Astro Chase

Astro Chase
Company: Parker Bros.
Model #:
Alex Leavens
Year: 1983
Original game by Fernando Herrera


Developed by First Star Software and originally released for the Atari 8-bit line of computers on tape and disk, Astro Chase is an interesting 2-D maze chase game that is a little too difficult for it's own good.  This is a shame because not only is Astro Chase a beautiful game to look at, but it has a whole lot of potential.  Interestingly Astro Chase was also released for the Exidy Max-A-Flex arcade machine (an Atari 600XL in an arcade cabinet) making it one of the first home computer games to get ported to the arcades (sort of).


The goal of Astro Chase is to stop the dreaded space mines from reaching earth, which just happens to be at the center of the universe (as we've always assumed).  However you can't just go around zapping space mines unhindered, no that would be too easy.  In Astro Chase the universe is actually a giant maze of stars and planets.  As you weave your way through the maze you'll begin encountering enemy ships (what space game would be complete without a few enemy ships?) that will try their best to either shoot you out of the sky (err... space), or just ram into you.


Thankfully you're not completely defenseless, you're armed with (wait for it...) a laser!  You can use this laser to either shoot ships or space mines (which is of course the goal of the game), but shooting takes energy.  Every time your ship shoots, bumps into a planet or star, or moves, it eats up energy.  Once your ship runs out energy it blows up, so don't let that happen.  To recharge your energy, simply fly through one of the energy generators conveniently located in the four corners of the universe (these appear as glowing squares).  Your ship can also generate a force field by flying through one of the force field generators located on the edges of the screen (these are non-glowing squares).  While generating a force field your ship is invincible and your energy consumption from moving is temporarily halted.  You can also ram the enemy (but not mines), but will cost you 100 units of energy.  The force field lasts approximately 10 seconds.


While it plays very similarly to the Atari 8-bit/5200 original, the Atari 2600 version of Astro Chase had some changes made to fit the capabilities of the system.  The first change, and most important, is that each level only has 8 mines to destroy.  This differs from the original Atari 8-bit version where each level had 16, although the Atari 5200 version also only had 8.  Other changes made to the Atari 2600 version include removing the cute cut scenes that occurred every few levels and told the story of your ever increasing popularity (ending in a huge parade).  The graphics survived mostly intact (albeit with flicker), but the mines and generators have been reduced to simple squares.

While the earlier levels may be simple enough, the later levels quickly become insanely difficult.  It doesn't help that your ship is constantly in motion (bouncing off planets or overshooting enemies) and that the small space mines can be hard to hit.  If even one mine makes it to Earth the entire game ends, so the best strategy is to circle earth and let the mines come to you or you'll risk one hitting while you're off screen.  Astro Chase quickly becomes an exercise in frustration as you watch the Earth blow up time and time again while the 1812 Overture plays in the background (this can be turned off and on with the left difficulty switch).

One mystery surrounding Astro Chase is who was actually going to publish the Atari 2600 version.   Both Parker Bros. and First Star Software had ads stating that the 2600 version (along with the Colecovision and C64 cartridge) were coming soon.  First Star Software had already released Boing! for the 2600 so it would make sense that they would also be planning on releasing Astro Chase, but Parker Bros. appears to have had some of the home rights as they released cartridge versions for the Atari 8-bits and 5200.   However a blurb in the June 1983 issue of The Video Game Update states that Parker Bros. did indeed license the 2600 and Colecovision versions, so it appears that Parker Bros. was the intended distributor after all.  So why did the Atari 2600 version go unreleased?  The most likely answer is due to the crowded and collapsing 2600 game market.  The 2600 version of Astro Chase's cancellation is specifically mentioned in the April 1984 issue of Video Games Player even though it was completed.

Version Cart Text Description
?/??/83 Astro Chase Mid-Level WIP
10/25/83 Astro Chase Rev 1.5 25-OCT-83
Final version?


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