Review for Yars’ Revenge on Atari 2600

Want to know what my favourite game is on the Atari 2600?

Yars' Revenge (1982) (Atari)

It’s Yars’ Revenge. It’s one of those shmups that tried to be port of another game, Star Castle, but became it’s own game due to programmers not being able to port the arcade game to the 2600. Yars’ Revenge is a rather unique game in the fact that there’s not really another game like it. To explain this game, you play as Yar, an insect alien floating in space, being attacked by the Qotile and it’s relentless homing destroyer missile. The idea is that the Qotile is surrounded by a shield that parts can removed by either shooting at it, or eating chunks out of it. once you expose the Qotile, whilst avoiding the homing destroyer missile. There’s a scrambled coloured bar a little left from the middle of the screen, this is the neutral zone. If you hide inside this, the destroyer missile can not hurt you, but you can not shoot whilst inside the neutral zone.

Yar has an ultimate weapon, the Zorlon Canon, this appears as a marker on the left hand side of the screen; you get this by either eating a chunk of the shield, or touching the Qotile (doing that doesn’t kill you). The idea is that you line up the shot using the marker on the left hand side of the screen, shot the canon, avoid the blast, and hit the Qotile with it. However the Qotile does have a trick up it’s sleeve, the destroyer missile isn’t the only weapon in its arsenal, the Qotile ship can enter a Swirl mode, spins fast, and then heads toward Yar at break neck speeds. You can avoid this with good reactions, but if you hit the Qotile in it’s swirl mode with the blast of the Zorlon canon, as it’s moving, you can earn a bonus life!

The Qotile only appears with two different shields that appear in alternating levels. But the destroyer missile becomes more relentless and faster in later levels, meaning that you’ll need to move a lot more and take advantage of the neutral zone. The trick is paying attention to the Destroyer Missile’s movement, and hearing out for when the Qotile goes into it’s swirl mode.

Yars' Revenge (1982) (Atari)_4

Typically, shmups on the Atari 2600 are the typical Space Invaders type, such as Galaxian and Phoenix. Not that Space Invaders is bad; but you want a little more than that. Sure there’s Zaxxon, Vanguard and Moon Patrol that are not the typical “Space Invaders”, but Yars’ Revenge has that element of originality to it that makes it stand out of all the shmups on the 2600. What makes this Shmup different is the fact that when you begin playing this game for the first time, you really use the fire button a lot and shoot lasers at the Qotile shield, but as you begin to master the game, you end up hardly shooting at all, and using the eating mechanic in the game, as it earns you more points. For a shmup, you end up “eating” more than “shooting”, does that make this game a “Munch’em’up” though? No is the answer, mainly because it plays nothing like PacMan; and ultimately you are shooting a very powerful canon weapon in the game. As much as I call this game a shmup, it’s very unique, and surprisingly I haven’t seen it’s gameplay mechanics used in other games even if it tried to copy Star Castle.


The awesome thing about the game, including a few other 2600 games, is that it came with not only the game manual, but a short comic book, giving a synopsis for the game. These were great for games that had little horse power and couldn’t really tell a story. So a supplementary comic was a great idea to explain the story and plot of Yars’ Revenge. It’s a shame that I wasn’t even alive to be around when this game got released. I would’ve loved the comic that came with this!

Regardless if this was a port of Star Castle to the Atari 2600 or not, the first original Atari 2600 game is simply a must have for any Atari owner! The game about space flies blowing up mother ships with very powerful canons is just awesome. As simple as it is, it’s one of those games that is easy to get into, and hard to master! It’s easily a must have game for any gamer!

…shame that reboot of Yars’ Revenge back in 2011 wasn’t very good!