Atari's 1982 Liberator

Take Missile Command and turn its gameplay upside-down - this time, *you're* the one firing weapons on the *planet*. That, my friends, is Liberator.

You start with four stationary ships, each occupying one corner of the screen. At center is a large planet with a set number of laser bases on it. Using a trackball-guided sight (as in Missile Command, your task is to destroy all the laser bases on the planet. They will, of course, be firing on you as you do so (it wouldn't be much of a game if they didn't, now would it?), and you have two options for dealing with this - you can either shoot down their missiles as they're launched, or you can press a Shield button that will protect your ships (but you have only a limited amount of Shield energy, naturally).

Destroy all the laser bases on a planet, and you'll be awarded bonus points for each ship that survived the encounter. Some levels will feature enemy ships launched from the center of the screen, Gyruss-style.

Lose all four of the ships under your command, and it's off to court-martial you go.

Missing Ingredient

The whole premise of the game is flawed, and I don't just mean because it's very obviously Missile Command played backwards. To the best of my knowledge, prior to this game space battles usually had you either floating in deep space, or defending your home planet from an alien invasion. In Liberator, however, this time it's *you* who are the invader, and the enemies are the ones on the defensive. That's all well and good for those gamers who sometimes long to play the bad guy, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were some people who were mildly turned off by this theme.

Liberator was designed to be a tie-in with the Atari Force series of comics by DC - the marquee contains the Atari Force logo, and the title screen invites you to "Join the Atari Force in Liberator." The story behind the game is even explained by Commander Champion, the AF's leader. Frankly, it's all rather pointless, as it's apparent the Atari Force elements were simply grafted onto an existing game. This practice was not at all uncommon back in the Golden Age - create a game with generic characters, obtain a license, do some sprite swapping, and presto: Instant licensed game.

The graphics are very nice (the rotating planet is a winning effect even by today's standards), but unfortunately this is one of those times when Atari, a company known for hitting home run after home run, instead grounded out to shortstop.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


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