snap3105When Activision acquired the Asteroids license, expectations were high. After all, they did wonders with the completely revamped Battlezone, itself based on an old arcade classic. Would the same happen to Asteroids? Well, no, since this remake is little more than a cosmetic update of the arcade game. It’s got better graphics, cutscenes and more different things to shoot, but the essence of the game remains intact. That may be good news to diehard fans of a 40-year old arcade game, and bad news for anyone looking for a X-Wing type experience.

Asteroids is, well – Asteroids. You take control of a little spaceship on a two-dimensional battlefield, and your goal is to blow up everything on the screen to score points and move on to the next level. As in the classic, the vast majority of your targets will be rocks, which are lethal when they collide with your ship. The big asteroids split into smaller chunks when your weapons hit them, and the smallest pieces are vaporized. You control your ship by turning it left or right and firing thrusters to move around the screen — but you won’t get far, since everything that travels off-screen “wraps around” to emerge on the opposite side. Space-rocks aren’t the only things that threaten your little ship: metal debris and enemy UFOs also pop in from time to time.

Veteran gamers who played the Atari 2600 version of Asteroids will recognize the ships’ shield and flip capabilities: the shields let rocks pass through your ship, but you have a limited amount of shield energy; the flip command causes your ship to pull an instantaneous 180-degree turn. These options weren’t in the coin-op machine, but they were only new about 20 years ago. There’s also a good ol’ hyperspace command, which teleports your ship to a random location in the blink of an eye – sometimes out of the frying pan and into the fire.

snap3099This new incarnation does add a new ingredients to spice up the stew a little. Now you can choose from three different ships with varied turning, thrust, and shielding abilities. A variety of UFOs attack you or otherwise harass you, including kamikaze ships, cargo trains, and asteroid mining vessels that capture rocks to prevent you from finishing the level. To aid your cause, power-ups float past from time to time. They consist mostly of enhanced weapons such as bombs, mines, and missiles.

The most interesting new twists are worked into the playing fields themselves. Instead of open space, you now have several different arenas to progress through that offer specific dangers. In one, your battle against the rocks centers around a black hole, and another is near a star that spits out comets and deadly solar flares.

System Requirements: Pentium 166 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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