Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Atari Gravitar -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewAtari Gravitar for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Gravitar
Manufacturer: Atari
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1983
Part #: CX2685
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

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

Gravitar is often compared to Asteroids (another vector based game) but I think this is mainly because of the ship's shape and maneuvering scheme. Gravitar is a thrust-game with a twist. Similar to propelling the ship in Asteroids, Gravitar uses the same model wherein the ships propulsion is solely in the direction it's traveling. You need to reverse direction and thrust in order to slow down. Come on- there aren't brake pedals on spaceships!

If that weren't enough, gravity constantly pulls the ship so thrusting is always necessary to avoid drifting into objects. Many areas are quite tight, so you need to master the controls more so than with other more forgiving games. It's difficulty may have contributed to its diminished popularity despite being a great game.

All these components left me feeling Gravitar was much more difficult than Asteroids. The Gravitar arcade controls afforded five buttons, two to rotate the ship left or right, one to shoot, one to thrust, and one for both tractor beam and force field. I always liked that the Thrust and Fire buttons were offset making the layout conform to one's hand with a logical placement of the Tractor/Shield button under your thumb. The controls have been narrowed to fit the confine of the 2600 joystick - many of the functions being relegated to the stick itself. The arcade versino, like Asteroids, had no joystick.

Gravitar Story Arc

The evil Gravitar has set out to destroy the universe using gravity to further his domination. He bombards galaxies with a hostile gravitational force, then installs a powerful reactor creating a deadly sun that destroys all life. Automated bunkers take out anyone who tries to conquer his reign. Intelligence repots suggest he's set his sights on our galaxy.

Holy shit! Check this out...
Gravitar was released to arcades by Atari in 1982 and was ported to the 2600 and the Vectrex (named Gravitrex). Gravitar has been added to the Xbox service and Windows Live. Dan Coogan, of Phoenix, AZ
set a new Gravitar world record, scoring 8,029,450 points on 12/12/06, playing for 23 hours and 15 minutes. The previous world record was 4,722,200, which reigned for 24 years, set by Ray Mueller!

Defeating Gravitar involves destroying all bunkers on every planet or the reactor in the alien reactor base. These are the only options for canceling his rule over the 12 solar systems. The obvious choice seems to be attacking the lone Alien Reactor, but it's the most difficult route due to the intricate spiraling path you have to navigate to reach it.

Gravitar Game Play

Oddly the hardest level is the default level-1 at the start of the game. Obviously it doesn't get easier as you progress, but you may want to start at an easier level if you're new to Gravitar. In which case, you'll have more ships to call upon as you get used to being decimated by gravitational pull. Level 5 offers 25 ships and no gravity. This is a good level on which to lean to maneuver your ship. This is the Beginner level. Once you get proficient at piloting, the gravity won't pose quite the same threat.

You start out on a map of the current galaxy which enables you to select a planet. At this intro stage you have to escape the killer sun's gravitational pull. Each solar system consists of a sun, alien reactor base, and 3 or 4 blockaded planets each with fuel deposits and enemy bunkers. You can move from one solar system to the next by either by destroying all enemy bunkers on each planet or by activating the reactor at the alien reactor base and escaping before it explodes. After completing the mission in the 3 solar systems of one galaxy, you are automatically taken to another galaxy and the mission continues.

Level 1 is the hardest and you begin with 6 ships. Higher levels give you up to 100 starships and fuel units. In your travels you must use the tractor beam to pick up more fuel. Your ship consumes fuel every time you thrust activate shields, or use your tractor beam. You'll hear a warning beep when your fuel level goes below 2,000 units. The game ends when you run out of fuel or lose your last ship. When you complete your mission, the game resets and your points continue onward.

If you survive all three solar systems in one galaxy, you automatically go on to the next galaxy. The 4 galaxies are similar, but exhibit different gravitational properties - sometimes it's reverse gravitation. Additionally, the lighting conditions grow dark in some areas. Firing will help illuminate your best path as the explosions will briefly show detail of the walls. Be careful in the dark as your shield only protects agains enemy fire. Running into walls is still fatal despite deploying your shield.

Gravitar's Difficulty Switches

What? You want to make it harder?!? You only choices are the levels you choose at the beginning of the game. The Left and Right Difficulty Switches seemingly have no effect on the game.


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

Atari Gravitar

offers fairly simple game play, but maneuvering the ship is where the challenge mounts. This game has a love/hate following mostly due to the intricacies of piloting the ship. It looks simple enough, but the spaces are often narrow making movement difficult. Being harder than it looks can be frustrating, but using the Beginner level for practice makes for a better experience when it gets manic. It does get manic.

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