A great conversion of Dave Theurer's original Atari coin-op, 5200 Missile Command boasts
fast, reactive gameplay and superb trak-ball support. In fact, this version is pretty much
indistinguishable from the Atari 8bit computer version. However, I wish the 5200 version
had benefitted from the twin firing buttons in some way. You see, rather than using the
arcade version's firing system of left, center, and right missile silos, 5200 Missile Command
(like the 2600 and Atari 8bit versions) only has a center silo. It's really a shame that
some extra effort was not expended in this area!
None the less, 5200 Missile Command shines as you move your cursor around the screen, attempting
to create billowing explosions to stop incoming ICBMs from destroying your six cities at the
bottom of the screen. Lots of explosions are permitted at once (I counted at least 8 simulataneously), and
hitting UFOs and planes is great stuff!
Control is awesome with a good trak-ball, and even the analog stick offers decent control.
The analog stick as what I call "Direct Mapping" cursor placement; think of the screen
as a huge circle, and moving the analog stick around its arc immediately moves the cursor
to that specific screen coordinate. So, if you gently press left, the cursor is a bit left from
center and it stops there; it doesn't keep on moving left. Once you get used to it, this control
is pretty neat and pinpoint accurate.
Graphically and audibly faithful to the arcade version, the only bad news is the choice of
background screen colors that you must endure once you get to the "x5" levels .. ugly, ugly,
ugly baby blues, blinding whites, and greens make the game a bit garish. Oh, well. (Atari
should have stayed with BLACK!)
Options include a practice mode with all smart bombs, and you can also skip easier levels. The
classic game-over screen has been retained (it won't show if you make a high score though, so
you may think it's been omitted at first as you fill up the high score table). With the fine
control with both stick or trak-ball, the 5200 version of Missile Command is great stuff and
better than other versions of the day. A great game, and a great 5200 conversion!