Everybody’s favorite falling meteor destruction simulation, Astrosmash, is my Intellivision game of the week! Astrosmash is like Asteroids only in that you’re job is to shoot space rocks. Otherwise, the gameplay is completely different. You move your laser cannon across the ground, left to right on the screen with the controller disc and shoot upwards towards the top of the screen using the side buttons. You are not provided with any extra weapons such as smart bombs to clear an entire screen, but you are given the ability to hyperspace jump to a different location if trying to avoid imminent death.
The goal of Astrosmash is to destroy as many meteors, spinners, guided missiles and UFOs as you can and score as many points as possible. Meteors fall at various rates of speed and in two shapes. The larger meteors often split into two smaller ones when they are shot. Since they tend to shoot off in different directions, it’s definitely a challenge to destroy both pieces. If a meteor makes it to the ground without being destroyed, you lose points from your total. As a result, it is entirely possible to finish the game with a negative score if you really suck at Astrosmash. Spinners also fall to the ground at various speeds but unlike meteors, if a spinner hits the ground, you don’t lose just points, you lose a cannon. Guides missiles will often chase after your cannon once they hit the ground and avoiding these missiles is the primary reason to use the hyperspace button. UFOs shoot at you as they pass across the screen from above, but their shots aren’t guided so they aren’t too terribly difficult to avoid and destroy.
As your score increases, the game adds challenge by increasing the speed of the falling meteors and number of spinners. You’ll know when you reach a new “level” when the screen changes color. Some background colors are more offensive to the eyes than others but overall, I like the changing backgrounds to signal your progression. There is no stopping the falling meteors to congratulate you so take this visual cue as your virtual pat on the back so might want to use the pause option to take sporadic breaks.
There are a ton of ways to lose cannons in Astrosmash, but fortunately the game isn’t stingy with the extra lives. You can achieve an extra life with every 1000 points scored so rack up the extra cannons early and often so you have a nice supply on hand when the action gets fast and furious. I highly recommend the use of the auto-fire option since getting carpal tunnel isn’t exactly on many “to-do” lists. Repeatedly hitting those side buttons for 15-30 minutes isn’t something you want to do, trust me.
Overall, I enjoy Astrosmash in spite of its repetitive gameplay. I think partly it’s because I’m not all that good at it so my games don’t last as long as others who can play for hours. Even thought I’m a very average Astrosmash player, my games will still last for a solid 15-20 minutes, which is a loooong time to play a single game from this era. I tend to play Astrosmash in bursts, getting my fix and then moving on.
Currently in my collection: game, manual, overlay