Monday, May 7, 2012

Star Hawk (Vectrex Game)

Star Hawk is one of a number of games that attempted to replicate the Death Star trench sequence from Star Wars. Unsurprisingly, the best of these is the officially sanctioned Star Wars: The Arcade Game. All others fall a bit short. Even so, I have never seen one fall as short as Star Hawk.

When I took my first cruise around the games on my multicart, I was excited to play Star Hawk. The original arcade version of Star Wars was vector based, and it set the bar for all other versions. I thought Star Hawk would have a little of that vector graphics magic, but it sadly does not.

Here's why Star Hawk sucks: first of all, when I saw the game I thought I might descend into the trench itself at some point, but the game doesn't swing that way. You skim across the quick-spinning Death Star without ever approaching the thermal exhaust port (sure, it's only two meters wide, but I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, and they're not much bigger than two meters). Not only is the trench unapproachable, the scale of the Death Star seems off. Look at the picture above. Doesn't that Death Star look tiny due to its curvature? Not only is the scale off, the gameplay is misguided. At the top of the screen is a clock that counts down from 60 seconds. You try to shoot as many baddies and rack up as many points as you can in that time, and when the clock strikes 00, the word "End" appears on the screen and the game is over. The clock turns the game into pointless blasting rather than trying to reach some ultimate goal. I'm not necessarily opposed to some pointless blasting if it offers a challenge, but Star Hawk does not. The enemies never fire back. That simple point means that you can never die. You could literally not take a single shot and you would get the same ending that you would if you killed every single enemy. So where's the incentive to play the game? What am I shooting unarmed trench runners for? Am I the bad guy? This is all the result of poor design and it amounts to a really poor gaming experience.

Star Hawk features two game modes. The difference between the first and the second is that the crosshairs return to center in the second mode whereas they stay where you put them in the first. The problem with this is that because Vectrex controllers are seemingly never perfectly aligned (it's due to the fact that you're counting on 30 year old springs to return the potentiometers back to absolute zero, something they may not have done even when they were new). So the other game mode is highly unnecessary, as is the rest of this game.

The positive side of Star Hawk is that it is actually playable. You can play it all the way through and it functions in much the same way that a decent game would. It gives the vague sense that you are playing something that with a few tweaks might resemble a Star Wars game. So yeah, that's the upside.

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