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Major Havoc

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Released: 1983

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: Atari

Developer: Owen Rubin

Submitted by: Ian Marks

Before I start a few confessions…
Firstly I never played Major Havoc in the arcades (MAME being the only way I’ve experienced it). Secondly I’m quite poor at it, and probably haven’t seen all the joys it has to offer, consequently if anyone wants to write a more comprehensive review I’m quite happy to take this one down.
However I thought this fine Atari game needed a mention on this site. So here goes.

Major Havoc is a game that involves a bit of shooting, a bit of Lunar Lander and a bit of platforming. All done with stylish Vector graphics. It is a game that has something for everyone. Often when games mix styles the finished product is lacking something, but not Major Havoc, everything about it oozes quality.

Stage one sees you flying your craft towards an enemy base, shooting marauding aliens (which initially look like fish) in a very cool 3D spaceflight view. After you’ve cleared these you can land upon said base. Here you have to dock on a shrinking white platform, in a homage to the earlier Atari Lander game. Once landed you have to negotiate tunnels and passageways in a platform style game. Jumping and jetpacking around the base, before destroying it, and escaping. All the time hampered by decreasing oxygen and alien attackers.

Ever since I got into games in the early eighties, I’ve loved the little details in games, you know the ones that show real care has gone into their creation. Havoc has lots of these. Stop playing for a while and Major Havoc folds his arms and taps his foot (something Sonic was to do a few years later). When you die, a beautifully crafted vector skeleton appears, before disintegrating completely. You can skip levels by use of a mini breakout clone on the warp screen. All pure genius as far as I’m concerned.

It’s one of Atari’s last vector games, and for this we should be sorry. The world needs more Vector games. There’s something stylish about them. Even today they don’t look dated, just cool.

If you’ve never played Major Havoc, do it today. It’s gaming gold. Be warned it’s quite difficult. Better to play it nowadays on MAME, I think if I’d played it in the arcades in 1983 it would have cost me a fortune, 10p after 10p going into the machine, and still getting nowhere.