Yars' Revenge

Atari 2600

Review by Joe Santulli

Atari

Shoot'em-up

Graphics: 7

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8


QOTILE DIESHereís a disturbing thought. Some portions of my youth can only be recalled by playing or reminiscing about a certain game. Perfect example: I canít remember my high school Sociology teacherís name, but I can vividly recall my high school Sociology notebook: it had a giant insectoid head with the words "QOTILE DIES" below it, scratched deeply into the cover in blue ball point pen. Whatís even more disturbing is that this WAS a Sociology class, after all... what kind of an example must I have been to my teacher, wanting to exterminate an alien species like that? It couldnít have been politically correct, even in 1982. Yes, Iím sure that as major events occurred around me that semester each one more or less became a part of my past that blurred into obscurity. But playing Yars' Revenge - and being part of the revolution against the evil Qotile - is one I event remember well.

Although Iíve never heard it stated publicly, Iíve always felt that Yars' Revenge was inspired by the Cinematronicsí coin-op sleeper, Star Castle. The object is fairly straightforward: youíre the good guy on the left side of the screen, kill the bad guy on the right side of the screen. The simplicity of the classics still lure me in. No matter how complex games get today, very few reach the level of pure entertainment Yars' Revenge or others in its era achieved. With only one screen, seven objects, and solid programming Howard Scott Warshaw created what I believe to be his masterpiece.

The six objects are the Yar, the cannon, the Qotile, his shield, a "neutral zone", a homing missile, and your bullet. The goal is to break apart the Qotileís shield by either shooting it with a bullet or consuming it, the latter of which enables the cannon. With enough of the shield removed, you can fire the cannon (which moves vertically in sync with your Yar) and hopefully hit the Qotile. Hit him and youíre challenged to do it again, this time at a more challenging pace. While youíre chipping away at the shield youíre constantly pursued by the homing missile. If it touches you, you die. The only place the Yar is safe is in the neutral zone, a scintillating vertical bar near the center of the screen. Oh, one more thing. Every few seconds, the Qotile spins in place then shoots out in your direction. If it hits you, you die.

After about five rounds of Qotile bashing, things really heat up. The homing missile gets faster, the Qotile leaves its base more frequently and ultimately begins to home in on you instead of flying out in a straight line. You are awarded higher points as levels progress. In fact, the scoring system here rewards risk takers. You get more points for nibbling a shield than shooting it, and you get more points for destroying the Qotile in mid-flight than you would for just taking him out from his base.

I wouldnít put Yars' Revenge in my top ten, but it is definitely one of the true "quality" titles for the Atari 2600. It has stood the test of time, too. Recently I fired the game up on my home theater, with the sound on a high echo (I used the "stadium" setting on my system) and played like I did when my Sociology homework should have been done instead. For me personally, it also holds the honor of stealing away a fair portion of my youth, although why my guidance counselor never spoke to me about my hostility toward alien races is a mystery that will likely remain unsolved...

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Last updated: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 05:38 PM