Joe Coddington (h/w)
|Programmer(s)||Dan Hitchens (2600)|
|Artist(s)||Brad Chaboya (cabinet)|
|Platform(s)||Arcade, Atari 2600|
|Mode(s)||1-2 players alternating turns|
Gravitar (working title Lunar Battle) is a color vector graphics arcade game released by Atari, Inc. in 1982. Using the same "rotate-and-thrust" controls as Asteroids and Space Duel, the game was known for its high level of difficulty. It was the first of over twenty games (including the 1983 Star Wars) Mike Hally designed and produced for Atari. The main programmer was Rich Adam and the cabinet art was designed by Brad Chaboya. Over 5,427 cabinets were produced. An Atari 2600 version, ported by Dan Hitchens, was published by Atari in 1983.
The player controls a small blue spacecraft. The game starts in a fictional solar system with several planets to explore. If the player moves his ship into a planet, he will be taken to a side-view landscape. Unlike many other shooting games, gravity plays a fair part in Gravitar: the ship will be pulled slowly to the deadly star in the overworld, and downward in the side-view levels.
The player has five buttons: two to rotate the ship left or right, one to shoot, one to activate the thruster, and one for both a tractor beam and force field. Gravitar, Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe and Space Duel all used similar 5-button controlling system.
In the side-view levels, the player has to destroy red bunkers that shoot constantly, and can also use the tractor beam to pick up blue fuel tanks. Once all of the bunkers are destroyed, the planet will blow up, and the player will earn a bonus. Once all planets are destroyed, the player will move onto another solar system.
The player will lose a life if he crashes into the terrain or gets hit by an enemy's shot, and the game will end immediately if fuel runs out.
Gravitar has 12 different planets. Red Planet is available in all 3 phases in the universe; it contains a reactor. Shooting the reactor core activates a link. Escaping the reactor successfully moves the player to the next phase of planets, awards bonus points and 7500 units of fuel. Reactor escape time reduces after each phase and eventually becomes virtually impossible to complete.
After completing all 11 planets (or alternatively completing the reactor three times) the player enters the second universe and the gravity will reverse. Instead of dragging the ship towards the planet surface, the gravity pushes it away. In the third universe the landscape becomes invisible and the gravity is positive again. The final, fourth universe, has invisible landscape and reverse gravity. After completing the fourth universe the game starts over. However, the reactor escape time will never reset back to high levels again.
The programmers thought that even the best players could never complete the most difficult planets on the invisible levels. Neither of the key developers themselves, Mike Hally and Rich Adam, have ever completed their own game in their own words: "without cheating."
The silver label version of Atari 2600 Gravitar was originally only available to Atari Club members. It was later sold in stores in limited quantities. Atari later released it in the red box and label style in large quantities. The silver label is very desirable to collectors for its rarity and association with the Atari Club.
Dual-stick shooter Black Widow was offered as a conversion kit for Gravitar. The kit included a new marquee, control panel, side art, and an additional wiring harness. The kit used the original Gravitar PCB, with a few small modifications and a new set of ROM chips. Many factory-built Black Widows were produced using unsold Gravitar cabinets, and although they contain original (not Gravitar conversion) board sets, they had Black Widow side art applied over the Gravitar sideart.
Gravitar is part of the Atari Anthology for Windows, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 as well as the Atari Anniversary Edition Vol. 2 for Dreamcast, PlayStation, and Windows. Gravitar is also included in the Atari Flashback 3. In April 2019, Gravitar was added to the TeslAtari game collection included in Tesla vehicles.
In the 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never Again, Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger) is seen about to play Gravitar before meeting up again with Bond (Sean Connery) at Casino de Monte Carlo. The indoor scene was filmed at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England - the arcade cabinets used would have been sourced from Atari's European factory in Ireland.
Dan Coogan, of Phoenix, Arizona, set a Gravitar world record, scoring 8,029,450 points from December 22 to 23, 2006, playing for 23 hours and 15 minutes. The previous world record for score was 4,722,200, which held for 24 years, set by Ray Mueller of Boulder, Colorado, on December 4, 1982, after playing for 12 hours and 21 minutes.
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