The Rocks Spin... Asteroids Deluxe Analysis in 4/4

by Pinback

My experience with Deluxe has been primarily limited to MAME, which features a sporting good version of it, and even provides the backdrop graphics, which is cool as hell.

From said experience, I have to classify Asteroids Deluxe as a flawed brilliance, and yet another of the greatest games of all time (which is understandable, since it varies fairly little from its older brother.)

First of all, let's take a look at the ways which AD is superior to the original:

1. The ship looks cooler.
2. The rocks spin (and thus, look cooler.)
3. Shields are much more satisfying than hyperspace, and add an additional element of strategy, rather than just being a "panic button" of last resort.

The biggest change, of course, is the addition of the "asteroid ship", or "Hexagon of Death" if you will. I believe this badboy was put into the game specifically to prevent nerds from getting down to the last rock and trolling around the corners of the screen for hours shooting innocent flying saucers and rolling the scoreboard over fifteen times while garnering 42 bonus ships lined up all the way across the top of the screen.

It succeeds in doing so, but at the same time brings to the game its greatest flaw, in that it makes the game inescapable "smaller". One of the big surprises when AD came out was that there was a fairly low limit on the number of asteroids you'd face on any one level. I think it's like 9 or 10 or something, where in the original it would just keep piling rock upon rock until the screen was instantly filled up.

You wonder why this doesn't ruin game, but it doesn't, because each level, the Hexagon comes out quicker and moves faster, to the point where before an abundance of asteroids could even come close to becoming a problem, your main goal in life is to avoid getting spiked by the Hexagon. The rocks themselves are an afterthought.

There may be much better players than I, but on MAME, before I could even get to 70,000, this avoidance became what I'd consider theoretically impossible. As soon as the Hexagon came on the screen, you had to gun the thrusters up to max and get the hell out of dodge, as it's the only way to outrun those bitches.

The pure joy of the original game, and the reason it continues to be the truest test of hand-eye coordination in gaming, and the reason it still works as an air traffic control training tool, is having countless asteroids flying around the screen, and having to pick out patterns, see the whole board, and determine what the board will look like in the next second, and the second after that. While playing I often intentionally blur my eyes to keep them from focusing on one spot, because the instant you do that, you are going to get into trouble. You HAVE to seen the entire screen in order to survive in that environment.

Asteroids Deluxe, for the first few levels, does this even better, as the rocks are faster and "meaner" (if one can believe that). But then gradually the focus shifts away from that, and it becomes a mutant version of SpaceWar, where the enemy ship just tries to ram you instead of shooting you.

That's its only downfall, in my opinion. Other than that (and even despite that) it's still a wonderful, wonderful game. I mean, how couldn't it be? How could a sequel to Asteroids be any less than fabulous?

What about Blasteroids?

Oh yeah, good point. Never mind.