An overlooked classic
While it's unfair to compare Astrosmash to modern 2D shooters like Geometry Wars or Schizoid, time shouldn't detract from the greatness that Astrosmash achieved back in the early 1980s. If anything, the addictive playability even in modern times is a testament to its engrossing gameplay.
Astrosmash isn't difficult to grasp by any means, with only a fraction of enemies that pose imminent threats, made obvious through sound cues and coloring. The game also awards extra lives quickly and graciously, ensuring that the player almost always fails exactly when they are definitively outclassed by the game's increasing speed and difficulty. This is perhaps Astrosmash's biggest fault, as an experienced player will quickly pile up extra lives in the beginning stages, only to struggle later on as the dozens of lives earned deplete slowly. A single round of Astrosmash can last an hour or more for experienced players, who may be more apt to shut off the game and move on rather than wait for the inevitable game over.
Thankfully, Astrosmash's presentation makes this longevity more than bearable. The sound is satisfying, from the crisp pop of shooting meteors to the one-note background "music" that speeds up as the difficulty increases. Other games may use colors more effectively, but the colorful meteors keep the screen from looking terribly bland, while maintaining simplicity by keeping players focused on the action.
With Astrosmash available for free or at low cost as a part of numerous retro gaming packages, it's hard not to recommend giving this often-overlooked joy a try for anyone interested in an action shooter from the early days of video games.