Yars’ Revenge

by Bevianna Bones

Grab hold of of your Zorlon and knock that damned Qotile into another realm!!!  Don’t hesitate too long though, Yar might fall to the evil powers of the swirl of death!!! What is all this excitement that I speak of?? Why, it’s the best selling original title ever created by Atari of course!

Yars’ Revenge broke onto the home gaming scene in May of 1982, and was created by Howard Scott Warshaw. Sound familiar? He should, he’s the guy that gave us another classic gaming gem, E.T.. The Video Game!! But to give props where props are due, it really wasn’t the guy that programmed the game whose to blame for that turd, it was more so the greed of Atari itself by that caused it’s own demise.  However, that boy and girls is a story for another day. For today, let’s focus on what is widely considered one of the greatest games of its time. Not only in terms of gameplay, but also in what it did for video games at the time.

Before I get into the actual gameplay, let’s take a moment and consider one of the greatest parts about the Atari 2600 as a whole. The badass packaging art!! These cartridges really drew a potential buyer into badly wanting to play the game.  It’s the same as it is today I suppose. Except rarely do you get home to find that your newly acquired game cart has a complimentary comic book with it!!  This is how they really pulled you into the game universe.  What other choice did these pioneering game developers have?  This isn’t entirely engaging on it’s own.

But this…

And this…

Both really do a fine job of getting an eight year old all jonesed out to play…

Now that you are all pumped up with a rush of adrenalin to go grab your Zorlon and ram it right into that Qotile, let’s begin. System on. Title screen. Excitement!

Now, as with many of these game cartridges, there were several game variations, many of them including increasing levels of difficulty or number of players.  While all of them deliver a rewarding and enthralling gaming experience, we are considering only variant (6)…or as its otherwise known…Ultimate Yar!!  Because if you’re going to Yar…you best Yar with a bouncing Zorlon and random projectiling Swirl! And did I also mention that you have to build up your Zorlon by touching the barrier and Qotile with your bare Yar?! Ultimate indeed.

The game begins and we are thrown right into the foray. On the left side of the screen we see our hero, our avatar, Yar. And he is ready for revenge!  The right side of the screen we see the evil Qotil and the barrier protecting it. The center of the screen is sporting the neutral zone, which looks surprisingly like Rainbow Road from Mario Kart. But, don’t knock the neutral zone, it’s the only place to ditch the homing missiles the evil Qotil sends at you. But don’t get too comfy there, it is after all a neutral zone, so Yar is unable to fire upon the barrier or manipulate his Zorlon.

Hustle your Yar over to the barrier and start chipping away! You can also fire upon it with your guns, however this will prevent you from gaining juice to get your Zorlon up. Once you’ve got enough juices flowing fly back to the left side of the screen and you’ll see the glorious Zorlon arise!

Now that you have your Zorlon up and running, make that you have a clear shot right into that damned Qotil and fire away. But careful, better aim that shot right right because they Zorlon will bounce right back at you if you miss. You don’t want to be down for the count because of the mishandling of your own Zorlon!!!
Once you nail the Qotil with the Zorlon is when the real magic happens and you move onto the next level. And repeat until you’ve run all out of Yars and Zorlons.

Don’t mistake the general concept as a repetitive, mundane experience though.  This is where Yars’ really separates itself from many of the games that were made during this time; likely leading to its popularity.  The game becomes increasingly difficult as the speed of the middle and the random timing and warning time of the Qotil swirling its way to your death decreases. Alternately, the barrier around the Qotil changes shape and movement speed from one level to another as well.

This game was also one of the very first to feature an easter egg.  Much of my childhood was spent trying to find the “Ghost of Yar.” In order to find the easter egg, you had to kill the Qotil in full on swirl whilst it was hurling towards you midair. During the level change, there would be a black spot on the screen where the swirl was hit; if one flew one’s Yar along the vertical line of said spot, the “ghost” would be found, the game would end and this screen would appear. HSW, the programmers initials. It is said that if the ghost is found during an ultimate yar session, JOV is displayed instead, however, having not ever accomplished this myself, I cannot confirm.

Yars’ remained a popular 2600 title and Atari even released a sort of soundtrack/audio album of the story told in the comic book. There have been a few reincarnations of Yars’ in the recent years, one for XBox featuring a modern reboot, thus complicating the simplicity and thus fucking up the whole concept. There was also a Facebook game in the same vein.  All sucked in comparison to the classic.

For those of you who want to get your game on and don’t have a 2600 still, firstly shame on you, and secondly the original version is available to play via the Atari android and iOS app, and as well as in browser at Atari.com

Until next time…I’ve got to go get my Zorlon up and running!

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