Vectrex Reviews M-Z

Mine Storm
Grade: A
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Reviewed: 2001/9/2

screenshotThis is a brilliant Asteroids adaptation - and it's built right into the system! Mine Storm is reason enough to purchase a Vectrex system. The smooth graphics, non-stop action, and high level of challenge will keep you coming back for more. The buttons are used to fire, thrust, and engage hyperspace. Instead of asteroids, you shoot floating mines. You can fire rapidly, and the screen is often filled with star-shaped explosions. When certain types of mines are shot, they will send a secondary object your way, so stay alert! Also beware of the flying saucers, which make a beeline toward you! Hyperspace is often the only option. The only problem with this game is a programming bug which causes it to freak out after level 13. But to make it that far would be a major accomplishment. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Nebula Commander
Grade: A-
Publisher: Classic Game Creations (2005)
Reviewed: 2012/4/22

screenshotThis is a real-time, head-to-head space strategy game with sophisticated controls and tactics. Unfortunately Nebula Commander's instructions are not only hard to follow, but printed in a microscopic font. Thank goodness I played this with my friend Chris, who displayed enough stick-tuitiveness to figure this game out. As it turns out, this is probably the best two-player game on the Vectrex. A lot of people don't even know the system supports a second controller! Nebula Commander's screen is set up with two planets on opposite sides, each controlled by a player. By employing a tractor beam you mine crystals to build up your planet's energy. Energy is used to construct missiles and destroyer ships, which are then unleashed upon your opponent. Mining the crystals efficiently requires using momentum to your advantage, and you'll want to concentrate on the ones approaching at a favorable trajectory. When constructing weapons, you'll need to find a proper balance. You can build and unleash missiles in a rapid-fire fashion (sweet) but destroyers linger near your opponent and can gradually chip away at him. There's also a defensive element to the game, as you can engage a shield to temporarily protect your planet from an incoming barrage. Put it all together and you get a competitive title that works on many different levels. If the game has a flaw, it may be how hard it is to move your cursor with precision (with the standard Vectrex controller at least). Also, the CPU is entirely too smart and efficient to compete against - although it's fun to watch him take care of business. Nebula Commander is a pleasant surprise, and once you get the hang of the controls you'll wonder why you never heard of this game before. Note: This game is available from Classic Game Creations. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Patriots
Grade: C+
Publisher: John Dondzila (1996)
Reviewed: 2002/4/27

screenshotEver wonder what Missile Command would look like with vector graphics? Me neither, but Patriots is just that. The game's title refers to the Patriot missiles used to destroy incoming missiles during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Compared to the original arcade game, the missile animation here is a bit choppy, and the explosions don't stick around for very long. On the other hand, you can still unleash a wall of bombs to produce some cool chain reactions. The sneaky satellites need to be hit dead-on or trapped between explosions. Don't ignore the UFOs or planes that rain missiles from down low. For some reason there are only two missile bases, despite the fact that the Vectrex controller could easily have supported a third (there are enough buttons). The targeting cursor is responsive but I wish I could move it closer to the sides of the screen. Patriots has its share of slowdown when the action grows intense, but otherwise the graphics and sound effects are quite faithful. Patriots is a respectable effort, but in terms of fun it doesn't approach the level of Missile Command. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Polar Rescue
Grade: D
Publisher: GCE (1983)
Reviewed: 2005/3/1

screenshotAs the VGC, I attempt to judge each game with a clear conscience, a suspended disbelief and full immersion in each premise. I have to do this no matter how outlandish or graphically challenged the game may be. Polar Rescue puts you in a submarine, navigating the freezing, pitch-black depths of the Arctic Ocean while attempting to rescue "survivors" in floating "pods". Although the concept seems well-suited for the Vectrex system, I didn't find Polar Rescue particularly interesting. The first-person view features a simple instrument panel on the bottom of the screen which indicates your speed, torpedoes, and radar. The illusion of movement is conveyed adequately using white bubbles, and realistic sound effects include the soft hum of your engine and those familiar sonar "pings" heard in all the submarine movies. While tracking survivors on radar, you'll encounter enemy subs and floating mines. Avoiding the mines is easy, but dealing with enemy subs can be a headache. Once you enter "battle mode", you're stuck there until you eliminate them. It's very hard to determine their position and bring them into sight, and your torpedoes aren't the most accurate things in the world. It's more confusing than fun. Worse yet, if you run out of torpedoes, you're pretty much screwed. Should you manage to locate a survivor pod, you must dock with it by moving extremely slow towards it. This exercise is far more tedious and aggravating than it should be. Once docked, a nice ramp extends to the pod and transports the survivor aboard. After that, the game goes into a brief "reverse instant replay" mode before proceeding to the next stage. I tried to give Polar Rescue a fair chance, but this game is simply not very fun. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Pole Position
Grade: B-
Publisher: GCE (1983)
Reviewed: 2001/9/2

screenshotHere's a racing game you might not expect to see on the Vectrex, but it plays surprisingly well. Your car looks very impressive, especially when it turns or explodes. Too bad the other cars look like total crap, looking like mere boxes in the road! The track itself conveys movement fairly well, although the only thing actually moving is the striped line in the center. The mountains in the background look fine, but the signs displaying odd symbols on the side of the road look silly. The game uses the first two buttons to shift, and the others to accelerate. The precise control makes it easy to weave through traffic. Pole Position has the same musical tunes as the arcade version, and the engine sound effects are pretty good also. This is a nice change of pace from all the shooters on this system. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Protector/Y.A.S.I.
Grade: A
Publisher: Alex Hebert (2003)
Reviewed: 2008/10/8

screenshotIt may suffer from a complete lack of originality, but otherwise this cartridge is freakin' awesome! Protector/Y.A.S.I. packs a devastating one-two punch with flawless translations of two arcade classics. Protector is a Defender clone that's even more faithful than most home editions of the game. Y.A.S.I. stands for Yet Another Space Invaders, but it's pretty amazing in its own right, emulating raster graphics to great effect. Protector's four-button control scheme (reverse, thrust, fire, smart bomb) is tough to master, but while some may consider that a flaw, I love it because it feels just like the button layout of the original arcade game! The side-scrolling shooting action is hectic as you fly over a planet surface while blasting alien landers and catching their free-falling human cargo for bonus points. The angular mountain surface is dead-on, and the tiny people are extremely well detailed. When you activate a smart bomb, two horizontal lines appear and effectively "wipe" the screen. Sweet! When you run out of smart bombs, the "4" button functions as hyperspace instead (now that's smart!) The sound effects are dead-on, and as the coup de gras, the cartridge even saves your top five scores! Protector is as good as anything I've played on the Vectrex, and the addition of Y.A.S.I. just sweetens the deal. Y.A.S.I. might seem a little slow, but I love the classic control scheme (use buttons to move left and right). You can purchase this excellent cartridge at Classic Game Creations for a very reasonable price. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Rip Off
Grade: C
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Reviewed: 2001/9/15

screenshotRip Off is a shooting game that's remarkably simple but still remains entertaining enough. A bunch of fuel cells (triangles) in the center of the screen need protection from scavenging pirates. The pirate ships approach from the edge of the screen and attempt to drag your cells away. You control a large, rapid-firing "tank" that looks more like a space ship. The controls are your standard rotate, thrust, and shoot. Unlike other shooting games, you have an unlimited number of ships; the game ends when all of your cells are depleted. The problem with Rip Off is that there's no real strategy. What saves it from total mediocrity is the ramping challenge and a nice two-player mode. Otherwise it's just another forgettable shooter. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Rockaroids Deluxe
Grade: A
Publisher: John Dondzila (1999)
Reviewed: 2002/4/27

screenshotFor some reason, vector graphics really lend themselves to Asteroids-style games. My theory is proven once again with this frenetic, turbo-charged Asteroids clone. While all the elements of Asteroids are included, this game is MUCH faster. Each round begins with a collection of large rocks hurling around the screen at a high rate of speed. If you didn't have a few seconds of invincibility at the beginning of each round, you'd never stand a chance. It also helps that your ship is tiny. Once you start breaking up the rocks, slow-down begins to creep in, bringing the game down to a more manageable pace. Like Minestorm, Rockaroids is relentlessly addictive, and you'll keep coming back to beat your high score. I like how buttons one and two are used to turn (instead of the joystick) - it feels more like the old arcade game. The other two buttons are used for thrust and fire, and pulling down on the joystick activates your hyperspace. If you're looking for shooting excitement, Rockaroids is all that! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Scramble
Grade: B+
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Reviewed: 2001/9/2

screenshotThis is one of my all-time favorite classic shooters, so I was curious to see how it would look with vector graphics. I'm happy to report that the game plays almost exactly like its arcade counterpart. Scramble is a side-scrolling space shooter where you fly through caverns, shooting missiles and bombing fuel silos. The explosions are represented by flickering asterisks, which look slightly cheesy. The premise is to avoid incoming missiles while navigating narrow corridors, which requires a great deal of skill (which I happen to possess, by the way). I noticed that the collision detection in this game tends to be fairly lenient. Your wing can overlap the wall a little bit without causing your ship to explode. This game has three difficultly levels. It's pretty tough, and it's unlikely you'll ever reach the enemy base at the very end. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Solar Quest
Grade: B+
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Reviewed: 2006/2/7

screenshotAt first glance, Solar Quest looks awfully generic with its floating space ships and cheesy "sun" in the center. Once I began playing however, I was taken in by its strategic gameplay. Despite its shallow appearance, Solar Quest is a subtle mix of Asteroids, Space War, and Time Pilot. Your ship is slightly larger and more detailed than the standard Asteroids "triangle", but the familiar controls include thrust, fire, and hyperspace. In addition, there's a "nuke" button that can deploys a bomb that can be detonated from a distance. While the nuke is a good idea in theory, it's hard to use effectively. Enemy ships assume a variety of geometric shapes, and while they initially move in predictable lines, they eventually start zigzagging around, ratcheting up the difficulty. The most interesting aspect of Solar Quest is your ability to pick up "survivors" for bonus points, providing a much-needed strategic element. Whenever you destroy a ship, it leaves a fuzzy little "pilot" that slowly drifts towards the sun. Snatch him up and you receive substantial bonus points, but it's often a risky proposition. Solar Quest doesn't push the envelope in terms of graphics or gameplay, but this the type of game the Vectrex does well. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Space Frenzy
Grade: B
Publisher: Classic Game Creations (2006)
Reviewed: 2008/10/8

screenshotWhen you fire up a game of Space Frenzy, you're greeted by a one-eyed alien engaging you in a little intergalactic trash-talk (via some slick voice synthesis). Gamers schooled in the classics will immediately recognize this freak from Space Fury (Colecovision, 1983), and in fact, Space Frenzy is a clone of that game. At first glance this shooter looks like Asteroids - the type of game the Vectrex handles well. But instead of rocks, you target alien ships that merge together to form larger "cruisers" which in turn try to ram your triangular ass. Between stages you "dock" with larger ships, allowing you to shoot sideways, backwards, or concentrate your firepower forward. I found this docking sequence to be a little too long, disrupting the flow of the game a bit. The collision detection can be a little fishy and the frame-rate struggles at times, but in general Space Frenzy is fun. Gamers who own a Vectrex should head directly to Classic Game Creations to order a copy. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

new Space Wars
Grade: B+
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Reviewed: 2017/3/29

screenshotThe original Space War was the very first video game, programmed at MIT back in 1962! It appeared in various forms on most early consoles and by the time it reached the Vectrex the game was already 20 years old! At its core Space Wars is a one-on-one space shooter with complete freedom of movement. A gravity-exerting sun in the center adds a little spice, and this Vectrex edition tosses a small asteroid into the mix for good measure. Unlike other versions of the game the two ships sport unique designs. One has a streamlined look while the other resembles the USS Enterprise. This was necessary because the Vectrex isn't capable of color. The game uses three buttons to fire, thrust, and engage hyperspace. Hyperspace relocates you to a random part of the screen, often at your own peril. The object of the game is to blast your opponent ten times, although you also score if he collides with the sun or asteroid. Despite its simple premise the action is surprisingly frantic as both ships rapidly unload shots while thrusting wildly around the screen. Space Wars also has an additional feature that caught me off-guard. If you don't land a clean shot on your opponent you'll only damage him, perhaps knocking off a wing. A damaged ship can still function, although it tends to limp around and can only fire intermittently. This adds a lot of excitement, especially when you manage to prevail in your crippled state! Space Wars is clearly designed for head-to-head action and that's where the game shines. It's less exciting playing against the CPU although still pretty nerve-wracking when tied 9-9 going into the final round. My friends always carry a torch for the Vectrex, so of course they loved this. In a veiled threat Brent informed me that I had to give it least a B+. I relented, but on the condition that you can knock it down by a letter grade if you're playing solo. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 4
1 or 2 players 

Spike
Grade: D
Publisher: GCE (1983)
Reviewed: 2006/2/7


screenshotI'll give Spike all the credit in the world for its innovative visuals, unique gameplay, and amazing voice synthesis. Sadly, those elements don't necessary make for a fun game. The game begins with an impressive intro sequence depicting a triangular damsel being kidnapped ("Eek! Help! Spike!). The animation is complemented by some surprisingly clear voice synthesis that really got my attention. Spike's platform-jumping action is pretty standard, but its unconventional viewpoint makes the game stand out. The three moving platforms on the screen are presented at a skewed angle, conveying a nifty illusion of 3D. Controlling the large, pointy-headed Spike character, your first order of business is to grab the key that appears at random locations every few seconds. Scaling the platforms requires using a button to toggle the placement of a ladder between four locations. Besides climbing, you can also jump between gaps on the same platform, or fall in gaps to return to lower levels. Once you have the key, you must touch the box located near the top of the screen. The problem is, Spike's large size makes it awkward to move him with any degree of quickness or precision. And once baddies like bouncing snakes and flying birds enter the picture, they're practically unavoidable. I really got tired of the Spike's frustrating gameplay, and even the voice effects started getting on my nerves after a while. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Spike Hoppin'
Grade: B
Publisher: John Dondzila (2000)
Reviewed: 2002/2/10

screenshotWith Spike Hoppin', John Dondzila (patron saint of Vectrex games) has effectively brought Q*bert to the Vectrex. Besides different character designs, this is basically the same game, and it's a fine adaptation. You won't find Coily or Ugg, but there are other zany characters here to replace them. The first thing that struck me about Spike Hoppin' was its voice synthesis! When I first heard it, I was like, "did this game just talk?!" Yes it did, and these cute samples really add something special. The graphics are smooth, the objects are easy to make out, and the gameplay is challenging. Moving the Vectrex joystick diagonally takes a while to get used to, but the controls are fairly responsive overall. There are even some cheats and hidden goodies locked away in this game. My biggest problem with Spike Hoppin' is its leisurely pace. The action is a little on the slow side, and there are long pauses between levels and lives. There's not much originality here, but if you've ever wanted to play Q*bert on your Vectrex, this should do the trick. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Spinball
Grade: D-
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Reviewed: 2002/4/27

screenshotSome types of games simply don't translate well to the Vectrex, and you can add pinball to the top of that list. Obviously this game lacks the color and flash of a real table, but Spinball's problems extend far beyond that. For one thing, there aren't many targets to aim for, and those it does have are lame (mainly boxes and dashes). The table is extremely unbalanced. You can keep the ball going in the top half for long periods of time, but once it falls into the bottom area, you can expect to lose it very quickly. The physics are terrible -- the ball appears to have a mind of its own. The collision detection isn't too hot either, and the ball sometimes gets caught within objects. But the worst aspect is how you can't see your score during play. As far as I'm concerned, a key element of pinball is watching your points rack up as you play. The constant flicker of the table also gets to you after awhile. The one thing Spinball does right is control. The flippers are responsive, and the joystick can be used to nudge the table. Don't get carried away with the nudging, because the game won't hesitate to call a "tilt". Spinball was an ill-conceived title for the Vectrex, and it left me feeling very unsatisfied. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Star Castle
Grade: B
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Reviewed: 2001/9/25

screenshotThis old arcade game is not found on many video game consoles. You control a small ship like the one from Asteroids (rotate, thrust, fire). The star castle is at the center of the screen, surrounded by a multi-layered, rotating shield. You can shoot away sections of the shield, but don't destroy an entire layer or it will regenerate -- along with an additional layer. This is an extremely difficult game. Even if enough holes are created to expose the core, it takes pinpoint accuracy to destroy the star castle. You'll also need to keep an eye out for guided missiles. A good strategy of dealing with them is to use the edge of the screen as an escape route. Star Castle is a real cult classic, and it presents a major challenge to shooter fans. Note: This was the acknowledged influence for the Atari 2600 game Yars' Revenge. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Star Fire
Grade: B
Publisher: John Dondzila (1999)
Reviewed: 2003/1/16

screenshotI was pretty psyched when I realized that Star Fire is really John Dondzila's remake of the original Star Wars arcade game! In the first stage you battle approaching Tie fighters, and it's a blast! The fighters smoothly scale into range, and their incoming missiles are not easy to hit. I'd advise you to be defensive and be sure to neutralize the missiles before worrying about the Ties themselves. While it's great fun to play, the level runs a bit long because you have to shoot about 24 ties to advance! Next, you approach a Death Star that looks more like an octagon with a hole in it. In the second stage you shoot towers on the Death Star surface while avoiding ground fire. It's less impressive, and the towers appear to be floating in space. The final stage sends you down into the Death Star trench for the climactic battle. How is this stage? I'll let you know when I get there! Unfortunately, Star Fire is far too difficult and only has one skill level. Still, I do enjoy the first-person "twitch" shooting that this game has to offer. I think if John polished this one up a bit, it would be 'A' material. Hopefully a sequel is in the works. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Star Hawk
Grade: F
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Reviewed: 2005/3/1

screenshotWas this a real game that people actually paid money for? Judging from the ugly graphics and mind-numbing gameplay, this looks more like an unfinished prototype. Don't get me wrong - I usually enjoy mindless shooters, but Star Hawk seems especially pointless. The first time I saw it, I had to roll my eyes, recognizing yet another game trying to duplicate the Star Wars "trench" scene. We've seen it countless other times (Colecovision's Buck Rogers and Intellivision's Star Strike come to mind), but never done this poorly. This game features what has to be the sorriest looking trench I've ever seen. The viewing angle is raised so high that it pretty much defeats the whole illusion of depth, and isn't that the whole point? The planet surface is sharply curved, making it appear about the size of a hot air balloon. Finally, the planet spins more like a slot machine than a rotating heavenly body. Star Hawk's gameplay is limited to moving a crosshair and shooting enemy ships that swoop in and scale across the screen. At least the game makes proper use of the Vectrex analog joystick, so it's very easy to zero in on your targets. Still, the action is monotonous and the collision detection is erratic. The one iota of strategy involves nailing the occasional "command ship", causing your crosshairs to temporarily double in size, and the scoring doubles as well during this period. Star Hawk is a very weak effort. Its whole purpose seems to be to show off a visual effect that's not very good to begin with. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Star Trek
Grade: C+
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Reviewed: 2005/3/1

screenshotNot being a big Star Trek fan, I was actually relieved to discover this is a generic first-person shooter. In fact, you'd never even know this has anything to do with Star Trek, if not for its title. The Star Raiders-style gameplay is so straight-forward that you don't even have to worry about any "galactic maps". If you enjoy dogfighting in space, this game is for you. The first-person point of view means you're just staring at stars and a crosshair until alien ships come into view. Enemies scale and bank smoothly across the screen, and they shatter nicely when blasted. Button three engages a shield which neutralizes their star-shaped projectiles. Button two allows you to "dock" with your space station to recharge your missiles and shield, but this sounds easier than it actually is. More times than not, enemy ships are swarming as your station comes into view, and it's very easy to accidentally blow it up in the midst of the chaos. Geez, you'd think a huge rotating space station could withstand one lousy photon torpedo! Of course, when you really need to dock with your station, that [expletive] thing is nowhere to be found. You can also "dock" with a black hole; however, I advise strongly against it! This takes you directly to the Klingon mother ship, which will proceed to pulverize your Vulcan ass in short order. Star Trek probably won't thrill fans of the series, but it should satisfy those looking for some basic shooting action. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Tour De France
Grade: C
Publisher: Classic Game Creations (1983)
Reviewed: 2012/4/22

screenshotIn a strange twist, the instructions for Tour De France seem to offer more questions than answers: "I'm sorry, but I do not know exactly what it takes to make it past a stage or the number of stages in the game. It you find out please post the info in the rec.game.vectrex newsgroup." I guess that's what happens when you resurrect a game 17 years after it was written! As it is, Tour De France isn't half bad. You view your biker from behind while speeding down a winding road that takes you around curves and over hills. Your guy looks a lot like Kermit the Frog with those big, triangular feet (see original Muppet Movie). There's some modest scenery in the form of passing trees, telephone poles, and rock walls. The smooth-frame rate and undulating roads help convey a nice sense of speed. You can shift between three gears, although the middle gear is the most playable by far. You'll pass other bikers on the road, but your main concern should be those deadly banana peels! These things are all over the place, and just touching one will put your bike in a horizontal position. Sometimes you can get into a rhythm and weave through the peels, but it seems like once you hit one, you hit five more in a row. It doesn't help that your biker tends to block your view of the road. One highly original feature of Tour De France is how you can grab water when your hydration meter runs low. You'll spot an occasional water bottle on the side of the road, and pressing a button lets you reach out to it with your long, skeletal arm. As far as I can tell, Tour De France contains one stage and the object is to complete it in the shortest time. It's not a great game, but it gets points for originality. I can't think of another game that's quite like this. Note: This game is available from Classic Game Creations. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 1:36.42
1 player 

Vaboom
Grade: B
Publisher: CGC (2000)
Reviewed: 2010/5/2

screenshotIf I've learned one thing from video games, it's if I ever see a psycho maniac dropping bombs off the side of a building, I should try my best to catch the damn things! Although closely modeled after Kaboom! (Atari 2600, 1981), Vaboom adds a few interesting twists to the simple formula. You move three paddles across the bottom of the screen, catching bombs dropped from the top. Your paddles remain centered by default, and you can move them side-to-side with analog precision. Keeping up with the bombs is challenge enough, but there are also icons that occasionally drop down. An X icon will destroy a paddle, a heart will restore a paddle, and a diamond nets you a cool 100 points. These icons fall so slowly that you'll usually catch them whether you want to or not. Vaboom's bomb rate levels off quickly, preventing it from reaching insane Kaboom proportions. Occasionally a bomb will bounce off your paddle, and if you can hit that bomb-dropping psycho a certain number of times, a high-scoring bonus round kicks in. Vaboom is action-packed, and you have to love the pick-up-and-play quality of this homebrew title. Note: This game can be found along with Vectrace on the Ronen's Collection cartridge at ClassicGameCreations.com. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 6880
1 player 

Vectopia
Grade: B
Publisher: Packrat Games (2015)
Reviewed: 2015/6/21

screenshotOriginally released in 2001, Vectopia is a grab-bag of finished games and experimental demos. The first game, Wormhole, is a knock-off of an oldie that probably doesn't get knocked-off nearly enough: Gyruss (Atari 2600, 1984). The title screen boasts a pulse-pounding musical theme, and it's a shame that doesn't play during the actual game. The action involves moving a ship in a circular pattern while blasting aliens emerging from the center. The scaling is superb but the controls don't feel particularly natural and your ship can get "hung up" on occasion. The easy opening stage lulls the player into a false sense of security, but this is shattered when the aliens start returning fire in stage two. Their shots tend to blend in with the "shooting stars" emanating from the center. I tried to shoot the mysterious squares that sometimes appear, but now I think these are bonus point indicators. The second game, Trakkers, is more original. It's introduced by a psychedelic title screen and otherworldly music. This time your ship travels along the lines of a grid as you shoot meandering triangles. It's easy to get trapped but your ability to speed up makes it possible to escape harm's way. Trakkers is a lot more challenging than it looks and quite addictive. The third game, Spike's Water Balloons, is the analog version of a simple catch-the-balloons game. You'd expect the precision controls to make the game easier, but I found them a bit touchy. Vectopia also contains a controller test program and a series of demos that are interesting to peruse. It may be a hodgepodge of material, but for Vectrex owners it's more like a treasure trove. Note: A reader pointed out Trakkers is actually a clone of an arcade game called Targ. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Trakkers
Our high score: SLN 19,160
1 player 

Vector Vaders
Grade: D
Publisher: John Dondzila (1996)
Reviewed: 2002/2/10

screenshotYou can tell that Vector Vaders was one of John Dondzilla's early Vectrex undertakings. Trying to reproduce Space Invaders, Vaders does at least capture the look of that classic. Your cannon has that familiar "shoe box" shape, and although these aliens aren't the same as those in the arcade game, they could at least be cousins. Unfortunately, this attention to detail takes its toll on the framerate. The screen flashes so much it looks like an old, silent black and white film. Your missiles move like snails up the screen. It does get better as you thin out the alien fleet, and the aliens keep things interesting by dropping TONS of bombs. There are four barriers to hide behind, but they don't take any damage. I did like how two buttons are used to move side-to-side, making the control scheme identical to the original arcade game. I also enjoyed trying to hit the slow UFO that moves up across the top of the screen. Overall, Vector Vaders is just too sluggish. Apparently Dondzilla recognized this problem and addressed it in a sequel. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Vector Vaders 2: The Director's Cut
Grade: B
Publisher: John Dondzila (1999)
Reviewed: 2002/2/10

screenshotThe first Vector Vaders was a fair rendition of Space Invaders, but it was way too slow. This remake completely fixes that problem. The first thing you'll notice is that various alien shapes have now been replaced with animated "V" characters. These simpler objects allow the game to move at a much faster pace, and as a result it's a lot more fun. John Dondzila even took this opportunity to incorporate classic Space Invaders audio effects, which sound excellent. You can now make the barriers disappear if you shoot them enough. Fast, challenging, and fun, this is the Space Invaders that Vectrex fans were waiting for. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Vectrace
Grade: F
Publisher: CGC (2000)
Reviewed: 2010/5/2

screenshotI was hoping for something along the lines of Pole Position, but Vectrace offers a less-than-satisfying racing experience. You get a simple overhead view of a three-lane highway, moving a car side-to-side on the bottom of the screen. It's a lot like Street Racer (Atari 2600, 1978). Cars move down from the top, and frankly they look awful! Granted, we can't expect programmers to be artists, but some of these vehicles (not seen here) look more like random jumbles of shapes. In each of the three "missions" your goal is to pass a certain number of cars in a short period of time (under 45 seconds). Your car sustains damage in collisions, causing your front-end to get all [expletive]-ed up. Obviously you can you only sustain so much damage, and I like the concept. This could have been a respectable game if the difficulty progression wasn't so out of whack. Unfortunately, the missions progress from simple, to easy, to borderline impossible. In that third mission you'll frequently encounter three cars perfectly lined up, making it impossible to pass without incurring damage. And once you touch a car, you tend to get ensnarled in the others until there's nothing left but twisted metal. I suspect that third level is just plain buggy, considering you often see cars overlapping each other. I did actually complete this level once (probably by accident), and a message appeared telling me to take a photo and send it to the author so he could post it on his web site. Vectrace has some potential, but it really needs some clean-up before it's ready for public consumption. Note: This game can be found along with Vaboom on the Ronen's Collection cartridge at ClassicGameCreations.com. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 3760
1 player 

Vectrexians
Grade: B
Publisher: Kristof Tuts (1999)
Reviewed: 2002/4/27

screenshotHere's a nifty little version of Galaxian for your Vectrex machine. It does a fine job of capturing the same classic gameplay, with surprisingly faithful sound effects. You get a full fleet of alien invaders, and there's very little flicker. I love how the aliens rotate as they peel off the sides of the formation. The mother ships depart with two escorts, and big points await the gamer that can nail all three. Make no mistake; this game is tough - tougher than the arcade. Perhaps that's why you begin with five lives. Vectrexians is fun, but I have a few minor complaints. First of all, the cannon looks pretty rough compared to the rest of the graphics. The collision detection falters every now and then, and your score doesn't appear on the screen as you play. But overall this is an addictive little arcade adaptation. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

War of the Robots
Grade: D+
Publisher: George Pelonis (2003)
Reviewed: 2006/2/7

screenshotThis first-person shooter could have been something special, but it feels like an unfinished project. You play by moving a crosshair around a rocky planet surface and blasting scaling "drones" and spherical "seekers". War of the Robots had serious potential. The ominous intro screen sets the tone as it resonates with its bleak, otherworldly music. The planet surface is a simple silhouette of jagged mountains, but the wire-frame drones gallop fluidly across the landscape. Due to their long legs and tiny bodies (which resemble AT-STs from Star Wars), they're pretty tough to hit. Periodically they fire star-shaped missiles, which you can shoot down as they slowly scale in. A circular scanner lets you track their positions, but it's not the most accurate device in the world. War of the Robot's controls are responsive enough, and once you get the hang of it, you'll have a good time blasting drones into pieces. Unfortunately, two huge flaws spoil the fun. First and foremost, it's entirely possible, and in fact quite easy, to run out of ammo. Since you can't reload or find additional ammo, all you can do is sit there and wait for the game to end. Next, there's no freakin' score! How hard would it have been to keep track of some points? Apparently your one and only goal in this game is to wipe out all of the robots, but who knows how many waves you'll need to survive to accomplish that? Without a score it's an all-or-nothing affair with minimal replay value. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

War of the Worlds 2011
Grade: C-
Publisher: Fury Unlimited (2011)
Reviewed: 2014/9/1

screenshotLike most George Pelonis creations, War of the World 2011 begins with some unnerving, resonating audio. For a system not known for its sound capabilities, the Vectrex can generate some remarkably haunting music. Upon starting a game alien machines approach from the distance with long, spider-like legs. The animation of these things walking is one of the more impressive sights I've seen on the system. You move a large cannon across the bottom of the screen, firing pairs of projectiles into the horizon where they converge. You also activate a shield - even while moving. Your cannon is large and you can even see a person sitting in it. Aliens can withstand a half-dozen shots, reducing in size with every hit. The aiming controls are overly sensitive, making it frustrating to line up your cannon. Fortunately once you land the first hit you can often fire repeated hits while remaining stationary. Occasionally the aliens will fire laser rays that sweep the screen, and sometimes these appear suddenly on top of your ship, resulting in cheap death. Since there's nowhere to run, your shield is critical. I expected my shield to recharge with each new life, but that is not the case. Surely it will recharge when I clear a wave, right? Nope! How in the heck am I supposed to make any progress?! At the end of each wave a mother ship zooms into view and unleashes large "shurikens". You can't harm the mother ship but you can shoot down the shurikens. Button 2 brings up a status screen, but for as cool as it looks it doesn't serve much of a purpose. You can't even use it as a pause function, since you have to keep your finger on the button to view it. War of the Worlds 2011 is a middle-of-the-road effort. There are some nifty audio/visual effects but it lacks the addictive quality of a good shooter. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SDZ 400
1 player 

Web Wars
Grade: B
Publisher: GCE (1983)
Reviewed: 2010/5/2

screenshotThis Tempest look-alike won me over on the strength of its arresting visuals and formidable challenge. Web Wars is rapid-fire shooter, and its pace ramps up in a hurry! You control a "hawk king" gliding down a half-pipe with star-shaped enemy "drones" emerging in the distance. Holding in the fire button unleashes a steady stream of shots, and you have to love that. Enemies that reach your end will slowly converge, but by moving forward and backward, you can usually guide them into your line of fire. The camera angle shifts automatically during the course of the game, and the visual effect is impressive. Periodically a "critter" will appear on the horizon which you need to capture. These can be hard to make out, but they tend to be a little brighter than your enemies. You can snag a critter with your bird tongue using the "3" button. It's like Frogs and Flies in space! You can't hold out your tongue for very long, so timing is a factor. Once you've captured a critter, you'll want to head through a square "portal". This will take you to a trophy screen where you'll get a well-deserved break. Here you can examine the tiny creatures you've caught which assume some funny and imaginative forms. Web Wars is generally fast paced, but if you try to bide your time a huge "cosmic dragon" will fly overhead and begin firing missiles with pinpoint accuracy. A dragon in space may sound far-fetched to us in 2010, but keep in mind when this game was made. Way back in 1983 people believed in all kinds of crazy stuff like Bigfoot, Leprechauns, and equal rights for women. Web Wars has a nice "one more time" quality, despite the fact that the collision detection becomes erratic as the pace picks up. The 3D visuals are nothing to sneeze at and the collection element is a neat idea. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SDZ 20,609
1 or 2 players 

Zantis
Grade: B-
Publisher: George Pelonis (2011)
Reviewed: 2012/11/8

screenshotZantis is an appealing shooter for those looking for some "twitch" arcade action. The "Zantis" are apparently spiders evolved to the point of spinning web made from electricity. The opening theme has a creepy, resonating quality similar to the one in I, Cyborg (George Pelonis, 2004). At the top of the game screen is a set of "cells" connected by electrical charges. The electricity doesn't really serve any practical purpose, but it's a neat visual effect. The idea is to destroy the cells while avoiding spiders that rapidly drop down from tethers. You move a diamond-shaped cannon around the bottom of the screen, firing a single shot at a time. When you hit a cell its tether will break, causing the spider to fall. When the cells are destroyed a large spider "boss" drops down from the center. He's worth big points, so you'll want to be ready for him. The shooting action becomes a little methodical after a few waves, especially since the web configuration is always the same. The controls exhibit a frustrating lack of precision. It's hard to line up your shots, and you would not believe how hard it is to hit the boss. You only get one shot, and he usually moves slightly to one side, taking himself out of your line of fire. I often end up colliding with him! In advanced stages he's accompanied by small "escort" spiders - similar to Galaxian. That's pretty cool! I can appreciate the challenge but Zantis could use a little more spice. A special weapon or alternate web configurations might have put this one over the top. As it stands, Zantis is a fun but modest little home brew. You can find more information at Fury Unlimited. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: CJS 860
1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Spike's Big Vectrex Page, Retro Video Gamer, Moby Games