Saturday, March 5, 2022

Astro Chase

Name:Astro Chase
Publisher:First Star Software
Developer:First Star Software
Time:30 minutes

Today's title is apparently from one of those people who were probably famous back in the day. Developer Fernando Herrera started his developing career earning something called an "Atari Star", making an educational game. This isn't his first shooter, but the first one that is would fail my 10-point test, so instead we have Astro Chase. By all accounts it was a popular game. Starting life on the Atari 8-bit computer family, Astro Chase would get ported to the console equivalent and to arcades. Which is an interesting thing to see. But as 1982 has ended up being, this rarely ends positively. I'll be playing the C64 version, because that's the one I can run.

The game begins and an astronaut slowly walks over to a launch pad while a poor rendition of the 1812 Overture plays. We get sound effects at least, but this screen goes on for longer than it needs to. Then our...hero...gets sucked into a spaceship and the game begins.

Game starts fairly smoothly, joystick moves, you move in that direction til you press something else. There's collision damage, which would be fine except the five pixel stars hurt you. Hitting anything with your ship (that isn't an enemy) causes you to head the other direction. Yeesh. You shoot by holding down the fire button and then moving the joystick in a direction. This also turns you around automatically., this is one of the worst control schemes I have ever seen in one of these games. How did this win anything? This is awful!
It gets worse. As I tried to play this, I was flying around. Its not clear what the megamines I'm supposed to stop are, beyond that they're going to destroy Earth if I don't stop them. So I shoot random things that look like they're something. No dice. I fly into them, which is the same as hitting a planet. Then, as I explore the playing area I keep getting bounced off space. THERE ARE INVISIBLE WALLS IN THIS GAME.
It takes a bit to figure out, but the flashing things are the megamines, they slowly move towards Earth, a few pixels every few seconds. The other things increase your energy. I can shoot the mines, they're just hard to hit. Once this is all clear the game becomes incredibly easy and you can win one round fairly simply. From here the game starts a new round with another group of megamines. To be continued until you run out of lives or lose patience. For me, it was the latter.

Generic gun. 1/10

The usual array of enemy types, shooting enemy, chasing enemy and objective enemy. The ones that aren't objectives are hard to pick out from each other. 1/10


One preset grouping of planets. Don't really know how you could make that look interesting at this point in time. 0/10

Player Agency:
Absolutely abysmal. 0/10



Some parts of the game look really nice, others look straight out of an Atari 2600 game. 1/10

Save the Earth from aliens or something. 0/10

I'm not going to want to hear the 1812 Overture for a while. Its practically PC speaker level. We do get sound effects though, even if they're blips and bloops. 1/10

That's 4. Been a while since there's been a game that low.

Herrera would later be responsible for the Spy vs. Spy games, which I remember being fun, but sadly will not be covered on this blog, since it isn't a shooter. After those games he would become a serious business programmer for AT&T. First Star Software, however, will come up again, at least for Astro Chase 3D in 1994.

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