Playing Laser Gates (Atari 8-bit)

The story behind Imagic’s 1984 release Laser Gates is as old as time itself – an advanced race builds super computer and tasks it with protecting them by giving it a reality-destroying device as the ultimate deterrent, but said computer develops a glitch that in turn threatens the entire universe so a lone pilot must fly deep into the belly of the electronic beast to save the day. This mission takes place in a series of horizontally scrolling caverns which are populated by defensive craft, destructible walls and the titular gates which either open and close around their centre or have an aperture to fly through which bounces up and down.

What makes Laser Gates unusual is how complicated it is for a fixed speed scrolling shooter; the player is issued just the one shielded craft so there’s a power gauge for that in the status area, but it’s accompanied by a second bar for the current energy level which constantly decreases during play and will need to be topped up around halfway through each stage. The controls are also surprisingly involved, with the ship pointing and firing either left or right based on the joystick input and, if the player feels brave, being able to nudge the scrolling forwards by “pushing” on the right hand edge of the playfield.

A few features seem to have been lost in translation from the Atari 2600 original where there are ground bases on both scrolling landscapes and a third variant of laser gate which is solid but flashes on and off to allow the player to pass, but that doesn’t detract too much from the overall experience. Laser Gates isn’t the kind of game where you just settle down for a quick five minute blast however – in fact the ship’s shields will take a couple of minutes of abuse even if the player hits fire and wanders off to the point where running out of energy becomes a more immediate concern – and it’s fair to say it’s repetitive since nothing really changes between stages, but that doesn’t stop it being lots of fun when players find themselves properly “in the zone”.

4 thoughts on “Playing Laser Gates (Atari 8-bit)

  1. HMmmm…. I quite like the added dynamic of ‘recharging’ half way through the level, but shooting those grey ‘walls’ incessantly would test my patience methinks.

    Might have to give this one a miss…

  2. The grey walls don’t take much shooting, but you have to blast a tunnel through and then nudge down and do it again to make sure there’s room for the ship; I go overboard in the video and blast a larger area because each hit is worth a couple of points.

    I can totally see why it doesn’t suit everyone though, and this is another of those games I’d only recommend with a couple of caveats.

  3. OK, didn’t take my own advice and ended up downloading and giving it a try. The grey ‘walls’ aren’t as bad as I thought as they’re easy enough to dispatch, as per your video. I do find it a bit repetitive though; if they cropped up only occasionally and took a few shots to make a gap, that would make it more of a challenge and break up the play. That’s just me though…

  4. Yeah, it’s pretty repetitve but personally I don’t find that a problem if in the right frame of mind; it could probably do with tweaks and the missing elements from the Atari 2600 version brought over – most of the enemies fire back there – but I still like having the occasional blast with this to relax.

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