MB Vectrex S-U

Alien Brigade – By Atari

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 Scramble - By GCE

Scramble is an adaptation of the arcade game of the same name. The arcade Scrambler was released in 1981, with the Vectrex adaptation seeing release in 1982. In Scrambler, the player is in control of a fighter that must navigate through different landscapes while shooting targets and avoiding enemies. The five landscapes include a mountainous terrain, a cavern, a tunnel of flameoids (these are indestructible and must be avoided), a metropolis, more tunnels, and a valley. Targets come in the form of enemy ships, fuel tanks, and storage units that are ground-based. In order to destroy them, your fighter is equipped with bombs (which can be released two at a time). In some stages, several of the ground-based ships will take off vertically and the player must either destroy (using your forward gun) or avoid them in order to advance. Your fighter consumes its fuel, so you must keep an eye on your fuel level. The only way to replenish your fuel is to destroy the enemy fuel tanks. Failing to do so will make your fighter crash in the ground, costing you a life. There are a total of five levels that must be passed before reaching the final sixth level where the final target, an enemy base, waits. Once destroyed, the game restarts at a higher level of difficulty. Though the graphics on the Vectrex are simpler than on the arcade, they work very well. Sound is also very good and adds to the gameplay. This game allows for one or two players (taking turns) and also has three difficulty levels to choose from. Control of the ship is done with the joystick, the forward gun is fired with buttons 2 and 4, and bombs are dropped with buttons 1 and 3.

Review by TrekMD

9/10

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 Sectis - By George Pelonis

Sectis is a combination of a shoot’em up style game with a puzzle game that is divided into three levels. Level one is called “The Outskirts of Hell.” In the “Outskirts” there are nine screens that you must navigate to destroy the sectis, these large insectoid demons that are out to get you in a bad manner. Whenever you enter a sectis-infected chamber, the sectis attach to your ship and start spinning around your ship. As they do this, they slowly drain the shield power of your ship until someone ends up destroyed. In some chambers there may be one sectis to kill but in others there are two sectis stuck on you draining your shield power twice as fast. If you manage to destroy all 10 of them on the first level, then you get to meet the big mama sectis that is waiting for a you in a central chamber. She takes five hits to kill. If you survive, your shields are fully replenished and you move onto level two, “The Labyrinth of Oculis.” Though there are no sectis, you do have to traverse a labyrinth and solve a puzle bore you meet Oculis himself. Oculis does not hesitate to shoot at you so you have to find a way to trick him so you can destroy him. Once Oculis is dealt with, you move onto level three, “The Lair of Sectis.” This is where papa sectis is and, boy, is he well protected. There are 25 sectis on this level and a large cocoon in which papa sectis stays until the 25 sectis are destroyed. At that point, the cocoon opens and then you face papa sectis himself. If you are successful in destroying him, the game ends. Through all the levels you will find Cruci-FIX units that will repair your shield levels one point. Tough game and number two of the Sector-X game series from George Pelonis. You need to be perseverant to play this game but it is still an enjoyable challenge.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Shifted - By Revival Studios

Shifted is a puzzle game that, as the instructions say, requires quick thinking and quick responses. The playing field has gems of different shapes that you can “shift” with your controller in order to make sets of three, four, or five gems on the center row so that they clear the field. Pieces are constantly popping on each of the columns so, if you are not fast enough, a column may completely fill with pieces locking that segment into position - something that makes it much harder to complete the combos. The game is easy to learn but that does not mean it is not challenging. Shifted has two ways in which you can play: challenge mode with three difficulty levels and survival mode. You are permitted to not only shift pieces up and down into the center row but you are also allowed to shift the entire row left or right. Playing the game in either surivival mode or challenge mode is fun. In challenge mode you have three difficulty levels to choose from (easy, medium, hard), each level with a set number of challenges for you (20, 30, and 40, respectively). The challenges are varied include things like making a certain number of combinations or reaching a particular score level. In survival mode your goal is to make as many combinations as you can for as long as possible to achieve a high score. Of note, Shifted does have support for VecVox for improved sound. This is truly a fun puzzle game that is entertaining and keeps you moving fast.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Solar Quest - By GCE

Solar Quest was adapted from its arcade version for the Vectrex. In this game the player is in control of a spaceship and must destroy enemy fighters while avoiding falling into the sun in the middle of the screen. The premise is simple but there are enough elements to this game to make it interesting. When the player destroys an enemy ship, a survivor is “ejected” from the ship that the player can either pick up (for 1000 bonus points) or shoot (for 250 points). If left alone, the “survivors” will simply fall into the gravity well of the star and get fried to a crisp. Seven different types of enemy ships will appear gradually and will continue to move randomly on the screen trying shoot or collide with your fighter (suicide attacks). Each enemy ship behaves differently and the action can get pretty hectic. Your spaceship is equipped with lasers (4), nukes (2 - press once to drop, twice to explode, and has warping capabilities (1). In order for the ship to move, you must point it in the direction you want using your joystick and activating thrust (3). Graphics look good and the animation is smooth (with stellar explosions). An extra life is granted when the player has picked up 25 survivors, which is an another incentive to not shoot said survivors. A two-player option is also included if you want to have fun with a friend.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Space Frenzy - By John Dondzila

In 1981 Sega released a new vector game to the arcades called Space Fury. This game was a multidirectional shooter where the player controls a spaceship that has to fight a series of enemy ships. In between waves, it was possible to dock with “upgrade” segments that alter how the ship fires its weapons. With Space Frenzy, you have a clone of that arcade experience, including the alien character that welcomes you and the speech synthesis for which the arcade was known. Your ship appears at the centre of the screen where you have to fight multiple alien ships that appear randomly. These ships actually combine with each other to form larger vessels that then try to crash onto your ship You must destroy them before they reach you if you want to survive. Once you clear the screen, you move into a docking stage where you get to choose one of three different modules that upgrade your ship’s firing capabilities. Depending on which one you choose, you can have heavy forward fire, fore and aft simultaneous firing, or fore and lateral firing. For better or worse, you can only use one of these modules at a time. I like this idea because it changes your strategy when you play according to the module that you are using. Space Frenzy has large graphics with nice animation and good sound. Overall, a pretty fun game. If you ever played Space Fury in the arcade and wanted the game at home, this is a great way to enjoy it.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Space Wars – By GCE

This is an adaptation of the very first video game ever made, Space War. The original Space War was created in 1962 by Steve Russell and his friends at MIT on the DEC PDP-1. The Vectrex adaptation of Space War is considered to be the best commercial interpretation of the 1962 original due to similar controls and the vector screen. For those who have never played Space War, in this game two ships duel while orbiting a star. The game can be played against the computer or against a second player (which will require two controllers for the Vectrex due to simultaneous play). The player maneuvers the ship (shaped like the starship Enterprise) in order to destroy the enemy vessel (shaped like a Star Destroyer) while being careful not to hit any flying stellar debris or falling prey of the star’s gravity. Ships can be damaged or fully destroyed depending on how they get hit by weapons, debris, or even the dueling ship. A point is scored when one ship is destroyed, with the point awarded to the surviving player. The game continues until either player achieves a total score of 10. While this game is fun to pay against the computer (which wastes no time wasting you), it is even more fun against another human being. Space Wars also includes 7 different variations which affect the skill level, laser and ship speed, and the sun’s gravity. Controls respond well and are used to rotate the ship (joystick), fire (4), thrust (3), and hyperspace (2). Button 1 has no function during the game. This is an excellent adaptation of a classic and one that should not be missed for this system.

Review by TrekMD

10/10

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 Spike – By GCE

This is an original game for the Vectrex that was likely inspired by Donkey Kong. Unfortunately, it falls a bit short despite its technical achievements. In this game, Spike’s girlfriend, Molly, has been captured by Spike’s nemesis, Spud, and it is up to Spike to rescue Molly. In order to do so, Spike must position ladders so that he may climb to different levels of platforms to pick up the key to the cage where Molly is being held. Of course, there are enemies on the platforms who will do their best to stop Spike from achieving his goal. pike starts at the lowest platform of three levels. All the platforms move side to side, so it is up to the player to decide where to best place the ladder to go up to the next level. The player needs to be careful that Spike doesn’t reach the edge of a platform because, if he does, he will get dropped to the ground below and a life will be lost. Once Spike as the key and he frees Molly, she gets recaptured by Spud and the game starts again. So, what is the technical achievement for this game? To put it simply, speech synthesis without the need for additional hardware. All of this sounds great, right? Well, it does but when the time comes to actually play the game, it isn’t quite as enjoyable as one would expect. The platforms are rendered in pseudo-3D and it can be difficult to judge where things are to make precision movements. I can’t help but feel that Spike could have been a better game. At least it inspired several other Spike games in the homebrew world and it gave the Vectrex a mascot.

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Spike’s Circus - By VectorZoa

That Spike sure is talented! He climbs, he hops, he pops and now he juggles! There’s more to this spiked head character than meets the eye! In Spike’s Circus you take control of the Vectrex pet in an entirely different environment from any previous Spike game. Spike now works in a circus and it is your job to control him as he does all the tricks he needs to perform. So what are Spike’s acts? We have the unicycle, juggling, target headers and tightrope acts, all of which are their own unique challenge. When you start the game you start with the unicycle act and other acts are “unlocked” as you complete each level. In the unicycle act you must use your joystick to lift Spike on the unicycle and he must move within a certain area in order to score points and complete the level. This act requires precise control if you want to succeed. The juggling act has you controlling Spike using buttons 1 and 2 in order to keep the clubs moving up and down properly. Again, skill is needed in order to complete this level. In Target Headers you must keep Spike upright on the unicycle and attempt to catch the Mr. Boston Hat and then bounce the ball on his head. The Tightrope will test your skills to the limit as now you have to keep the unicycle on the rope. If you want a real challenge, you can combine the acts and see how long you can survive!

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Spike Hoppin’ - By John Dondzila

Spike is back and this time he’s hoppin’ in a clone of the beloved Q*bert! Because there is no color, the player has to move Spike on the field to change the triangles (which are laid out in a pyramid shape) from bright to dark or vice versa. Spike starts at the top of the pyramid and has to deal with several enemies. In keeping with the Spike story, the enemies from Q*bert have been replaced with characters from Spike. Instead of Coily, Spud is the baddest of the bad and he will follow Spike on the pyramid unless you jump on one of the “discs” off the pyramid. Unlike Q*bert, jumping on the disk will have an effect no matter where Spud is. As with Coily, however, Spud first comes down the pyramid as an “egg” and he then starts his chase of Spike once he “hatches.” As the game advances, additional enemies make an appearance (including upside down ones and LOG, who changes the triangles back to their original brightness) as well as some “characters” that help Spike (an hourglass stops time freezing all the enemies, for example). This game is plenty fun and works well. It even includes voice synthesis and it is funny hearing Spike say “Go for it!” when the game starts and “Darnit!” whenever he gets hit. The only aspect of Spike Hoppin’ that takes some getting used to is the control. Spike Hoppin’ also includes a hidden game (Vectrepede, a Centipede clone). If you are looking to play Q*bert on the Vectrex, this is as close as you get right now.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Spike’s Water Balloons - By John Dondzila

Spike is back one more time to fend off his nemesis, Spud, who is now throwing balloons at Spike that he must pick up (or, perhaps, blow up) with the spikes on his head if he is to survive to see his beloved Molly. On the surface, Spike’s Water Balloons is a clone of another famous game, Kaboom! And while it borrows a lot of elements from that game, it does introduce some unique characteristics. First, Spike’s head is smaller than the size of the barrels that are used in Kaboom! This makes it a little harder to catch all the balloons, which adds to the challenge of the game. Second, should a balloon hit the ground, Spike can kick it back up to Spud. The catch here (pun intended) is that no more than three balloons can hit the ground or the game ends. The player uses the joystick to control Spike’s left or right movements, buttons 1, 2, and 3 affect speed, and button 4 is used to kick. The one thing that is missing from Spike’s Water Balloons is speech synthesis but there is a “bubble” with the words “Oh, no” uttered by Molly if Spike misses a balloon. Overall, this is a fun game and it can be found in the All Good Things compilation cartridge.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Spinball - By GCE

Spinball is a pinball game for the Vectrex. I tend to have a soft spot for video pinball games, so I find myself liking this game a lot. The pinball table has four flippers that you control using the buttons. The game starts by pulling back on the joystick (to pull the plunger) and releasing the ball by pressing button 4. Once the ball has been released, you use buttons 2 and 3 to control the flippers and the joystick to move the table. Spinball introduces a couple of interesting elements to make the game more fun. A “star” spins in the center of the table that traps your ball and splits it in two if you are able to hit it. Once this happens, you now have two balls to control. Most of the action for the game happens when you either move the ball(s) to the upper half of the table or keep the ball(s) there. Because there are flippers at the top half of the screen, it is not difficult to keep the ball(s) moving around scoring points for you and getting bonus multipliers for a while. Once the ball(s) come down to the lower half of the table, though, they tend to slip away fairly quickly if you don’t have quick reflexes to send them back to the upper half of the table. Control response is very good for Spinball and there is a two player alternating option as well. Overall a nice game to play though it would have benefitted from more variety (different tables to choose from, targets of different types for the existing table, or even more targets to eliminate some of the “dead” space).

Review by TrekMD

6/10

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 Star Castle - By GCE

Star Castle is a superb adaptation of the arcade game, particularly because the original game was also a vector game. In Star Castle you control a ship that must destroy the star castle, a large vessel in the middle of the playing field that is surrounded by multiple concentric shields. In order to destroy the castle, the shields need to be destroyed layer by layer but not completely. If you totally disintegrate a given barrier, it will regenerate at full strength and add another layer as well, making it much harder to reach your target. You’ll need some strategy in order to open gaps for each shield that will let you get a clear shot of the castle. This, of course, is not easy in an of itself but it gets even more complicated by the fact that some barriers have guided missiles that will come at you at varying speed. You can destroy them or you can try to escape them by moving around and using the edge of the screen as a way to escape (if you exit on the right, you’ll reappear on the left, etc.). You can also be attacked by the castle itself once there is a gap in the shields and, believe me, that thing is quite aggressive when those gaps appear. It’ll take quick action on your part to not get destroyed. Controller response is excellent in Star Castle, which is key if you want to survive! You can move your ship around using the joystick or buttons 1 and 2. Button 3 gives you thrust and button 4 fires your weapons. There is also an option for two players alternating.

Review by TrekMD

10/10

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 Star Hawk - By GCE

When I first saw Starhawk I was excited because I thought this was the Vectrex version of Star Strike, a game developed my Mattel for the Intellivision and the Atari 2600. I was, unfortunately, wrong. In Starhawk, like in Star Strike, the player is in a trench that is reminiscent of the Death Star’s trench. Your goal is to destroy as many enemy ships as you possibly can in 60 seconds while you travel down the trench. The enemy ships come in several shapes (bombers, missiles, rockets, starships, and command ships) and have different point values. The command ships are of particular interest because, when they are destroyed, they give you the highest amount of points (800) and the points awarded for destroying other ships are doubled for several seconds. These ships only appear several times in the game and there is a different alarm sound letting you know they are coming. They appear in the middle of the screen and move up and way from you as they head toward you. You can increase the time you have to play by 20 seconds for every 10,000 points that you score. One interesting aspect of this game is that it has a 2-player simultaneous mode (which will require a second controller). The control scheme for the game is simple, you move your crosshairs with your joystick and you fire with button 4. Collision detection seems to be a bit off with some targets having to be hit dead center in order to destroy them. Because this game doesn’t have any other goal than just destroying ships, it doesn’t hold one’s attention for long. It just gets boring fast, which is unfortunate because the game does look nice.

Review by TrekMD

5/10

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 Star Trek: The Motion Picture - By GCE

When I first saw that the Vectrex had this title, I wrongfully assumed it was based on the Star Trek arcade game (Star Trek Strategic Simulations Operator). Despite that, the idea of a vector Star Trek game was still cool, so I decided to look at the game based on its own merits. Much to my pleasure, the game is fun to play and works very well on the Vectrex. In Star Trek: TMP, you are Captain Kirk and in command of the Enterprise which has been given the mission of destroying a Klingon mothership. Simple, right? Nah! In order to reach the mothership, the Enterprise needs to go through eight sectors of space that are full of Klingon and Romulan ships that want nothing more than to destroy the her. The Enterprise is, of course, armed with phasers and shields for offensive and defensive measures. Unfortunately, the resources of the Enterprise are limited and if Captain Kirk isn’t careful, the Enterprise will be defenseless and fall prey to her enemies. Luck will have it that there is a Federation Starbase within each sector and with which the Enterprise can dock to replenish its weapons and shields. The trick is doing so while enemy ships are attacking, while also making sure not to accidently destroy the Starbase. Once all enemy ships have been cleared from a sector, the Enterprise moves to the next sector until all eight sectors are cleared. Once that task is completed, Kirk take the Enterprise into sector nine in order to defeat the Klingon mothership. This task can only be done by shooting the mothership on its nose while it is glowing. If the Enterprise successfully destroys the Klingon mothership, it is sent back to sector one to start again at a higher difficulty level.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Sundance - By George Pelonis

Sundance is another adaptation of a Cinematronics arcade game from 1979, with some modifications. If you ever felt like having the power of the Q (from Star Trek) in order to play with stars as if they were toys, look no further. Sundance will let you destroy extraneous suns with black holes in a grid of nine squares to your heart’s content. Be careful, though, because if you miss destroying a sun and it hits the grid, the top grid from which the suns arise creeps closer and closer to the bottom grid, ending your game of omnipotence. Sundance is a fun game to be played alone or against a friend because it really is two games in one. The game has three game variations to make the challenge even more fun. Game One, in single-player mode, has only one sun at a time early on that appears for you to destroy. Games Two and Three have two and three suns, respectively, but you now also have the ability not only to create black holes but also to fire novas at the suns. In single-player mode the goal is to last as long as possible before the grids touch each other. In two-player mode but the goal is to reach a certain amount of points first. So, you wonder, what is different from the arcade? Well, for one, the arcade game used a timer to end the game instead of touching grids. Secondly, the control scheme is totally different. In the arcade, there was a 9-button set up that let you open black holes according to their position. Since this would require a special controller on the Vectrex, the control mechanism has been adapted to take advantage of the joystick. Overall, a very good game to enjoy on the Vectrex!

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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 Thrust – By Ville Krumlinde

Thrust for the Vectrex is a remake the same game originally developed for the Commodore 64. The story of Thrust says that the resistance is about to launch a major attack against the Integalactic Empire but they lack the power sources they need for the attack. You’ve been commissioned to use your ship to steal the Klystron Pods from the Empire on worlds with normal gravity, reversed gravity, and other dangers. What other dangers? How about Limpet guns that will shoot you down if you don’t shoot them first. The Empire has the “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude when it comes to their pods. How about limited fuel? If you are not careful during your maneuvers, you consume fuel too fast and end up dead. Not a good way to end your mission. To successfully complete your mission you need to shoot the Limpet guns defending the pods and then you need to tractor the pod off planet. If you shoot the nuclear reactor that provides energy to the Limpet guns, you need to be careful because too many hits will initiate a cascade failure that will destroy the entire planet and led to a mission failure. Should cascade failure start, you’ll have 10 seconds to leave the planet’s surface or you’re, you guessed it, dead. If you, however, are able to retrieve the pod safely and then you cause the nuclear reactor to go critical followed by your successful escape from the explosion, you get a hefty bonus! Thrust is an enjoyable game but not an easy one to play. There are three game modes to choose from (1- normal, 2- Hard Plus, and 3- Time attack) and only a one-player mode.

Review by TrekMD

8/10

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