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Space Wars

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Released: 1982

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Vectrex

Publisher: MB

Developer: Cinematronics

Submitted by: Mat Corne

In 1962 Steve Russell and his friends at MIT created Spacewar on the DEC PDP-1, a game that is generally recognised as the first computer video game. This 2-player space dogfight was the influence for Nolan Bushnell’s Computer Space, the first mass-produced arcade video game, and the gameplay mechanics went on to influence classic games such as Asteroids and more recently Geometry Wars. Make no mistake, Spacewar was the daddy!

Space Wars on the Vectrex is the home version of the Cinematronics arcade machine of the same name, and is considered to be the best commercial interpretation of the 1962 original due to similar controls and the vector screen. So by playing this game on the Vectrex you are as close to playing the first-ever video game as you can reasonably get.

You’d probably imagine that the first-ever video game would be somewhat primitive, but Space Wars is far from that. The controls allow you to dictate your craft’s speed and direction with pinpoint accuracy, and strategy is required as you only have a limited amount of fuel and shots to try and defeat your opponent. The floating asteroid and central sun, with its own gravitational pull, provide added challenges and there are a number of customisable options in this version.

More important than all of that however, it’s great fun! Get two players in front of this game and they will soon be zipping around the screen in fluid vector-based motion, firing blasts at one another before vanishing into hyperspace. Space Wars is, and always will be, the oldest video game on Earth and yet it is as much fun now as it ever was. If you’ve never played the game but consider yourself a student of video games, your education is not complete until you’ve played the daddy of them all!

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