As a quick note you have probably noticed that I have not been able to keep up with my weekly review format so I am just going to do reviews when I really have the time to sit down and write as when I do reviews I like to cover everything I can. This week I’m going back to 1980 to cover a game that not many gamers have had a chance to play, Cinematronic’s Rip Off.
Pirate tanks are attempting to steal your fuel canisters! Alone or with a friend protect the canisters from the pirates for as long as you can in the first game to employ co-operative play.
You are a tank and you have to protect a number of fuel canisters placed in the center of the screen from the thieving pirates who also happen to be tanks that can come in a number of different configurations. There are no number of lives that you have to keep track of – the goal is simply to get the highest score you can and keep the pirates from stealing all of your canisters. Once the last canister is dragged off the game ends. While this is a simple formula, it makes for a difficult as well as a fun game that works best with two players(the game was actually designed with co-op play as the primary factor as Tim Skelly read a market research of how people had a “desire to co-operate” while designing Rip Off). In fact in a single player game, Rip Off is quite difficult as with each successive wave of tanks the difficulty increases as does the intelligence of the pirates which can prove to be tough to handle on your own. The AI is rather impressive for a game from this time and when you first play it may catch you off guard. Hit the post break to read more.
Instead of the enemies simply flooding to the screen to grab the canisters and run off they will actually work together to distract you while the others run in and grab the canisters. While the enemy tanks have lasers that they can use to blast you, the range is fairly short so they have to get close to take you down and to do this most tanks are fast and they only get faster as each wave passes; to your advantage your tank has a long range cannon that can be used to blast them from a distance. With 2 players it is easier to handle the AI as you can devise a strategy with your friend where one player can cover the canisters while the other can focus on destroying pirates.
As the game occurs in waves, the player can pass a wave by destroying all of the set number of tanks that are supposed to appear or if the pirates manage to run away with a canister. Between each wave the game rewards players with a bonus wave where they face easy to target 10-point value tank (the higher the value the more intelligent the tank).
Control wise the game feels like Asteroids – there are two buttons for rotating your tank, one as the ‘gas’ to move you forward and then one for firing. It does feel a little unusual at first but if you are familiar with Asteroids then it hits home. Of course for many players today who only know of thumbsticks, triggers or waggling a remote around it would throw them off a bit but to anyone that gives it a chance it’s not impossible to learn to the point of being able to have fun. Admittedly however, I would have preferred a BattleZone-like dual joystick scheme to control the game.
Cinematronics is known for their love of using vector monitors on pretty much all of their games and Rip Off is no exception. While vector graphics are rudimentary especially by today’s standards there is a charm I find to these old vector games even today as the combination of a high resolution and extreme bloom creates a graphical experience that you don’t see unless the monitor is made to do such things. As such people don’t get the full vector experience when they emulate games on a standard monitor or when they see a vector game in still screen shots. Rip Off was made before color vector monitors made their brief debut on the scene but it’s monochrome look won’t turn any classic game fans away. One of the notable effects in the game are the explosions, which are simply awesome.
Along with the look of the explosions, the sound that compliments them are pretty nice. Otherwise there is not much else to speak of in this category other than it gets the job done, just don’t expect anything to really stand out.
As with most Cinematronics games the cabinet features incredibly detailed artwork done by the hand of comic book artist Frank Brunner who did the art for a few other Cinematronics games. While all Rip Off’s were supposed to go out with side art, it seems that many of them actually lack it for some unknown reason. (thanks go to the first copy of Syzygy Magazine which holds information on things like this). Still, what is there looks impressive.
Sadly Rip Off is one of those games that time forgot and a vast majority of gamers will never get a chance to play it as they don’t even know about it. Even among arcade gamers it is rare to find one someone familiar with the game and it is even harder to find an actual machine to play. With that being said, if you ever do come across one and you have a friend with you, give it a shot.
Images from the Rip Off KLOV entry