Shaggy's Review: Rip Off by Cinematronics

Shaggy February 28, 2008 4

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.

Rip Off by Cinematronics
Players: 1-2
Released: 1980


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.

Game Mechanics

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 withripoff2.png 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 thatripoff1.png 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

[Discuss on the Forum]


  1. Brian Deuel February 28, 2008 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Have you read Tim’s article about how he designed the AI for Rip Off? You can find at it

    I’m sure you read Tim’s History of Cinematronics at the Giant List site, but from what I can gather, the principals of that company were cheap, cheap, cheap; which may explain the lack of sideart on some Rip Off machines.

    I too would have preferred a joystick-like control for Rip Off, but for button-happy 1979, I understand why they didn’t use one. Joysticks (or “levers”) were a Japanese thing at the time 🙂

    And last but not least, Syzygy Magazine. It’s too bad JWC couldn’t find contributors to keep the magazine alive. I myself enjoyed writing for it, and although it mostly covered classic arcade games, he had some very original ideas and a specific concept of how it should be put together. I think it’s really cool that Steven Kent put a quote from my review of The First Quarter in his second edition. Just had a brag a little 🙂

    Great review of a great game!

  2. Shaggy February 28, 2008 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    I hadn’t read that article, thanks for the link!The only info I’ve read on Tim came from Syzygy magazine and they did mention how Cinematronics was very cheap as you know. Syzygy was an awesome magazine, it’s too bad they couldn’t continue on. With their large arcade focus I think that if they tried the concept again they could do well today as interest in arcades seems to be increasing but it is difficult to publish a game magazine these days because of the internet. It’s cool that you got a quote in there – JWC alluded to me in one of his interviews about Tempest 3000 – I talked a bit about NUON stuff with him back in the day as I ran a NUON fan site.

    I actually had never heard of Rip Off (or Cinematronics for that matter) until Syzygy. I love vectors though so I was happy to find out about games like Rip Off. I’d still really like to come across a Cosmic Chasm but those are even harder to find than other Cinematronics games, except for maybe Warrior.

  3. keith maehrlein August 24, 2009 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Is Rip Off & Star Castle available to purchase for PC’s? If so where might I acquire them?
    It would be great if someone responded. Thanks!

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