Company: Atari
Model #:
Dan Hitchens
Year: 1983
Originally an Atari Fan Club exclusive


Known for its high degree of difficulty and beautiful vector graphics, Gravitar was poorly received when it hit the arcades due to its difficult gameplay.  Gravitar can best be described as a cross between Lunar Lander and Space Duel, combining the most difficult elements of each.  It was definitely more a game of skill and finesse than a vector shooter, which probably didn't help it endear itself to gamers.  Gravitar was so poorly received in fact, that it was quickly converted into another Atari vector game Black Widow.  Unfortunately Black Widow didn't fare much better.


Gravitar proves that just because a game is difficult doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad game.  With practice, a little patience, and alot of luck, Gravitar can prove to be alot of fun.  To help players out, the 2600 version offers players several beginner options such as 255 lives, no gravity, and non-firing enemies, so that players who couldn't handle the high degree of difficulty of the arcade version can finally enjoy Gravitar at their own level.  These small features were a welcome addition to an extremely difficult game.  Gravitar came in two flavors; originally released through the Atari Fan Club with a silver label and box (as was the style at the time), it was later re-released in the late 80's red label style for unknown reasons (none of the other AFC exclusives were ever re-released).  While the red label version can be bought new for only a few dollars, the original silver release is a highly sought after collectors item since it was released in limited quantities.


The object of Gravitar is a refreshing mix of strategy and pure skill.  The player must carefully guide his ship around various planetary formations, and attempt to wipe out all enemy encampments while avoiding crashing into walls.  Sound easy?  Well there's a little snag in the plan.  As we all know planets have gravimetric fields of varying degrees, so as you're carefully taking aim at the enemy you must constantly fight the forces of gravity to keep your ship from slamming into the planet surface.  Just to make things a bit more difficult, the gravity on each planet is different.  So on one planet you may be have the thrusters at full throttle trying with all your might to avoid becoming a crater on the planet's surface, and on the next you may have to maintain a steady speed toward the planet to avoid being bounced outward into the blackness of space.  Sound like fun yet?  Well just wait there's more!


Just to push the difficulty level to a new extreme, your ship is given only a limited amount of fuel to work with.  So constantly firing your engines like a madman isn't going to keep you going for long.  Thankfully there are fuel cells scattered around the planet that you can capture using your tractor beam.  Of course lining your ship up with a fuel cell is easier said than done.  In addition to wiping out all the enemy bases on each planet in the solar system, you can choose to take a short cut.  In each solar system there is a reactor which if destroyed will wipe out the entire galaxy (sort of like a giant Death Star).  Unfortunately destroying this reactor is one of the most difficult things to do in the game (otherwise everybody would be doing it).  To detonate the reactor you must pilot your ship through a swirling tunnel the wraps around and around until it finally leads to the reactor center (that would be your target eh?).  Of course once you destroy the rector center you still have to get out within 60 seconds or its bye bye Gravitar.  Most people consider this shortcut to be more trouble than it's worth, but the difficulty of some of the later levels may make you change your mind.


Like all of Atari's other vector to 2600 ports, Gravitar was given the raster treatment.  Oddly this graphic conversion didn't hurt the gameplay at all, and actually improved it in some areas.  Thankfully the gameplay remained true to its arcade counterpart, right down to the correct gravity ratios.  Amazingly Dan Hitchens managed to cram twelve different solar systems (levels) into the 2600 version, which is more than most people will ever get to see.  Gravitar isn't the game for everyone, but if you stick with it you may find that the added challenge will keep you coming back for more.


Version Cart Text Description

Gravitar 4-8-83

Final Version

Gravitar 4-12-83

Slight Differences


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