|Developer(s)||First Star Software|
|Publisher(s)||First Star Software|
|Release||1982 (Atari 8-bit)|
|Display||Raster, 336 x 225 pixels, 256 colors|
Astro Chase is a scrolling shoot 'em up game originally released by First Star Software in 1982 for the Atari 8-bit family. The company later licensed certain platform rights to Parker Brothers for release on several home computers, and to Exidy for use with their Max-A-Flex arcade cabinet.
Gameplay takes place on a 2D scrolling map of space around Earth, which the player has to defend from an alien force. The primary target is a number of Mega-Mines, which approach the Earth and must be destroyed. The game is level-based (there are 36), and after all the Mega-Mines are destroyed the game progresses to the next level where players encounter a growing variety of enemy attack ships, with different speeds and offensive capabilities. An animated cut-scene is played every four levels.
In 1981, Atari introduced the Atari Star Award for the best new program distributed though their Atari Program Exchange. Winner of the first $25,000 grand prize was Fernando Herrera for My First Alphabet, a children's game. Fernando was working at a computer retail store owned by Billy Blake who was also partners with Richard Spitalny at the time. Billy and Richard, then feature film producers, decided to start and fund an interactive software company to showcase Fernado's talents. Richard and Billy funded the company, naming it First Star Software.
Astro Chase was the first title from the new company, released on 7 December 1982. It spent three months in Popular Computer World's top-ten list and became the first game to be awarded “Computer Game of the Month” by Dealerscope. This success led to a Commodore 64 port, and soon after a license with Parker Brothers who released it on the Atari home computers in cartridge format, along with an Atari 5200 port. Exidy also licensed it for arcade use.
The game opens with the player looking at a scene at a spaceport, in a simulated 3D view. A flying saucer is hovering just to the right of center, and the player's character is seen exiting a terminal building on the left, walking to the spaceship, waving goodbye, and then beaming aboard.
The view then cuts to space, where the player uses the joystick to cause the screen to rapidly scroll in the selected direction, creating the illusion of flight in the chosen direction. The screen is filled with planets and other objects. When the user presses the fire button on the joystick, the stick stops causing the ship to move, and instead fires its weapon in the chosen direction. The ship can simultaneously move and fire in different directions.
The enemy aliens attack the player with an endless supply of attack saucers; however, they are but a mere distraction. The real threat to Earth are the 16 Megamines that start at the end of the universe and then slowly make their way towards planet Earth, displayed in the center of the map. If a single Megamine manages to reach Earth, the planet explodes in a spectacular explosion.
The game's music is an endless loop of the 1812 Overture. Once the player destroys all 16 Megamines in a given level, he or she is able to move to the next level. Every four levels, the ship returns to Earth where a cutscene animation is shown. These start simple, but grow in complexity with each repetition.
The Atari computer system version of Astro Chase was reviewed by Video magazine in its "Arcade Alley" column where it was described as "a state-of-the-art space shoot-out" and as "a revolutionary game with graphic achievements of stunning virtuosity". Reviewers specifically praised the game's innovative "single thrust propulsion" mechanic.:28
Softline stated that "Astro Chase is just about all you could ask for in an arcade game ... an exercise in class and style", citing its "Tremendous graphics". The game was awarded "1984 Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Computer Game" at the 5th annual Arkie Awards, where judges described it as "slam-bang space battle" and praised its animated intermissions.:28
In a more recent review of the Atari 5200 version, Keita Iida concluded, "Astro Chase is one big letdown and serves as a reminder that graphics are only skin deep."
Astro Chase 3-D
In 1994 MacPlay released a first person version for the Macintosh as Astro Chase 3D. This version won an International Summer Consumer Electronics Innovations ‘94 Software Showcase award, and Bob LeVitus said "This game is without question the most addictive, adrenaline-pumping title I’ve played all year"
- Will Richardson, "First Star in the Atari Universe", Electronic Games
- "ASTRO CHASE"
- Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (May 1983). "Arcade Alley: Zapping for Truth and Justice". Video. Reese Communications. 7 (2): 26–28. ISSN 0147-8907.
- Lynch, Don (Jul–Aug 1983). "Astro Chase". Softline. p. 26. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (February 1984). "Arcade Alley: The 1984 Arcade Awards, Part II". Video. Reese Communications. 7 (11): 28–29. ISSN 0147-8907.
- Iida, Keita. "Atari 5200 Review: ASTRO CHASE". Atari HQ.