Vectorman
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Genesis
  • Developer:
    • Blue Sky Software
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • US 10/24/1995
    • UK 11/30/1995
Score: 80%

This review was published on 04/30/2013.

Vectorman is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game with pre-rendered graphics originally released for the Sega Genesis console in 1995. In other words, Vectorman was Sega's answer to Donkey Kong Country. Many people were astonished that the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was capable of such graphics, so it's considerably more impressive to see these graphics running on the less powerful Genesis. Vectorman didn't sell nearly as well as Donkey Kong Country, but it did acquire critical acclaim, for good reason. Today Vectorman joins the ranks of obscure games, but it does have a stout cult following. Vectorman is definitely one of the more memorable games on the Genesis.

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In the year 2049, the entire population of Earth goes gallivanting around outer space in a vain attempt to colonize other planets. Pollution was so bad that the Earth became inhospitable to human life, so the humans bailed. To clean up their awful mess, the humans left behind these "orbot" robots. Disaster strikes when one of the head-honcho orbots ends up fusing with a nuclear missile and becomes a megalomaniac bent on world conquest. He then refers to himself as Warhead in his transformed state, because that sounds menacing. Warhead threatens to exterminate any humans that dare return to their planet, which creates a bit of a problem. Luckily, a modest orbot named Vectorman decides to take a stand against Warhead. Vectorman isn't exactly a fighter, as he was designed to clean up sludge, but he's the Earth's last hope. It's a pretty simple story once you get past all the unnecessary convolutions. Who really cares, though? Well, the game does, since it explains all of this during the intro. The good thing is that you can skip it, like how you probably skipped this paragraph.

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Basic game play in Vectorman consists of shooting things, a lot. In some ways, referring to Vectorman as a platform game is a misnomer, because shooting is as important, if not more so, than jumping. It's difficult to really categorize these games as one or the other, so let's just call it an action game. Vectorman can shoot an unlimited amount of projectiles in one of eight directions. What a champion. Aside from shooting projectiles, Vectorman's other core ability is to use his foot thrusters as a double-jump. My motto is that including double-jump in your game automatically makes it way better. That motto certainly holds up here, because this is one cool double-jump. The levels are intricately designed around the double-jump mechanic, so you don't want to forget about this ability. I say that because I often forget about it, which prevents me from progressing in certain areas. That's really no fault of the game, though. It helps to read the manual sometimes. The coolest thing about the double-jump is that it can damage enemies if aimed properly. You can't get more awesome than that, folks. Vectorman controls pretty well once you get the hang of his core functions.

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Plenty of power-ups can be found in the game to give Vectorman the slight edge he needs in his fight against Warhead. Power-ups are found inside of breakable TV monitors, similar to a series of games starring a blue hedgehog. The power-ups can be divided into two types, for the most part: ones that modify Vectorman's shooting ability, and ones that give him unique transformations. Yep, Vectorman can transform! Before I get to that, though, let's cover his shooting power-ups. Normally, Vectorman shoots a steady stream of boring bullets, but collecting certain power-ups can temporarily change that. There are things like a spread shot, a rapid-fire shot, a piercing shot, and some other stuff. Generally, any shot power-up you have will be more powerful than Vectorman's standard attack, but they can only be used until you run out of ammo. At least, I think it's based on ammo. It's either based on ammo or an arbitrary time limit. Either way, you don't get to keep them for long.

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As for Vectorman's transformation power-ups, there are a good number of them, as well. He can transform into a drill to break stuff, a bomb to destroy everything on the screen, a fish that swims around, and a couple of other things. Most of these transformations are used to find secrets via breaking through vulnerable ground or weak walls, like the bomb and drill, but some grant temporary invincibility and enhanced mobility, like the fish form. Lastly, there are a small amount of upgrades that permanently increase Vectorman's life gauge scattered throughout the game. These are not essential to completing the game, but obviously very beneficial. My only gripe with the power-ups is that all checkpoints are hidden inside of the TV monitors, so you never know what will be a checkpoint until you check. This makes it really easy to unwittingly pass up on a much-needed checkpoint. Other than that, Vectorman's power-ups pack a powerful punch.

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A grand total of 16 stages exist in Vectorman. While not all of these stages are long enough to warrant being counted, this amount of levels makes Vectorman one of the lengthier games of its type. There are no continues or saves, so it's back to the title screen if you lose your small stock of lives. This can be a problem given how long and hard the game can be. Thankfully, there is a level select code that allows you to continue from any level you'd like. A lot of the stages in Vectorman feature very nice looking environments with ambient music, which creates a nice sense of atmosphere that was lacking in games at the time. In particular, the water and ice stages are pretty great. Almost all of the stages are choke-full of secrets, too. The secrets are all worth getting, since they often lead to useful power-ups and extra lives. That's quite handy, because you'll need all the help you can get to complete this game, especially if you're anything like me.

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Where the stages occasionally fall short is in the level design department. There are instances of overly simplistic level designs in some stages, like the icy vertical climb in stage 4. The whole stage is just jumping onto platforms to ascend higher and higher until you get to the end, with not much else going on. Additionally, many of the early environments get recycled several times late in the game, which comes off as a tad lazy. The other problem is that there isn't much in the way of enemy variety. You fight the same handful of enemies all throughout the game. Vectorman does have more good stages than bad, however, so it pans out in the end.

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Most of the stages in Vectorman are the typical side-scrolling fair, but there are a few that change up the formula. The crazy stuff happens as early as stage 2, a stage in which Vectorman transforms into a train and rides on tracks while fighting off a boss. There's a different control scheme just for this section, too. It's a short section, but it does add a nice bit of variety to the game. Not all of these sections are good, though. Some of them can be annoying, like this one where Vectorman crawls around in an overhead view, avoiding huge fists and trying not to fall off a giant conveyer belt. And then there are the weird ones, like the disco dance stage. I don't get this one at all, but I find it to be a treat. I mean, how can you not like disco? It's entirely possible that you may not enjoy a single one of these gimmick stages, as they're very much a love or hate it type of thing. If you don't like them, then don't fret, because there aren't too many of them in the game. The developers of Vectorman probably felt pressured to include these stages due how prevalent they were during the era. It's also possible they felt that the main game wasn't strong enough on its own. I say the gimmick stages help make the game more memorable, even if some of them are annoying.

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Bosses in Vectorman are a mixed bag. Some of them are cool, but some of them aren't. One thing that definitely blows about the boss fights is the lack of a boss theme. I know that's a minor complaint, but it does impact the feel of these fights. Besides, basically every single video game boss back then had boss music, so why does Vectorman not do that? It's a legitimate point. As for the fights themselves, they can be a bit lackluster. The first boss in the game is easily the best one, being that it's an enormous, impressive looking plane that carpet bombs you and has ball and chains attached to its wings. There's nothing cooler than that. You'd think it can only get better from there, but it kind of doesn't. Don't get me wrong; there are still some cool bosses after this one, but there are a lot that are mediocre. An example of one of the mediocre bosses is a robot that rides on a ball thing. Hitting it makes it shoot a bunch of projectiles all over the place, and that's about it, really. You just keep hitting it and avoiding the projectiles until it dies. It's a tedious fight. The way the boss casually rolls onto the screen is also very nonchalant. This coupled with the lack of boss music made the whole experience feel cheap. Another issue is the simple fact that there aren't many bosses in the game. The lack of boss fights doesn't ruin the game, but it's safe to say that boss battles aren't one of Vectorman's strengths.

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Vectorman is a pretty good game for the Sega Genesis, but it's not without its faults. The bosses are a bit weak, some of the gimmick levels can be annoying, and the design of certain areas in the game can be a bit lacking. Where Vectorman prevails is in good graphics, great music, and fun game play. If you can get past some of the flaws, then there's a perfectly enjoyable game to be had here. Vectorman isn't the Donkey Kong Country killer Sega was hoping for, but it's still a game worth playing.

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