Saturday, 19 December 2015

Solar Quest (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1982

Solar Quest is a shoot-em-up that was originally released in the Arcades in 1981.

It supports 1-2 players and your mission is to destroy alien vessels and rescue survivors before they float into the centrally located sun. The game makes full use of the Vectrex controller as Button 1 transports you to another part of the playfield, 2 smart bombs those around you, 3 thrusts you away from danger and 4 fires rockets. You too have to avoid touching the sun as doing so will deplete your reserve of three lives; additional lives can be earned by rescuing 25 survivors. The gameplay is fast-paced and the shooting action is solid. Having the sun in the middle really changes the dynamic compared to games like Mine Storm (1982, Vectrex) as there's impending doom lurking beyond your every move. It's exhilarating once you get used to using all four buttons at once and the control scheme is well thought out; I especially love making small incremental moves around the centre to dodge enemies when they're hot on your tail and even though you don't receive any points for doing so it's satisfying when they end up hitting the sun! Interestingly, if you don't want to rescue survivors you don't technically have to; instead you can shoot them and still earn a lower amount of points! This basically gives you two different ways to play the game which is brilliant for replayability and for suiting what mood you're in! To keep things stimulating there's seven types of alien vessel and some wander around and only home in on your direction when you're close, while others zigzag around in unpredictable patterns. There's also ghost ships that randomly appear and if you manage to shoot them you'll gain a massive 3,500 points. The game packs a real challenge and it doesn't take long for things to heat up so you'll need serious practice to last more than a couple of minutes.
Solar Quest is an excellent shooter with fantastic controls and it provides an interesting twist on the usual Asteroids style gameplay. While it's extremely challenging those who take time to master it will find it to be surprisingly deep with multiple ways to rack up a high score.
Random trivia: Both Solar Quest and Space Wars have exactly the same overlay except with a slightly different colour scheme.

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