Publisher: Classic Game Creations (1983)
In 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
Publisher: CGC (2000)
If 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
Publisher: Packrat Games (2015)
Originally 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
Publisher: John Dondzila (1996)
You 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.
Our high score: 1090
Vector Vaders 2: The Director's Cut
Publisher: John Dondzila (1999)
The 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.
Our high score: 2140
Publisher: CGC (2000)
I 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
Publisher: Chris Soloman (1998)
This angular version of Frogger
(Atari 2600, 1982) isn't just a generic clone. Its intro and intermissions boast some amazing "morph" effects. You might see a frog transform into the credits, or maybe turn into gravestone upon his demise. It's a nice touch I don't recall seeing before on any
system really. Vectrex Frogger follows the arcade formula to a T, with vehicles zooming across the bottom and logs floating across the top. There's even the crocodile, juicy fly, and lady frog to rescue. One thing that distinguishes this version is all the animation on the screen. The turtles move their flippers, water splashes against logs, and the vehicles seem to be dancing to a beat! It's a shame there's no music! The game is fun to play but the Vectrex joystick doesn't do you any favors. It has a lot of "give" which makes it hard to execute a series of quick hops with precision. When you die, your frog morphs into a gravestone with cause of death displayed like "run over", "drowned" (huh?), or "natural causes" (time expired). I'm not sure the Vectrex needed its own Frogger but the developer put enough thought and effort into this home brew to make it worth your while. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 7180
Publisher: Kristof Tuts (1999)
Here'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.
Our high score: 3730
War of the Robots
Publisher: George Pelonis (2003)
This 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.
War of the Worlds 2011
Publisher: Fury Unlimited (2011)
Like 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
Publisher: GCE (1983)
This 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
Publisher: George Pelonis (2011)
Zantis 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
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