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Game Design Essentials: 20 Atari Games

May 30, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 18 of 23 Next

Developed by Kelly Turner, Norm Avellar, and Rusty Dawe, among others

This is a very nifty little game. As mentioned previously, it revives the Battlezone dual-lever control scheme with overhead-view shooting action play. Instead of roaming a vector-screen virtual landscape however, the game has a vertical-scrolling overhead view.

Mastering the controls is a big part of the game, even bigger than in the vector classic, since the player doesn't have the intuitive aid of a first-person view. Additionally, the tank has an independently rotating turret, which itself causes its own share of confusion. The game can be entirely completed without rotating the turret, but many enemies are easier if this control is mastered.

About those enemies, none of them would really be all that difficult if the player weren't in a vehicle that drove, well, like a tank. Vindicators is ultimately about mastering the controls then using them to attack the enemy as safely and quickly as possible.

The two primary types of enemies, tanks and turrets, each apply pressure to the player's control skills in a different way. Turrets can't move and shoot in a predictable, periodic manner, but are each vulnerable only at specific times.

"Number" turrets track the player, and can only be shot when they are open which is the same moment when they fire. "Spinning" turrets rotate until they point at the player, at which time they freeze and fire off a shot.

Both styles are interesting because they place the player in greatest danger at the only moment they are vulnerable to shots. Enemy turrets are the main reason the tank's own turret controls are so important; being able to shoot in a direction other than the one the tank is moving in lets the player perform "drive by" attacks.

Enemy tanks are relatively weak, but can move and track down the player, and many require several shots to destroy. A few also carry floating mines that detach when their bearing tank is destroyed and chase the player. Mines are actually a fairly major source of points, for the score awarded for shooting one is proportional to how close they are to the player when shot. Good scores on a level are rewarded with extra fuel at the end, so this is more than just a bonus opportunity.

Unlike games produced for PCs and consoles, arcade games are not allowed to be too easy. The operator relies on there being a good turnover rate of players in order to keep earnings up. But this cannot be taken too far, or players will stop playing early.

Eugene Jarvis, creator of Robotron and co-creator of Smash T.V., in an interview for Midway Arcade Treasures, expressed this tension in terms of screwing the player over, but not too much. Vindicators has relatively well-balanced difficulty, and while it's not as famous as Marble Madness or Gauntlet, is one of Atari Games' better productions of the time.

Article Start Previous Page 18 of 23 Next

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