Review by CygnusZ
"Cold war terror at its best!"
The year is 1980. Small pox is considered eradicated by the World Health Organization, John Lennon is assassinated and a coup in Iran causes a hostage crisis. More importantly, the Cold War with the Soviet Union continues, and even though it has warmed up a bit the terror still remains. Missile Command is a game that capitalizes on this Soviet fear, for it is a game with a political agenda. The message which Missile Command wishes to relay is that the buildup of Nuclear Weapons will only lead to the inevitable destruction of the world.
These are simplistic to say the least, but there wasn't much else out there during this era. Your towns are represented by some lumps in the grounds. The missiles themselves cannot be seen, but rather the streak of smoke coming out of them, represented by a solid line. Finally, when you fire it makes a little explosion in the sky, get two that are close enough and they'll explode each other. The explosion effect was rather nice for when the game was released.
Although there is no direct story, I do with to point out that this game was meant to illustrate the inevitability of total destruction that would occur from the buildup of arms between the United States and the USSR. Keep this central message in mind during the explanation about the gameplay.
There simply wasn't much technology at this time. Missiles are shot down and make some... interesting sounds, but that was about the limits of arcade sound effects at the time.
On the game monitor you can see that you have three cities, and a cursor which can be controlled via a trackball. After a few seconds, you will notice a ''missile'' coming to attack one of your cities. You simply move the cursor, using the trackball, over the missile and press the button to destroy it. After that, another missile appears, then another and another at increasing rate of speed. The longer you play the more nuclear weapons are hurled at your cities, attempting to bring about Ragnarok. No matter how hard you try with your SDI-like device the missiles WILL eventually break through and destroy your cities. Defeat is inevitable, the object of the game is only to last as long as possible before your cities are destroyed. No matter how hard you try, nuclear destruction is inevitable.
Aside from the obvious symbolic fun of the game, the gameplay itself is very good. It has an addictive quality to it, prodding the player to insert another quarter to see if they can beat their last high score. The one problem that stands out to me is the interface as it seems to simply take a little bit too much manual dexterity to actually manipulate the trackball cursor. This could have been solved with the use of a mouse, but then as now it is completely unheard of to have such a device for an arcade game.
It has that ''just one more quarter'' feel.
Games like Missile Command came from an era when Atari was actually the king of game development. For both its addictive qualities and entertaining 1980's cold war nuclear panic political message I recommend you attempt to see if your local arcade has by some miracle kept this game around.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 09/28/03
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