The most common and easily identifiable game for the Vectrex would have to be Minestorm. Anyone that owns a Vectrex has played it at some point, simply because it was the pack-in title for every Vectrex sold. Not just a typical pack-in title but it was actually built into the system itself. Simply turn on the console without a cartridge in the slot and Minestorm is the game that will begin playing.
Minestorm basically plays like an Asteroids clone. Your job is to destroy the mines that the alien enemies keep dropping down onto the playfield. The mines are various sizes, shapes and speeds. You must destroy them all before you can move onto the next level. Similar to Asteroids, you can thrust i.e. move your spaceship across the playfield and you can also escape i.e. disappear from the playfield and reappear somewhere else. This is great for getting out of a tight spot immediately. As with many arcade-style games of the time, each level is the same in appearance while ramping up the difficulty. The difficulty increases by adding more mines and different types of mines that can shoot fireballs at you or follow you around the playfield like a magnet.
The goal of the game is to get as far as you can and score as many points as possible. There really is no “beating” the game unless you count reaching the level 13 glitch. If you can reach level 13, which is no small feat, the game will glitch out and won’t let you advance. If you were one of the few people to actually get this far in the game AND called up GCE or Milton Bradley to complain, you were sent a replacement physical cart of Minestorm which is now very rare today. Personally, I have not been able to clear level 4.
When you turn on your Vectrex and get past the opening GCE screen, you are presented with ominous opening sounds and the appearance of a large spaceship in the foreground that moves towards the bottom of the screen while getting smaller. This provides the atmosphere of danger and immediately sets you up for the intense battle about to take place. If you decide to use the overlay it essentially turns the monochrome colors into blue a blue screen so it doesn’t really add or detract from the gameplay. I personally prefer to play Minestorm without the overlay.
While the gameplay is action packed and a lot of fun, the button configuration isn’t my favorite and I would enjoy the game more if it was different. Button 2 is escape, 3 is thrust and 4 is fire. What that means is the logical finger placement would be right hand ring finger used for fire, middle finger over thrust and index finger button over escape while the left hand controls the joystick and the movement of your ship. Since my ring finger isn’t a dominate finger I find it hard to keep my index finger over the escape button while rapid firing with my ring so I prefer to use my index finger to fire and attempt to move this same finger over buttons 2 & 3 when necessary. This isn’t always successful but I fare better in the game playing this way than using all 3 fingers separately. Overall, a great pack-in title that highlights the strengths of the Vectrex.
Currently in my collection: built in game with manual & overlay