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Star Raiders (Atari 5200)

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Servo (55897)
Written on  :  Apr 22, 2005
Platform  :  Atari 5200
Rating  :  4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars

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Summary

Visually dull, but fantastic and challenging gameplay

The Good

Given the limitations of early consoles like the 5200, Star Raiders was a pretty amazing game for its time that included quite a bit of detail and was still incredibly fun to play. Your goal is pretty much to destroy any enemies in the galaxy that you can find before they destroy your own starbases. The groups of enemies show up on your galactic chart, and attempt to surround and destroy your starbases so you'll need to complete your mission fast (especially on later levels). Whether you were looking at the galactic chart, flying through hyperspace, or in a battle all of the enemies were always on the move. Overall there is a large amount of freedom in the game to go where you want, when you want. You could (attempt) to leave battles if you were losing to go get your ship repaired, attack whichever cluster of enemies you wanted, or even visit empty space if you felt like it. Played from a first person point of view (impressive and uncommon on a 5200), you had the ability to control numerous aspects of your starship like shields, weapons, scanner, hyperdrive, and more. Really an astonishing array of actions; luckily the 5200 joystick actually worked quite well for this, even the often criticized analog stick didn't provide any obstacles to playing the game. An overlay was included for the 12 button keypad which controlled most functions. Having these right on the joystick (and labeled clearly) was nice, especially when compared with other platforms where the computer keyboard or a separate keypad was used which I found too distracting. Another nice touch is the various types of damages your starship could sustain; these actually affected your display or flying abilities until you could dock with a starbase and repair them (docking with a damaged engine was particularly challenging). There aren't many sounds in the game, but the ones that are there are decent.

The Bad

The gameplay was complex to learn; without the instruction manual, you would pretty much be completely lost. Even after learning the game, some operations always seemed to be overly difficult, such as docking with starbases. After playing many times, I still screwed that up on a regular basis. Visually the game wasn't terribly exciting. Graphics are blocky, the sprites are all single color without much detail, and the game speed slows down when too many explosions are on screen. You can't expect too much from a 3D game in 1982 though, and it doesn't distract from the gameplay much so it's not too big a deal (even if it's not pretty, everything you need to see is on screen and clear enough).

The Bottom Line

If you can get past the challenge in learning the game, it's a lot of fun to play even if it isn't the best looking game on the 5200. The increasingly challenging missions you'll need to complete in order to obtain higher rankings provide plenty of replay value, I spent many hours with this one!