Astrosmash is one of the signature titles for Intellivision. I have fond memories of playing this game to see how high I could get the little multiplier to go. In particular, my brother Mike seemed to live on this game. He would literally play for over an hour at a time (maybe marathon sessions stretched into multi-hours!). I don’t know how he got to be so good at sports with this game in the house…
Of course, we had to have this game. All our friends were playing Asteroids on their Atari VCS machines. This was Intellivision’s answer to that phenomenon (along with Space Hawk, of course, but we never had that cartridge when we were young).
As you play the game, it moves you up in skill levels and scoring levels. Here are a few screen shots of various levels. The UFO doesn’t show up until you’re up at level 4.
The game gets pretty monotonous, though. I’ve been playing it for 30 minutes at a stretch in order to generate these screenshots and this review. The game just doesn’t sustain my interest. That may be because I’m playing with auto-fire turned on. But if I didn’t have auto-fire, it would be just a test of how long I can repeatedly smack an arcade button. With auto-fire turned on it’s mostly about moving left and right (with occasional fits of hyperspace to avoid a guided missle). I couldn’t help noticing that the game play started to feel like the Activision game Kaboom.
Still, I’m giving Astrosmash an Arcadeability rating of 5. There really isn’t anything about the controls to this game that is tricky on arcade cabinets. Everything maps well and gameplay is smooth and accurate. The controls mapping takes just a bit of thought (see below) but once the mapping is in place this game plays very well on an arcade cab.
The controls mapping for this game needs some customization. Besides the left and right movement, there are four player controls in this game:
- Turning on auto-fire
- Turning off auto-fire (single fire)
My arcade cab (and I think this is true of most) has six arcade buttons on the one player panel. So the correct thing to do here is to map these four functions to a layout on the panel that makes sense.
Because the INTV controllers are wired up such that inputs from the keypad and the directional disc cannot be read at the same time, the right way to map these buttons is to use the directional disc and action buttons from one controller with the keypad inputs of the other controller. So here’s how my controls are mapped for this game:
- Movement, left controller directional disc: cursor keys
- Firing, left controller top action button: LCTRL (player 1 button 1)
- Auto-fire, right controller keypad 1: LSHIFT (player 1 button 4)
- Single-fire, right controller keypad 2: SPACE (player 1 button 3)
- Hyperspace, right controller keypad 3: LALT (player 1 button 2)
This layout puts the main firing button and the hyperspace button as buttons one and two on the arcade panel. Buttons three and four are relegated to “administering” the firing preference.
I’ve saved this controller config in a file named “astro.kbd” (my astrosmash romfile is named astro.rom) and the batch file shown on the main Intellivision page picks it up.
How does it compare to the original arcade game?
Well, there was no Astrosmash arcade game, but it is obviously an interpretation of Asteroids, with a little Space Invaders thrown in. This game has nearly as much action (if not more) than Asteroids did. The main elements of asteroids are there: the asteroids which threaten the ship, and the flying saucers firing at the ship. But Astrosmash also has the falling spinners and the guided missles which don’t really have an analog in Asteroids.
It isn’t all that “arcade-y” in that you can play this game for hours if you choose to. Asteroids is just a lot harder of a game. But as far as home console games go, that’s probably not too unusual. You can play the Atari 2600 version of Asteroids (which this game was published to rival) for hours as well.