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Planetoids

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Released: 1982

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Sinclair

Developer: Psion Software

Submitted by: Ian Marks

Psion made some great games for the ZX Spectrum… Horace Goes Skiing, Flight Simulator, Chess, Thro’ the Wall and many more. Planetoids was not one of their greats however. It wasn’t awful, but you could not call it great.

Still when I was 11, I thought it was great. It allowed me to play the mighty Asteroids at home, albeit in a very limited form. I have very happy memories of spending hours on this game, completely blind to all its faults. Playing it under emulation today, its faults are easy to spot, and it is difficult to give it more than five minutes of your time. It’s one of those sad retro games that time has not been kind to.

The main fault with the game is the graphics. Not going for the vector style of Asteroids itself is a mistake. The asteroids look more like popcorn, as they are small yellow blobs, rather than the seemingly huge rocks in the arcade machine. If they are shot they split into two smaller popcorn pieces and carry on flickering across the screen.

Another major fault is you can only shoot in 8 directions. There is no smooth rotation here. This means that you often cannot hit the asteroids with your laser from your current position. Forcing you to use the very odd thrust maneuver, which doesn’t offer any inertia as in the real Asteroids, just shoots you forward a bit.

Alarmingly the hyperspace button makes you disappear for up to ten seconds sometimes. You can honestly think the game has crashed (or forgotten you). It then places you in the path of an asteroid you can’t shoot because your laser won’t fire in that direction… and then you die.

The ship itself looks ok, in a Galaxian rip off sort of way, and there is a starfield, and a UFO that appears and fires an awful lot of missiles at you. As if the game wasn’t hard enough already.

In 1982 it was a good game, I enjoyed it, and I played it an awful lot. In 2010, where you can play the original asteroids in all its glory on your mobile phone, it’s not a good game. Still at a first stab at a good Asteroids clone on the Sinclair machine I’d give it a C+ for effort.