-issue of another classic arcade game. The short answer is a shrugging of indifferent shoulders and a jauntiness of the head, but you're here for the long answer, so let me grab my thesaurus and get waxing.

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Asteroids

Asteroids

Rocks in space.

Of course Asteroids holds massive significance in the history of videogames, but as a game in its own right, this awesome machine demonstrated the real depths of possibility the new, and mostly frowned upon, industry had to offer.

Our opinions on what space travel might involve were decidedly one-dimensional. We had notions of populating other worlds, intergalactic war, faster than light travel and teaching new species about lurve. But what Ed Logg subtly reminded us of with his brilliant new game design is that we're human, and still will be when we invent space ships. Therefore, the majority of work done in the stellar playground is going to be menial, lonely and repetitive. Garbage collection, for instance. Between Mars and Jupiter lies an enormous belt thick with asteroids, and do you really think we, the lazy, destructive, viral human race, are going to be happy taking the long way round to the Jovian Collection?

Not likely. There'll be plenty of work for those who deforest outer space, and that's precisely the kind of realistic space exploration Atari considered in Asteroids. The apparently simple gameplay is host to such incredible and alien physics that gamers genuinely felt the claustrophobia of their tiny ship, looking out into the vastness of space and raw destructive might of inert planetoids through their small coin-op window. Equally simplistic controls hid a profundity of delicately required control as the quantum mechanics we take for granted (such as momentum and inertia) are removed from the infinitesimal equation of our insignificant lives.

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