One of my favorite games for the Vectrex is my game of the week, Cosmic Chasm. On the surface, it looks like a typical early 80’s space shooter where you control a spaceship armed with lasers and a shield. But your ship also has a drill (more on that later) and your job is to not just destroy enemy space ships but instead your ultimate job is to destroy the enemy space station from the inside out by blowing up the core.
You start your adventure in the outer edges of the space station and must blast the enemy space ships quickly while avoiding the ever expanding room center. If you take too long to destroy the enemies, the expanding center takes over and kills you if it touches you. Your shield can protect you if enemy fire becomes inevitable so use it wisely. Once you’ve safely removed the hazards (besides the expanding center) you can employ your drill and drill through the exit and into the next room. Some rooms have only one exit while others have multiple exits to choose from. Using your drill opens up these exits and once they are open, they stay open throughout the game which is crucial when trying to exit. At the beginning of the game you are presented with a map/grid of the space station showing where your space ship is located and showing where the station’s core is. You must make a decision as to which route you will take to get to the core and you must memorize it because once you get inside the room you have to know which door to drill through. Once you finally make your way to the core and destroy all the enemies in that room, you can deploy your bomb and then a 15 second count down begins. At this point, you have very little room for error and the only way you’d have enough time to exit is to follow the same path you came in providing an enemy-free path to take. Once you exit and destroy the space station, you start all over again with different paths to take. This sounds easier than it really is.
The biggest positive in Cosmic Chasm is the depth of the game. You’re not just blasting away at enemies trying to achieve a high score. There is definite planning and strategy that must be used to find the most direct route and ideally a route that will make it as easy as possible to get back to the exit before your 15 second timer runs out. This is no easy task as the expanding centers prevent you from just going straight through any particular room. One slight pause or missed turn will mean the space station blows up with you still inside it. A kamikazie mission indeed. The negatives include something I’ve already alluded to, the difficulty of exiting the space station within the allotted time frame and the randomness of where your space ship begins at the start of each mission. Once you see where your space ship is relative to where the core is, you can basically determine if you have any chance at all of getting out of the station in 15 seconds. If you see a path that is much too long with too many turns to exit, you might as well hit the reset button and hope for an easier set of paths. In all, a fun game and unique title for the Vectrex and one of the few games to have originated from a home console to eventually find it’s way to arcades.
Currently in my collection: cartridge, manual, overlay and box