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Asteroids! Atari Revives Classic Space Rock Shoot-Up for iPads, iPhones
Asteroids Gunner for the iPad updates the arcade classic video game.
Credit: Asteroids Gunner for the iPad updates the arcade classic video game.

Long before the idea for "Angry Birds" was hatched, video games were a lot simpler. It used to be that all you needed was some simply drawn sprites, a joystick and a few buttons to pound. One of the first arcade games of old to make the rounds was Atari's "Asteroids," a simple yet addictive game where you flew around blasting space rocks while trying to keep your ship in one piece. Many still consider it a great game today — and it looks like Atari agrees.

The company has released a variation of its classic space shooter for the iPad, and while "Asteroids Gunner doesn't really look like its old-school counterpart, its spirit remains completely intact. You take your choice of three ships — the Miner, the Bomber and the Dart — that vary in size and performance. From there, you'll tackle wave after wave of asteroids and other flying enemies, collecting crystal gems and moving on to the next round.

One huge difference between this game and the arcade original is that you don't have to hit several buttons in order to fly around. "Asteroids Gunner" is built as a twin-stick shooter, meaning you control your direction of flight with the left knob and you fire with the right. Old-school gamers who remember the original "Asteroids" might think this is too modern a twist, but it actually suits "Gunner" quite well, giving you the edge on staying alive while blasting rocks into smaller formations, then oblivion shortly after that. 

There are other changes as well. Along with your plain, unlimited single-fire laser, you can pick up additional weapons and abilities to help you out, including a shield that lets you barrel through asteroids unscathed and various laser settings that give you more firepower, such as a super-spread that fires multiple bullets. Other power-ups can also be purchased in the shop, including variations of asteroids to make the game more challenging, better scoring opportunities and much more. You use collected crystals to make these purchases, but you can also use real-world money. [Reach For the Stars: Best iPad Astronomy Apps]

That's right, "Asteroids Gunner" supports in-game app purchases. The initial app is free to download, providing 50 waves of action to begin with. From there, you can fork over a few bucks to boost your in-game currency, as well as removing ads and unlocking additional waves. It's kind of a bummer that Atari didn't consider just dropping the app as a whole for like three dollars or so, but this won't break your spirits too much.

"Asteroids Gunner" comes with ample rewards for those who stick with it in the long-term. Along with a list of well over 200 Achievements to unlock, the game fully supports both OpenFeint and GameCenter, so you can match up your best rankings against others — just as you could with the classic game's high score board.  (Only difference is, you're not limited to three initials this time around.)

This game looks very good on the iPad, with multi-scrolling backgrounds that take place through various reaches of space, complete with planets and huge asteroid fields looming in the distance. The music is laid back, with easygoing space tunes combining with the effective sound effects.

If "Asteroids Gunner" is truly missing anything, it's the original game that inspired it. Seeing as how Atari released it, it would've been great if they included the 1979 "Asteroids" as an added bonus. But, if you want to check that out, simply look into the company's Atari's Greatest Hits app. It'll only set you back a dollar, and give you plenty of rocks to ruin.

Overall, "Asteroids Gunner" is an excellent throwback to the classic shooters of yore, while also adding enough new components to make it feel fresh.

Now, Atari, how about a Battlezone remake next?

Price: Free (initial app)

File Size: 61.1 MB

Developer: Atari

Platform: iPad (also available for iPhone, iPod Touch)

TND Rating (out of 4): * * *