Star Raiders is a game originally released on the Atari 800 in 1979, but I first played it when it came out on the Atari VCS in September 1982. It had a separate keypad especially made for it, but there’s just your joypad to go on here. Can you remember all the controls??
Well, it doesn’t matter because what we have here is a very bog-standard into-the-screen-shooter-aiming-at-anything-that’s-red-in-your-scanner after flying towards it, often with it zooming past and you have to turn round for another go. Doesn’t take too long to bat them out of existence, however. Once they’re dead, a non-descript ball will fly towards you.
At first I was blowing these up thinking it was a final shot from them, but when one hit me I realised it gives you salvage credits which you can use between missions to upgrade weapons and get an android to work with you, although I must admit I didn’t play this long enough to see the result of that, for reasons which will become apparent.
Star Raiders is certainly nowhere near as complex as I remember the original and while each mission starts with a big long piece of text, it’s not really worth reading it because you’ll know what to do when you start playing, especially where to shoot, given the scanner and distance reading that’s displayed when you face and approach the enemy. Once a mission is done, your Galactic Chart will appear and you’ll then zoom between sectors by going through hyperspace like the original… although here you’ll just appear at the start of the next mission. Erm…
Also, early on in the game something went radically wrong with the controls such that the game refused to budge from giving me the Attack configuration, which always put the pitch/roll on the left stick. Going back into the control menu, I tried to select Assault or Turret options which usually gave me Forward/Strafe on that and Pitch on the right, but despite it telling me it had saved my choice, it hadn’t.
As such, the gameplay would’ve made me look like rather a bellend and I was NOT that bad at it but then, somehow it changed back mid-level! WTF? Before I could celebrate, however, it all went tits up again and quickly changed back. For a long time I had no idea why, but then I realised it was the Transform button (left shoulder). How does that override the main control menu?!
Overall, the graphics in this game aren’t much to write home about and nor is the sound – it’s all bog-standard stuff, although for Duran Duran afficinados, they will hear a segment of The Chauffeur from their 1981 Rio album thrown into the background music!
Gameplay-wise, this is just one pedestrian dogfight after another. It’s slow – how can travelling at fast speeds in space feel so slow? – you never feel threatened (you can quickly respawn!) and from the sound it always seems like there’s a lot more going on behind you!
It’s a nice idea to revive classic games and in some cases they will work, such as with Pacman on Xbox Live Arcade, but despite the tarted-up graphics, this one will still look very dated by comparison.
There are three videos which can be viewed on the Star Raiders gameplay footage playlist
Visit my DVDfeverGames Youtube channel for many more gaming videos.
- Publisher: Atari
- Price: 800 MS points
- Players: 1
- HDTV options: 720p/1080i/1080p
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.