Basically the idea is to destroy the boss at the end of the level by shooting his barrier and destroying him. As with most Atari 2600 games, the Story is not an integral part of the game. On a side note, the games name comes from Atari Executive Ray Kasser (Ray backwards = Yar). I think the story is a smart choice for a 2600 game and as with most other titles revolves around the "save the world" theme.
As an Atari 2600 game I think its only fair to compare Yars' Revenge with the rest of my Atari 2600 collection (about 30 - 40 games). While the graphics lack any real polish or depth to them, they do suit the job perfectly. As a single screen Atari 2600 game the graphics are more than adequate .The graphics have a range of differing colours and can look very bright colourful at times. A rumour I heard is that the shield that protects the bad guy is actually garbled programmer's code, but it suits the game well. Compared to most Atari 2600 games I would say they were average, but are still perfectly suited to the simple ness of the game itself.
I've never really seen sound as important as other areas for Atari 2600 games. Only occasionally can sound add anything to a game, and sadly Yars' Revenge gains nothing from its sound. It has all the general beeps and whistles always associated with Atari 2600 games, but little else. There is some form of background noise, which could add a little to the atmosphere if it was built up a little more. Sadly I think the music was underused in this conversion and could have been used more often and during better occasions.
The ship itself is pretty easy to control with the normal 2600 joy pad. The graphics are simple which helps you understand what is happening, and aids in your ability to control your ship. The game play is helped a lot by the simple controls, and so the controls are quick and easy to master. The ship can go the four basic directions as expected, as well as fire. Control can be hampered when you go through the first force field, but this is more graphics fault than control. Using a D-pad type controller doesn't really aid you in any ways, unless you are used to that type of control pad.
This is the most important aspect of any game, on any system. Never mind how good graphics you have, or how good the sound is. Even today, with the 3D mega games, some are universally slammed because of the way they play. Yars' Revenge is a classic shooter to the extreme. It is just you against your foe and the winner takes all. This is the basic element to all games, to beat your opponent. I think Yars' Revenge has it just about right. The difficulty level seems to be spot on, with an honest learning curve. I think the way you fire missiles at the bad guy is also original and good to see in an Atari 2600 game, especially one in such a crowded genre.
Yars' Revenge is one of those strange games for the Atari 2600. I did not know whether I like it or love it. After finishing this review I have to say just like, which is a little unlucky on the game. I think it's a good example of a shooter on the Atari 2600, but I believe that there is better available on the system. The extra-added bits (such as Ray backwards) are original and add history to the game. This gives the game a place in gaming history, but not an as privileged place as say Asteroids or Space Invaders. Overall a good game and well worth picking up, but not a huge classic.