If someone says Atari vector graphics based game from 1983, your mind will most likely think of the epic Star Wars game. However, Atari also released a game called Major Havoc or The Adventures Of Major Havoc if you prefer.
Major Havoc has quite the pedigree behind it with Owen Rubin being the lead developer as well as Mark Cerny, who worked on many of the levels. If that name sounds familiar, it is because he has worked on games such as Crash Bandicoot and even the first Uncharted!
Anyway, let’s jump in our spaceship and get ready to take down the evil Vaxxian robots! That is basically the story of Major Havoc. It is told through text and for the time it is actually pretty in depth and it does give you a sense of purpose and make you feel like the galaxy is on the line!
The arcade cabinet used a dedicated roller controller to move left and right as well as an action button. These dedicated Major Havoc cabinets are pretty rare, and you are more likely to come across a game like Tempest that was converted into a Major Havoc as the spinner knob worked really well with the game.
Game play is actually really, really fun. The first aspect of the game is a shooter where you control Major Havoc’s spaceship as you try to find the various Vaxxian space stations. It plays just like a shooter — you need to watch out for enemy projectiles all the while taking down as many of them as you can. Once you arrive at the space station, the game changes styles dramatically.
It becomes a 2D platform game where the objective is for you to reach the reactor core and blow it up! It is kind of like a maze, you need to pick up O2 canisters as you go and make jumps. The controls are very good, kind of floaty, but that is intentional as it is supposed to be like what it was like if you were really in space…… and a hero trying to take down an evil robotic army!
Once you make it to the core and touch it all hell breaks loose. You then have a short amount of time to get back to your spaceship and make it to a safe distance. This is where you will be thankful for those tight controls as this is the major challenge of the game. The later levels especially can be brutally tough, just giving you barely enough time to escape. You can get a shield that can help you on your escape, but you better make sure you use it at the right time.
When you leave a space station and enter another shooter section, the game changes things up be it with a maze stage or a different configuration of the enemies. The maze stage, in particular, is very interesting in that enemies fly from the top of the screen and build a maze as they do. You need to shoot them quickly to prevent them from building a maze so that you have an easier time getting through, such a great and innovative idea that is still fun to this day.
Major Havoc would not be ported to any of the home systems of the era, it would not be until many years later as part of various collections such as the Atari Anthology that the game would make it home. In all, it is a very fun game and one that does not get the love that it deserves.
However just recently Arcade1Up put out a Classic Atari Home Arcade Cabinet that features Major Havoc as one of the games included.
Star Wars Arcade is always the vector based game that your mind thinks of when you look back at this time, but Major Havoc is right up there with it when it comes to awesome vector graphics style games.