Review by Retro
Reviewed: 04/24/01 | Updated: 05/20/02
The definition of a classic shooter
In Missile Command, you control a sort of spaceship that resembles a flashing, horizontal line, or cursor. Your job is to control the various missiles and other spaceships by moving your cursor of a spaceship around the screen and using it to plant loads of bombs in the right places in order to kick some major missile and alien butt. Move your flashing line where you anticipate the oncoming enemy being in the next 1-3 seconds, and then press the button to make your station at the bottom-middle of the screen fire a shot up to where your spaceship is currently placed.
There are several same-looking buildings at the bottom of the screen (6 in all; 3 on each side) that you must guard from the incoming UFOs and missiles. When a missile or unidentified flying object hits your station from which you fire from, you will lose all the firepower that is currently left in your station for the current batch. At the start of each level, you are given 30 total missiles, with no way to gain extra ammo. Also, you can have as many as three bombs exploding on the screen at once.
In the arcade version of Missile Command, you are in charge of three stations full of firepower. There is one on the left, one in the middle, and one on the right. All three of them have one set of firepower, or bombs, available. You have to choose which one to fire from. Also in the arcade game is airplanes that fly across the screen from time to time, dropping a few missiles.
As I said before, the Atari 2600 version of Missile Command is a little different from the arcade game of the same name, but it is still a great game, possibly even better. In the Atari 2600 version, you only have one station, but it owns three sets of firepower. There are UFOs and tons of missiles, but there are not any airplanes that fly across the screen at any point. Since there are not any airplanes, there are not quite as many missiles in each level of this game as there is in the arcade version. Don't get me wrong though, this game still packs a major challenge.
The idea of Missile Command is to protect the six houses at the bottom of the screen. It takes just one hit from any humming UFO or slender missile to take out any house in a heartbeat.
Most of the missiles and UFOs will head straight for one of the houses or your station, but not all of them will. Some of them seem blind and aim for the side of your station, the side of the screen, or between two houses, which won't cause you a bit of damage. If you look at your station, you can always see how many bullets you have left, and there's a flashing light at the top of it. For a missile or UFO to damage your station, it has to hit that flashing light.
All you have to do is get rid of as many missiles and UFOs as you can in order to keep them from destroying anything, or just get rid of the ones that look to be on their way to doing some damage (strategy!). Once you destroy all the flying headaches in a level, you will proceed to the next level, which doesn't ever change, landscape wise.
When a house gets destroyed, there is a way you can bring it back from the dead. Every 10,000 points you rack up will go toward building yourself a new house in a matter of milliseconds. If a house is in the process of being rebuilt, you will hear a reassuring sound when the next level starts, and then one or more (depending on your points) of your houses will go back up. Once the atmospheric-living enemies have defeated you by eating up all your residences that reside on the earth, your game will be over.
The farther you get in Missile Command, the faster and more numerous the missiles and UFOs will become. Once you reach a certain point in the game, the suicidal enemies start falling down at blinding speeds. So you better hope you're prepared for this awesome challenge.
To make this arcade to console conversion even better, the makers decided to put 34 variations in this tiny cart. There are 18 one-player games to choose from, and 16 two-player variations. When playing a two-player game, you and your friend take turns playing. When one of you clears a level, it's the other person's turn to clear one, and so on.
The variations aren't anything major, but they're nice to see nonetheless. The first type of game is 'normal'; in it, your spaceship is of normal speed and the enemies start out slow and begin to haul ass in a matter of a few levels. Other variations offer such challenges as the enemies being hyperactively fast from the get-go, your ship being slower or faster than normal, the bombs taking a bit longer to be shot from the station to your current position once they're initiated, and combinations of those three 'challenges'.
Missile Command is fun because its action is always fast-paced and suspenseful, it's a challenging game, and best of all, strategy comes into play. To get real far or roll over the score, you will have to put some strategy and effort into the game. If a missile doesn't appear to be on its way to hitting a target while there are several others that are hungrily racing toward a target, it would be best to just go for the right ones. Also, there are many instances in which you can destroy two or more UFOs and missiles with just one shot; it's all about timing.
I recommend any Atari 2600 enthusiast (especially those of classic shooters) to get Missile Command. It's one of the best classics for the system and if you have an Atari 2600 and don't have Missile Command, your collection is not complete. As much as I loved the game when I was a kid, I still like it just as much now that I've reached my twenties. That goes to show that Missile Command never loses any of its missile-busting charm that it had from day one.
GRAPHICS - Missile Command's graphics are great (for the time of course). I've always liked the graphical effects the most. For example, when a house gets blasted to hell and back, it will slowly fall to the ground. While it is falling to the ground, it seems to take the form a mushroom at one point, which I think is cool. I also like how the screen flashes when you get a game over (great effects for the time!).
The houses, missiles, the station, and the UFOs all have decent details to them. Finally, after every level, the colors in the background change. In one level, it might have a pitch-black background, making it look like these attacks are happening in the dead of night. The next stage might have a light yellow background that might remind you of the color of orange juice, and so on.
SOUND - The sound is just as good, if not better than the graphics. The UFOs have a classic humming sound, the explosions sound somewhat realistic and a bit ahead of their time, and all the other sounds such as when you fire a shot are just as great. When you start a level, you will hear some short, but memorable music that makes you feel like you're about to save the world.
CONTROL - Like the graphics and sound, the control couldn't be much better. It's real simple to move around as if there's no such thing as gravity, and firing shots with precision is a cinch.
REPLAY VALUE - Missile Command is one of my favorites for the Atari 2600 and it's definitely one of the games that I've played the most. Missile Command's action is fast and explosive, so it will keep you coming back for more and more!
OVERALL - Missile Command is an all around great game, and it's easily a classic. It has great graphics, sound, control, replay value, a good challenge, and best of all it's a lot of fun. Without a doubt, it's one of the best Atari 2600 games ever made. Get it today!
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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