Vektor Wars is an 80s-inspired arcade shooter from Super Icon. While I can’t exactly comment on the heyday of 80s arcade games from personal experience, what I can say is that there’s joy – as well as frustration – to be found in the game.
The general objectives in Vektor Wars are simple: defeat the waves of enemies and get the highest score possible. There are four variations on this theme, taking place over a selection of modes to suit your preference, but the fundamental gameplay is fairly similar: once you’ve mastered one mode, you’ve essentially mastered them all.
Mastery, however, is something that doesn’t come easily in Vektor Wars. The game gets challenging fast, thanks to merciless enemies and a steep difficulty curve, but the biggest hurdle is the almost complete absence of in-game instructions. When you start a new game, you’re thrown into the action immediately; there’s no tutorial to speak of, and no discussion of controls or mechanics. The game also forgoes any sort of in-game quick reference guide, so there’s nowhere to look in-game for pointers. Unfortunately, this makes working out the basics a proper ordeal: there’s nothing worse than trial-and-error when you’re low on health and you’re under enemy fire.
This lack of a clear explanation also extends to other core mechanics and objectives within the game. For example, Vektor Wars offers score multipliers, but never explains how or why these are granted; it takes a while to realise that they’re actually physical items dropped by defeated enemies, and that you must physically collect them to boost your score. Likewise, there are ‘robodudes’ to rescue and powercubes to collect, and a brief message on the main menu will tell you that the latter can be used to activate communication stations, but it’s easy to miss if you don’t spend long on the menu screen. As for the robodudes, who knows? I have no idea what they’re there for, and the game doesn’t make it easy to find out.
These issues are a shame, because the gameplay is otherwise solid. Once you get past the initial roadblocks, exploring each level and blowing up enemies is excellent fun. The game refuses to hand-hold in any way, offering minimal health drops and fairly sparse shelter in which to take cover, but this forces you to be strategic and push yourself to the limit. It’s incredibly satisfying to see your skills improve as you spend more time with the game, even if the controls don’t quite feel as natural as some other titles out there. There is also a satisfying variety of weapons and enemies with every new level, which keeps things feeling fresh.
The game is striking in its visuals and audio, with every level offering a distinct atmosphere while maintaining a consistent neon aesthetic. Things can and do get crazy, though; when you’re blowing up multiple enemies at once, it’s common for the special effects, screen shake, explosions, and score alerts to get so overwhelming that you can’t really see or hear anything past it all. This can also entail sharp framerate drops, but unfortunately there’s no option to tone the settings down for a more user-friendly experience.
Vektor Wars is exactly how it sells itself: a fairly intense arcade shooter that won’t hold your hand. If you’re willing to look past its oversights, you may just find yourself coming back for more.
Vektor Wars £9.99
Vektor Wars may be lacking in polish in some areas, but fans of first-person shooters are likely to find some enjoyment after pushing through its flaws.