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Aggressor (VIC-20)

Posted: March 23rd, 2017, 10:03 pm
by scotland
Aggressor for the VIC-20

Original Cost: $30 on Cartridge
Programmer: Jeff Minter of Llamasoft
Release Year: 1982
Rarity: You can usually find it on Ebay, sometimes in lots
Current Cost: $10
Variations/AKA Andes Attack

Defender came out in the arcades in 1981, and became one of the games that partitioned ‘hard core’ arcaders from the casual quarter droppers. The scrolling and sense of a larger world to keep track of, the hard controls, all made the game stand-out, and it was natural to try and port it. For the VIC-20, one of the ports is Aggressor.

Its not just a Defender clone, but because of when it was being coded, around the Falklands conflict, it originally had elements about being UK pilot bombing Buenos Aires and playing Rule Britannia. These were removed, and it was released in Europe as Andes Attack, and in the US as Aggressor.

It’s a joystick game, not keyboard. This helps the gameplay over the WASD kind of games. Gameplay is simplified from Defender – no hyperspace. Graphics are simplified too, such as your ship's explosion is a tiny little rectangle of sadness. The flight of your ship is quite jerky, but still responsive enough that it always seems to be your fault when you run into the floating mines. The VIC has no hardware sprites (unlike the Atari 8 bit computers), so its amazing what programmers could do with it. There is a lot of flicker in your ship for instance, but it doesn't bother you when playing and maybe its exaggerated on the video. Like many VIC-20 games, your shots do seem to float across the screen - when reversing you can often still see the shot you made going the other direction still hanging in space. There can be cheap kills on respawning too close to a mine too.

Putting on an autofire attachment is a godsend, as otherwise you become more of a sniper, while with autofire you can focus on dodging and flying more. There is no radar screen. Reversing course is almost comically sluggish. Flying into enemies or enemy bombs happens with annoying frequence, but then, that's the gameplay after all.

Graphically, the enemies and civilians are pretty nondescript blobs (better in Andes Attack), but the mountains do a good job of looking like vector graphics. The ship reminds me of a giant key, although possibly inspired by Battlestar Galactica.

While there are better Defender clones (maybe even on the VIC), this is one I do keep coming back to and try to beat my high score.

Re: Aggressor (VIC-20)

Posted: March 24th, 2017, 4:28 am
by Stalvern
I'd never have guessed that this was by Minter; nothing about it even hints at the cracked genius of his C64 games. I guess everyone has to start somewhere.

Re: Aggressor (VIC-20)

Posted: March 24th, 2017, 5:05 am
by scotland
Stalvern wrote:I'd never have guessed that this was by Minter; nothing about it even hints at the cracked genius of his C64 games. I guess everyone has to start somewhere.

Thanks for the feedback.

Minter was young, maybe 20, when he wrote it. The Andes Attack version has you saving llamas, which my kids think is hilarious. The US version just has people, and they look dull. I don't know if Minter did the changes for the US version, or someone at HES did.

Re: Aggressor (VIC-20)

Posted: March 24th, 2017, 10:55 am
by Retro STrife
Just picked up my first VIC-20 a few weeks ago and still searching for games. I'll keep an eye out for this one. If there are any other good ones to grab, I'd be interested to know!

By the way, I haven't tried to hook up the VIC-20 yet... What works for monitors? All I have on hand are a CRT TV and an Apple IIe color monitor. Any idea if it can connect to either of those? (While I own a few vintage computers, Apple IIe is the only one I've used, so I have no knowledge about monitor compatibility with old computers....)

Re: Aggressor (VIC-20)

Posted: March 24th, 2017, 12:17 pm
by scotland
Congrats on the VIC. Denial is the big VIC fan site. Some homebrews you might enjoy there. is a set of brief reviews of about 180 VIC cartridge games.

I will also point you to british site. They make the Penultimate Cartridge. it is a multicart with 40 games, but whats more, it has all the RAM expansions. The VIC had a series of RAM expansions were used that need to be properly set. Its kinda pricey, but the RAM expansions are nice to have all in one place, no dip switches or swapping expansions. I did get one, so if you have questions I might be able to answer them.

I also have an SD2IEC. This is a like a flashcart system slash disk drive emulator. You should be able read and write from it like it was a 1541. Be aware datasette tape games (.tap) are not going to work with this. The SD2IEC works on a Commodore C64, so one will do double duty for both systems.

The VIC has a port for composite out. I think its so the same as a C64, so one on ebay is $10-$15. You may need to tweak the output (its likely just a screw inside by the jacks) since its tuned for the RF output natively. I just use an old CRT and the composite signal.

A color Apple monitor is probably better than a CRT, but I spent my money on the other stuff. Enjoy the friendly computer of the 1980s. Shatner says hello.

Enjoy the Apple IIe also, and let us know what you are playing on it.