In Missile Command, your responsibility is to protect the six cities on your planet from missiles which fall from the sky. To do this, you simply move the on-screen cursor to a spot on the playfield and fire away. Once your missile reaches its target, it detonates with a large explosion. Hitting the enemies requires careful timing and aiming. The missiles rain down faster and faster as you progress in the game, forcing you to anticipate ahead of time the potential position of the enemy even before firing. To make things more difficult, smart bombs occassionally join in on the invasion and can dance around and dodge your fire to some degree. The game ends when you lose all six cities. You can also have cities rebuilt after reaching a certain point total.
There are some inevitable changes when the arcade version was adapted to the VCS, and we're not just talking about having to deal with a joystick instead of the arcade's trak-ball (yes, a trak-ball was later released for the 2600, but that was quite a bit after Missile Command on VCS was first introduced). Instead of three bases each with a set of missiles, you have only one base, and three sets of missiles. In addition, the missile-firing and menacing bombers and satellites did not make its way to the cartridge. On the plus side, Players can select the game's starting level, switch from intelligent or stupid bombs, and choose from either fast or slow cursor control.
The graphics, while not exactly on-par with the arcade, are still more than serviceable. If a city is hit, it erupts into a cool little mushroom cloud. The sounds are also nicely done, with explosions that sound like actual explosions.
Missile Command was one of the first arcade-to-home translations on the VCS, and one of the best. While not a perfectly faithful port, it comes close enough to the real thing that even hardcore fans of the coin-op will be satisfied with this one.