As a fan of twin-stick shooters, I have to give the original Black Widow some credit. I’ve played it on the Atari Flashback Classics collection for Switch, and while it feels super clunky by today’s standards, it’s still a decent game. Black Widow Recharged attempts to modernize that classic, with mixed results.
Similar to its 1982 predecessor, Black Widow Recharged is a twin-stick shooter where you play as a spider shooting bugs on your web. Bugs will pour from all corners of the web, so you have to keep well aware of your surroundings. The first thing I noticed going into this revamp was how you only have one life. In contrast, the original gave you multiple, with certain amounts of points granting you even more. I can’t say I’m a fan of this change. It, along with one continuous stream of bugs as opposed to the level-based design of the original, makes things feel more like a mobile title than an arcade game. A welcome change is the addition of power-ups. While some are certainly more useful than others, I liked the variety available.
The graphics have been given a simplistic yet modern take. And, there are some forgettable, but not bad, techno tunes (which is better than the predecessor’s complete lack of music). As far as controls go, things move smoothly. Shooting feels precise, and your movement is a good speed for dodging enemies. I was glad to see that your shots fire at a quick, consistent pace compared to the original’s more burst-like firing. Chasing down high scores is a decent enough time, with a leaderboard available to compete against the world. Unfortunately, the experience is hampered by a multitude of problems.
For starters, the leaderboard does not work very well. I had multiple times where I got a new high score, and the leaderboard failed to submit it under the world rankings. Even now, my world high score is lower than my actual best. This scoring issue wouldn’t be a problem if the leaderboard had an update option, but it doesn’t. This also means that any high score you get offline can’t be submitted. There’s also no option to view the leaderboard in the main menu; the only way to see it is by getting a game over! Also, you can only see your score (and that of the two people above and below) on the leaderboards. That’s it. You can’t scroll through the players. In short, the leaderboards have huge problems.
Gameplay includes numerous bugs (not meant to be a pun, please don’t hurt me) as well. Large numbers of enemies onscreen cause the sound effects to mess up, often just silencing them altogether. Also, I’ve had a few times where something happened with the thunderbug enemy that made some of them glitch out, turn invisible, and/or blink across the screen. I’ve died to one of these in challenge mode, and I can’t imagine how frustrating it would have been having lost a high-scoring run to this.
Speaking of challenge mode, it isn’t very good. There are a good number of challenges to beat, but they repeat objectives too frequently. Of the first 15 challenges, three have the objective to kill a certain number of hornets. The stages aren’t varied enough to keep them feeling fresh, and while each challenge has a leaderboard for it, it suffers from the same problems as the main mode’s leaderboard.
Overall, I feel disappointed with Black Widow Recharged. Even if the glitches and leaderboard issues weren’t there, there isn’t enough to justify the $9.99 price tag. It feels too much like a free mobile game. It did get me interested in seeing the other game’s Atari has ‘recharged,’ and I was surprised to see that Missile Command Recharged was only $2.99! At that price, something like this makes more sense to purchase; I’m not sure why they gave this, and Centipede: Recharged a bumped-up price tag. Unless you’re a huge Atari fan, this isn’t worth it.