Game of the Month November, 2003:

I'm still scared of that damn Swirl
System: Atari 2600 Developer: Howard Scott Warshaw
It's kind of funny to think about a game being made by just one person, especially when you consider that when you finish most modern games, the credits seem to roll on forever. But Yars Revenge is just that - a game made by only one person, and imo, it was the best game that person, Howard Scott Warshaw, ever made. What started out as a botched attempt at an Atari 2600 version of Star Castle was to become one of my all-time favorite Atari 2600 games, and it's one that really stands the test of time well. You take control of a giant mutant fly, called the Yar, that's on a mission to destroy the evil Qotile. The Qotile destroyed one of the Yar's home planets without provocation, but exacting vengeance isn't going to be easy. The Qotile is surrounded by a formidable shield and has several deadly weapons at its disposal.

Pretty, pretty colors...

Situated at the right side of the screen is the Qotile, continually moving up and down, and protected by a shield that has to be eaten or blasted away. Once you have a clear shot on the Qotile, you must fire your Zorlon cannon and score a direct hit to destroy it. The Zorlon Cannon is produced by touching the Qotile or eating a piece of the shield, and you must clear its path after firing it, because even though it's your weapon, it's just as deadly to the Yar as it is to the Qotile. Killing the Qotile results in a cataclysmic and dazzling explosion. Sounds easy enough, but you have to watch out for the Qotile's arsenal: The homing missile and the Swirl. The homing missile follows the Yar around the screen constantly, and it cannot be stopped. The only place where you are safe from it is in the Neutral Zone. But you are never safe from the Swirl, the Qotile's alter-ego, that appears when it changes a certain color. The Swirl is a blood-thirsty beast, sometimes firing off right away, and other times taking it's dear sweet time as if trying to psyche you out, but always aiming itself right for you.

There's not supposed to be only half a Neutral Zone. Stupid emulators.

Most Atari 2600 games looped endlessly, and there was no real way to get an ending. You simply played until you either ran out of lives, or turned it off. Yars Revenge is no exception, but it's dynamic elements were more diverse than many other games in which the only change on subsequent rounds would be the speed at which everything moves. Although speed of some elements does increase (such as the Homing Missile and the Swirl's firing speed), it doesn't end there. The Swirl will eventually start firing three times as often and will even learn to turn in mid-air to come after you! When I was a child, I found the Swirl kind of scary, and the first time I ever saw it turn in mid-air, it was somewhat of a shock - I didn't like the idea of a game character that seemed to have a mind of its own (but it's funny when I think back on it now). Other elements change, too, such as the type of shield that surrounds the Qotile, and the disappearance of the Neutral Zone in some rounds. With complete movement around the entire screen, Yars Revenge has really fluid control that pairs well with a Sega Genesis controller.

Even if you've never liked an Atari 2600 game before, Yars Revenge is one that I recommend giving a spin. Forget how HSW's E.T. game supposedly helped crash the video game industry - this was his finest moment.

Yars Revenge Links

  • My Yars Revenge Review - A complete review of this fantastic game.
  • The Almighty Guru's Yars Revenge Page - More praise and Dean made a remake of the game.


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