This is a blast from the past. Well, sort of. It's pretty obvious that AstroRock is the mutant distant cousin of the 80s game that kept you in the local video arcade, pumping in a steady stream of quarters as you tried to rid the galaxy of ominous, transparent, black and white space boulders. If you spent any time blasting meteors and aliens in Asteroids, you'll definitely experience some degree of deja vu playing this action game from Atlantean Interactive. But measured against today's games, it really doesn't have what it takes to keep your attention for long.
AstroRock has the same basic premise as Asteroids - earn points by maneuvering a ship through space in a gravity-free environment while avoiding collisions and blasting objects into tiny pieces before they shoot or ram you. Blow up your ship three times and it's "Game Over." After these basics, the similarities end.
First, AstroRock is in brilliant color with detailed 3-D graphics. Furthermore, the universe is filled with asteroids that contain goodies, like power-ups and weapons. To ease your conscience as you blast ships and asteroids, Atlantean gives you a reason to roam the universe blowing up things - it's in the name of rock 'n'roll, man. Set in the year 9999, AstroRock is the story of rebel rocker Zed Nepher (read Led Zeppelin) who needs your help to defeat some bad guys in the Bee-Gee cluster (is that Shadow Dancing I hear?). And if you're victorious, Nepher will recapture the Hendrix System for all mankind. Head-banging guitar riffs for everyone!
Unfortunately, this corny although creative plot probably won't keep you mesmerized or have you hitting the "Start" feeder bar for hours like the original version did. However, this hybrid does offer loads of menacing enemies, shield and armor features, and some nifty power-ups to collect (armor power-ups shaped as electric guitars), so you might stay entertained long enough to get your Asteroids fix.
Although AstroRock has the ever-popular, practically expected network feature (up to eight can play in this blast-fest), it falls short of being anything more than a 20-minute, hyped-up experience. With nowhere to hide, a fairly small playing field, and a clear view of your opponents' location when they regenerate (just look for the red square), it's not too challenging. And to network for the sake of networking is downright shameful.
On the up side, AstroRock is a pleasant acoustic experience. In keeping with the rock 'n'roll theme, heart-thumping, heavy bass strumming tunes blare as you blast your way through the game. And the play-by-play commentary on the action from a rough, gruff, voice is a nice touch. Crash and burn on an asteroid and you might hear " should've played the guitar" or "Harsh."
In the end, AstroRock isn't much more than a remake of a game whose heyday has long since passed. What was a blast in the 80s is now a worn-out ride. Even with the modifications, plot, and music, it's still Asteroids in a pretty package. Save your money, grab your favorite beverage, crank up some AC/DC, and reminisce about the monochrome meteors that got away.