It‘s pretty obvious that the Vectrex is different. It‘s the only games console that‘s ever used vector scan graphics. While competing consoles used raster drawn pixels for the imaging, vector scanned graphics are sharp lines drawn dot to dot, making Vectrex games very distinctive. Unfortunately the Vectrex has a limitation on how many lines (vectors) can be displayed at the same time before the whole screen starts flickering. Therefore Vectrex programmers strive to portray games with images comprising of simple line drawings in order to reduce flicker. The lack of detail for any given Vectrex drawn image maybe one of the main reasons why it never spawned a recognizable and commercially successful games icon such as Namco‘s Pac- Man, Nintendo‘s Mario and Sega‘s Sonic the Hedgehog. All three have been through the merchandising bandwagon with numerous spin-off games, books and even cuddly toys. Despite the limitations, there is one memorable character that was able to stand out from the vector crowd and who has become dear to Vectrex fans‘ hearts: a little smiley-faced 5-point-star-shaped creature known as Spike.
Spike debuted in a game of the same name in 1983. Tom Sloper, the game designer for “Spike”, had said that he was a big fan of the arcade game “Donkey Kong” (where Mario first appeared) and as such, there is a similar game philosophy between the two games. Both are platform games where the lead characters have to negotiate up a series of platforms whilst avoiding obstacles and jumping over gaps. The goal for both games is to reach the top platform to rescue a kidnapped girl. But there the similarities between the games end. Jay Smith, “father” of the Vectrex, had asked Tom to come up with a game that looked 3D (a request that came before the Vectrex 3D imager, which launched in 1984). Tom achieved Jay‘s requirements by coming up with a game design where effectively it was a 2D platform type game but it was presented with an isometric 3D type perspective.
Be sure to sign up to get Old School Gamer Magazine Digitally for free by clicking here!