Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Phantoms of the Asteroid (Commodore 64)

Never before has a game suffered from such an identity crisis. If you bought this game, the cover picture told you it was Phantom of the Asteroids. But when you got to the loading screen, it had become Phantom of the Asteroid. Then, once it had loaded, the title screen said it was Phantoms of the Asteroid!

So, which was it? Well, given that you were on an asteroid and there were phantoms, I would say it should have been Phantoms of the Asteroid. That's what I've always called it, anyway.

I'm-a-livin' in a box... I'm-a-livin' in a laser-edged box...

Phantoms opens with an excellent, rousing and energetic Rob Hubbard track, which just gets you in the mood for a fast-paced spacey shoot 'em up. Which, erm, you don't get. Instead, it's more of a leisurely exploration game.

Actually, it's not that leisurely. Granted, you move around the gigantic asteroid at a slow pace, but the phantoms appear very often indeed, so you'll have to keep your finger on your laser trigger or you won't be getting off the thing alive. Or dead, actually.

There's a reason why you're on this asteroid, though, besides just having a bit of a look around. It's actually on a collision course with Earth, and that wouldn't be good. So it's your job to stop it.

Ahhhh... precious fuel.

It should be easy enough... just float about the inner passages of the asteroid, collect the 36 uranium cubes that are known to be located within, combine them and get out of there before the thing blows to smithereens. Nothing to it.

The thing is, this asteroid is home to thousands of phantoms. And they're pretty clever beings, intent on taking over the Earth (although they can't be that clever, because if their asteroid hits Earth, both will be destroyed. Ummm.). The asteroid is riddled with deadly laser gates which hinder your progress. In fact, they're worse than that... touch any of them, just once, and you're dead, and all Earth's hope is gone.

That makes Phantoms of the Asteroid a very difficult game. It's absolutely huge, which makes it a bit unfair that you can lose it all with one miscalculation. You've got a lot to keep an eye on besides that; fuel, energy and oxygen are all depleting constantly and must be topped up, if you can find any of those things lying around.

That would be my first uranium cube, if it wasn't for that massive wall in the way...

It's funny, because there's a lot of emptiness in this game, with large spells where you're flying around empty caverns with just occasional phantoms for company. You could say that would make for a boring game, but I think it actually adds loads to the atmosphere. It feels like you're in a desolate place, which is how it should be.

For £1.99, it's impossible to argue with the value that Phantoms of the Asteroid provided. It's an enormous challenge, truly living up to both of those words. If you've ever completed it without cheating, I salute you.


  1. I had this one back in the day. I liked it, but could never get anywhere in it at all. Just played it again an hour ago... same situation! :)

  2. Those screenshots remind me of Exile. Have you ever played that, Paul? I'm guessing yes, as you are a Beeb fan! How does it compare?

  3. I've only ever started a game of Exile... I didn't have instructions, so didn't know what to do and so gave up. Phantoms of the Asteroid is a much simpler game than that. I want to play Exile for this blog, at some point...

  4. How about reviewing "Warning Forever"?


    You mentioned ages ago in a comment you were thinking about it.

  5. I certainly did. And it's still on my list (it's a very long list, though!).

    But seeing as you've mentioned it, I really should get around to it soon...

  6. Just repaired a map we started about 26yrs ago with my mum and we still adding to it now. Would be nice to hear if anyone else has completed it, as we aim to... Prob in another 25yrs time lol :p

  7. This was my Very First Game for my C64 back in 1985 as my Mum bought it me for Christmas (Bless Her)...
    But you are Right, this is quite a Hard Game to Play as you had to work out how to deactivate the Force Beams with the correct Pad to land on while avoiding/shooting the Phantoms
    and if that wasn't bad enough, some of the Beams could only be turned off for 30-60 seconds and would reactivate again, either Trapping you or blowing you to bits.
    Needles to say, I gave up after a few attempts and didn't play the Game again until the late 90's.
    This Time I was more determined to make better progress and started making Maps of the Asteroid as I went along.
    After Many Many Weeks, I finally found the Last Block and the Teleporter to escape the Asteroid and Complete the Game.
    Unless you ave got a Photographic Memory, without Creating your own Maps as you progress, you haven't got a Chance in finishing this Game.

    I'm Very Happy to say I had a lot of Fun Playing this and will always remember this game fondly, Cheers :O)