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atari missile command
Written by  :  MagFram (43)
Written on  :  May 07, 2005
Platform  :  Atari 2600
Rating  :  2.75 Stars2.75 Stars2.75 Stars2.75 Stars2.75 Stars

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A popular game back in the 2600 hey-day

The Good

At the time, the "Isometric" view was something else. Adding a sense of depth to the side-to-side shooter was a nifty idea. You could gauge the depth of the ship/alien/green-cylinder-thingy by the shadow below it, and in order to connect on a shot you'd have to be on the same plane as your target when firing. At least I think it was that way. The "Isometric" thing was mostly used for the gates, anyhow, which came in two flavors: plain vanilla and highly electrified.

The difficulty of the later levels was used in my neighborhood and among my family to determine who was "the best" gamer. We would argue about what we'd done in the arcade and what we'd done on other 2600 games, but for whatever reason, the later levels of the 2600 Zaxxon were THE standard for gaming skill.

I still don't understand why 2600 Zaxxon was the neighborhood standard, but there you have it. Maybe that is a disguised compliment to the difficulty of the game or maybe it was an arbitrary decision. I remember that the later levels were difficult, though. They sped up as you progressed and could become pretty nasty and fast once you got far enough.

The Bad

The "Isometric" view made the game control strangely. You'd use left-right to slide left-right and up-down to raise or lower your ship. But I remember this game as being very "laggy" as far as shooters go, and recall being frustrated that sometimes I'd head left when I want to go down, etc.

Because of the control, I always preferred some River Raid or Defender if I was going to rock the 2600 shooter-style.

The shadows were also inaccurate, and the hit detection on the gate/walls was choosy. This combination made me very angry at this game many, many times due to lost lives on gates that I felt I cleared. In this game, there were no gimmes in hit detection: you either clear the wall by far or you're dead.

The Bottom Line

A weird space shooter whose enemies are some of the most obscure you'll ever see. I mean, what _were_ those purple things? It's fun running into people who played Zaxxon, because it seems like everybody has a different pet name for all of the objects in the game. My dad, who was a Zaxxon nut, used to call the green cylinders "Gas tanks" and the purple things "Beet roots."

I'd love to get my hands on this and play once more for old time's sake. If you have access to it, it's worth a look for the amorphous targets and the "Isometric" view, which was something that was a neat twist in its time. Plus, you'll get a chance to revel in the old days, when high scores and reflexes made the gamer. Enjoy!

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