Title: Missile Command Recharged
Developer: Nickervision Studios
Publisher: Atari Inc.
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Official Website: Missile Command Recharged
Release Date: May 27, 2020
Missile Command Recharged is an attempt to adapt 1980s classic arcade game Missile Command to modern hardware. While some aspects of the original defy adaptation the final result comes close to capturing its best qualities. A rare arcade experience that requires a touch of patience and forethought.
Lights and Sound
At first glance, the graphics of Missile Command Recharged appear to be derivative of other throwback arcade games like Geometry Wars. The combination of neon wireframe 2D sprites and a pure white background has become a style unto itself among small arcade-like games. Missile Command Recharged at the very least is a well-done example of the style. Within the limits of the way modern displays work the look of the game is about as close to the original Missile Command as can be done while still being playable. The effects of a raster display like the original with its cascading pixels would just come out fuzzy on a modern HD screen. This would make picking out missiles from the background extremely difficult.
The sound design in Missile Command Recharged is a bit bare-bones which turns out to be both advantageous and disadvantageous. On the upside, the simple sound effects and music fit well with the visuals. They are also reminiscent of music and the effects of arcade games from the time of the original Missile Command. On the other hand, in a modern context, the game sounds a little bland. The music isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, just not the most engaging soundtrack around.
Uniquely Missile Command
Missile Command Recharged plays about as close to the original as is possible on modern hardware. Since the original game is a classic as much due to its challenging gameplay as to its unique look, Recharged is also a joy to play. The game is essentially a digital form of whack-a-mole where the player tries to protect a group of cities at the bottom of the screen from falling missiles. Defending the cities is accomplished by shooting your own missiles into the oncoming barrage. The aspect of the game that makes it uniquely Missile Command, though, is the way that the player’s projectiles explode when they reach the spot on the screen targeted by the cursor. This makes the game less reflexive and a bit more proactive than other arcade games. Developing the patience necessary to find and target the spots where the paths of incoming missiles will intersect is as important as quick reactions. The game also makes an attempt at replicating the feel of moving a cursor with a trackball like in the original arcade cabinet. It doesn’t feel quite right but the attempt helps make the game a closer adaptation of the original.
In a lot of ways adapting an arcade game to a home console or PC involves inverting the progression structure of the game. Where arcade games become more and more difficult and the player is forced to improve, games in the home setting get old fast if they’re that uncompromising. Missile Command Recharged attempts to resolve this issue by letting players purchase upgrades for their missiles and launchers using previously earned high scores. This softens the learning curve of the game making it far less brutal than the original Missile Command. Ultimately this is a welcome addition that makes the game much more compelling in the long term.
Adapting classic arcade games can be a huge challenge. Especially in cases like Missile Command where the original cabinets include specialized technology. Both the display and the main mode of control for the original game are now obsolete. The visual design of Missile Command Recharged does a good job of adapting the look of a raster display game into a modern HD screen. In terms of controls, though, nothing can make an analog stick feel like a trackball from the original cabinets. A mouse could come close but would be too precise. The touchscreen on a Switch would have the same issue but worse. The unfortunate fact is that it is impossible to accurately recreate some classic arcade games on modern hardware without packing in a peripheral of some kind. For a game of this size, this is mostly unfeasible from a business standpoint. Even for a much more ambitious game packing in a trackball would not make great sense.
None of these differences make playing the game unpleasant though. When judged as a separate experience from its inspiration Missile Command Recharged is a great little arcade-like shooter.
Verdict: Missile Command Recharged may not be the perfect adaptation that fans of the original Missile Command might want. The game does come as close as possible on modern hardware which is a great achievement. Overall the game is a fun shooter in its own right even if not a perfect adaptation.
- Classic Arcade Gameplay
- Pleasant Visuals
- Not quite as great as the inspiration.