Review: Missile Command: Recharged (Switch)

Missile Command is back, but is it better than ever?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 07/17/2020 00:39 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Frantic, fun spin on classic Missile Command gameplay; punchy visuals; upgrade system gives incentive to keep coming back for more
Poison Mushroom for...
Not a ton of depth

Missile Command, much like Pong, is one of those Atari brands that’s as synonymous with video games as Pac-Man and Frogger. The premise of the game is rooted in era of the Cold War: designed by Dave Theurer, who also created the vector graphics-powerhouse Tempest, Missile Command is about preventing a bombardment of missiles from destroying a cluster of six different cities.  It was a fascinating game that was very much a product of its time, which Theurer once described as “[the embodiment of] the Cold War nightmare the world lived in.” Theurer was even plagued with nightmares about nuclear war during and after Missile Command’s development.

Heavy stuff, to be sure, but the game itself devoid of context was all about sharp reflexes. Pivoting the anti-missile defense weaponry at the disposal of the player using the arcade cabinet’s trackball controller, Missile Command was a hit that lured in countless players to spend all the quarters in their pockets. Spot a missile, shoot it out of the sky, repeat—the basic allure of Missile Command even to this day is immediate. It’s fortunate, then, that Missile Command: Recharged adheres very closely to the original for its inspiration.

In Recharged, players are once more combating a battery of incoming missile strikes, but the gameplay is beefed up for a faster, more chaotic challenge. Being a home console release, there’s no trackball to speak of, with the analogue stick acting in its place as the primary means of aiming at approaching enemy fire. Alternatively, Recharged can also be played using taps and swipes of the touch screen when played in handheld mode. Both work very well, but the touch version of Recharged is arguably more pleasing and closest to the spirit of the original Missile Command.

Players  are in charge of two anti-missile bases in defense of six points of interest on the game map. The trick with Missile Command games is figuring out the arc of the enemy’s shots. The missiles fired by the player will detonate in a radius, meaning it’s essential to figure out where the approaching missiles are likely to go and cut them off with enough time to move immediately over to another missile and do the same. As the bombardment grows more ferocious, the gameplay becomes more hectic, challenging, and entertaining. If all your points of defense are destroyed, it’s game over.

What makes Recharged different from all the other countless iterations of Missile Command before it are the the abundance of upgrades that can be equipped. Everything from the speed of the player’s shots to maximizing their payload. As the game is played, points are accumulated which can then be exchanged to increase the various stats. Alongside these persistent upgrades, there are also power-ups that appear during gameplay which will clear out opposing missiles and even repair the player’s bases and defense zones. Overall, it provides ample incentive to keep coming back for another go.

There’s also a leaderboard which allows players to compare their scores with other people around the globe. Which is cool, because between this and the upgrades, the core experience of Recharged doesn’t change much between rounds. This is straightforward score attack, retro arcade fun but without the slices of pizza and cans of soda in a dimly lit room. Recharged will entertain, but it also won’t likely keep anyone but the most devote Missile Command fans glued to the screen for too long.

One other welcome change Recharged brings to the table is the very energetic visual design. The graphics are reminiscent of what Bandai Namco did with Pac-Man Championship Edition. Bright and colorful, Recharged provides enough spectacle to make the classic Missile Command gameplay look better than ever. Granted, the graphics here are more minimalist in comparison to something like Championship Edition, but it’s a definite improvement that’s perfectly complimentary of the approach that Atari took with Recharged as a whole.

It might not be packed with content, but Missile Command: Recharged is an engaging new take on an arcade staple. The action is faster than ever, prettier than ever, and the introduction of upgrades and an online leaderboard provides reason enough reason to come back for more. I never factor price into a review (I’m grading the quality of the game, not its value), bit I would like to point out that Recharged is only a few bucks, so it’s not a huge investment for a bite-sized portion of entertainment. Recharged isn’t the most thrilling arcade title in the eShop, but it’s dependable fun that Atari fans will especially like.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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