Vectrex Reviews M-R

Marine Fox
Grade: B+
Publisher: Mountain Goat (2015)
Posted: 2020/8/3

screenshotFinally we have a summer-themed underwater game for the Vectrex! Marine Fox is refreshingly simple to play. You are a manta ray swimming freely around the screen trying to collect diamonds arranged in various patterns. In real life rays have to continuously swim in order to breathe and it's no different here!

Standing between you and a high score are sharks that randomly patrol up and down the screen. The manner in which the sharks propel themselves through the water looks very realistic. Be careful near the edges of the screen, as sharks tend to enter unexpectedly. Losing a life results in a cool splash sound.

Each new screen is introduced with the image of a female superhero with a fox logo on her helmet. Occasionally that logo appears on the screen and you can go after it for bonus points. The challenge ramps up nicely, with additional, faster-moving sharks gradually added to the mix. Aquatically-accurate and seasonally fun, Marine Fox is a welcome addition to the Vectrex library. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 25,524
1 player 

Mine Storm
Grade: A
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Posted: 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.

Our high score: GWC 59965
1 or 2 players 

Narrow Escape
Grade: C-
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Posted: 2020/8/3

screenshotEvery classic system deserves a game based on the Star Wars trench scene, and especially a system with vector graphics! Narrow Escape was originally designed for a "3D Imager" accessory sold in limited quantities in 1984. It's practically impossible to obtain one today but you can still experience Narrow Escape in 2D - with some difficulty.

I like how the game begins with an ominous hum. The first stage is the obligatory trench scene where you fly a starship down the center, shooting at bow ties approaching from the distance. These are "tie fighters" in the most literal sense! The illusion of flight is smooth but uneventful. It's hard to tell how close you can get to the side without touching the wall and blowing up.

Shooting down tie fighters maintains your fuel supply through a process scientists have yet to explain. The second stage is when things get a little weird. This time you're approaching layers of glass panels with rectangular openings you need to fly through. If you had a problem with depth perception in the first stage, you'll be in for a world of hurt.

I did manage to get through it eventually, and I like that satisfying "whoosh" sound as you successfully pass through each pane. After that it's back to the trench with a lot more random shapes coming down the pike. Narrow Escape is okay but I couldn't help but think this isn't how it was meant to be played. It could be dynamite with a pair of those 3D goggles, but I guess we'll never know. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 1450
1 player 

Nebula Commander
Grade: A-
Publisher: Classic Game Creations (2005)
Posted: 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. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 2450
1 or 2 players 

Grade: C+
Publisher: John Dondzila (1996)
Posted: 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.

Our high score: 27075
1 or 2 players 

Polar Rescue
Grade: D
Publisher: GCE (1983)
Posted: 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.

Its 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.

Our high score: 22100
1 or 2 players 

Pole Position
Grade: B-
Publisher: GCE (1983)
Posted: 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.

Our high score: 25330
1 player 

Grade: A
Publisher: Alex Hebert (2003)
Posted: 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). © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 13050
1 player 

Rip Off
Grade: C
Publisher: GCE (1982)
Posted: 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 spaceship.

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.

Our high score: 2040
1 or 2 players 

Rockaroids Deluxe
Grade: A
Publisher: John Dondzila (1999)
Posted: 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.

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Our high score: PB 29680
1 player 

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