Review: Raster Blaster
G. L. Kopp, Indianapolis, IN
After Atari introduced video games to America, old-fashioned, flipper-smashing, steel-ball-rebounding, mechanical pinball faced a notable decline in popularity until manufacturers moved into the computer age and introduced some incredibly sophisticated pinball. Now the game is back, this time in video format.
Raster Blaster, first produced for the Apple, is now available in an Atari version. The game boasts the standard fare of point-counting obstacles in its display: channels along the top which are lighted when the ball passes through them; four round bumper posts; targets in the center and on one side; a spinner and "ball saving shields" at the bottom which are always functioning during "easy" play, but must be turned on by hitting targets in the "hard" version (the only difference between the two). In addition, "Raster Blaster claws" can be enabled, which catch up to three of five balls allotted during play (a new ball replaces the one caught each time) and then releases them for multiple-ball play once all three claws have been activated.
Although the game is a masterfully written program, it is not without a glitch (I hesitate to call it a "bug.") Most of the time, the player will be able to give the ball the old one-two flip — slightly deflecting it off the tip of one flipper and catching it a split second later with the other. Often, however, if one flipper is up (they stay in that position until the fire buttons are released) and the ball passes just beyond it toward the bottom of the screen, the second flipper will not function, even though the ball is in its range. There are other occasions when the player must endure the non-functioning flipper phenomenon as well, though infrequently.
Another adjustment a pinball wizard must make is in holding the globe on the flipper to apply more than blind luck to direct it where he wants it. In mechanical pinball, the ball slides along the flipper on release until it reaches the kill point you know so well from playing a machine until your fingerprints are gone. Sorry, not so in the video version. Once in motion, always in motion, is the computer game style. The ball bounces lightly on the flippers, which puts the player into partnership with luck.
On the other hand, there are occasions in which the ball can be observed to pass through a flipper which is actually in the way of the other flipper's return shot. This rarity does make you smile and glance about to see if anyone noticed that a law of physics was broken in your favor. This same break has been observed to go the other way, however, allowing the ball to pass right through the bottom side channel railing and slip out-of-play behind the flippers.
In spite of its shortcomings, though, Raster Blaster is addictive, which speaks well of any arcade game. About the only feature true pinball fanatics will find missing is being able to flip the ball so hard it slaps the inside of the TV screen. Requirements for play are a disk drive, 24K of memory, two joysticks (accommodating one to four players), and a good deal of patience.
Raster Blaster, $30
BudgeCo, 428 Pala Avenue
Piedmont, CA 94611