Sorry for the delay again in the review – I am working on something to make the reviews more interesting but it’s taking longer than I had hoped. But for now here is another classic that was mostly overlooked back in the day, Liberator by Atari.
Liberator by Atari (1982)
The galaxy has been invaded by the evil Malaglon army and Commander Champion of the Atari Force has chosen you to be the Liberator! Join the ATARI FORCE and free the galaxy!
Liberator is an almost obscure arcade title from Atari that plays like a reverse version of Missile Command, in that instead of defending cities from an attack, you are the one bombing them on the spinning planet in the center of the screen . As part of the ATARI FORCE, you control four spaceships (each ship is located in a corner of the screen) which can fire a number of fast missiles on a location you mark with your cursor by moving a trackball and then pressing the fire button. Even though you are bombing enemy bases, you still have to keep your wits about you however, as you will face a barrage of missiles coming at each one of your ships from the bases below. Fortunately you do have shields which can be activated to protect your ships from attack, although they wear out after four hits. The game ends when you lose all four of your ships.
When you first begin the game, you face a short wave of enemy starships which fly in from the sides of the screen. They do not fire anything at you but if you do not destroy them, they could run directly into one of your ships. These waves appear only on occasion, after every few levels or so. There are 16 levels total, with each planet becoming more difficult to liberate than the last.
During the primary phase of the game, enemy bases appear as red squares on the planet below and if they are not destroyed promptly, they will actually launch off of the planet and attempt to attack your ships from orbit, prior to escaping. You also have to watch out for saucers which will launch from the planet as they have a lethal energy ray which will destroy at least one of your ships if fired. There also are multi-warhead missiles and fireballs(which take four direct hits to destroy) which will be thrown at you, which all together creates a frantic and action-packed pace for the gameplay.
The one thing that probably kept Liberator from becoming a popular classic game, would be the difficulty curve. The game becomes quite difficult within a couple of levels, which can turn of novice players. However, if you stick with the game it can become rather enjoyable as your skill increases, as is typical with many classic Atari titles (Easy to learn, difficult to master).
Liberator is one sweet looking game for 1982. The animation of the spinning planet below is very smooth, detailed and colorful. Objects which launch from the planet will actually go into orbit instead of simply firing in a straight line from below. There wasn’t anything quite like it at the time. The game also throws a decent number of objects on the screen, all of which are multi-colored and well-animated. There is no flicker to bother the eyes and very little slowdown to speak of which makes for an impressive visual experience.
Fairly typical for 1982 – there is no music nor voice, just the sounds of intergalactic warfare with explosions and shots being fired.
The Liberator cabinet is shaped much like the Asteroids Deluxe cabinet, with some minor differences. While there is little artwork to speak of on the inside of the cabinet, the marquee and sideart follows the usual pattern of comic book style artwork that made Atari arcade games stand out from the crowd. Liberator’s artwork does not disappoint, with detailed art featuring the spaceships you use in the game blasting a planet with a drawing of your character holding a joystick above. The cabinet also sports several Atari fuji symbols (probably to fit along with the ‘ATARI FORCE’ theme) and the marquee has a drawing of Scanner One from the Atari Force comic book series.
Finding a Liberator arcade in the wild seems to be a difficult task, but the game is available on the Atari Anthology for Xbox and PS2 as well as the Atari 80-in-1 collection for the PC. The gameplay does take a hit on the home console versions due to the lack of a trackball, which makes aiming your cursor more cubersome, slow and difficult but playable. While it is not a popular classic game, it is fun and worth playing if you enjoy a game which puts your skills to the test.