Vapor Trail (Genesis) review
"In Vapor Trail you can take three hits before blowing up while your pilotís WONDERFULLY digitized voice utters something along the lines of ĒA gin olt gi!Ē (possible translation: ďI canít hold it!Ē). Oh, and this isnít just a case of giving a player one plane that can take three hits ó you have three lives, as well. Sure, the next life will start out with no weaponry beyond a weak gun, but this game still is far more generous than the average shooter."
After changing my Internet provider to RoadRunner, I quickly found out that until I upgrade my ancient (ie: beyond obsolete) Macís OS, I canít get online at home. And being that Iím a lazy, worthless slug, you just know Iíll be procrastinating that task for an eternity or two. So, with my usual late-night drunken routine of surfing video game sites, porn, pro wrestling sites, porn, movie review sites, porn, sports sites and porn put on temporary hiatus, I decided to dig through my stash oí games and try to fill the void.
And there is the epic tale of How Overdrive Came To Play Vapor Trail in a nutshell. Yep, while cursing the bane of technology more fervently than the most passionate Luddite, I was hopping into a state-of-the-art fighter jet to gun down an ungodly number of helicopters, tanks, jets and other assorted gizmos. My hypocrisy is limitless.
Ah well, itís cool, though. While this 1991 Genesis shooter never will be mistaken for one of the all-time classics and is quite lacking in certain aspects, Vapor Trail did keep me entertained for a while. While this game doesnít do a great number of things particularly well, what it does get right, it gets right!
Anyone whoís played Raiden, Twin Cobra or the stages of the Sonic Wings/Aero Fighters games that donít feature big apes or ghosts wonít be surprised by much here. After picking one of three planes, each differing in speed and shot power, players blast their way through six vertically-scrolling stages, going up against waves of military vehicles in a shooter that does tend to get pretty manic towards the end.
At the beginning, thereís very little that provides much of a fight. Enemies enter the screen at a leisurely pace only to be eradicated quickly. But that soon changes. The third missionís forest is loaded with aggressive gun-toting trains that take a LOT of punishment. During the fifth and final regular stage (the last one is little more than a boss fight), it is near impossible to not only dodge the bullet sprays emitted by jets as they twist their way down the screen, but also the seemingly infinite waves of kamikaze helicopters determined to knock you out of the sky by any means necessary.
Actually, about the only thing keeping this game from being as unforgiving as the average arcade shooter during those last couple of stages is its life meter. In a departure from the norm, your ship doesnít immediately disintegrate the instant something touches it. In Vapor Trail you can take three hits before blowing up while your pilotís WONDERFULLY digitized voice utters something along the lines of ĒA gin olt gi!Ē (possible translation: ďI canít hold it!Ē). Oh, and this isnít just a case of giving a player one plane that can take three hits -- you have three lives, as well. Sure, the next life will start out with no weaponry beyond a weak gun, but this game still is far more generous than the average shooter.
And thatís just one of the things that threatened to make Vapor Trail a very forgettable experience. There really werenít many weapons at all in this game. Collecting a power-up icon evolves the initial weapon into a pretty nice dual wave laser, but it wonít upgrade beyond that. Icons representing other weapons can be picked up, but unless you use your shipís bomb, youíll never see them. Doing this creates a very damaging explosion, while reducing your power and giving you whatever weapon you last grabbed -- of which, I only found the heat-seeking missiles remotely useful. Maybe I just wasnít understanding the gameís weapon scheme, but it didnít seem that well-designed to me.
Another thing that didnít impress me was how the game recycled the first levelís boss in the fifth -- just making it A LOT tougher to bring down. When a game only has six levels (with one of them essentially just being a boss fight), that sort of repetition is just sad. There also didnít seem to be a large number of regular foes, as I seem to recall seeing many of the same planes and tanks in most every level.
After hearing about those flaws, you might be wondering why I got any noticeable degree of entertainment from this game. Simply put, on an aesthetic level, Vapor Trail delivers in a big way. I found the levels and enemies to be attractive and this game has some of the best tunes Iíve heard in a 16-bit shooter. A lot of times, Iíll lose interest in military-themed shooters because, with a few exceptions, most everything seems so mundane compared to sci-fi ones, where the only limit seems to be the one imposed by the developerís imagination. This game was different though. I can still vividly recall how nice the nighttime city in level five looked and how eerily amazing the boss music in the fourth level sounded. The action in this game might not have been the best, but I still enjoyed playing it -- mostly because it looked and sounded so much better than Iíd been expecting.
As Iíve said, Vapor Trail isnít the most original or best-designed shooter Iíve played....but it is a decent little game to mess around with from time to time and every once in a while, it even pulls out a nice little surprise. When When a boss is near death, a voice gives the order to ďgo in for the killĒ (or maybe ďthe coreĒ....like I mentioned earlier, the voices in this game arenít the best). I have to admit, hearing the game tell me Iím on the verge of taking down a tough foe is pretty adrenalizing. Vapor Trail might not get everything right, but it did enough to give me a fun evening of gaming.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 13, 2007)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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