Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Activision Beamrider -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewActivision Beamrider for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Beamrider
Manufacturer: Activision
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1984
Part #: AZ-037
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

Rating: Activision Beamrider Classic Retro Video Game Review Rating
Activision Beamrider Screenshot:
Activision Beamrider for Atari 2600 screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

Beamrider is an interesting game from Activision that takes the standard horizontal bottom-shooter and adds a somewhat 3D element to the incoming foes. It's linear look simulates 3D by making far away objects smaller on the screen and enlarging them as they approach. One of the nicest features of achieving 3D by scaling size is how well it's done. The transitions are quite smooth and don't offer the typical jittery visual common in so many games that seemingly lacked the memory to produce a clean effect.

Often compared to Tempest, I never considered Beamrider as a functional Tempest-clone for the 2600. A Tempest prototype clearly demonstrated that the speed and large number of moving objects beloved in the arcade weren't going to cut it on the Atari 2600's limited horsepower. Beamrider does well as a flattened single-axis variant on Tempest, but the game play of the arcade hit is light years ahead of Beamrider.

That isn't to say the Beamrider isn't a damn good game, but the 2600 is not able to create the manic pace of Tempest. But as a horizontal bottom-shooter, its a lot of fun and provides more of a challenge than you might think. Having been released on several home consoles, it's interesting to see that the manual was written for the Coleco version with a notations for differences found on the 2600.

Beamrider's Story Arc

Earth is under attack, as is the case in most games of this genre. Would you believe that YOU are the only hope for Earth's survival? Surprising, eh? A restrictor shield, 99 sectors deep, has surrounded Earth. Defeating the enemies in each sector brings you closer to destroying this invasive shield. As you battle the alien ships, random debris will crash towards you forcing you to maneuver out of harm's way. Fighting for Earth's survival garners you the role of, Beamrider.

Holy shit! Check this out...
Players who made it to Sector 14 or higher and scored at least 40,000 points were eligible to receive a special Beamriders patch from Activision (shown below).
Beamrider was made available on Microsoft's Game Room service for its Xbox 360 console and for Windows-based PCs in August 2010.

Beamrider's Game Play

Beamrider is a single player game where you start with 3 lives and 2 weapons. The fire button lets you fire repeatedly at the incoming enemy ships. Moving the joystick forward launches a torpedo which is best reserved for destroying the Sector Sentinel who appears after the enemy saucers have been destroyed. Additionally, you only have 3 torpedoes per Sector (level). The Space Invaders feel of the game is quickly apparent (this is the game I'd liken Beamriders to). At the start of each life the screen "comes to life" with a pretty cool display of linear beams rotating toward you. This is a really awesome effect for a 2600 game!

The game itself can become repetitive, but it will keep your attention via it's difficulty. The Left Difficulty Switch can be used to amp up the challenge. Set it to A for Advanced and B for normal play. The A difficulty setting gives a notable boost to the challenge before you.

Activision Beamrider screem description - Classic Video Game Review

Levels are called Sectors and each one is comprised of 15 alien saucers awaiting your attack. The numer of remaining saucers is conveniently displayed in the corner of the screen. When they've all been blown up a Sector Sentinel ship moves across the top of the screen. Torpedo this guy and revel in the Space Invader goodness of this video game. As the game progresses the incoming enemies will vary in addition to the 15 white saucers.

Activision Beamrider patch - Classic Video Game Review

In addition to the saucers, asteroids and other space crap will hurtle towards you. Some of these objects can be shot, others must be avoided. Watch for yellow rejuvenators. These will add an extra life providing you allow then to touch your ship. If you accidentally shot one, it's wreckage will come at you with lethal intent. The lesson learned - don't shoot the fucking power-ups.

Score points be shooting down everything. Point values increase at higher levels and bonuses are awarded for shooting the Sector Sentinel. Back in the day, high scores could be photographed and sent to Activision in exchange for a snazzy patch that your Mom would invariably have to sew onto your jean jacket. Those were the days...

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Final Judgement:

Activision Beamrider

is a cool game reminiscent of several arcade classics, although it was never an arcade game. The play can become repetitive, but the difficulty and uniqueness of it's 3D imagery makes this a fun game that deserves a spot in your collection.

Read about our Spaceship video game review rating system

« Return to Retro Video Game Reviews