It’s good to finally be back! Over the last two weeks, my wife and I have been moving into our new place. It’s nice, we like it, unfortunately though, I had to disassemble my gaming setup which meant nothing to game on which also meant nothing to review. Since the consoles were packed up, I had to rely on my handhelds to get my retro gaming fix. When I think retro gaming handhelds, the first thing I think of is the Atari Lynx. It’s always been one of my favorite handhelds and the move into the new place gave me the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time playing Blue Lightning on it.
Blue Lightning was released back in the 1989 for the Atari Lynx, the top of the line color handheld of the day. It was developed by Epyx Computer Software, a now non-existent game developer that went bankrupt back in 1993. Epyx developed a long list of video games from the late 70′s all through the early 90′s. Going over the list, there wasn’t a single game that I can remember playing. In fact, I didn’t even recognize most of the games on the list except for one, California Games. You know a developer is bad when you only recognize California Games out of 30-40 titles.
After Epyx went under in 1993, a game studio named “Attention To Detail” remade Blue Lightning for the Atari Jaguar CD in 1995. It was the pack-in game for the console and it was supposed to show off what the CD add-on for the Jaguar was capable of. Unfortunately, the CD version of the game was a complete flop with insanely poor graphics for what was supposed to be a higher end console. Seriously, After Burner for the Sega 32X is a far better looking game than Blue Lightning for Jaguar CD, that’s saying a lot. In the end, the Lynx version of the game is the definitive version between the two.
There’s not much to this game. No in-depth story, no main characters, and well.., not much of anything except for controlling your fighter jet and shooting down enemy aircraft and bombing land targets. When the game starts a password screen is shown where you can type in a continue password to skip to the mission you were playing last. If you’re new to the game, you can just push “A” to skip past the password screen and start the game from the beginning.
Blue Lightning Game Play
The first level is all dogfighting as you try to shoot down as many enemy aircraft as you can. Your fighter is armed with a cannon and a limited number of heat seeking missiles. While airborne, enemy planes attack you from the front and rear. The gun is the primary weapon of choice in this game when it comes to shooting down enemies that are close to you. The gun is about as accurate as a civil war musket so don’t fire until you can see the whites of their eyes. If any enemy planes manage to make it past you and try to fly away, use your missiles to take care of them. A black box will automatically appear around more distant enemies. This box indicates missile lock so fire away when you see it.
Once you clear the dogfighting parts of the game, it moves onto engaging and destroying land and sea based targets such as tanks and aircraft carriers. Destroying land and sea targets is easy since you just use your missiles. Your plane will automatically lock on to ground targets so just wait for the lock box to appear and unleash missile hell. You can also use your gun to destroy land and sea targets as well but it’s more fun to use the missiles. The missile animations are pretty good as you can see when they launch out and maneuver down towards a locked on ground target.
The controls in this game are pretty basic as you can only maneuver your plane up, down, left, and right. There’s no barrel rolls or extreme maneuvers you can perform to dodge incoming fire. Even though you can’t do any fancy maneuvering the game is still a lot of fun to play. It’s mindless air combat and all the little things this game does make it a pleasant surprise to play.
Alright, this game doesn’t look all that great by today’s standards but by 1989 standards, it’s fucking phenomenal for a handheld game. All of the terrain and in game objects like the aircraft and missiles are more detailed than most in game objects for any other handheld game from the time. Little things like a decently animated ground crew prepping your aircraft before flight and an almost 3D rendered look to the F-18 you control do a lot for this game. The graphics are sharp enough that you even get a sense of the high speeds you’re flying at when you hug the ground during the ground attack missions. Even the missile animations I mentioned earlier that show your missiles changing direction to chase down or hone in on an enemy go a long way. This is easily one of the best looking handheld games from the late 80′s.
The sounds in this game are par for the course. There’s the classic constant jet engine hissing sound with all the standard gun and missile sounds layered on top with the occasional incoming missile beeping sprinkled here and there. There’s no music in this game except for a brief little ditty played at the title screen.
Collectibility – Super Rare
You read it right, super rare. Blue Lightning was a launch title for the Atari Lynx seeing its release in 1989. Out of about 70 games released for the Lynx, less than 5 of them were released in the 80′s. Also, it’s one of the best games for the system so when a collector is in the market for Lynx games this one gets snatched up pretty quick. There’s also a Blue Lightning demo cart with a gold label that was released in 1990. This was the cartridge that was used for in-store displays for the Lynx and is also extremely rare. Unfortunately, even with this games rarity, it’s not super valuable. A sealed new-in-box game will only fetch you about $70. Still, this game is good enough to have in your collection just to play from time to time since it’s one of the definitive titles for the Lynx. If you see it, BUY IT!
Average Value – $13 loose, $62 New in Box
Rarity – Super Rare with an 84% rating on RarityGuide.com
Happy Gaming and Happy Collecting!
Follow me on Twitter @PatsGameReviews or check out the Retro Game Review Podcast right here on Planet Arbitrary or on iTunes!
You Might Also Enjoy