With the huge resurgence in retro gaming over the last few years, it's no surprise that someone would bring another classic gaming system's library to the App Store. But is this recreation of of GCE's Vectrex filled with bugs, or does it do the system justice?
In 1982 my dad took me to Toys 'R' Us so I could pick out my birthday gift. I was (still am), a huge fan of video games ever since I was young. I had played the Vectrex system at the local Gemco store in San Jose and always wanted one. Well, today was my day. Toys 'R' Us had one GCE Vectrex system in stock. So $200 later, (not counting the discounted games I grabbed), and one disgruntled look on my father's face after having been suckered into buying something so expensive, I spent hours upon hours in my room playing the hell out of my Vectrex system. So imagine my joy, when all these years later, I learned I would get to play the Vectrex games I couldn't find as a kid. My only concern was that this adaptation would be half-assed and today's gamer wouldn't be able to appreciate this classic system. Lucky for me, (and fans of Vectrex), RantMedia Games did a pretty good job.
The Vectrex was a self contained gaming console, with its own screen and a control pad that folded into the unit. It was the first system to feature a self-centering analog stick, which improved upon the clunky analog stick released for the Atari 5200. The controls were really tight, and the four button layout meant that developers could throw whatever game they could at it and not worry about controller limitations.
30 years later, Vectrex Regeneration brings to life the older vector games from the GCE console. The initial download is free, and gives you Minestorm, the game that was included in the console, as a free to play game. For $6.99, you could unlock the other available games, and guarantee that future updates would have added games that would be free to play. Not a bad price for what you're getting.
And you're getting some great Vectrex games. Armor Attack, Pole Position, Berzerk, Starship (originally Star Trek, guess they didn't want to pay for the license.), Blitz, Scramble and more. You can choose to play the game with the overlay that gave it some semblance of color, or choose to play them in black and white. The sights and sounds of each game is a faithful port of the original. I have yet to experience any crashing or glitches on my 3rd gen iPad.
I loved playing these games growing up. I never was able to get a second controller and play two-player Blitz, but now I can. The controls themselves are pretty good but they do need some tightening up. There is a joystick sensitivity setting, which you may need to mess around with. The bad thing is it doesn't seem to save those settings when you exit the game. You can also move the buttons around to your liking. The joystick isn't as responsive as the real thing, but that's what happens when you put games that require a real joystick on a touch screen device. The $6.99 purchase price does include iCade support, which reportedly works awesome on this app.
Another cool thing is if you download and unlock the full game on your iPad, and download it on your iPhone as well, you can use your iPhone as a separate controller. Turn on Bluetooth for both devices, hit Connect on your iPad in the controls section, and your iPhone will turn into a controller. It's awesome and works pretty well. I did have to restart the iPhone app if I disconnected the pairing though, so perhaps that will be fixed in a future update. I really dug using my iPhone as a separate controller since I don't have an iCade. (Someone send me one for XMas!)
Extras include a high score leaderboard, challenges that you can send to GameCenter friends, and achievements. They even have a shelf with VHS tapes containing various Vectrex commercials that ran back in the day. The commercials are hilarious to watch. It really is a nice little bonus to have in the app. The games themselves can be rotated so you can see the box art and descriptions on back. The game also includes a developer picture gallery and even a wonderful history on the system, from it's beginnings in 1980 to its demise in 1984 and beyond.
Besides some control issues, and the Bluetooth pairing glitch, Vectrex Regeneration is worth every penny for retro gaming fans. With future updates to tighten the controls, and more games on the horizon, it's worth the money. Speaking of money, that birthday present I got as a kid has lasted for years. I still have that same Vectrex console I got back in 1982, and I still play it to this day. Thanks, Dad.