Back in the early 1980s, industry apologists touted heightened eye-hand coordination and increased concentration skills as reasons to let little Junior waste his hard-earned allowance on Pac-Man, Space Invaders and other popular videogames. Whether this reasoning had merit or not is a debate for another time but I can tell you that in order to score big points in the original Arcade version of Missile Command, intense concentration and heightened eye-hand coordination were a must. The game required nimble hands and fingers, quick eyes and cat-like reflexes. In many ways, this update/remake of the game continues the tradition and offers many of the same challenges, along with some new ones.
Missile Command, whether you are playing the Arcade, Atari 2600 or the PC version, is obviously a game of skill, but there are strategies involved as well. Conserving ammo and knowing which enemy missiles to let fall to the ground are just as important as quick and accurate firing. You can't simply sit on the fire buttons and fill the skies with explosions like it's some kind of grand finale at a fireworks display. You must aim your shot, fire and then move on to the next missile without looking back. Also, if a missile is headed for a city that has already been destroyed, don't bother wasting your ammunition.
Though an exact duplicate of the original game is not included in the PC version of Missile Command, the Classic mode of play is a faithful remake, at least in terms of gameplay. The action is hectic and challenging and the premise is basically the same: save six cities from destruction. Also, the unique Missile Pod weaponry system is intact and the inevitable sense of doom is always present. The graphics have been prettied up to appease the tastes of the modern (1999) gamer, but they neither add to nor distract from the actual enjoyment of the game.
The Ultimate mode of play didn't blow me away but it is a workable concept. The inclusion of motherships is a nice touch and the special weapons come in handy. The offscreen enemies in conjunction with the scrolling screen and rotating Pods adds to the challenge and will distract your attention from the missiles.
By and large I enjoy updates/remakes of classic (early 1980s) videogames but I sometimes gripe about the controls. For example, Pong: The Next Level would have been much more fun if a rotary controller (similar to that found in the Arcade version of Pong) would have been included in the software package. The original version of Missile Command was one of the first Arcade games to use a track-ball controller (Atari Football was the first). Luckily, at least in this case, the mouse is a good track-ball substitute. You can guide the Aiming Crosshairs about the screen with quickness, accuracy and ease.
Overall, this modern version of Missile Command is a solid example of bringing 1980s gameplay to 1999/2000 audiences. It's not as much fun as the updated version of Asteroids (1999) but it blows away the Space Invaders remake (1999).
Graphics: The backgrounds are decent, but overall, the graphics have a rough look. Also, the city explosions could've been bigger.
Sound: The music during the intro scene is killer (in a Deep Purple meets techno-pop kind of way); let it play out before starting the game. Overall, the music and sound effects are powerful. If you've got stereo speakers on your computer, crank it up.
Enjoyment: The classic gameplay is intact. This is a challenging and intense game that will definitely keep your attention.
Replay Value: This game has good replay value, but you won't want to play it for hours and hours on end. It is best when played a few rounds at a time. The two-player mode is an interesting feature.
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