Kiki's Games Blog

Friday, December 08, 2006

MAME: Asteroids

Asteroids was one of the founding fathers of the shoot-em-up genre.
Elegantly presented, Asteroids is drawn using Vector graphics instead of sprites. It can be imagined that its classy, white-on-black graphics would have glowed through any darkly-lit arcade as was common at the game's release (1979).

The player's control consist of clock- and counter-clockwise turning, a fire button, a thrust button & a hyperspace button. To slow down, it is necessary to turn and fire thrust in the opposite direction to one's momentum. As the gameplay takes place on a closed-in space, leaving the area's borders will cause the ship (Spacewar!'s classic wedge) to reappear at the opposite side of the screen. The hyperspace button will teleport the player's ship to a random location on the screen, with the danger of either random destruction, or being in the path of an incoming asteroid.
These asteroids are created at the beginning of each level (starting with 4, increasing by 2 each level to a max of 12). Each asteroid, when shot, will break up into 2 medium-sized rocks, with each of these breaking up into 2 smaller ones before being finally vanquished. Additionally, the smaller sizes move at faster speed than the previous ones. This is dangerous for the player, as one hit will destroy his ship & lose him a life.
Finally, UFO's (shaped like flying saucers) will periodically appear. They come in 2 sizes: larger ones move slowly & fire in a random pattern, whereas smaller UFOs will attempt to actively hunt the player's ship. They will disappear if the player doesn't destroy them within c. 10 seconds.
Like the player, asteroids & UFO's will wrap around the screen.

Final view
Asteroids is a great game. It makes the player have to continually assess where his momentum will take him, what angle his shots must be at to hit that asteroid in relation to where it will be in 2 seconds & whether he will be able to thrust out of the way of the incoming shrapnel, or have to use hyperspace, or whether he can win a firefight with that damn small UFO -- in other words, the game is challenging without being unfair, and allows for continuous improvement.


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