Star Castle Arcade is a frantic, single-screen space shooter for the iconic Atari 2600 video game console. You control a spaceship that navigates around a giant space cannon which is enclosed and protected by three oppositely rotating concentric energy rings. You must successfully overcome the Star Castle’s formidable defenses, then fire your ship’s weapon, impact the cannon and destroy it. Think of the Star Castle, the cannon and its protective rings, as analogous to the Star Wars’ Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon.
The cannon is not defenseless. In addition to its protective energy rings, the Star Castle also releases homing mines. These mines start out on the energy rings, but are eventually released into space where they home in on your ship. If you survive long enough to blast enough holes through the protective energy rings to sight the cannon itself, the massive space cannon can then also sight your ship as well and given the opportunity, fire directly back at you with a giant, fast moving energy ball.
You need to blast through each of the three energy rings without destroying any one ring completely. If you total destroy any one of the three rings, it will regenerate, requiring you to blast through it again. Once you blast through all three rings, wait for the holes through the rotating rings to line up, then fire a shot and destroy the Star Castle.
Star Castle Arcade for the Atari 2600 is, of course, based on the 1980 release Star Castle, a vector arcade video game by Cinematronics. That game was designed by Tim Skelly and programmed by Scott Boden. The original arcade game used a black and white vector monitor with coloring provided by a transparent plastic screen overlay.
Star Castle Arcade is an amazing port to the Atari 2600. It captures the simple, yet complex game play that made the arcade version special. The main difference between the arcade classic and this Atari 2600 port is that the arcade game uses only buttons to turn, thrust and fire, while Star Castle Arcade uses the joystick controller. Controlling the ship with the joystick is very accurate. The graphics and sound are also very well done. This version includes a title screen with a musical soundtrack and a high score screen. It even saves the high scores to the cartridge’s memory so that they remain after the power is turned off.
The only issue that I have come across is that as you always respawn in the same location as where your ship was destroyed, if your ship was hit by a shot from the cannon, the cannon may fire again quickly, killing you again before you have a chance to do anything.
Atari Age also did a superb job publishing and packaging this game. The packaging is very professional. It includes the game cartridge, a beautifully illustrated 16-page manual, a 10″ x 14″ poster featuring the Star Castle Arcade artwork by Jordi Cabo, and a papercraft Star Castle reproduction arcade cabinet by Nathan Strum. For an additional charge, a beautiful game box is an optional upgrade.
The manual is excellent. It includes a detailed history of the original Cinematronics arcade video game and development of several other versions of Star Castle for the Atari 2600, including Atari programmer Howard Scott Warshaw’s attempt which evolved into Yars’ Revenge, Atari’s top selling original game concept for the 2600, as well as D. Scott Williamson’s successful Kickstarter campaign release.
Star Castle Arcade was programmed by Chris Walton and Thomas Jentzsch. Additional cartridge, manual and game artwork was done by Jordi Cabo and Nathan Strum. The game has a 2014 copyright.
Star Castle Arcade is a one player game and requires one Atari 2600 compatible joystick controller. It comes on a 32K cartridge. It is available through the AtariAge website store for $30.00, though if you want the optional game box, it is an additional $15.00. If you enjoy the arcade version of Star Castle, it is well worth the price.