|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
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
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
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.
to 2600 Software