Not wishing to mince words but the Vectrex
is a fucking gorgeous machine. Back in the age when home consoles
were dominated by the chunky graphical wonders of the Atari VCS
and its ilk the Vectrex’s pin-sharp vector display really
turned heads. It’s still turning heads today, some 20 years
"I'm doing quaaludes honey"
says Mom, "I'm leaving you" says Pop
It is also now home to one of the most successful
and worthwhile of the homebrew software scenes. People tinker
with GBA development, they bank on the deep pockets of the VCS
completists and they port MAME to the Xbox. But only the Vectrex
can lay claim to homebrew games that can rival, and on occasion
surpass, their original commercial equivalents. Which leads us
to Alex Herbert’s absolutely lovely Protector.
When videos of this gem were initially released
on his website there was much internet speculation that this game
was a hoax: the Vectrex surely couldn’t produce the raster
effects that were shown in the video? And those particles flying
around the screen were impossible, weren’t they? Most tellingly
of all; where was the flicker? It had to be a scam. Didn’t
Alternative design proposal for the
From the moment that you see the packaging for
Protector, you know that you’re in the presence of beauty.
This is clearly a labour of love, the pack is a stunning recreation
of the classic Vectrex box emblazoned with the Protector logo.
Inside too you will find a lurid pink screen overlay, just like
in the old days. But like books, games should not be judged by
their cover so, having carefully extricated the cart from the
packaging, its time for play.
The first thing that strikes you about the game
itself is the amount of noise it generates; not by the traditional
method of using the speaker but by making the monitor scream in
pain. This game pushes the Vectrex to its very limits. The strain
as it produces the pulsating form of the title screen causes the
poor little vector monitor to beg for mercy. Your first temptation
is to reach for the power switch to turn it off so as to save
your poor beleaguered Vectrex from the punishment. But you resist
and instead push the button to start a new game.
Listen, and you can you hear the
Once you start playing it becomes apparent that,
despite the Protector name on the box, this game is really Defender.
It looks different, but it feels the same. The Up, Down, Reverse,
Thrust, Fire, Bomb dynamic of Defender has been perfectly recreated.
The Vectrex controller, so often awkward to use for any long period
of time, could have been built for this game. I’m no demon
Defender player but even I felt at home with Protector within
The second thing that struck me was a lander.
But that may be due to my less than stellar protecting skills.
It always takes me a while to adjust to the dynamic of Defender
and I return to the fray vowing, this time, to let go of the thrust
button at least once.
Extended play only goes to drive home the deep
feeling of quality that this game exudes. Protector is among the
very best versions of Defender that you can play on a home system.
It even gives emulated versions of Defender runs for their money
in the control stakes; I remain to be convinced that the PC keyboard
is a worthy substitute for an arcade control panel.
It’s not a straight arcade port by any
means though. The difficulty is, if anything, set higher than
the game it apes and the speed set slower. This combination works
well but Defender purists may disagree.
So, Protector then? The best home brewed game
produced for any system, arguably the finest game available on
the Vectrex and among the very best updates of an arcade original
ever written. Sounds almost perfect doesn’t it? But there
is a sting, unless you are one of the lucky hundred to have bought
it on its initial limited-edition release then tracking down a
copy will prove almost impossible. I would wager that most of
those 100 copies have ended up in the claws of the rabid Vectrex
elite. There is hope that it will turn up in an image suitable
for burning to a homemade or multigame cart in the future though,
so cross those fingers: everyone should have a chance to play
this wonderful game.
RODENT CASH RATING
jes one ahh made earlier pall"
Here's a couple of Vectrex sites to play
Sean Kelly - Purveyor
of multi-cart goodness to the masses
here to comment on this review