Vectrex Reviews S

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 difficulty 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.

Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: 24580
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 spaceships 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 deploy 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 is the type of game the Vectrex does well. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: BS 73500
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. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 8640
1 player 

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 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
Our high score: 10-8
1 or 2 players 

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 necessarily 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 Spike's frustrating gameplay, and even the voice effects started getting on my nerves after a while. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 5500
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.

Our high score: 3200
1 player 

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 a while. 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.

Our high score: 73015
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.

Our high score: 5080
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.

Our high score: 1105
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.

Our high score: 38100
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.

Our high score: 20800
1 player 

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