Black Widow: Recharged Review – No, not Marvel’s!

    Title: Black Widow: Recharged
    Developer: Adamvision Studios, SneakyBox Studios
    Release Date: October 28, 2021
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Atari
    Genre: Arcade

Watch out Marvel’s Black Widow. Atari is here to knock you off your pedestal and show you who the real Black Widow is. Atari has been wise to hold onto this IP if only to market off the popular name and also introduce a retro series to new gamers almost 40 years after its release. It marks a new entry in their Recharged effort and a good one at that, giving a chance for this obscure series to find new fans.

Black Widow: Recharged borrows ideas and features from the developer’s previous release, Centipede: Recharged. The original Black Widow was a twin-stick shooter released for arcades back in 1982, and unlike other hits from the same era, this game never actually saw a port or conversation to any home console.

Still, the original arcade ROM has been part of numerous Atari compilations over the years. Although the game wasn’t the first twin-stick shooter in existence, it offered excellent controls and responsive play mechanics.

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In Black Widow: Recharged, players take control of a black widow spider as it blasts bugs that are hellbent on invading its home. Aren’t bugs supposed to avoid spider webs? Well, here we have all sorts of critters deliberately and maliciously attacking this spider’s web. Players navigate the playing field represented by the web, using one stick to control the spider and the other to aim and shoot. This game is on auto-fire, and it’s a much-needed luxury given how quickly everything moves.

Although the action takes place on the same screen, things change up nicely as occasionally some of the web lines thicken, which means you can’t crawl over them, which adds a little to the stage design. In addition, the enemy types and patterns change up, introducing mosquitos, hornets, and even explosive grenade bugs. The action is frantic, and there’s never a dull moment as you constantly react to new enemy patterns, navigate the changing web layout, all while trying to chase a high score.

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The controls and play mechanics are excellent; everything instantly clicks. The spider is fast but, at the same time, doesn’t feel floaty, and it especially works well with the grid-like web layout of the playing field that feels intuitive to crawl around. The weight of the bug is just right, making it more or less faithful to the 1982 original. However, similar to Centipede: Recharged, this new and improved Black Widow adds new power-ups which change the shot style and pattern. In addition, there is also a new mechanic as collecting dollar signs not only adds to your score but also fills up a super web attack which wipes out all enemies in one wide shot.

Although the Recharged series of games have deliberately featured a vector-style aesthetic, the original Black Widow was already known for its clean and sharp wireframe graphics. As a result, the 2021 remake loses the contrasting color variety of the original. However, the visual style is still effective and practical, especially in following fast-moving enemies and knowing which parts of the web you’re able to crawl over. The high-speed techno soundtrack goes excellent with the sci-fi retro graphical style, and the music here is easily the best out of all the Atari Recharged releases.

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The main arcade mode has you go up against wave after wave of enemy bugs, but to add a little more variety, there is also a challenge mode as players need to meet certain conditions. This can involve reaching an exceptionally high score, surviving for a set duration, or simply blasting a specific type of bug. Whether it’s clearing any of the challenges or completing a run in arcade mode, the main goal here is to set a new high score for the active global leaderboards. Of course, you can approach it for your own personal achievement, too, as you best your own scores and check off the many in-game achievements.

2021 has been an excellent year for Atari, sure their overpriced console isn’t even worth the plastic it’s housed in, but these Recharged releases have been great thanks to their clean and effective modernization of classic gameplay and low price point. There are still revamped renditions of Breakout and the legendary Asteroids on the horizon, with three games already out.

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Black Widow: Recharged is a welcome return of an Atari classic that kind of got lost in time. The original game was already an addictive and sublime twin-stick shooter, to begin with, and the visual and gameplay facelift in this release turns it up several notches. You can’t go wrong here, especially if you’re after an excellent shooter with great controls. The techno style and various challenges add to the replay value, and there’s always the appeal to burn a few minutes in arcade mode, especially if you’re going to have a place on the leaderboards. If you’re a fan of old-school gaming or have been picking up these Atari remakes anyway, then Black Widow: Recharged is a no-brainer as arguably the best release in the series yet.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!