Friday 13 November 2015

Mine Storm (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1982

Mine Storm is a space shooter that takes inspiration from the Arcade classic Asteroids (1979).

The objective is to rack up points by shooting down waves of mines that try to collide with your ship. These waves are broken down into levels so once you've cleared the entire playfield you move onto the next. You're only armed with five lives and right from the outset the difficulty is high with fast-paced action and tons of mines swarming in on your direction. They come in different sizes too; the larger mines are generally slower but there's also smaller pieces that move around quickly. As you progress you'll see mines that follow your every moment, as well as ones that launch fireballs at high speed when hit; these are welcome additions as they make you strategise in terms of shooting them from a distance to give you more time to react. The controls are superb with the analog stick being put to great use in rotating your ship around 360° for complete precision. You can also shoot rapidly to spray bullets around and I love that they appear on the other side of the screen to hit mines behind you. There are also buttons to Thrust (i.e. move forwards) for when you're swarmed from several directions or Escape (i.e. warp) to another part of the playfield. The nice thing about the latter is that you can use it as many times as you like during a level but it's always a gamble as you never quite know if you're going to land directly in front of an enemy! Throughout there's no sign of slowdown even when chaos is going on around you and the collision detection is spot-on. The firing and explosion sounds are great and the creepy jingles before each level add to the desolate atmosphere. There's also some nice animations such as the 'flare' effect around your ship when you clear a wave and an awesome scaling sequence when you enter the playfield.

Mine Storm has everything you could want in an early Arcade style shooter; the controls are tight, the gameplay is hard but fair and overall it has that 'just one more go' factor that will continually see you trying to beat your record.

Random trivia: The game was built directly into all Vectrex consoles but a bug meant it would always crash at Level 13. Users who complained to GCE received a patched cartridge called Mine Storm II that fixed the issue.

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