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Paratroopers

Gravitrexplus

Developer John Dondzila
Publishers Classic Game Creations
Freeware
Packrat Video Games, LLC
System Vectrex
Release Dates 2002 (on Gravitrex Plus)
2014 (re-release)
Mode Single player only
Media Cartridge
ROM file

BackgroundEdit

Gravitar was an arcade game that took some of the elements of Asteroids (the controls and free flight abilities of the player's['] ship[s]) but made them more restrictive by placing players inside a series of planets. Players had to skim surfaces of the planets and destroy all the bunkers therein, as well as beam up fuel cells to maintain their fuel level(s) and avoiding or destroying saucers that would also appear. The game did not do very well commercially and would only be ported to the Atari 2600 a few years later (although it has reappeared on some modern day compilations since).

Gravitrex is a clone of Gravitar, although with many differences, such as the addition of humans dotting the planetary landscapes that have to be rescued, and the Gravitrex Plus cart also includes two bonus games and other features as well. One of these games is Paratroopers, a clone of the Apple II game Sabotage.

All games are for one player only.

ParatroopersEdit

(Note: Paratroopers is actually a hidden bonus game on the Gravitrex Plus cart, which, on the password select menu, GAME must be entered in order to access the game.)

In the Apple II game Sabotage, the player controlled a gun turret at the bottom center of the screen. Helicopters would fly overhead, dropping parachutists; if too many landed (four on either side of the player’s turret), the game would end. Later jet planes would drop bombs. The player earned points for everything they shot down but they would be penalized one point for every shot they fired as well.

Paratroopers is a simplified clone of Sabotage, having only planes that drop parachutists. If a parachutist makes it to the ground, it will start moving towards the player’s gun and destroy the gun once they reach it (as the troopers would not move on the original). The player would not be penalized for shots fired, however, along with only being able to shoot straight missiles (as Sabotage also gave the player the option of having steerable missiles if they chose to), plus the troopers don’t explode into pieces when shot and occasionally take out other troopers like on the original. There is also just one constant wave until the player is eventually overrun and the game ends (which it reads “We win!” on the screen), unlike how there is an obvious change with Sabotage when the deadlier aircraft appears that drops bombs.

ControlsEdit

  • Turn turret (left and right)–buttons 1 and 2 or D-pad or joystick
  • Fire–button 4

ScoringEdit

  • Paratrooper–1 point
  • Plane–10

Other included gamesEdit

Gravitrex PlusEdit

The player controls a fighter ship that begins each game in a solar system. There is a sun in the middle and several planets to choose from to enter so the player can start their mission. If the player takes too long with choosing a planet, a pair of space saucers will emerge from the reactor planet and will engage the player in a dogfight if they get close enough (although the player can just elude them by entering a planet). If the player’s ship gets destroyed or the player shoots both saucers then the player will return to the main solar system screen.

Once the player enters a planet by thrusting into it, they must destroy every enemy bunker on the surface and dispose of every fuel tank and human. Humans and fuel tanks can be shot (although the player will not receive any points for doing so), but a bonus is given if all humans are rescued on a level, plus fuel tanks are needed to keep up the player’s fuel level (which is indicated by a line right next to the score at the top left of the screen). Humans and fuel tanks can be teleported into the player’s ship by maneuvering their ship close and activating the teleporter/shields function. Once all bunkers have been destroyed and all humans and fuel tanks have been disposed of, a sound effect will signal that the mission is complete, and upon leaving the planet, it will self-destruct and the player will be given a bonus for that planet.

The exception to this rule is the lone reactor planet on each level, which has only one target – a reactor – deep inside it. This planet is different than all the others, as the player is given 99 time units to make their way through a brief maze, shoot the reactor, and get out before time runs out or else the player’s ship will be destroyed and the reactor will remain intact. If the player does not destroy this planet last in a level then it clears out the space saucers for the remainder of the level, since this is the planet that they emerge from.

Dangers include the player’s ship crashing if it runs out of fuel, plus the ship will be destroyed if shot by a bunker, space saucer or alien air interceptor (which are similar to space saucers but they appear inside a planet), if they crash into a wall, the sun, space saucer or alien air interceptor, or do not leave the reactor planet before their time runs out. If the player runs out of reserve ships then the game will end. The player’s fuel, however, is replenished mostly from a fuel tank and is fully replaced upon destroying a planet, finishing a level, or with each new ship. The player’s teleporter function also doubles as a shield to protect them from enemy fire. Also, if the player defeats all planets in a level, then that level’s sun will go nova, various bonuses are then awarded, and if the player defeats the third level the game will end, giving a congratulations message as well as sharing some trivia about Gravitrex from the game’s programmer John Dondzila on the screen.

Patriots III Ballistic Busters (background)Edit

Missile Command was an arcade game where players had to defend six cities with three missile bases from enemy missile, plane and satellite attacks. If all six cities were destroyed with no remaining cities in reserve then the game would end.

Patriots III is a clone of Missile Command, although with some minor differences in game play.

GameplayEdit

Missiles come raining down from the top of the screen, which the player must place their target cursor in appropriate places below the missiles and fire from one of their three Patriot launchers in hopes of stopping the missiles. Enemy saucers and bombers will also appear and drop their own missiles, as well as Smart Bombs (starting with the third wave) making direct beelines for bases or launchers, which evade the player’s fire. The player has unlimited firepower, although after firing several shots from the same launcher in a row, the launcher will have to reload (as noted by an onscreen exclamation point over the launcher) and the player will not be able to fire from that launcher again for a few seconds.

Six bases have to be protected along with the three missile launchers; when an enemy missile or Smart Bomb hits one of these, it is destroyed. However, with every 10,000 points, a base will brought back. The game ends when there are no remaining bases in reserve after they are all destroyed.

TriviaEdit

  • Versions of Sabotage were released called Paratrooper in the early 1980s for PCs and the VIC-20.
  • Gravitrex Plus was discontinued in late 2013 when programmer John Dondzila did not have the time any more to produce any physical copies of his games along with working his day job. Packrat Video Games, LLC started publishing the cartridge again about a year later.

LinksEdit

  • Gravitrex Plus official page
  • Vectrex.nl review of Gravitrex Plus (9.2/10)
  • Click on the appropriate tabbers below for a review or some playing tips.

ReviewEdit

First off, I can't compare this game to Sabotage, since I've never played it. So this review is just on Paratroopers on its own merit.

One of the very few bad things (just to get it out of the way) is that I think the Autofire Dongle device would be good for it, as it would save you from pressing the fire button every time to shoot, rather than holding it down (which works for Bedlam for the same system); why this feature wasn't included is beyond me.

One thing I cannot BELIEVE is how addicting Paratroopers is! But then, Dondzila's done that before (i. e. surprised me), like with Vector Vaders 2 The Director’s Cut, as somehow he makes the simplest games very addicting...amazingly addictive for only a 2K game, actually.

Games are very short -- in half an hour you can literally play 15-20 games -- and perhaps occasionally it would be good to have some kind of end to a round or something, but no, this is constant attack until you're destroyed. It's relentless and sometimes unfair, but oh well. I've been playing this for months, along with Gravitrex (even though I beat that in only a little over 24 hours after I first got the cartridge), although Patriots III is too hard and too much of a button-masher to be likable. The cart in all is still killer though, and one of the "must haves" for the Vectrex, even though Gravitrex takes some pretty steady nerves and isn't for everyone. 7/10 for Paratroopers, 9/10 for the cart altogether

(review by Darrylb500)

Playing tipsEdit

  • For the most part, you're going to have to shoot planes in the lowest corners first, as you only have a limited range of fire, and if they drop off a paratrooper in these corners out of your firing range then you can kiss your game goodbye. And speaking of which, remember those areas of the screen where your shots won't reach! So try to keep those areas clear (again, from planes in the low corners) before disaster strikes.
  • Although I don't have one to test it out, I assume using an AutoFire Dongle (made specifically for the Vectrex) would work well with this game, rather than constantly pressing the fire button.
  • It won't be long in a game before you should be constantly firing. You should also shoot as many enemies as possible while facing in one direction, keeping that side clear.
  • Shoot paratroopers to keep yourself alive, of course, but planes are worth 10 times more points than they are, which is something to keep in mind when going for a high score and paratroopers are on the ground, so you're going to have only seconds to rack up as many points as possible.
  • When troopers are falling from the sky, descending in the corners and over or by your base, shoot the troopers in the corners first for the most part (especially before they fall in that area where they are out of your shooting range), since they're more dangerous, and then you'll have more time to deal with the closer ones.
  • Once troopers are on the ground, ignore ones that will file in behind them once they touch down while shooting as many planes as possible for maximum points. Only shoot down troopers that will end your game more quickly, like shown below: as you can see the troopers on the ground already, just ignore the one in the D position at left, for instance, since by the time it lands, the ones at the A position will have destroyed you by then. Same goes with troopers C and B (at right); however, if trooper B were a lot closer--say at position E--then it should be shot, while still ignoring the trooper at position D or even further left than that.

Paratroopers


(playing tips by Darrylb500)


This article was featured from January - February, 2015.

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