Not long ago I went to a classic arcade featuring dozens of pinball and old school quarter munchers from the ‘80s. Most of my time in arcades was well into the 90s, but it hasn’t lessened my appreciation for these classics. One of those games, Missile Command, is one of the most iconic of this Cold War-era. Now we have a reimagining of this classic game from Atari and Nickervision Studios with Missile Command: Recharged.
Commanding the Missiles
Missile Command: Recharged has a very straightforward arcade-style gameplay. When starting a round, bombs start raining from the sky onto your city below. You control three missile launching platforms that you’ll use to prevent this destruction. Each missile you launch explodes in a radius that, if it collides with the bomb, will destroy it. This means you have to aim and time the explosion to intersect the path of the projectile.
It seems simple in concept, but judging the speed and angle of the bombs raining down can be challenging even early on. They vary in size and speed, though all are fully capable of destroying your buildings and launchers. Some bombs can actively avoid your shots making it necessary, at times, to stack explosions to ensure you catch them. In addition to all of this, ships fly by that will drop additional bombs for you to deal with. In inevitably becomes a very chaotic experience.
This is where things can be challenging especially for a mobile game. Working on a 5.5-inch screen and tapping away with my thumbs to try and keep up with the numerous bombs causes a lot of issues. First of all, you can’t see through thumbs. I’ve tried, they are indeed opaque. It’s also difficult to place precision shots with such an imprecise tool. Using a thin stylus might help, but it seems the mobile format isn’t the best for this style of game.
Commanding the Upgrades
The “Recharged” aspect of Missile Command: Recharged primarily comes down to the upgrade system. While you can pick up some cool temporary buffs in-game like a screen-clearing bomb or rapid-fire missiles, you can also have permanent upgrades. As you play, you gain points that can be spent in this way giving you improvements to missile explosion size, projectile speed, reloading, and launcher rebuild speed.
These upgrades function almost like a roguelite game in that every time you start, you’re able to get a little further. There is a great deal of skill involved in a game like this – much like any classic arcade game – but these options make it much more feasible to make more progress. The more progress you make, the more upgrades you can unlock. It may be a bit of a limited progression system, but it is motivating for something otherwise just about chasing the high score.
One strange but interesting addition to all of this is the augmented reality option. This allows you to use the camera of your phone or tablet to place a virtual Missile Command: Recharged arcade box on the ground wherever you’d like. Then you can move around it and play it just like you would the normal game, only with a unique perspective.
This is a cool feature, but as with a lot of augmented reality games and experiences, it feels mostly like a gimmick. Sure it’s playable, but you’re getting a less enjoyable gameplay experience. It seems like this sort of design would be cool in VR where you can manipulate the arcade box controls (though that rollerball of the original was never my favorite). For this, it’s just a thing you can try once, say “neat” and go back to playing it the standard way.
Commanding your Interest
Missile Command: Recharged is free, like many mobile games, which means it’s pretty easy to pick up and play. There are some minor in-app purchases and all that, but nothing that’s going to have you dumping money on gems or crystals or anything like that. The generally short play sessions fit the mobile platform as well, even when the control method seems less-than-perfect.
It’s nice to just pick up and play without the need for a big-time or effort investment, just like any good arcade game experience. Yet you can focus and accomplish some high scores and achievements if you want to – again like any good arcade game. With its negligible cost, ease of access, and relatively broad appeal, Missile Command: Recharged makes it easy to overlook the minor issues in control and potential long term replayability.
This review is based on final code provided by Atari.
Missile Command: Recharged
Missile Command: Recharged brings a classic arcade experience back to life and makes it easily accessible on your phone. It may lack the precision of the original, but it's just as fun to play.
- Very similar to the original visually and functionally
- Easy to pick up and play any time
- Great for high score chasers
- Additions of upgrades add substance
- Limited if you're not into high scores
- Imprecision of finger taps can be frustrating