Mar 29, 2010

Missile Command

Missile Command is an 80s arcade game from Atari. Search for it in the Android Market and you'll come up empty. Fortunately there are several clones of this great, retro arcade game for the Android and here we'll take a look at not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of them.

Ok, what would you think it would take to make a good Missile Command clone? Obviously the spirit of the game has to be faithfully recreated. Perhaps a graphics enhancement. Similar or improved sound effects. Maybe even some new challenges that add to the original in a preferably good way...

The four games I'm going to look at are Armageddonoid, Ballistic Defense, Missile Intercept, and Missile Shield and they are all freebies.

Leading off is Armageddonoid which upon loading starts off with some seemingly out of place dance music. The graphics are retro and similar to the original game, and the sound is basic. Actually the sound in all four of these games is basic to non-existent. The most distinguishing feature of Armageddonoid is its control scheme... all of the other games rely of touching the screen to launch a missile whereas this game has a targeting sight that you have to move by sliding on the touch screen, using the DPad, or using a trackball so if your device has a trackball this may actually be the most faithful to the original. One thing I found mildly distracting is how launched missiles don't travel in a line... they travel on a diagonal and complete their journey by travelling on a straight, vertical line, but that's a minor detail that perhaps just I find annoying.

Next, is Ballistic Defense. Ballistic Defense includes both updated artwork and classic artwork that faithfully resembles the original's graphics. It's also the only game that graphically fires missiles like the original game with a line (of smoke?) extending from your missile silo to the target that disappears on impact. Sound is absent in this game, but given the lack of anything terribly impressive in any of these games I'm not sure I miss it. Still it would be a nice enhancement should an update be made for this game. Firing is done by simply touching the screen. At first I thought that would make for an incredibly easy Missile Command clone, but it doesn't... especially when you still have to lead the enemy's missiles and time your shots correctly. Ballistic Defense is certainly among the better of these four games... all of which have their own redeeming features.

Missile Intercept is perhaps the worst of the lot. First, it deviates from the original by giving you only three cities to defend. Next, touching the screen IMMEDIATELY detonates a bomb taking the whole timing element of the original game away. Then they decided that destroying an enemy missile should sound a lot like someone firing a shotgun. I know it's free so there's not much to knock... but with the other three choices available I think you can safely skip this one and not miss much.

Rounding out the lot is Missile Shield. Missile Shield has similar, odd sound effects as Missile Intercept... a minor irritation, but gives you the original six cities to defense and the need to time your shots. It also adds a nice, starry backdrop to the play area. It's a solid effort.

If I had to pick one for my Droid it would be Ballistic Defense. I really like how touching to launch missiles works as it's much better than I imagined and enough missiles raining down on me creates some pretty hectic action. For purists I can see Armageddonoid getting the nod especially if you have a trackball on your Android phone. None of these games does anything to enhance the game that I can see, but then again there's no real need to tamper with a classic.

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