‘Megaroids’ – My All-Time Favorite ‘Asteroids’ Clone

In my opinion, Asteroids is one of the very best videogames of all time. I guess that’s probably obvious. Lately I’ve been playing a related series of Asteroids-inspired games that are old enough to be considered retro, themselves. They were pretty popular back in the day, and you’ll hear about that in a post, here, soon enough. But my favorite Asteroids remake of all time is a game far fewer will have heard of. It’s a game I spent a lot of time with this past Christmas, as well as during the Christmas of 1986, 25 years ago.

That game is Megaroids, by Mike Bunnell, with audio by his brother Mitch.

Megaroids was released in 1984 for the Macintosh by Mike Bunnell, then of Megamax. It was bundled with the Megamax C compiler, as an example of what the system could do. (The source code was available for a small fee.) When the compiler was released for the Atari ST in 1985, Megaroids was ported and bundled with it, as well. And, for a while, Atari included the game as a pack-in title with the early Atari ST systems, which is how I first came to know it.

I’ve played the Mac version a few times — I’ve got it on my Mac Plus right now. But it was the Atari ST version I fell in love with. The game was unusual in that, on color ST systems, it was rendered in the “Medium Res” mode, at 640×200 pixels in four colors. But, interestingly, the developer employed some manner of frame swapping that sought to increase the apparent resolution by rapid color switching, while introducing some flicker. It made the game look pretty outstanding on a color Atari ST. The 640×400 “High Res” monochrome mode was also supported on the ST, for those with an SM-124 display.

A few months back I captured some video of the game running under an emulator on my Windows 7 box (though I prefer playing it on the real thing). Have a look.

Knowing I’m close to posting my other Asteroids-related story, I wanted to go ahead and share this one, to prime the pump, so to speak. Shortly after capturing the above video, I located Mike Bunnell, who’s presently CEO of Fantasy Lab, and shared the piece with him. He seemed pleased for the stroll down memory lane.

UPDATE: I’ve been playing with DOSBox on the PC, looking for EGA games and ran across EGA-roids, a ’286 EGA conversion of Megaroids! See the game in action.

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9 Responses to ‘Megaroids’ – My All-Time Favorite ‘Asteroids’ Clone

  1. Blake Patterson says:

    Hm, I just discovered there’s apparently an Amiga Asteroids-like game called Megaroids. It does not look nearly as fine. I believe it is unrelated.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbf2-hdP-HU

  2. ThorN says:

    Second you. Megaroids is one of the gratest Asteroids clones ever. Bought the PD Disk at the local Atari Dealer back in 87 or 88. Had so much fun with the game. The graphics were really nice, cause you was used to 320×200 at that time, so double the size in the horizontal was new. Interesting to know that it was a conversion from the Mac.
    Reply

  3. gnome says:

    It’s the black and white Mac graphics that always do it for me. Such elegant beauty…

  4. wood_jl says:

    Indeed, in the early days of the ST, when you were a kid who spent your last dime to get the system, this game was one of “the greats” because it was definitely commercial quality, and you didn’t have any money left to buy games anyway. As a matter of fact, there weren’t many games in those earliest ST days, and even if you DID have money, you could hardly find a fun, quality title that would best Megaroids.

  5. Blake Patterson says:

    I sent Megaroids author Mike Bunnell the link to this write-up, to which he sent the following reply. I don’t think he’d mind my sharing it, and it may be interesting to those who enjoyed this post.

    “BTW I see you mentioned my technique for increasing the apparent resolution of the medium res mode on the atari st. I made use of the fact that the monitor really had 400 lines of resolution, but the scanning was interlaced (like a tv), first displaying the even lines of a frame and then the odd lines. In 640×200 mode the Atari scans from the same frame buffer location for the even and odd lines, effectively halving the top resolution of the monitor in order to provide a better looking (non-blinking) GUI. Megaroids made use of the full resolution of the monitor by rendering a different image for the even lines and the odd lines.”

  6. I agree that this is one of the better clones. It was free and ran on the ST, regardless of the monitor.
    In the 1992 timeframe when I was young, I only had the monochrome SM124 monitor and Megaroids was one of the great PD titles for that one.

    I still enjoy playing this at times :)

    Thanks for remembering!

    Like Thorn I was not aware of the Macintosh version before.

  7. 8bitjeff says:

    You are right, Megaroids was certainly one of my favorite Asteroids versions of all time. It was perfectly crafted and the I remember the ST keyboard being a very good one to play this game. Plus, you could re-configure the keys to make the 4-button style mode of the Arcade game rather than using the arrow keys as is common with Flash versions today. I also remember playing an EGA version in DOS in the 90′s but it just was not nearly as good as the ST version.

  8. Andrew Hunn says:

    If I recall correctly, the Atari version has a larger playing area and consequently a more reasonable (more fun) difficulty level.

  9. Blake Patterson says:

    Andrew: The Mac original was designed for the Mac’s 512×342 display, while the Atari ST version runs at either 640×200 or 640×400, depending on the screen mode used.

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