Ready, aim, fire, fire, fire.
Missile Command: Recharged is the latest in Atari’s line of classic arcade re-releases that have been given a more modern polish. While the gameplay is largely the same, an updated presentation, challenge stages, and online leaderboards make for a compelling case for fans of the original to hop back in the commander’s chair and use their missile turrets to protect as many of your cities as possible.
In the endless arcade mode, you’re shooting for a high score as your three turrets use their exploding counter-missiles to protect your cities and turrets from incoming missiles. In this Recharged version, you’ll also have to deal with tanks, alien ships, and other new enemies. Fortunately, power ups regularly cross the screen that can be activated by shooting at them; these slow down time, speed up your shots, bestow extra fire power, or even create a giant bomb that nearly fills the screen. Competing for high scores in the arcade mode is as enjoyable here as it was over 30 years ago when the original debuted in arcades.
The 32 challenge levels on offer tweak the formula just enough to make each one worth experiencing, but unfortunately you need to complete what’s available to unlock more of them. The thread connecting basically all of these levels is that your turrets will only have a set number of bullets; other wrinkles include specific projectile and enemy types, certain power-ups appearing in abundance, and even a boss fight. While your cumulative score across all the challenges has a leaderboard, it would have been nice to see each level have its own. What is nice is that both the challenges and arcade mode can be played with a partner.
If you’re wondering why we have two separate reviews (2020 and 2022) for Missile Command: Recharged, it’s because the title has been updated with new visuals and the aforementioned challenge stages. The 2022 release comes with a price increase as well (with owners of the 2020 version able to upgrade for a nominal fee), but the core gameplay remains solid and the revamped look is definitely more appealing than the original Recharged version from 2020. While the added content and updated visuals are a rocket boost to the package, the challenges having a cumulative leaderboard is a bit of a misfire. If you’ve enjoyed seeing Atari dig into its back catalog and remake old arcade experiences with modern sensibilities and features, the “2.0” version of Missile Command: Recharged will almost certainly land a direct hit. If you’ve never cared for previous iterations of this missile defense simulator, there might not be enough here to sway you.