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The Empire Strikes Back

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Released: 1985

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: Atari

Developer: Atari

Submitted by: Ian Marks

Everyone loves the arcade game Star Wars… in fact if you don’t love it then you must be a mental, because it is a wonderful game. Everything about it is correct, and it still plays superbly today. It is a work of genius. However Star Wars has a younger brother that not as many people have played, that isn’t quite as good… The Empire Strikes Back. Considering that Empire is the best film in the series (I’m not arguing about that, it just is) it’s sort of a shame that the game isn’t the best one too. Before we get too depressed though here is the good news. It’s still a great game, just not as good as the original.

In Empire Strikes Back you get to fly the Millennium Falcon, surely every fanboys wet dream.  You did this whilst avoiding footballs, sorry asteroids, that were flying towards you. It was all done in the same beautiful vector graphics that made Star Wars such a joy, and it played very smoothly too. This was complemented by great voice acting as ever, particularly Vader talking over the top of the graphic of the Star Destroyer.

The most memorable level was the snow speeder one, with you playing Luke, taking down AT-AT’s with your tow cable. The AT-AT’s were very well animated and if you managed to take one down it was a real moment to be proud. Personally I always found this level a bit hard, but that’s not a criticism, as I was a crap gamer back in the day – and still am. There was also a sub-plot that involved collecting letters that spelt JEDI… for me this was a low point of the game, as it spoilt the atmosphere. Nowhere in the films (not even the crapped out digital re-do’s have I seen giant letter J’s spinning through space).

The main problem was that there were only two levels, and none of them were as iconic as the trench level from the first game. Whilst a good game it is fair to say that the Force was not as strong with this one.

The Empire Strikes Back

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Released: 1988

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Domark

Developer: Vektor Grafix

Submitted by: elaine spaldini

Vector games have all but disappeared from the video games market today, although some games can still be found, like that new Jeff Minter thing. But back in the '80's, vector graphics were quite big. They were an easy way to make basic 3D models, and were most often used in shooters. On the Speccy, not many were that good. What a surprise this game was, a good movie licence, and from Domark aswell. It was a very basic concept: shoot stuff, but that's the same with all shooters! However, it was executed very well, with the wireframes of AT-ATs and TIE fighters providing hours of fun. If you find a better vector shooter on the Speccy, I will play and review Cops and Robbers on C64!!!

P.S. If I am unable to play it, I will do the review anyway!

The Empire Strikes Back

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Released: 1982

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Atari 2600

Publisher: Parker Brothers

Developer: Parker Brothers

Submitted by: Darran Jones

Significant not only as the first ever Star Wars themed videogame, but also the first ever movie licence tie-(fighter)-in, this Parker Brothers superb 1982 title was certainly more of a critical success than a commercial one. Still, the small re-enactment of the Imperial invasion of Hoth quickly garnered a strong following of Defender migrants looking for a more dynamic strain of the increasingly popular shmup to play on their beloved Atari 2600s.

Taking to the cockpit of Luke’s Snowspeeder, it’s the player’s job to circle the ice deserts outside the Rebel base and attempt to repel the ominous, lumbering AT-ATs that are attempting to reach the power generator and thwart the pitiful band of rebels before the Ewoks get to jump in and take down the galactic Empire with sticks and stones.

Not an easy game, it takes no less than 48 hits to bring down a single AT-AT, while the feeble Snowspeeder can sustain just two direct shots from the four-legged Imperial juggernauts. Landing the fragile craft for a brief period gives the stalwart pilot and his gunner the opportunity to enact a few on-the-spot repairs. Keeping a keen eye out for the behemoth’s weak spot at the creaking neck-hinge can present the opportunity to bring them to their knees a little more efficiently (this red spot may be supposed to represent the bomb hatch, I can’t be sure).

Avoiding damage for an indeterminate amount of time (suffice to say it’s too long to easily achieve) sparks off the invigorating movie theme tune, determining the “Force is with you” and rendering the redoubtable snow craft invincible for a few wonderful moments.

Amazingly, it would seem the Atari 2600’s Lego-tastic graphics were made for generating Star Wars machinery, as a few simple pink boxes create a perfectly serviceable rendition of a Snowspeeder, while the AT-ATs remained as unmistakable as ever. Good on an emulator, and superb after an invigorating eBay bidding war, the first ever Star Wars game set the bar particularly high for the onslaught of officially licensed mundanery that followed.