Rookery’s Retro Review: Vanguard (Atari 2600)


Overall Score: 5 (of 5),

Story:  Fly through a Jimi Hendrix album cover in a space ship shooting enemies coming from all directions until blasting an alien boss at the end.

As a huge fan of the arcade game, I was very reluctant to even try the Atari 2600 version.  Not only did the arcade game have stellar (ahem) graphics in comparison, excellent sound quality, but it also had four buttons to fire left, right, up and down.  The Atari, well, one button on the joystick.  How did the Atari game solve this problem?  When moving your ship, the guns auto-fire in that direction.  If you roll the stick in a circle, you can sweep your guns the four directions around to defend yourself.

Like the arcade, there is an energy station to make your ship invincible.  Ram all the enemies you like.  Two differences exist in the invincible state.  In the arcade version you could also destroy bits of scenery by flying through it, but the Atari version advantage is there is a meter to tell you when the invincibility is about to wear off.

Overall, the arcade experience is flashy, thrilling (for 1981), but can be a difficult quarter-muncher.  The 2600 cartridge took a different route.  Although the ship moves sluggishly, one cannot deny the seemingly omni-directional firepower like in that berserk scene of The Last Starfighter.

Sounds were kept basic and faithful to the serious scenes of the arcade.  For some reason the arcade version had tunes in a few of the stages that suggested a circus was coming to town.  Good omission there for the home game.  Although the boss fight isn’t long or difficult, there’s a great sense of accomplishment in completing the stages even if it does bump you back to starting again.

Highlights:  No Inevitable Doom!, a continue option, separate stages to complete, boss fight, good replay value

Lowlights: Slow moving ship controls, too many rainbow colors

Similar Style Games: Defender

Final Thought:  Hidden Gem

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