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Asteroids & Asteroids Deluxe


Iím always amazed at what gets repacked in a shiny, high-definition sheen for Xbox Live Arcade. Recently it happened to be the 28-year old Atari classic Asteroids. While including the original game for arcade purists, Atari also saw fit to include an ďevolvedĒ version of Asteroids with bright sparkling colors and large explosions. Including online leaderboards, this title sells for 400 marketplace points a.k.a. $5.00.

For those crazy kids too young to be familiar with Asteroids, it was released in 1979 and based on a game called Space Wars that was released two years prior. Itís often referred to with the same reverence as early golden age video games like Space Invaders and Frogger. Essentially, the player controls a tiny ship at the center of the screen and shoots the incoming asteroids and occasional alien flying saucer. The player has control over the ships boosting function and can relocate it to any spot on the screen. The player has to shoot all the objects on the screen to end the level and repeat.

Gameplay

Asteroids Deluxe requires the same actions as the original, but the developers did include a shield element to replace hyperspace. You can activate a shield when it seems unlikely that you will escape the path of those flying rocks. Still, it's pretty much identical to the original in terms of shooting down asteroids and spaceships.

The control feels overly clunky and almost delayed when using the Xbox 360 controller. Planning movement based on current asteroid trajectory is troublesome to say the least. The momentary pause when moving the ship around takes a while to get used to and is nearly too much trouble than its worth. Perhaps I'm jaded as a product of growing up with NES rather than an ancient computer, but it doesn't mesh well with the modern age of gaming.

With the limited amount of improvements that went into this release, the achievements were the main area that the developer could add replay value to a title somewhat devoid of it. There are some tough challenges in the set like completing level 1 in only 28 shots or finishing a round with exactly 99990 points. Itís definitely a set of tasks directed at the Asteroid loyalists and should give the hardcore gamer a tough time. The casual gamer will be limited to a few points at most.

Graphics & Audio

Visually, Asteroids is representative of its 1979 aesthetic. Vector graphics are all the rage and the explosions are astoundingly blocky. The revamped version of Asteroids is nicer on the eyes, but much more confusing. When multiple explosions fill the screen, it's tough to make out the difference between incoming rocks and particle fragments. This fault in the visuals will end your game quicker as the speed progresses. I did like the HD space backgrounds though. The audio is pretty much what you would expect out of the classic; lots of treble and little to no bass.

Conclusion

There are two huge flaws in the release of Asteroids for Xbox Live arcade; the fun factor and the price. From the perspective of the modern gamer, Asteroids has never been entertaining enough to play for more than a few minutes in a Flash game. It really feels like a chore to play just for a high score and thereís an absolute feeling of monotony every time the screen resets with flying rocks. Amazingly, this is an Xbox Live arcade release thatís actually overpriced at 400 marketplace points. I realize Atari is probably restricted to Microsoftís pricing structure for Xbox Live Arcade releases, but the appropriate price for the amount of features / gameplay is 100 to 200 points. Seeing this title priced the same as Geometry Wars simply boggles the mind. I canít recommend this title to anyone with the vast majority of higher quality original content on Xbox Live marketplace.