Classic Retro Video Game Reviews

Atari Missile Command -Atari 2600
Retro Gaming Review

Atari 2600 VCS console Classic Retro Gaming Video Game ReviewAtari Missile Command for Atari 2600 Classic Retro Gaming Video Game Review
Title: Missile Command
Manufacturer: Atari
Platform: Atari 2600
Release Date: 1981
Part #: CX2638
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
ESRB Rating: N/A

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

Who didn't love Missile Command in the arcades? Saving cities from incoming interplanetary balistic missiles was a catchy concept in the early 80's with all the existing nuclear concerns. The nightly news spoke of second-strike capability and the arms race was fueled in the media with movies like War Games in 1983. The public at large was concerned about who had more ICBMs. Turns out Missile Command had the most and they were seemingly in better hands than the political elite of the day.

Defending a peaceful planet from hostile overtakers was a perfect fit for the political climate. Even kids cramming quarters into arcade cabinets were aware of the concerns - total annihilation! Having 3 missile bases and a precision trackball made this a great game for all experience levels. Having it "come home" on the Atari 2600 made my day!

Missile Command Story Arc

Aliens from the planet f Krytol have begun an attack on the peaceful planet Zardon. Cities on Zardon are developed, rich in resources and void of crime. Having missile bases laden with anti balistic missiles (ABMs) was likely a great crime deterrent - kind of the way everyone in Texas & Florida has a gun. However this wasn't a deterrent for the Krytolian warriors.

These aliens descended on Zardon using both interplanetary balistic missiles and cruise missiles in an attempt to destroy all the cities. As Base Commander, you job is to protect the 6 cities using your missile base containing 30 ABMs. Your ABMs can destroy multiple incoming missiles if placed skillfully.

Missile Command Arcade -vs- the Atari 2600 Conversion

Here is another example of getting a complicated set of arcade controls honed down to a joystick and 1 button for the Atari console. Missile Command's arcade controls featured 3 buttons to fire from each of 3 missile bases (Alpha Delta and Omega), each with 10 missiles. A trackball provided fast accurate targeting as 80's hair-band riffs filled the arcade.

The 2600 version features a single missile base with 30 missiles and the joystick moves the cross hair around the screen at a uniform pace. This makes covering the entire screen rather difficult. Centipede had a trackball in the arcade, but you only had to cover the bottom portion of the screen which was much easier to translate to the 2600 joystick. Missile Command demands you cover the entire screen. You can hover at the to to blast incoming missiles as they appear, but you may need to swoop down below to blast a missile that got past your notice.

Holy shit! Check this out...
Missile Command is a 1980 arcade game by Atari, Inc. and one of few games to successfully implement a trackball. When originally designed, the 6 cities were meant to represent Eureka, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles,
and San Diego. On the Atari 2600 at level 13, if the player uses all the missiles without scoring any points, at the end of the game the city on the right will turn into "RF"; the initials of the programmer Rob Fulop.

While you may be tempted to blast away with mad aggression, don't forget you get bons points for unused ABMs. On the other and one limitation is only 3 missiles can appear on screen simultaneously. When your have the maximum of 3 on screen (or run out), further firing yields an odd yelping sound. Tow types of cruise missiles will be unleashed on you - Smart and Dumb ones. The dumb ones fall in a straight path while the smart cruise missiles can detect and evade your ABMs. When your cross hair is directly on a smart cruise missile it will unable to detect or evade.

Difficulty Switch Settings for Missile Command

The Difficulty Switches swap between Normal and Expert modes - "A" being the expert setting. On the expert setting your ABMs move slower making it harder to time their contact before your cities are destroyed.

Missile Command Game Variations

34 game variations sounds like a lot, games 1- 17 are single player and the remainder are for 2 players. Don't forget that 2 of these are for kids and are denoted with the popular on-screen severed teddy bear head. Here are options for slow and fast target control. The slow variation seems to only make it harder (slower) to get to your desired target, however the allegation is that the fast variation makes it harder to hone in on your target. I think the slow variation is little more than annoying.

Bonus cities are awarded every 10,000 points. If all your cities are destroyed and you earn a bonus city, you'll get another wave in which to do your best to defend it.

The sound is very close to the arcade version and the game play, while dumbed down a bit to accomodate the Atari 2600 hardware, is still a fun and engaging game that's hard to play just once!

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

Atari Missile Command

does it's best to retain the arcade concept and delivers the manic pace on higher levels. I can live with only 1 missie base since much of the vibe has been captured despite the reduced graphics.

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