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Released: 1982

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Vectrex

Publisher: GCE

Developer: John Hall

Submitted by: Mat Allen

When people talk about “best pack-in game” for a console, discussion inevitably gets around to such games as the Super Mario series, Street Fighter II or maybe Sonic. Sadly this gem is often overlooked and even better, it was directly built into the system; turn on the power without a cartridge and there it was. Not only was it a great game but an easy way to test any Vectrex you come across…

Let’s not beat about the bush here, Minestorm was designed explicitly as an Asteroids clone; in fact part of the design spec for the console was to execute a version of Atari’s arcade masterpiece. And while the general play mechanic and controls are duplicated, how the game actually progresses is somewhat different.

Instead of asteroids you are shooting ship-destroying mines that are laid on screen at the start of each wave by the alien vessel. Only some of these become active at a time and in Asteroids fashion, divide into two smaller parts when shot. However unlike the benign asteroids, there are different types of mine. Some of them do float about aimlessly. Another type homes in on you, their offspring continuing the pursuit when destroyed. A third type launches a shot at you when they are blown up. And the fourth type? I won’t say but you might be able to guess…

To add to matters, part way through the wave the alien vessel returns to lay more mines down! Taking that out as soon as it appears will make your life a bit easier. Until you are good enough to reach level thirteen and beyond at least.

Hall thought that no one would be good enough to get that far and only designed thirteen levels. Get past that point and random things tend to happen as there is no data to process how the level works. To rectify this, a second version of the game was made (reputedly with 99 levels) available for free from GCE/MB on cartridge although later production Vectrex consoles have this built-in as replacement.

Go blow some mines today!