Solar Quest for the Vectrex has the best controls and feel of any shoot ‘em up I have played, with only Geometry Wars even coming close. If you don’t know about the MB Vectrex, it is a wonderful console, with a rare ‘all in one’ build, the screen and console all part of the same unit.
The machine could only produce simple line based graphics, and these only in black and white, with fantastically fragile overlays required to add some colour and details to the games.
Solar Quest was, despite these limitations, super smooth. Compared to the stodgy and stinted feel of the built-in game, Mine Storm, Solar Quest is like freedom under an overlaid blue sky.
The game plays a little like Asteroids, but is probably closer to something like Space War, with your trusty fighter warring against wave after wave of alien spaceships. Set in a single, wraparound screen that lets you leave the screen on one side and reappear on the other, there is also a sun in the middle of the screen that kills both you and your enemies. The sun also has a small level of gravity, and will pull you towards it if you stay still.
This game was doing moral decisions before Bioware was even a squirt in an EA fountain pen, as whenever you destroyed an enemy ship, its pilot would appear, floating helplessly towards the deadly sun. You have a choice. Either kill the pilot for a small points reward, or have mercy and simply capture him by flying over him for a larger points reward, and shorter path to an extra life. This choice has an inherent risk/reward component. Take a chance, possibly risking a life while under fire, or play it safe but make getting an extra life tougher.
Each wave of enemies has different abilities and looks, and present a decent challenge but the real joy of Solar Quest is in simply zipping around, dodging enemies, with the controls superbly responsive and fast. You can perform some excellent turns and skids, and if you are good enough, spin and shoot while still flying backwards.
Indeed, there are very few games that are fun to simply shoot around a stationary sun half a hundred times. The developer must have known that the game would be played like this, as there is a secret enemy that appears if you don’t shoot at all for a long time. The game doesn’t record your highscores after turning the Vectrex off, and the turn based two player game is hardly a draw.
This doesn’t matter, as Solar Quest is a fantastic game, and yet it took me quite some time to find a YouTube video of someone actually playing it properly. Have a look below and enjoy what a fantastically smooth playing game Solar Quest is.
Note: The Vectrex does not flicker as it does in the video.
Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.