Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

M Network Astroblast -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewM Network Astroblast for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Astroblast
Manufacturer: M Network
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1982
Part #: MT5666
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

Rating: M Network Astroblast Classic Retro Video Game Review Rating
M Network Astroblast Screenshot:
M Network Astroblast for Atari 2600 screenshot Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review

So... M Network decided that the Atari 2600 needed a version of Astrosmash, found on the Intellivision, which was Mattel's answer to Atari's Asteroids - but with a Space Invaders set up? Wait, what? I'm not sure if this circuitous path leads anywhere, but Astroblast is a fun frantic game. It also contains a few quirks that separate it from other horizontal shooters trying to feed off of the Asteroids vibe.

M Network was actually a stealth arm of Mattel. OK, maybe it wasn't that stealthy, but despite the console competition between the 2600 and the Intellivision, the folks at Mattel created M Network primarily to offer Intellivision titles for play on the Atari 2600. I always felt many of Mattel's "similar" games on the Intellivision were heavily borrowed from Atari, but still some had some good appeal and Mattel capitalized on this by releasing them for the 2600.

Some say it's actually better than than Astrosmash. It's very blocky looking, but the action is surprisingly smooth. And the sound is so 8-bit it's awesome - nice loud explosions give off different sounds depending on the on-screen threat. Looks awful. Plays great. Sounds fun!

Astroblast Story Arc

There is none. Shit's falling - shoot or move!
As M Network was a Mattel company, they were often accused of delivering watered-down versions of Intellivision games to the 2600. That's debatable, but this genre has been done every which way. The obvious similarity to Asteroids and Space Invaders really makes a back-story a tad pointless. I'm sure the marketing guys were tired of making up planetary names and heroic intergalactic military titles to bestow upon the brave character fighting off the enemy. Hence, there ain't no story here.

Astroblast Game Play

You start this single-player shooter with 10 lives and an array of things to shoot at as they descend. Your ship moves horizontally and features single and rapid fire cannon capability. You may think 10 lives will keep you going for a while - think again! There are 4 variants of detritus hurdling toward you.

Holy shit! Check this out...
A bug in the original Atari 2600 version causes some erratic visuals when two controllers are plugged in and moved simultaneously. This can lock up control until the game is reset. This bug was fixed
in later releases of the game. No DLC fixes for this one :)
Astrosmash for the Intellivision was released in 1981 and sold over a million copies. It replaced Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack as the pack-in game title.

Its easy to see the similarities to other games, but here's where Astroblast differentiates itself. You may be inclined to connect your familiar joystick, but DON'T! You can also use the paddle controllers which give much better accuracy. Pop a set on the left joystick port and go nuts.

You earn an extra life whenever your Peak Score goes over 1,000. Peak Score? Yep. Scoring is pretty unique for a game of this era. Obviously tere are different point values for each item hit, but you lose points when Rocks land on the surface. Best to shoot them, but some are bound to get past you. As you get familiar with the game play, you may find it difficult to keep your score above zero! Peak score is an overall score and although your score can't go below zero, you need to be pretty aggressive to get a high score.

As your score increases, the background color changes to indicate the level you are at. Targets fall faster, but are worth more points as your score climbs.

Astroblast Difficulty Switch Settings

To demonstrate that his is no knock-ff shooter, the difficulty switches will let you amp up the challenge. The switches can be altered during game play!

When the Right Difficulty Switch is set to "B" the game starts at the regular skill level. Set at "A" it begins with accelerated speed (the same pace and targets as if your score were over 50,000).

With the Left Difficulty Switch set to "B" you are in manual firing mode (single shot per fire). Setting to "A" gives you automatic firing.

Your score will go up & down during game play, but when all your lives are lost, your Peak Score will appear.

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

M Network Astroblast

may initially seem like an atrocious game, but give it a little time and it's quirks, fast pace and paddle controller compatibility should soon win you over.

The Intellivision had superior graphics, but this 2600 version offers such good game play, you may not care. A worthy addition to your collection.

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