Atari 2600 Game of the Week - Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back PB5050by Parker Brothers, programmed by Rex Bradford, released 1982
In the 1980's as today, merchandising a successful name was big money.
And then, as today few names are bigger for merchandising than Star Wars.
Parker Brothers, probably the most successful third party publisher of licensed games (like Frogger and Q*bert), was awarded the coveted Star Wars license.
The first game released under the license was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, hot on the heels of the success of the film by the same name.
The game centers around one of the most popular sequences in the film - the battle on the snow-covered plains of Hoth between Rebel snowspeeders and Imperial AT-ATs.
You pilot a Rebel snowspeeder against the never-ending onslaught of Imperial walkers, who are marching relentlessly to destroy your shield generator - if they reach the right side of the screen, they'll destroy the shiled generator, and the game is over.
The radar band at the bottom of the screen shows the location of both your speeder and the walkers.
The playfield is eight screens wide, and you can wrap around form left to right in both directions to hit the walkers from behind.
This game made great use of paralax scrolling, the foreground foothills scrolled past faster than the background mountains - kind of a cool effect, and it definitely helps to enhance the feeling of speed.
If you get hit, your speeder is damaged. Hit once more, and it's destroyed. If you lose all 5 speeders, the battle is lost!
You have the ability to repair your speeder, though, by landing in one of the flat "valleys" at the bottom of the screen. You get two repairs per speeder.
If you survive for a two-minute stretch, your speeder gets "the force", and is invulnerable for about 20 seconds as the rebel theme plays.
Unlike the movie, you can damage the AT-ATs with your blasters, it just takes a lot of hits to destoy them.
It takes 48 hits to destroy a walker, eight per damage level. When you've damaged a walker to the next damage level, it changes color, walks more slowly, fires less often, and fires less accurately.
Damaged walkers will sometimes open up "bomb hatches" - hit one directly, and the walker will be detroyed in one shot!
Every time you destroy a walker, a new, more powerful walker will be added at the left of the playfield, which makes the game get continually harder.
This is truly one of the great games for the 2600 - I can spend hours playing this one, too.
If you like Star Wars, this and Star Wars: The Arcade Game are definite must-haves for your collection.
You can get the ROM and 2600 Emulators at the Classic Gaming Game Vault.
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