Star Raiders - The Atari Times
Star fleet to Star cruiser 7...
by Troy WilkinsMarch 30, 2009
Star Raiders was one of the first games written for the Atari 8-bit line of computers, written by Doug Neubauer, who also happened to be the designer of the Atari computer's POKEY chip, so he really knew the hardware he was working on!
There are some games that have not stood the test of time well. Star Raiders is NOT one of them! Even after close enough to 30 years it still holds up well.
When you first start the game up, you select what difficulty level you want to play with the Select key, which cycles through the Novice, Pilot, Warrior and Commander Missions, before going back to the Novice mission. Already you are treated to the view of a 3 dimensional star field as you fly through space and the sound of your Twin-Ion engines propelling you through space.
Obviously, the Novice mission is designed to gently introduce you to the game, while the Commander mission is the most difficult - you'll be doing well to even complete the mission at all if you play the commander mission, while even my grandmother (probably) could successfully finish the Novice mission.
After hitting the start button, you're launched into the game, and while you're still flying through the star field with the sound of the Twin-Ion engines hurtling you forward, the control panel display is now visible towards the bottom of the screen. This is one of the many things that shows you that this game has a lot more depth to it then, say, space invaders. It shows all sorts of important statistics, such as how much energy you have left, what your current velocity is, how far away the current target is and so on.
Now, the task at hand is protect all the star bases, by destroying the invading Zylon fighter ships and preventing them from destroying the star bases. The star bases are also there to repair your ship if it becomes damaged (and it will in anything but the novice missions), and to provide you with energy, because if you run out of energy, it's game over.
Virtually everything in this game uses energy, firing your photons to try and destroy an enemy uses 10 units of energy each time you fire, your shields use 2 units per second when activated, the attack computer uses 1 unit every 2 seconds, your life support system (always on of course) uses 1 unit every 4 seconds, your Twin-Ion engines use energy depending on how fast you are going, heck even getting hit by enemy fire uses 100 units of energy! So it's VITAL to keep a close eye on how much energy you have left and the quicker you complete your task, the less energy you will use.
The graphics were quite obviously inspired by both Star Wars and Star Trek, with some of the enemy Zylon fighter ships looking very much like tie fighters, and others looking like Klingon ships. But this is not a complaint, as they are nice and crisp and there isn't too much flicker most of the time, although it can flicker a bit as well as slow down when there is an explosion, however this also isn't always a bad thing, because it provides you with a brief break from what can be very frantic action.
But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. At this point my grandmother would probably press S to switch on the shields, but those brave (or foolish) enough will only activate them when there are enemy Zylons in the area. It's also up to you if you press C to activate the attack computer now (and therefore use more energy), or wait until you need it.
Now it's time to seek and destroy those pesky Zylons! Pressing G brings up the galactic chart, showing the locations of the star bases and Zylon invaders on the galactic grid, which is split up into sectors. Each sector can only have up to 4 zylon invaders, or a star base. The Zylons are trying to totally surround the star bases by occupying all 4 sectors surrounding a star base, and if they manage to do that, the star base is on borrowed time unless you can destroy all the Zylons in one of the sectors before the next star day.
Did I mention that this game runs in real time, making it that much more strategic? Thankfully, you can take a break from the action at any time with the P button to pause the action.
So once you've decided which sector you want to go to in the galactic chart, you move the marker with your joystick to the centre of the sector you want to go to, press F to go back to the front view, and then press H for Hyperwarp. In the novice mission all you have to do now is sit back and watch the show, but in the tougher missions you have to try to keep the crosshair in the middle of the screen (your attack computer comes in VERY handy for this), or else you won't end up at your desired destination sector.
If you hyperwarp into a sector where there are enemy Zylon ships, then when the hyperwarp completes, a red alert will sound, the screen will flash red, and the firefight is on! Now all you have to do is find the enemy ships, line them up in your sights (again the attack computer is handy for this), and blast them to bits with your photons. Sounds easy doesn't it? Well, it's not always, they fight back, they swoop in firing in and then retreat, and their flying could often be described as erratic.
If you manage to clear the entire sector of enemy Zylon ships without receiving damage to your ship, fantastic, you're ready to hyperwarp to another sector and take on some more Zylons. However, it often happens in the tougher missions that you'll receive damage to a critical part of your ship, perhaps your shields, or your photon torpedos will be damaged or destroyed entirely. Depending on what the damage is, you may be able to keep fighting, or you may have to go straight to a star base and dock for repairs.
There is a lot more to it then what I have described, but while it may sound overly complex, it's not, and it may sound boring, but it's far from it! I've you've never played it, what are you waiting for, go on, the Atarian starship fleet needs your help RIGHT NOW!
For more information, including the entire manual for the game, please view http://www.sonic.net/~nbs/star-raiders/
The game is too awesome for a title screen. Blow up stuff spectacularly! Looks like you'll be busy.
Graphics Score: 90%
Sound & Music Score: 95%
Gameplay Score: 100%
Control Score: 90%
Final Score: 100%
I remember a school chum gave me a box of old Atari 8-bit games back in the early 90's. One of the games was Star Raiders, which I had heard about forever, but never had a chance to play. Let me tell you, it didn't take long before I realized how great this game is!
The premise is awesome, the graphics were great (love the explosions), the controls were simple, the features were many... Just about the most perfect game you can get.
If you don't have a copy, don't wait any longer!