Asteroids Gunner on iPhone: A shooter gunning for retro game gold

Asteroids Gunner
Asteroids Gunner

When veteran games maker Atari announced earlier this year that it would focus almost solely on social and mobile games, who knew that would ultimately mean a return to its roots? Asteroids Gunner is the mobile rendition of a 32-year-old iconic game, yet it feels so fresh that it could pass off as one of those trendy Kickstarter iPhone game projects.

From its glossy, sparkly backdrops that inch each of the game's three sectors (each packing 50 levels) closer to looking deep and vast to its dual-stick shooter controls, Gunner feels as if it was made by a few plucky coders who came up with this idea six months ago. No, this game was over 30 years in the making--it just took the folks at Fluik Entertainment to make it happen.

Actually, Asteroids Gunner appears to be a heavily modified version of Fluik's existing Gunner games. Regardless, this approach to the decades-old franchise simply works. Once again, you assume control of a lone wolf mining vessel with one mission: blow as many giant rocks to bits as possible, and grab those shiny crystals. While Gunner is undoubtedly just Asteroids with a fresh coat of paint on it (and boy is it purrty), it's as if you never left. However, that includes the controls.

Sure, dual stick controls are relatively new to Asteroids, but once you get the hang of them they look and feel perfectly natural, normal even. In fact, you might go back to play the original classic one day and wish for dual sticks. Unfortunately, you might only feel this way after 30 or so waves of giant space boulders--the learning curve is quite steep. That said, just give it time.


Luckily, the numerous power-ups and upgrades available to you in Gunner help you forget about the games initially disorienting controls. Want to fire several bullets in a second? You got it. How about some heat-seeking missiles? Done. What's a player gotta' do to get a laser cannon around here? Nothing, and it fires beams of ice. While players can buy power-ups between waves with the crystals they collect, save them. They'll appear from within blown-up asteroids quite often.

Instead, spend your hard-earned crystals on repairs and upgrades to your ship, like increased health, faster firing speed and longer durations for the power-ups that you do find. Keep in mind, this is a free-to-play game, so there are a number of ways you can advance both your mining vessel and the game instantly with your own crystals--err, cash. Because of this, the game is ad-supported through iAds, or tiny banner ads that creep up from the bottom of the screen while shopping.

Asteroids Gunner gameplay
Asteroids Gunner gameplay

Of course, putting up a buck can eliminate these ads, but they're not terribly annoying. What is annoying, however, is the fact that players are granted three "lives", and are incessantly encouraged to purchase more with real money ... as if it matters. Sure, losing all three of your lives resets your high-score to zero, but you can immediately pick up where you left off. Perhaps it's just this writer, but since when are high scores relevant in video games that save your progress? (Besides Angry Birds, people.)

Despite its goofy approaches to enticing players to pay, Asteroids Gunner is the most entertaining and addictive version of one of the greatest arcade games of all time. You've been warned: The controls are going to be a doozy at first, but hang in there and you'll become a crater crack shot in no time. (Scratch that, it's gonna' take awhile, but think of how you'll get to brag on Game Center!) Sure, the game is completely free to play, but you may find yourself tapping that "Buy" button sooner than later.

Click here to download Asteroids: Gunner on iOS for Free Now >

When is the last time you played an Asteroids game? Do you think going mobile and social (and returning to form) is smart move for Atari? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.

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