Discover more from The Retroist
Space War for Atari 2600
It had been years since I played Space War on my Atari 2600. The much storied game was a must-have because I had heard tales of the original Space War being played on earlier computer systems. I got it maybe for my birthday, took it home, played it for 30 minutes vs. my friend and put it on the shelf. I remember it being underwhelming at best. Still, Space War haunts me. I saw footage of it before I owned my Atari 2600, even in the early 1980s it was legendary. Could it be that I had not given the game a proper shake? I sat down to find out last night.
Alright, the game is ready to go, and I even recruited someone to play it with (2 players is very important). Initial play is kind of fun. Sort of a very sparse version of Combat. You fly around trying to shoot each other. That isn’t bad, you have thrust and movement, plus you get to shoot your friends. The problem is, and it was the same problem I had back in the early 1980s, there’s just not enough after a short period of time.
Perhaps if I owned this game before I owned the much more immersive Combat, things would be different. (Did I call Combat immersive?) But I didn’t, so I try to look at the charm of the game on its own merits. In that regard, it was a passable, game with some fun elements, but it is far outclassed on the 2600 by games that came out at almost the same time. If you can play this game two player and happen to own it, you will have some fun. Head to head on the Atari is a ball, but 30 minutes later you will start to get bored with it. And if your opponent decides to lay on the speed (which they will), the game gets old real quick.
So while Space War is a legendary game, the VCS version does not do it the justice it deserves. I am impressed enough with the controls of the game to spare it one start. But If you want some head-to-head combat, you are going to pick Combat almost every time, and the single-player stuff is nowhere near as interesting. So I am giving Space War 2 stars.