For the impatient readers who want me to get back to reviewing the rest of the Marvel comics I promise that this will be my last The Empire Strikes Back review for awhile.
There isn’t a whole lot to say here since this game doesn’t adapt the entire story, but rather just one scene of it. The Atari 2600 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back video game cartridge is a very simplistic side-scrolling action game in which you play a snowspeeder taking on the Imperial Walkers during the Battle of Hoth.
However, instead of using harpoons and tow cables all it takes to take down these monstrosities is to shoot them multiple times while avoiding getting hit yourself. The Walkers change colours as they take damage starting off as a dark grey until they reach the critical stage of being yellow in which only a few more shots will do them in.
Hitting them isn’t too hard and the chances of your missing is practically null. The real difficulty lies in not getting hit yourself. Unlike your own laser blasts the Imperial Walkers’ guns shoot blasts that gradually elevate or descend diagonally which means avoiding them is tricky and they often wait to shoot until you are very close making getting out of the way all the more difficult. They also have rear guns which means trying to avoid damage by hitting them from behind isn’t going to help you. The tactic that works best for me was simply going back and forth from front to behind the walkers firing on both sides. This decreases the amount of damage I took from their blasters as I am constantly moving out of their line of fire.
As far as analysing the story goes there is not much to analyse. You’re in a snowspeeder destroying Imperial Walkers on Hoth ad infinitum until you lose all of your lives. That’s the plot. There is no way to ascertain from the gameplay who is in the snowspeeder. It could be anyone from Wedge to Luke to the Force Ghost of Jek Porkins for all I know. Perhaps the original manual identified the pilot; however since I don’t own the manual and I played the game on an emulator on my laptop there is no way of knowing barring a tedious visit to Wookiepedia.
The graphics are no visual feast, but nothing during the Atari 2600 era ever was so to offer criticism on that end seems foolish. I will point out, though, that the Hoth skies in this game are a deep purple which makes me think this battle is taking place at either dawn or dusk. However, since the Battle of Hoth took place in broad daylight this would be noncanonical. In the emulator I was able to change the visual setting to the European Pal version of the game which alters the colours a bit, but who really cares that much?
It’s a fun little arcade piece to play for maybe half an hour and boast about the points you earned, but there is not much more to it than that. If you want to play the game out of curiosity, the emulator would be your best bet as it is cheaper than purchasing an Atari 2600 and game cartridge.
For those curious to see the game in action here is a short video. I did not make the video and I don’t own the rights to it. The Youtube user’s original channel is Highretrogamelord. He gives the game two thumbs up at the end of the video, but I am not so generous myself. Enjoy.
Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel Star Wars #45: Death Probe and may the Force be with you.