Tuesday 19 May 2015

Scramble (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1982

Scramble is a side-scrolling shooter that started in the Arcades in 1981 and it had a massive influence on the genre that decade.

You start off with five lives and your objective is to reach the end of the level and blow up the enemy base. This is easier said than done as a host of enemies and obstacles are out to stop you. Firstly, there are ships which travel upwards once you're within range and if you're not careful they'll fly directly into your vehicle. To combat them you can either fire missiles or launch bombs. There are also jittering U.F.O.s and some sections with flames that shoot in from right-to-left at various altitudes. Although the collision detection is fair (the top and bottom of your ship can overlap walls slightly) a steady hand is still required as you can die by touching any part of the scenery. It's vital that you keep an eye on your fuel gauge at the bottom of the screen as if you run out your ship will crash. Luckily it can be increased by shooting the tanks that are scattered around the level. You ship racks up points automatically as you progress but there are mystery bases that can be shot to increase your score which will in time give you extra lives. The fast paced nature of the action makes this a very difficult game and it's tough to even reach the end of the first stage. However, the gameplay and scrolling is amazing slick and very addictive in that classic early 1980s high-score way as it challenges you to return to see if you can progress just that little bit further. The controls are fine for the most part but personally I found the analog steering to be a little too sensitive making it tricky to navigate through the narrow corridor sections without hitting a wall. This kind of game require twitch manoeuvring and the Vectrex controller isn't quite up to the task unfortunately.

Scramble is a classic game that takes time to master but it's very rewarding when you do finally beat a level and get a new high-score. It does have its flaws but the smooth scrolling and captivating gameplay make this one of the best games on the Vectrex.

Random trivia: Scramble spawned a number of clones such as Dawn Raider (1988, Atari 8-bit) but it also had a sequel called Super Cobra that was ported to many home consoles in 1982-83.

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