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5.0 Perfect
4.5 Excellent
4.0 Very Good
3.5 Good
3.0 Fair
2.5 Weak
2.0 Poor
1.5 Bad
1.0 Terrible
0.5 Atrocious
0.0 Your Mom


Funkmaster V Reviews


7800 Rank: Unranked

Genre: SHMUP

Awards: None
Sir, Are You Spiritually Prepared to Dock? Pros: Faithful Translation to the Classic Arcade Shooter
Cons: No One Played this Classic Arcade Shooter
If a Video Game and a Devo Music Video Combined: ASTRO BLASTER


Overview: I did an interview with Pac Man Plus (Bob Decrescenzo) earlier in the year and he said one of the coolest things about programming for the 7800 that I have ever heard: "I program underdog games for the 7800 that have no other home, because the 7800 is an underdog system."
I LIKE THAT! Well.. it was something like that. I've slept since then, but that's the gist. I bring up that quote because it really fits in a review about Astro Blaster. Astro Blaster has never been ported to a home console before, and that's too bad because it has a few interesting twists that set it apart from early 80's shooters that make it unique enough to examine and enjoy.

Graphics: This game has such a funky presentation that it sticks out like a pimp at Whole Foods. I like Planet Smashers (I may be the only one) but it is so visiually boring it may turn off hordes of folks from the get go. Not a problem here. Upon firing up this cart up, the title stobe blinks into your brain and some robot-man makes you extremly nervous with an audio message about the demise of the galaxy. Shit! Sorry! Hell! OK, here we go! After taking on the task of saving the universe, we see that this is a SHMUP where we will endure multiple waves of bizarre aliens using interesting flight platterns to cause some havoc. Our adversaries range from ships, to asteroids, to weird ships, to wheels, to evern weirder ships. Some strobe colors, but most enemies are single color. It's effective, it's simple, and the on screen instructions are easy to read. The docking screen is really cool. Looks great. My only complaint with graphics are the damn red bullets are practially invisble on my TV. I had the same problem with Bob's game Frenzy, too. It's not as bad in this game because red enemies are rarer in Astro Blaster, but wrestling with my brightness and tint controls do little to fix it. I should note that this arcade title had to be a big influence on the Atari 2600's Megamania from Activision. The almost silly, cartoony enemies moving in bizarre synchronized flight patterns gave me deja vu of that more popular title.

Sound: Im not sure how Bob does it, but the audio in Bob's games do amazing things. The game blares out "Fighter Pilots Needed in Sector Wars! Play Astro Blaster!!!" I can imagine being a kid in an arcade, that call to duty would have turned my fat little head. The speech is pretty clear, and has a great retro robot voice vibe to it. It's better than the title screen debacle in the 7800 game Jinks... where I think someone is trying to say "You cant catch me!" with a mouthful of android socks. I have never played the arcade version of AB, but I have read that this version is missing several speech samples, but Bob has replaced those with easy to read, on-screen prompts. Well played, Bobby. Each batch of alien armada attacks in unqiue ways, and they have different little tunes that seemingly match the personality of that group. Neat little touches like this keep the game from becoming monotonous and you wouldn't even realize it unless it was for great game reviewers, LIKE ME.

Gameplay: There's a lot to like in Astro Blaster, but one attribute annoys me to no end. I KNOW WHY THE ROBOT MAN NEEDS FIGHTER PILOTS SO BADLY! All the recruits are dead because their crap ships were made in a sweat shop on Venus. The player's ship is the 2525 fighter rocket version of a Yugo. You can hold down the fire button to unleash a satisfying spread of massive fire power, cutting down these evil alien ships to threads... but wait! 10 seconds into that IVE OVERHEATED MY LASER CANNON? When this happens, you have to let the cannon cool. Waiting. That's a fun thing to do in a video game so heavily dependant on getting things done fast. It wouldn't be so bad, but your ship depletes fuel like a Hummer going up a hill. And if you run out of fuel, your ship explodes and the game is over! No matter how many ships you have in reserve. Kaput! Outta here! Give me another quarter, kid. Each stage is a race against your terrible gas mileage, and if and when your laser cannon overheats. You will take on several waves of bad guys, and at some point you can refuel with your mothership to calm your ship's happy ass down and get its mind right. This seems like a bunch of doom and gloom, and it is... but luckily your left button has a special function unlike any another I have ever seen in a video game of this ilk. The screen calls it "Warp", but it really is some Neo in the Matrix slow down jive that lasts a very helpful 10 seconds. You can use this once per stage, and its great for letting your cannon cool down and taking out fast moving enemies that may be overwhelming you. Without this feature, this game would be too cheap to dig on. With the Matrix-style Warp, its a pretty fun power up to play with.

Interpretation: I have read Atari 7800 reviews of this port and watched online video footage of the arcade game and Pac Man Plus did a great job. Some voice commands are missing, but if you never played this game in the arcade, you'll never miss it.

Value: As with most of Bob's games, there is a menu where you can customize your game play experience. You can play with 5 or 3 ships (why would you pick 3?), adjust the difficulty, or choose guided shots or straight bullets. Guided shots can be steered so you can put that English on it, however the bullets are hard to see, so I think the regular straight shot is the way to go. Sigh... sometimes convention wins... although it is boring. Another nice little touch are the little bonuses you can pick up by doing little tasks as you fire through the enemy horde. The problem is, I have no idea why Im being rewarded most of the time. But I still look at the TV and grunt "Yeah! Take That! Call Me Daddy!" I THINK that most of the bonuses are rewarded for either not using your Warp power and killing waves of enemies quickly or effienctly. I will do research on this later and update this review and add a page in the "Cheat to Win" section of the website detailing secret bonus parameters and requirements at a later date.

Overall: Galaga, Space Invaders, Zaxxon, Xevious, Defender, Asteroids... all legendary, old school SHMUPs that stole our attention and our quarters. But for every seminal title that gets remade over and over again, featured in "50 games Included" compilations and has tons of starry eyed fanatics that play them to this day, there is a game like Astro Blaster. Some poor schlub, the video game equivalent to the aging ex-quaterback in Napoleon Dynamite who videos himself throwing a football to noone, telling us how things could have been different. Thanks to Pac Man Plus, we get to sit back and enjoy Astro Blaster dropping back and throwing that football a damn mile for no one but himself. Who knows? Maybe Astro Blaster should have been given a shot to get off the bench. The good news is that it can now. Go get 'em kiddo. Astro Blaster is available at www.AtariAge.com.

Other Reviews:
Video Game Critic: B