Atari 2600
Dave Rolfe
A beam matrix of iridescent blue engulfs the distant blackness of Earth-Space. You stand watching. First mesmerized, you now realise the beams carry weapons. Frightening creations in endless configurations. Intriguing to watch, but will you -- yes you, dear reader -- take action? You will??!! Then roll up your sleeves, mount these beams and.....ride!!

On the edge of your seat yet? Dribbling? Wait, there's more ...

Animated graphics create a 3-D perspective that virtually pulls you into the screen. Pulsating sound effects intensify the constant array of new objects that zip from beam to beam. Beamrider combines tomorrow's technology with designer Dave Rolfe's fantastic imagination to forge the challenge you'll return to again and again!

Whew! Somebody likes Beamrider! If the above excerpt from the instruction booklet has got you all hot under the collar, read on. Actually, read on anyway (otherwise nobody will end up reading the rest of this bloody page) ...

As the blurb says, Beamrider is indeed the proud owner of an animated 3-D environment (a key selling point for a VCS game) and, best of all, it's a shoot'em-up - hurrah! Possibly the simplest way to describe Beamrider is thus: it's like a 'flat' version of Tempest. That is, you ride on beams, going 'into' the screen, enemies attack you on those beams and you shoot along those beams. Of course, if you've never played tempest, you won't have a clue what I'm going on about. Oh well ...

Starting with three lives and three torpedoes it is the player's job to rid each sector of a number of enemy saucers. There are ninety-nine sectors in all, and besides the saucers themselves, each sector sees the screen becoming cluttered with more and more deadly craft, projectiles and debris. Extra lives appear on the beams from time to time, but if shot, these too turn into lethal obstacles. The torpedoes can be used to destroy obstacles and craft that are otherwise indestructible, but are best saved to be used against the mothership which appears at the end of each sector.

Never before had amoeba sports day been so
exciting ...

The purple mothership - shoot for big points if you can
get past those pesky star thingies ...

The mangled remnants of your ship after a direct hit

I first played Beamrider on the Commodore 64 and at the time I was put off by its big, chunky graphics, so I never really took the time to get into the game. Playing this version subsequently however, has awoken me to the charms of one of the best blasters Atari's woodgrained box has to offer. The chunky 3D, while perhaps unforgiveable on the infinitely more powerful C64, is quite an achievement on the 2600 and the effect works very well. The concept is pretty much a flattened Tempest, which would ony be a bad thing if Beamrider wasn't so well crafted. The fact is, Beamrider is downright excellent! Lulling the first-time player into a false sense of security, Beamrider starts off at a medium pace, but half a dozen levels or so in and the game becomes a frenzied battle for survival against an onslaught of projectiles, spacecraft and debris. This is one those rare games that engages the reflexes fully, where controlling the on-screen action can become second nature and you'll soon find yourself performing some amazing feats of dexterity at lightning speed. In short, 'twitch' gaming at its best!

Graphics: 82%

Sound: 74%

Gameplay: 91%

Overall: 90%
The 3D effect is great, but the sprites let the game down. The player's ship is blocky and the enemy sprites are rather nondescript. Nice ear-crunching effects. Nothing spectacular, but when was the last time you heard the 2600 do spectacular? Very satisfying, solid blasting action and some of the most reflex-intensive gameplay you'll find anywhere. Beamrider will give your reflexes the workout they need. An absolute corker of a shoot'em-up and yet another classic from Activision.

R E C O M M E N D E D   A L T E R N A T I V E S

O T H E R   F O R M A T S
Tempest (Arcade)

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