Laser Gates

Atari 2600

Review by Rob "Dire 51"



Graphics: 9

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

The thousand galaxies quake at the news: the Cryptic Computer, the galactic defense synthesizer which has maintained peace for the five centuries since the Wars on Zevon, has malfunctioned! Four Failsafe Detonators inside the Computer will now initiate universal self-destruct! The Governors of Enderby order the Dante Dart into action. Only it can spiral down through the nearly impenetrable defenses of the Computer in order to reach and destroy the Detonators!

Yes, once again the universe is threatened with destruction, and only you, pilot of the Dante Dart, can prevent this catastrophe from happening! It's an old story, and one that's been a staple - an overused staple - of more videogames than I can count. Luckily, Laser Gates is an entertaining and enjoyable title, despite having such a clichéd storyline.

The first thing you'll notice upon hitting the power switch is that the playfield only takes up about a third of the screen. The rest of the screen is taken up by the Dante Dart's instrument panel. The score counter is the first thing you'll see, followed by readouts for energy, shields, and D-Time, which is how you keep track of how long you have to reach the next Failsafe Detonator before it explodes. Keep an eye on these, because reading them is the only way to tell how the Dante Dart is faring. Also, only one player can play at a time, as there is no two player mode.

As you fly through the Cryptic Computer's innards, you'll be attacked by all of the defenses it can throw at you. There are Radar Mortars, Rock Munchers, Homing Missiles, Byte Bats, Densepack Columns and, of course, the Laser Gates that the game is named after - the Flashing, Flexing and Fixed Forcefields. One shot will destroy the Radar Mortars, Rock Munchers, Homing Missiles, and Byte Bats - aim carefully to take them out. The Radar Mortars are in a fixed position, so they aren't hard to hit. The Rock Munchers chase you and will maneuver out of the way of your shots. The Homing Missiles come right at you very quickly, so if you miss them, you have to get out of the way quickly! The Byte Bats fly up and down in a wave pattern and can be very difficult to hit. The Densepack Columns are a little more difficult to get past. All they are big gray walls - sometimes very narrow, sometimes very wide. They don't attack you, but you must blast your way through them before they crush you.

The Forcefields are a different story altogether. The Flashing Forcefields flash on and off, and the only way to get by them is to move past them when they're off. The Flexing Forcefields have two parts that slam together, then reopen - just fly through when they're wide open to get past them. The Fixed Forcefields are the hardest to get past - there is a slot in them that moves up and down, and you must maneuver the Dante Dart through them without getting hit. Try your best not to accidentally hit the ground or ceiling either, as that will damage the Dante Dart.

As the game progresses, you will encounter the Failsafe Detonators. They have the number 6507 printed on them. All you have to do to destroy them is to shoot one of the projections, or pins, on their side. Be warned, though - some of these pins are booby trapped. Since the location of the booby trapped pin is random, you have to take your chances. You'll know if you hit one, though, because the Dante Dart will take damage. If you hit another booby trapped pin on the next Detonator, the Dante Dart will be destroyed.

Energy Pods appear from time to time in the form of flashing blocks. Touching these will replenish the Dante Dart's energy supply. Whatever you do, though, DON'T shoot them, as you'll just destroy it. Since you never know when another one will appear, it's always best to grab one when you see it.

Imagic, as usual, created a visually appealing, fantastic sounding, and great playing game. The Forcefields strobe with a variety of colors, and each defense is quite detailed and colorful. The sounds the Forcefields make are quite unique, as are the different sounds each of the defenses make. The blasts from the Dante Dart's cannon sound great too. There is no music to speak of, but the sound effects make up for that. The Dante Dart controls beautifully as well - it responds perfectly to your commands (maneuver it with the joystick and press the button to fire the cannon).

Laser Gates, to this day, keeps me coming back to it. It never gets repetitive, and continues to provide a worthy challenge that any old-school arcade vet or even a modern day SHMUP fan can appreciate.


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Last updated: Saturday, September 25, 2004 09:11 AM