Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Top 30 Vertical Shooters for the Atari 2600 #20


Guardian is one of the first games on the list that takes the standard vertical shooter and adds a new element that makes the game play more than just scroll and shoot.  Guardian puts you in defense of three planets and their defense grid against a hostile alien spaceship that is trying to bomb its way through and destroy the planets!  Wicked, bad aliens!  They always have a beef!

The alien spaceship scans the top of the screen dropping bombs indiscriminately.  As the bombs hit the defense shield, the punch holes in it clearing the path for future bombs to eliminate the planets below.  Your job is to blast the bombs before they can make impact and keep the planets safe.

Guardian is a paddle game and thus the action is tailored to fast movements and quick reflexes.  The early levels are pretty easy and you'll have no trouble keeping everyone un-exploded.  And then, somewhere around 20K, the game loses its mind.  The spaceship starts dropping bombs in patterns similar to the bomb dropping in Kaboom! or the egg dropping in Eggomania.  Your game play needs to adjust accordingly and scroll along blasting the spray of bombs.  Experts of the two games listed above will find themselves right at home here.  Goons like me will get swamped pretty quickly.  But I can certainly appreciate the skill required to stay alive.

Graphically, Guardian is unspectacular, but solid.  The little planets are the coolest feature.  Fortunately, the action is so fast paced that you'll not have much time to gawk at the spectacle.

I really appreciate the added twist of planet protection that Guardian adds to the classic vertical shooter formula.  If you ship is hit, you are only stunned for a second, not eliminated.  You only lose if the planets are destroyed.  If you score 10K, the shield is replenished and at 50K you get an extra planet (in reserve).  There is plenty of challenge and replayability and the frustration factor is low, even if you suck at games like this as I do.

My Top Guardian Score: 45,250

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