This game is the latest and most elaborate remake for Windows 95 of the classic arcade game Asteroids. This current version does have a story, but it is largely irrelevant to the game itself: in the year 9999 (one of the later future settings for PC games) Captain Zed Nepher in his Fender Astrocaster ship ANNIHILATOR 9000 fights against the warped alien inhabitants of the Bee-Gee cluster in order to regain the Federation of Astro-Rockers' control of the Hendrix system so as to carry out the biggest rock-and-roll bash of the millennium. Now, if this collection of names doesn't ring any bells in terms of past rock-and-roll groups, you must be a musical Luddite. As one can readily see, this thin storyline serves simply as a pretext for the rather indiscriminate shoot-'em-up action in the game.
AstroRock is very easy to learn and very challenging to play with a nicely designed interface. You may use the keyboard or a joystick/gamepad to move your ship around an infinitely large universe to shoot rocks and enemies and to pick up power-ups and extra firepower. The controls are relatively intuitive, and the well-designed play screen has information on armor and shield levels, the location of approaching objects, and your ship's accessories at the bottom. You can play against the assortment of computer enemies or against one or more network opponents. The game play is quite intense and extremely difficult for beginners, because objects move really fast and you don't see them on the main screen until they are relatively close; even worse, most of the enemies and rocks cannot be destroyed with a single salvo, and many of them don't just fly around randomly but actually chase you wherever you go. This combination of features leads even a veteran arcade game player to yearn for cheat codes (especially "God mode") to live a bit longer (these codes have not yet been released).
Where this game really shines and stands way above its predecessors is in its graphics -- they are simply superb. With 640 by 480 pixel resolution utilizing 256 colors, aided by the excellent Windows 95 DirectX drivers, you encounter detailed textured renderings of rotating friendly and unfriendly objects in space that are simply stunning to behold. Unlike some crude attempts to reproduce past arcade classics -- such as Microsoft's Arcade and Return to Arcade -- that reproduce the same lame graphics used in the original versions years ago, AstroRock really shows how it should be done.
The instrumental rock music (what else would you expect here?) that provides the background for gameplay is excellent, but not really distinctively different from what one would generally expect in this kind of arcade game. The biggest surprise here is that the music volume (which is user-controllable) is actually moderate, and that the rock tunes selected are not heavy metal; both of these choices help with gameplay. The sound effects are fine, but completely indistinguishable from other games of this sort. Clearly, the game designers put a lot more exacting and innovative effort into the graphics than the sound.
System Requirements & Comments
This game was designed for Windows 95, minimally requiring 8 MB RAM, a 486/66 CPU, and a CD-ROM drive (although the entire 44-megabyte game can be installed on the hard disk). Also included are versions for the Power Macintosh and for DOS. In comparison to other just-released Windows 95 action/arcade games, these requirements actually appear to be quite modest.
As is typical with this kind of game, the documentation (both online and hard-copy) is quite brief, but you don't need any more than you get. The setup/installation is a snap, as one is coming to expect with native Windows 95 games. One cute novelty in the printed documentation is full-page color cross-sectional diagrams of some of the critical enemies. The instructions are extremely clear, although with the usual overlay of hip gamer jibe.
Despite the obstacles to doing well quickly in the game, I really enjoy playing it because of the truly great graphics and the above-average sound. It is too bad that the game does not offer differing difficulty levels, mouse support during gameplay, or the chance to play any level you want at the outset (as with many such games, you have to work your way up level by level). If you want cerebral challenges involving intricate strategy, or innovative game design that breaks out of traditional molds, stay far away from this one; but if quick point-and-shoot colorful reflex action is what you want, give this one a try.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP