Wednesday, July 04, 2007

XBLA review: Missile Command (3/10)


This week's XBLA release is another Digital Eclipse port of an Atari classic. And who wouldn't want to play good old Missile Command?

Well, anyone without a trackball, for starters. Missile Command is slightly less awkward to play with a joystick than Centipede, but both really, really need a trackball to be played well.

Also, I never really liked Missile Command, so it stands to reason that if the port were faithful to the original, I wouldn't like it either, and so I don't.

I will give them credit, though, for porting it well. The Classic mode is basically the old game with joystick controller. (Thankfully, they do use X A B for bases. I've seen ports that used only one button to fire.) For some reason, there's no two-player alternating mode.

Naturally, there's an "Evolved" mode that is supposed to be so much better than the original. Again, nobody looks at these games and says "Man, if only the graphics were updated, this would be a kick-ass game, even today!" Well, actually, they could improve the graphics here. The contrast on some of the levels wasn't so good: you could tell that Atari was using some colors simply because they could.

Well, Evolved does change the colors up, along with "3D" graphics, but the irony is that there are still levels where it's not easy to pick up the "missiles." Sigh ... also, Digital Eclipse really, really wants you to play the Evolved mode. Ten of the twelve achievements are for the Evolved mode at Normal difficulty. Thankfully, they only required stupid "throttle monkey" difficulty for one achievement. (Why bother to give us only two difficulty levels? MAME lets you customize the difficulty like arcade operators could.)

Interestingly, they did change one thing significantly. The bonus multiplier continues to go up beyond 6x: it continues every two waves. This should give you that same kind of artificially-high score that pinball players got from tables in the early '90s, when designers realized that you could add a couple of zeroes to everything and people would like their scores better.

I guess if you really are hankering for a game of Missile Command, this might be nice to have in your collection, but if you weren't the kind of person who'd put a week's lunch money into the game in the '80s, I wouldn't bother with it today.

zlionsfan's rating: 3 cities out of 10.

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