Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Game of the Day - Reactor

Geezer alert!  Reactor is a quasi-obscure old-school game that you probably know of if you are 40 or older and probably don't if you are younger.

Warning!...This is where I get nostalgic and talk about the early 80s (I was in college)...  Games didn't have a lot to offer to differentiate themselves graphically, so it just seems like there was more ingenuity brought to the aspect of gameplay.  Weird games like Robotron, Tempest, Qix and Quantum set the pace, and Reactor was right there with them.

Okay, I'm thru with the "they don't make them like they used to" part of the review.

If you look at the data, Reactor is fairly known among people looking to collect classic cabinets (in the top 200), but completely unknown among MAME players (not even in the top 1000 roms downloaded).  More on how I determine a games popularity/obscurity is here.

Anyhoo, Reactor is played with a trackball and two buttons.  If you don't have a trackball, you CAN effectively play the game with a joystick, but it's a little harder to control and you winding up dying a little more often.  You control a little ship/particle entity and it is your goal to destroy enemy particles by pushing them into the deadly wall with bursts of energy.  Your two buttons are "energy" and "decoy".  The energy button pops the enemy backward with a burst (and you react some also).  He doesn't go back far and you have to keep bitch-slapping them until you bang them into a wall - which is deadly.  Then they are fried and disappear.  In each stage, there is a set number of enemies to fry before the stage is finished.  The decoy button (which you can use several times) places a decoy that looks like you wherever you drop it.  The dumb-ass enemies congregate around it and become easier to hit.  Keep in mind, all this time the enemies are trying to push you into the walls.

Of course, you also die if you run into the walls.  That wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that there is a big-ass core in the middle of the playfield that continues to expand - narrowing the area where you and your enemies can engage (Like Cosmic Chasm).  One saving grace is that there are little rods sticking out of the walls, and if you send the enemies into a whole set of rods (destroying them), the inner core shrinks back down for a while.

You score points by defeating the enemies.  The enemies come in different forms, sizes and capabilities.  Some are much harder to move/vanquish than others.  Some have inner parts that they release when you hit them.

Bonus points can also be collected.  There are "rooms" on the perimeter of the deadly walls.  If you knock the enemy into one of these rooms instead of the wall, they bounce around and you collect bonus points for this (kinda like a captured ball on a pinball machine).

In later stages, the inner core is gravitized (yes, a new word) and tries to suck you in to kill you.  At least in the early stages when it is growing it is NOT deadly - it just pushes toward the outer (deadly) wall.

There is a nice, more detailed write-up on the gameplay on KLOV here.

Reactor is another in a long line of old school inventive trackball games that must be played.  It is ridiculously addictive and you'll find yourself playing again and again just trying to get to one more stage.

1 comment:

  1. This one was really tough for me. Perhaps I wasn't using decoys well enough, but I ended up doing best just sweeping around the field with my zapper going, pushing enemies out as quickly as possible before being crushed by the reactor. It's really hard to get the bad guys into the control rods when the reactor gets big, I found.