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Space Duel Arcade Game

Updated on August 15, 2017
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Martin is an experienced software developer with a passion for retro machines and gaming.

Space Duel

Space Duel was an arcade game released by Atari way back in 1982.

This game can be regarded as an unofficial sequel to Asteroids (which was also from Atari), as it employs very similar game-play mechanics and objectives.

It also took over where Asteroids Deluxe left off.

Asteroids Deluxe ended up having little success in the amusement arcades and Space Duel ended up replacing many of these cabinets over the course of time.

This game went on to be moderately successful and kept the Atari name at the fore-front of arcade gaming.

So let's take a look at a lesser known blast-em-up that is, in my opinion, still well worth a look more than thirty years on...

Space Duel Arcade Game

Ahh - More Atari Nostalgia with the underrated Space Duel
Ahh - More Atari Nostalgia with the underrated Space Duel

Space Duel Arcade Flyer

Atari's Flyer For Space Duel in the arcades
Atari's Flyer For Space Duel in the arcades

Space Duel Gameplay

This is an arcade game designed for one or two players.

In fact, it is the only vector style multi-player game under the Atari banner, so there is a fantastic reason to play this one with a friend right there!

Each player had five control buttons; two to provide ship rotation either clockwise or anti-clockwise, a fire button, a shield button and a thrust button.

Thrust was applied in whatever direction your ship was pointing in, with the famous gravity and inertia effect that first wowed game players in Asteroids.

The force field (or shield) had limited use but when activated it made your ship invulnerable to any collisions.

If you collided with an object whilst the force field was active then you would bounce away under inertia; it was up to you to use thrust and direction to move in the way you wanted to and regain full control of your craft.

Instead of dodging and destroying Asteroids you were placed among colourful geometric shapes such as cubes, tubes, spinning pin-wheels and diamonds.

When shot the objects would break into smaller versions of themselves and you had to completely clear the screen of all objects to advance to the next level.

Aside from these space bound items UFOs would regularly pop in and take pot shots at you, with different levels having different enemy space-ships for the player to contend with.

The screen also had the 'wrap-around' effect meaning that players of Asteroids were immediately familiar with moving and shooting aspects of Space Duel.

Space Duel Game Screen

Vivid Colours on the game screen in Space Duel by Atari
Vivid Colours on the game screen in Space Duel by Atari

Space Duel Bonus Levels

Like many arcade games of the 1980s this one also featured a number of bonus levels.

Bonus screens were reached from time to time with similar game-play to the regular screens.

The main difference was the fact that the wrap-around screen was gone and you were 'hemmed in' by a fence or force field; if you reached the edge of the screen you would simply bounce off it.

There was no shooting through the 'top' of the screen to the 'bottom' of the play area on the bonus levels!

The bonus screen was a way to rack up extra points and once you had cleared it you were back to the game proper.

Space Duel Single Ship Mode

Single Ship and Linked Ship modes in Space Duel

Not only did the game have a mode for two players, it also had different game modes for the single player.

It was possible to play the game with a single ship or a linked ship.

The linked ship added an extra dimension to the game-play as it gave you two of your triangular shaped crafts tethered together by an umbilical cord.

This allowed for more interesting maneuvering and tactics as you could go into a 'double spin' and lay down a huge arc of rapid fire to take out a lot of targets quickly.

It was a double edged sword though as your ship was more difficult to control and it was lot harder to regain control of it if you were in a tricky spin.

We are talking Chuck Yeager proportions of flight dynamics here!

The inertia gravity effect really came to the fore in linked mode and added an extra dimension to the game.

Space Duel arcade game linked ship mode

Final thoughts

All in all I would say that this is an often overlooked classic title from Atari that is well worth investing a little time in.

If you are a fan of vector based games and (or!) Asteroids then this game will certainly appeal to you.

Everything just comes together superbly here; the graphics take on an almost luminescent quality, the inertia and physics work tremendously well and the different modes of play add further interest to the game.

If you have never played this game before I would urge you to give it a try; it really is a great game in this genre.

For me it is an underrated classic that rarely received the attention it deserves.

Game on folks, game on.


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