Star Raiders

Star Raiders
Company: Atari
Model #:
Carla Meninsky
Year: 1982
Came packaged with the Video Touch Pad.


Star Raiders was an instant classic on the Atari 400/800.  Many people admitted that they bought the expensive computer system simply to play this game.  Most people were pleasantly surprised when Atari announced they would bring the computer hit to the Atari 2600, but they also wondered how Atari would manage to get a game that required a keyboard to work on the one button 2600.  Atari's answer: the Video Touch Pad.


The VTP was a large square keypad that added nine buttons to the 2600 allowing it to easily handle most of Star Raiders functions (only 3 were actually used).  However the VTP wasn't any new piece of technology, it was just a repackaged keypad controller with a snazzy new overlay.  In fact many players discovered that the keypad could be used in a pinch instead of the bulky VTP (minus the overlay of course).  Atari was always good at passing off recycled technology as new...


Star Raider is best described as a blend of Star Wars and Star Trek.  While the game is mostly a space shooter, there's a healthy dose of strategy thrown in.  Not only must you track down and destroy the Zylon fleet, but you need to make tough decisions like which sector to attack first or which systems can be shut down to conserve energy.  Simply running head first into the Zylon fleet with guns blazing isn't going to cut it in this game.


In Star Raiders the galaxy is actually a large 4x4 grid separated into 8 sectors.  One sector contains the Star Base which is your source of repairs and supplies.  Unfortunately the Star Base is also the Zylons number one target, so you're going to have to defend it constantly.  If during the course of the game you hear three tones that's your cue to get your ship over to the Star Base and wipe out the attacking Zylon fleet.  If you fail to do so within 30 seconds the base will explode leaving you with no facility to repair or refuel your ship.


The Video Touch Pad controls all of your ships vital functions such as shields, galactic map, and hyperwarp.  By pressing the buttons you can turn off various systems on your ship to save power (such as shields and the targeting computer).  While the targeting computer can be safely turned off since it serves no major purpose (unless you can't aim without those little bars), shields are absolutely vital to your survival.  One hit without shields up will destroy your ship instantly!  Only turn the shields off in a dire emergency (or if you feel suicidal).


By brining up the galactic map you can see where all the current Zylon activity in the galaxy is.  While you can slowly cruise from one sector of the map to the next, you'll need to hyperwarp to get anywhere in a normal amount of time.  Hyperwarping is fairly safe, but it does take large amounts of energy (depending on how far away you're warping), so use it judiciously.  If you run out of energy mid-hyperwarp you will explode.


The display at the bottom of the screen shows the current status of your ships functions.  PESC stands for Photon Torpedoes, Engines, Shields, and Computer.  When one of these systems becomes damaged the letter will turn yellow, and when the system is destroyed the letter will turn red.  Damaged systems will function poorly or intermittently (flickering shields, hard steering, noisy engines, etc.), but destroyed systems won't function at all.  To fix your systems you'll need to dock at a Star Base.


There are three different enemy types: Cruisers, Fighters, and Basestars.  Cruisers and Fighters are your normal run of the mill enemy ships, but Basestars are nasty flying fortresses that come equipped with shields.  Basestars take several direct hits to destroy so use caution.  After destroying all but one enemy squadron, the last group will dive deep into an asteroid field.  Take extreme caution when taking out this last group as asteroids are extremely damaging.


While it may not have had all the glitz and glamour of the original 8-bit version, the 2600 version of Star Raiders is a solid port.  Considering that most people thought it would be impossible to even attempt Star Raiders on the 2600, fans were happy with whatever they got.  It's as shame Atari didn't make use of the Touch Pad in other games, as buying it for one game seems like a waste.


Version Cart Text Description
?????? Str. R. Mid-level WIP


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