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|Rating:||4 out of 5|
As Asteroids taught us that a single screen can provide a ton of game play, the side scrollers led us across varied terrain and now we return to a single screen with an orbiting ship. The tube-style perspective of Gyruss' arcade version made for interesting game play with great control whether you were in planetary battle or warping past treacheries toward the next planet.
Parker Brothers always evoke memories of board games, not video games and many of their video game releases were mediocre, but Gyruss was an exception that delivered a home version worthy of your hard earned lawn mowing money in the 80's. The circular motion needed to control your orbiting ship lent nicely to the Atari 5200 joystick and it's ability to always remain off-center.
Far from the comforts of Earth, your ship is on a mission to return from Neptune while engaging in battle as you close in on Earth. The journey takes you to Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. Survival depends on your ability to circle the various planets as enemies fire on you white meteors and satellites cross your path.
With recent arguments as to Pluto's status as a planet, it's interesting to note that Pluto was excluded from the game. Did the developers decided that Pluto was just to damn far away to make for a believable single-ship mission? Perhaps they knew early on that Pluto would soon be dismissed as a "real" planet. I find it hard to believe, in the context of our universe's age, that Pluto somehow ceased to be a planet during my short existence.
FYI - Pluto is a planet and forget anyone who thinks my 5th grade diorama should have omitted it.
Finally we have a game who's player interaction is NOT hampered by the notoriously awful Atari 5200 controllers. Controlling your ship's orbit seems well blended to a rotational movement of the 5200 joystick. Looking at Gyruss' arcade controls we see the familiar joystick and single fire-button that worked so well with the Atari 2600 set up. Porting it to the Atari 5200 seems flawless based on the control you have.
With such unheard of control, Gyruss offers single and two-player games in which you and a friend can chill to Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata and Fuge in D Minor" with some electronic flair. You begin with a warp to Neptune in which enemy ships will appear in 4 formations. Some enemies emerge from center-screen while others may launch stealth attacks from the outer edges of the screen. There are 2 warps to get to Neptune, but the remaining planets require 3 warps.
As enemies fire on you, your only defense, besides shooting the enemy planes, is to avoid the incoming missiles. You have to destroy all the enemy planes. After the last formation, any remaining enemy planes will converge to destroy you! Upon approach to a planet you will enter a Chance Stage in which you'll have a reprieve from being fired on. The Chance Stage is an opportunity to score points as 4 formations surge. Bonus points are awarded for shooting down an entire formation and Super Bonus points for destroying all four formations. Wiping out all 4 formations will land you 10,000 points.
Extra lives come at 60,000 points and every 100,000 points thereafter. Shoot wisely, these bonus lives don't come as often as you might like. Starting with 3 lives seems too few compared to the challenge. The game ends when all your ships have been destroyed or you pull the plug out of the wall because the cute chick next door stops by - and she hates video games. Might be time to kick her to the curb. Gyruss is that good! ;)
Aside from enemy planes seeking to shoot you, are 2 types of satellites. One type appears in tri-formation enabling you to shoot the middle satellite giving you double-shot capability until you lose a life. The second type of satellite are Electromagnetic wave-emitting ones that can catch your ship and destroy it.
Don't get so accustomed to shooting down satellites that you try that same trick on meteors. Meteors look like oversized rocks or asteroids, but they can't be destroyed. Avoid them or parish!
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