The Game: One or two players are at the controls of speedy ground assault vehicles which can zip around an enclosed maze of open areas and buildings with almost mouse-like speed. Heavy tanks and armed helicopters routinely appear in this maze, attempting to shoot any player vehicles they spot; the player(s) can, in turn, fire back at both of these vehicles. Caution: a damaged tank may still be able to draw a bead, so it’s best to keep firing until the tanks are completely destroyed. (Cinematronics, 1980)
Memories: However popular Atari’s vector graphics games were, the real rock-solid workhorse of that genre of gaming was the comparitively small Cinematronics. Armor Attack (whose marquee cryptically punctuates the title as “Armor… …Attack“) was no household name like Asteroids, and it may have been a mere sleeper without being a sleeper hit; the game play, for the most part, dated back to Kee Games’ Tank! from several years earlier. But it’s fondly remembered today – and made enough of a mark for a unique home version.
Sadly, Armor Attack missed an opportunity to be deliciously open-ended: players could team up against the computer, but they couldn’t take on the computer opponents and each other. One wonders if the game’s designers had considered the competitive option – after all, when a screen is cleared of enemies, plenty of time is allowed for mayhem to continue before new ones appear. As it is, players are impervious to friendly fire. If only the world worked that way.
Cinematronics’ unusually large stable of vector games were left alone by early consoles; translating their delicate graphics to the clunky low-resolution raster graphics of the available machines was deemed impossible. Even when Atari worked up the nerve to try to translate Star Castle for the 2600, the end result was the very different and unlicensed Yars’ Revenge – it was simply not possible to duplicate Star Castle on the 2600 hardware.
But that same back catalog of vector games – steady quarter-earners without being Pac-Man-sized megahits – proved to be perfect for the Vectrex home vector console. GCE licensed many of Cinematronics’ vector games for home play. While the tall, thin Vectrex screen made changes to the playing field necessary, Armor Attack survived the translation intact.