Wednesday 23 September 2015

Spike (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1983

Spike is a single screen platform game and the lead character eventually became an unofficial mascot for the system.

You play the role of Spike and your mission is to rescue your girlfriend Molly from a villain called Spud! To do so you must jump over constantly moving platforms, collect the key and then use ladders to reach Molly's cell at the top. These ladders are controlled using Button 1 and you can move them to several places around the screen before climbing with the analog stick. After the first level evil Bouncers and Birds appear and if you make contact with them you'll lose one of your four lives (although extra lives are awarded every 10,000 points). Spike is able to protect himself though by performing either a left kick (Button 2) or a right kick (Button 3). Occasionally Molly's bow will drop from her cell and if you manage to catch it all enemies will be temporarily frozen leaving you free to advance. Unlike all other original Vectrex games this one actually features cut-scenes at the start of each level as well as speech samples; these clips sound fairly clear and it's quite a technical achievement for an early 1980's system. The gameplay is vaguely reminiscent of Donkey Kong (1981, Arcades) in terms of navigating moving platforms and trying to reach the damsel in distress. However, no bonus points are given for how fast you complete each level which seems like a missed opportunity. The controls are very responsive and I like that you can adjust your jump in mid-air. The difficulty ramps up quickly as platforms start to alternate directions and enemies give you little time to react; some higher levels even start with a Bouncer in your face so unless you have lightning fast reflexes you'll die instantly! Spike also has a large sprite making it tricky to navigate precisely and after a while frustration starts to set in due to numerous cheap deaths.

Spike is an interesting concept and it's fun for the first few levels until the difficulty skyrockets. While you might not play for long stretches it's still a unique title in the Vectrex library and one that's certainly worth a look if you like platform or arcade-style games.

Random trivia: A homebrew version of Spike was created for the Commodore 64 in 2010.

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