Overall Score: 2 (of 5), great concept without delivery. Cheat or be cheated, because lasers are faster than your ability to think or react.
Story: You’re both the pilot and gunner of a flying saucer. Below are three equally fast mobile laser bases that can blast you out of the night’s sky. The idea is to bob, weave, and shoot them before they can turn you to stardust faster than the blink of an eye.
As charming as the premise of Laser Blast may sound, I’d like to refer to the manual on two key points. First, and I quote, “The game can get a little frustrating at times.” For those who don’t speak Atari, this phrase roughly translates to “the game is very frustrating all of the time.” I believe this was the precursor to all those nasty Nintendo Entertainment System games that came later that laughed with evil joy as you die time after time before you had a second to do anything. There’s little to no indicator when and where you’re going to get shot and really nothing you can do about it except hope, pray and mash the button to return fire…except one thing. Before I go there, beware of the manual’s red herring which says, “And that brings me to my most important tip. Always keep your ship in motion and fire quickly!”
Ignoring that advice, there are a few avenues to finding the secret to success. If you’re not fortunate enough that you or a friend stumble upon the trick (these days there’s Youtube to show you how it is done), the manual itself gives a second key point in the next paragraph, “It is possible to stay in one place and fire quickly enough to destroy your attackers before they zero in on you.” DING! We have a winner! Back in the day, if you actually read the manual, to the reader goes the spoils. The book says “this is very tough” and “demands superior skill and concentration” which is true if you’re holding the joystick upside-down. Seriously, try this for like a minute and you can rinse and repeat until either your wrist breaks or the scorekeeping gets stuck.
Highlights: Nifty idea with flying saucers and lasers. Fun for friends to play who have never tried it before. Fast-paced, great flashes of color and sound.
Lowlights: Once ‘hacked’ by mere technique, there’s zero competition or replay value. When played as originally designed, is near impossible to develop any sort of skill.
Similar Style Games: Space Jockey, Cosmic Ark, Astroblast, Air-Sea Battle, Space Invaders, Carnival, Galaxian, Demon Attack, Spider Fighter.
Final Thought: Despite the critique, it is a game nearly every Atari 2600 gamer either played or owned, so it has an iconic appeal to those who remember it well.
(Image credits: http://www.mobygames.com/images/covers/l/20131-laser-blast-atari-2600-front-cover.jpg, http://videogamecritic.com/images/2600/laser_blast.png