Thursday 21 April 2016

3D Mine Storm (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1983

3D Mine Storm is a space shooter that arrived on the Vectrex a year after the original Mine Storm.

The objective is to rack up points by shooting 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. The game uses the 3D Imager and the gimmick is that you can only shoot enemies that appear in the foreground; once they've been destroyed another wave fades in from the background. You'll face-off against different sized mines and they each have their own characteristics. For example, some gravitate towards you, while others launch a high-speed fireball when shot. There's also a rogue ship that occasionally enters the playfield and circles around you in a similar fashion to the Droids from Bedlam (1982, Vectrex). To counteract this you can shoot, thrust to dodge, or use hyperspace to transport to a random part of the screen. The controls are extremely sensitive (much more so than the original) so there's a brief adjustment period while you get used to making small, subtle movements. Weirdly, the gameplay never feels as fast or as frantic as Mine Storm and the lower difficulty makes it more accessible to newcomers. It's still fun to play though and features some highly enjoyable shooting action. What keeps things fresh are the various types of enemies, and their differing characteristics force you to strategise your attacks based on their abilities and proximity. I also like that your bullets can be shot out one side of the screen and appear on the other... great for protecting your behind! However, it takes an exceptional amount of time to get back into the action once you lose a life and the waiting around can take you out of your rhythm. The 3D effect is good but in my opinion the complicated graphical style of 3D Narrow Escape (1983, Vectrex) is more impressive.
3D Mine Storm is a good version of the game but it's hard to call it essential when compared to the original. It's a neat curiosity and the layers of enemies do create some interesting gameplay mechanics, but overall it fails to advance or improve the shooting action to any meaningful degree.
Random trivia: The game was programmed by Bill Hawkins - who also worked on 3D Crazy Coaster (1983, Vectrex) - and was a pack-in title with the 3D Imager.

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