Yars' Revenge

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North American box art.

Yars' Revenge is a single-screen action game designed by Howard Scott Warshaw and published by Atari for the Atari 2600 in 1982-05. In the game, control an insect-like Yar that must bite off chucks of the shield of the enemy Qotile to fire your powerful Zorlon cannon into it to obliterate it. However, as you're trying to do this, the Qotile charges up to become a deadly Swirl, which fires out at you, and you must avoid the Destroyer Missile which steadily seeks you out. As you get further into the game, the Swirls fire more frequently and begin changing direction mid-flight, the Destroyer Missile becomes faster, and, your only safe haven, the Neutral Zone, vanishes forcing your to constantly be on the move.

Although my family got an Atari 2600 with a big bundle of games around 1986, this game was not included among them. Instead, the first time I saw this game being played was on the Atari from the boys across the street. The game looked particularly interesting, and I was jealous that we didn't have it. Some time later, we did end up getting it, I think around 1987, but I'm not sure. It took awhile before any of us got decent at the game, but around 1988 my older brother was the first to reach the part where the shield changes color from red to blue to gray to pink, all in one sitting, which we were both amazed by. Unfortunately, after we got an NES my mother convinced us to give our Atari and all its game away, so I wasn't able to play the game again for years. It wasn't until middle school that I bought a bundle of duplicate games and an old Atari 2600 from a school friend did I get another copy of Yars' Revenge. I was able to get to the blue and gray stages fairly easy, but it took some time before I could also reach the pink stage consistently. Then, in an effort to beat my high score set over a decade back, I began playing the game again. Now in my 30s, and with a better trained eye for video games, I discovered a playing tactic that allowed me to hit the swirl in mid-flight pretty much every level. So, on 2018-03-11, I was able to not only beat my best score, but gain a free life each level to the point where I wrapped the 999,999 max score.

I enjoyed this game so much, I programmed a clone game called Dar's Revenge which features additional enemies and, since I didn't know it at the time, a completely different backstory.

Status

I own this game for the Atari 2600. I have elapsed the score with over 999,999 points with 9 lives remaining and can essentially play indefinitely.

Review

  • Overall: 6/10
  • Best Version: Atari 2600

Good

  • Over all, the game is well-made. You can play safe, but are rewarded for more aggressive behavior, and the challenge continues to improve as you get better.
  • The game makes good use of the Atari's poor audio capabilities. Though there isn't any music, the constant buzzing background sound, spin of the swirl, crash of attack, full screen explosion, and buzz of death are all distinct. They also help keep the game play aggravating.
  • Having two separate shield wall configurations is a nice way to eliminate some of the repetitious game play. I just wish there were a few more layouts.
  • The color-changing shield wall is a nice indicator of your progress and what type of behavior you can expect from the Swirl.
  • The additional comic that came with the game was a nice addition.
  • The big full-screen explosion is pretty awesome to watch.
  • Re-purposing code to generate the random pattern of the neutral zone and explosion was pretty clever.
  • Like with many games of the time, I'm awed that Howard Scott Warshaw was able to fit the game into a mere 4K of memory and run with only 128 bytes of RAM.

Bad

  • Once you reach around 300,000 points (about 10 minutes in), you've maxed out the difficulty and the game repeats endlessly. Overall, a pretty short game.
  • While I get the importance of wanting to add an Easter egg into the game, I have accidentally triggered it on more than one occasion and ruined a good high score run.
  • Although giving out a free guy for hitting the Swirl mid-flight seems like a good idea, those players who become good enough to do it every time are effectively guaranteed unlimited play.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Box Art

Documentation

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