Remember Robotron or Berzerk? I have fond memories of those two video games even though I wasn’t very good at either of them. In both instances, you’re placed right in the middle of a wave of enemies that are threatening you from all directions. I could hold my own in Robotron for maybe 10-15 minutes of gameplay, but I never lasted more than a couple of minutes with Berzerk. Still, I played them often, usually when I had one token left and maybe five minutes left before my parents picked me up from the arcade.
If you’re looking for a similar style of game, let me point you to ASCII Shooter. I’ve been enjoying it on my iPad for a month or so now, and it’s great when I’ve got just a few minutes to spare. Most games only last 2-5 minutes as you try to navigate the maze and destroy certain key targets. The game has a storyline behind it… sort of like Tron in that you’re trying to clear out a computer’s memory bank and other locations (like USB ports… hilarious!) and fight off viruses and other baddies. You’re represented by a small smiley face and all the enemies, text, and action has that glowing green 8-bit look that you may recall from early 80s games (like Battlezone, for example).
Controls are easy to figure out and master. It took me half a dozen games or so to get where my thumb stayed put over the left movement control (in the lower left corner of the screen). Firing is done by moving your finger over the pad in the lower right corner and holding it over the pad in the direction you wish to fire. Early in the game you only have a single shot laser firing capability, but when you see small bomb icons appear, grab them. You’ll then see a bomb launched every so often that does more devastating splash damage to enemies around the impact point. Collect more bombs to increase the frequency of bombs being launched. At one point I’d collected quite a few and it seemed like a bomb was launched after every 5th or 6th laser shot. Maximum Damage!
You start with five hearts (health) and lose one any time you are hit by an enemy bomb or laser blast or if you are touched/bumped. Fortunately, you can obtain more hearts (though they are rare at higher difficulty levels) by destroying enemies. Unfortunately, they often appear right in the thick of a mass of enemies, forcing you to take a chance running in to grab it — be sure to clear out as many enemies as you can before you rush for the heart!
In addition to the story play (you can finish the story quickly if you’re aggressive) you can also select from the same five starting difficulty levels in the Quick Play mode — Rookie, Peacemaker, Common User, Programmer and Nerdminator. At this point in time I only play Nerdminator, which starts you in a much larger maze and with a greater number of enemies. You can mute the music and/or sound effects if you choose, but the game isn’t really overwhelming with either.
You can grab ASCII Shooter from the App Store for your iPad (it’ll also run on most iPhones, but keep in mind the maze and controls are tiny) for $0.99. It’s an inexpensive game that will give any 80s kid a nice flashback to the early days of arcades.