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8  |  Fun Asteroids Clone
Darryl B. , 4/14/2005 12:23:50 PM
Funny -- or sad, sometimes -- how things change over the years.

Take buying a new video game system, for instance: in the early days, you got EVERYTHING, including a set of controllers (if not *several*, like for the Atari 2600 having paddles and joysticks), all the tv connections, an adapter, a game, and usually even a catalog. Nowadays, most of the time you won't even GET a blasted game along with your purchase (which isn't counting buying one separately with your new system, since everyone does that anyway), one controller, and no catalog...hey video game company that I just bought from: you're welcome!

Also in the early days, quite a few of these pack-ins were two player only, like Combat for the Atari 2600, and some of the pack-ins were crap as well (again, Combat sucks if you don't have another player...and then years later Pac-Man became the pack-in [pac-in?], which wasn't exactly an improvement).

Well, not only did the Vectrex come with a pack-in game, it's actually BUILT in, so turning the system on without a cartridge doesn't risk screwing up your machine (unlike with most systems), and plus it was one of the best games for the Vectrex...even though it's just a clone of Asteroids. Still a fun one, though.

Once you start a new game, you're treated to a brief viewing of the Minelayer seeding a mine field in 3-D, which is a nice treat. Your ship can turn left and right, rotate, thrust, and employ Escape as well (hyperspace), like in Asteroids, and shooting a large mine will split into two medium size mines, and shooting one of those will split into two more, also like Asteroids (by the way, how can these mines keep on splitting without blowing up? What kind of fried space engineers were designing these weird things?).

However, there are a few differences in between Mine Storm and Asteroids: as I mentioned Escape, there's no one in five chance you could blow up upon re-entry. So that's nice, as you can hit Escape 10 times in a row and not blow up a single time upon re-entry. Also, the smaller mines don't split right in front of your face; new ones will emerge from one of the dots on the screen. So once the Minelayer's done with it's dirty job, it's always best to position your ship the furthest away from the least amount of evil dots (baby mines?) as possible before they grow into mines.

Plus, unlike the bonus U. F. O. coming out during an Asteroids wave, the Minelayer won't appear until the last of the dots (mines) have been hatched. So watch out for him once you shoot that last medium-sized mine, he's going to be about as welcome (and start laying new mines, if you let him) as a Jehovah's Witness knocking on your door when you're an Atheist and in a fowl mood.

However, the game's got a bit of a high difficulty level, as I've heard many a person say that they've never gotten past the second level: what the deal is, a new mine will appear that will, probably about 90% of the time, launch a fireball right in your direction when hit (the other 10% of the time the fireball will head towards an edge of the screen instead). This actually isn't TOO big a deal, once you get used to it, you just have to concentrate on shooting right at the very center of those s. o. b.s, and you should be able to hit the fireballs as well.

Because, after that, things start getting REAL fun, with magnetic mines that follow you around, ones that follow you AND shoot fireballs, the mixing of regular and fireball-shooting magnetic mines during a mine field, etc. In Asteroids, in general, it's a good idea to mostly stay in the center and shoot, rather than using thrust and hyperspace a lot, but here if you can't get used to using thrust, you're dead meat by only the third screen. Have a nice death!

Unfortunately things get weird after that; a bug prevented people from getting past level 13, but ordering the fixed version of Mine Storm 2 from Vectrex creator GCE (for free) enabled you a bug-free copy (but who the hell has that incredibly rare game nowadays?). GCE claimed in the instructions you could just press reset on your Vectrex in case the screen went blank, but mine never did that; what the deal is, at the end of each screen, your ship will be sucked into the middle of the screen (kind of a brief, cinematic deal) as stars fly by as you're transported (I guess) to the next mine field. At the end of pretty much any level after 13, it's a good idea to get as close to the center of the screen as possible; if you're far away from the center, your ship will get sucked to the middle, and then the game will end (on my version, anyway).

And if you can get past level 13, things get much, much more strange: space dust, which is hard to see, will become a formidable enemy; I don't know why a tiny dot can do so much damage, but yeah, if it touches you, you're dead meat (although you'll earn an extra ship with every four mine fields you clear). There's also fireball and/or magnetic pieces of space dust, along with invisible ones too, and levels start skipping around as well, there are times when the next mine field you warp to has skipped several numbers from the last one you just completed; whatever.

If it wasn't for the screwy things I mentioned in the previous two paragraphs (plus when you die, the mine field you're currently in will get totally reseeded, which sucks), this game would get a 9 or a 10 from me. Still, this is a very good game, especially for a built-in one, and it's in good company nowadays, as the 3-D version for the Vectrex image goggles was also released, and other Asteroid clones from homebrewer John Dondzila of Rockaroids on his All Good Things cartridge and Rockaroids Remix: Third Rock on Vecmania are also now available, all these years after the Vectrex "died", production-wise. So you can have your pick.

Just stay away from all the blasted dots...this ain't Pac-Man!

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