Major Havoc


Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: ?

Sound: ?

Gameplay: ?

Overall: 9

In the glorious game rooms of the 80s, some blockbuster games were everywhere (Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Star Wars, Dragon’s Lair, Punch Out!!…) while others were not (Gladiator, Blaster, Zookeeper, Major Havoc.) Well, okay, Gladiator wasn’t a blockbuster, and now that I think about it, it was everywhere for some odd reason…

Some of the games that weren’t widely available developed an “underground” following, making them (theoretically) all ripe for the picking for this issue (dig!) of DP. However, one of them stood helmet and shoulders above the others, and in addition, actually took place (at least partially) “underground.” That game is Major Havoc.

While Major Havoc was most often seen in retired Tempest cabinets, one of the few dedicated machines found its way to our local arcade and immediately relieved me of just about every quarter I had. This stunning vector game is the story of a man (or at least, a man’s clones) on a mission. And reactor sabotage. And space-fish.

The player guides Major Havoc through deep space where he fights off a flurry of spaceships or, depending on the level, pilots his spacecraft through a maze. He must then carefully land (in a nod to previous Atari-vector hit, Lunar Lander, no doubt) his ship on the surface of a space station that contains a nuclear reactor which is safely tucked away… underground!

Havoc drops below the surface of the station and must venture through a maze filled with robots (perkoids), fireballs (pyroids), beams of electricity, and other unpleasantness. Upon reaching the reactor, Havoc must set it to self destruct and then “GET OUT!!” before it explodes.

The game is played with a paddle controller and two buttons, jump/fire (depending on the current screen) and shield. In the underground portion of the game, the longer the jump button is held down, the higher Major Havoc will jump. In order to successfully navigate the mazes and find the reactor, just the right balance of jump-button pressing and paddle spinning must be maintained. Jump too high or spin to fast into a wall and WHAM! Havoc hits the maze before falling down hard. Dizzy, he shakes off the cobwebs before proceeding. Unfortunately, while dizzied, Havoc is a sitting duck for any of the enemies patrolling the area, since he is weaponless outside of the ship, and has limited use of the shield.

Major Havoc is arguably the best vector game ever designed. The subtle details in this game are nothing short of astonishing. From the reserve Majors Havoc tapping their feet in anticipation of the mission, to the incredible soundtrack, this game always has something going on that begs the question, “how can one game be so good?”

Games like Major Havoc don’t come along too often, and sadly, due to the poor timing of its release, many people never got the chance to give this phenomenal coin-op a whirl. Its stunning graphics and sound are matched by equally outstanding gameplay, and lots and lots of hidden (or not so hidden – Breakout anyone?) “extras.” The arcade game was buried a long time ago, but gamers round the world should do themselves a favor and dig up Major Havoc.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:27 PM