The year was 1982. The Vectrex was to be unveiled. I’m sure it was a bit of a surprise to the gaming public and vendors alike at the ideal of having a vector graphics system at home. Vector graphic games had some pretty big hits in the arcade, so why not bring several of them home?
Of course, THE biggest hit of them all was Asteroids. So making a vector clone of a vector arcade game probably seemed pretty obvious to most.
So, lets go over the Cloning Game Checklist then…have a ship that can turn left and right, shoot, thrust, and utilize an escape option (hyperspace, but renamed “escape” in this version), check! Have your ship shoot objects that split into two smaller ones (and have that happen twice), check! Have a U. F. O. appear during a wave, check!
However, so Atari wouldn’t sue, some changes had to be made; what could they BE? Hold on a sec as a can of Lawyer-B-Gone is grabbed…how about your ship won’t have a 1 in 5 chance of blowing up upon re-entry from hyperspace? And have the new objects appear from what seems to be stars on the screen? And have the U. F. O. behave differently from the original?
Houston, we have a cloned game.
Yep, you controlled a ship stuck in a bunch of mine fields. New mines would grow from dots on the screen once you shot the big ones, so make sure you’re not sitting on a dot when you shoot at a larger mine, or else a new mine could grow from the dot and destroy you instantly if it decides to hatch right then and there.
Once all the dots have been hatched into mines (beats spending years taking the mines through school and then have them refuse to leave the nest years later and get a blasted job, I suppose), the minelayer ship appears and lays down new mines. So it’s your best bet to shoot it as quickly as possible.
Then, once you clear the first mine field, more changes arrive via changing mine types: one type of mine, when shot, will shoot a fireball straight at you. These are a bit fun. Then magnetic mines are attracted to you like Paris Hilton to a nightclub opening, so if you can’t handle flight controls real well, you’d better learn getting used to that thrust button real fast, especially since after that are mines that are magnetic AND shoot fireballs; whee!
Unfortunately there’s the dreaded wave 13 bug that ends up crashing or ending your game, which should never have been allowed out the door. People who made a request to the Vectrex company GCE about it got a replacement cartridge for it in return with the bug fixed. One thing it said in the instructions was that if your Vectrex went blank after clearing that screen (if you could get that far) was to hit the reset button, although I never had that happen with mine; what occurs is that the screen will blink and several mine fields will be skipped. If your ship is close to the center of the screen after clearing a mine field where it does this, the game will keep on going, but if it’s in a corner or something and has to be drawn back into the center (which is a little cinematic that happens with the clearing of every mine field), then the game will end.
That, along with having the mine field being entirely re-seeded if you die before clearing it, are the only new things I don’t like about this game (the latter of which really sucks asteroid, if you know what I mean). Everything else is cool, although the space dust that starts appearing after wave 13 is really strange, looking like a graphical glitch or something. Space dust is hard to see but just as deadly as anything else in the game, and can have the same properties as the magnetic and/or fireball mines. So if you just thought dusting your house in real life was annoying enough as it is, then you’re in for a real sour surprise, should you ever get that far in this game.
Even though simple, the graphics are cool, with the geometrically-shaped mines, and the sounds are good, although I think the scratchy thrust sound is annoying. The controls are perfect though, there’s no beating those at all.
And to this DAY the game still holds interest: a friend of mine on a gaming forum posted a couple of years ago about how she saw her very first Vectrex ever in person (think she was barely born when they were around, maybe not even then) at a UK resale shop. The famous intro with the minelayer seeding a mine field in 3-D enthralled her to watching it for hours, since it had no controller, so she couldn’t play it.
Even though I hope she was exaggerating when she said “hours” (she must be easily amused), in the days of polygon graphics, speech synthesis (Spike was the only Vectrex game back then that talked), photo-realistic graphics, gaming music spawning it’s own industry, people addicted to online RPGs or fragfests, etc., etc., it’s nice to hear something as near-extinct as the wire frame vector graphics still being able to enthrall someone in this day and age.
Review written by Darryl.