Any successful console in the early 80’s needed arcade ports in its library, and the Vectrex was no different. It offered consumers two popular arcade ports of the time, Berzerk & Scramble. I remember both of these games in the arcades but most of my memories are of playing these games at home. Berzerk was a very popular Atari 2600 port while I recall playing Scramble on an 80’s Apple computer back in the day. These are two strong ports and a lot of fun to play on the Vectrex.
The concept behind Berzerk is simple, enter a maze-like room filled with evil robots, survive and move onto the next room. To accomplish this seemingly simple task, all you have to do is move to another one of the several available doors while avoiding touching the electrically charged walls, robot fire and if you take too long to get out, Evil Otto. Evil Otto is the menacing, grinning, bouncing ball of death who’s only goal is to kill your slow moving ass. He cannot be killed so you’re only choice is to avoid him at all costs. Basically, if you see him and hear that tell-tale bouncing noise you need to find an exit quickly because he can only be outrun for a short time before catching up with you. Keep in mind that you don’t have to shoot all of the robots in each room in order to advance but you may want to especially in the earlier stages in order to earn bonus points. The difficulty ramps up by adding more robots to each room while also increasing their speed and accuracy of their shot. Luckily for you, the robots are still pretty dumb and many of them will kill themselves by running into the walls. The lack of robotic voice that is so recognizable from the arcade version of Berzerk is sorely missed here but not enough to detract from the clean look & feel of the gameplay. I personally like how you can shoot diagonally but the robots cannot, which makes this version quite a bit easier than the arcade and the Atari 2600 port. So when you’re comparing high scores with your Atari or arcade loving friend, you aren’t really comparing apples to apples. Berzerk is a fun game but it won’t make you forget the arcade version.
Scramble, on the other hand, is one of the best games on the system. A side-scrolling shoot ’em up, you man a fighter jet equipped with a gun and bombs. Your mission is to destroy as many ground & air enemy fighters as well as fuel silos & crates on the ground. Your ship must also avoid the terrain which starts out jagged to mimic mountains and eventually moves to a cavern & maze levels with narrow passages that prove to be quite tricky to maneuver through. Finally you meet up with an enemy base and if destroyed, you start your mission all over again. Sounds like a pretty standard shooter ala Defender or Xevious but one of the more unique aspects of Scramble is your fuel gauge. Your ship is constantly losing fuel as you progress through the game and the only way to keep it from running out and losing a life is to bomb the fuel silos on the ground. Since your bombs fall in an arc, you have to master when to release them in order to hit your target. This can be difficult when you’re high up in the air so its a wise strategy to spend some time closer to the ground when you want to refuel. Whether or not needing to refuel adds or deters from the game depends on your perspective but for me, I don’t mind the added challenge as I feel Scramble might be too easy otherwise.
Currently in my collection:
Berzerk: game, manual, overlay & box. B
Scramble: game only. A-
Wish list: Scramble manual, overlay and box.