Polar Rescue Vectrex
Review by Al Backiel GCE Action/Simulation
Graphics: 8 Sound: 6 Gameplay: 7 Overall: 7

polarrescue.gif (1503 bytes)The ‘Polar’ part of the title was probably inspired by the nuclear submarine USS Nautilus, when it made headlines for successfully completing a voyage under the North Pole (Aug. 7, 1958). The ‘Rescue’ part of the title was probably inspired by the fate of the USS Thresher which sank with all aboard (Apr 10, 1963). At the time a rescue was impossible. If it happened today, the crew might have a better chance. History tends to repeat itself and both of these events were later subject to deja vu.

Polar Rescue is the best submarine simulation I have ever played. The ‘pinging’ sound of the radar gives the game an eerie feeling of solitude. The line graphics are nicely drawn. A few game elements are similar to the Star Trek cart such as the launch (submerging) and the docking (rescue) sequences. In this case, the docking is with an escape pod to "rescue the survivors of an ill-fated expedition". The manual does not provide any other explanation. We could be talking about another submersible, a space capsule or even an all-terrain vehicle, that fell through the ice. The radar scope is reminscent of Robot Tank (2600). In that you basically have to keep circling so that enemy subs can not draw a bead on you, but you can line up your shot. If you are directly facing an enemy sub, it is almost always fatal unless you luck out and intercept his torpedo and even then there’s the concussion. I don’t feel it is worth wasting your torpedoes on ice chunks or mines. It is better to dodge them by diving under them since firepower is scarce. Seek out subs instead, because when you destroy them, you pick up whatever oxygen or torpedoes they have left. Besides I think you have to destroy x number of subs in order to get to the escape pod.

From the start of each round you should keep diving deeper and deeper, doing battle when feasible. Don’t worry about the needle facing north unless you are close to a rendezvous. At this point the regular display will switch to cross-hairs which must be lined up together in the center. A successful docking completes the round and replenishes your supplies. If you have trouble docking, try slowing down and maintaining a steady speed. If that still doesn’t work try diving below the pod and come upwards again. There are several handicaps I feel I should warn you about. You can be forced into battle mode if you take too long to dock. Also just like in Doom you can attacked from behind, so you have to watch your butt. The needle sometimes goes into a wild spin and you have to work your way out of it by going into battle or trying to slow it down. As far as resources, try not to let your oxygen dip below half full or your torpedoes go below a dozen. If you hear a thumping sound, you are scraping an ice chunk. Dive down to escape. A maelstrom can be waited out to escape. Bubbles are harmless. Mines are very deadly and should be avoided at all costs.

All in all this game is difficult to master due to the intentionally limited control given to the sub and the tricky docking maneuver. It also requires patience since you have to seek out both friends and foes. I recommend checking out the excellent sub flick, Das Boot, to put you in the mood. This is one of the rarest carts from the final days of the Vectrex. It has been placed in the public domain via the Internet and can be found on certain multicarts like Sean Kelly’s.