Vectrex Racing Games – Hyperchase & Pole Position

Racing based video games have been a gaming staple since they started showing up in arcades in the 1970’s and finding their way onto the home consoles of the late 70’s/early 80’s. The first racing game available for the Vectrex, Hyperchase, is a high speed formula 1 racer with a third person perspective and sharp vector graphics. The game does a great job of providing the illusion of both speed & turns with the quickly passing scenery and angling roadway to one side of the screen or the other depending on which direction you’re turning. Hyperchase looks great and plays fast and fun but has a steep learning curve due to the controls. All 4 buttons on the Vectrex controller are used during the course of the game. You use buttons 1 & 2 to shift up and down, button 3 is used for the brake and button 4 is the accelerator. To top it off from a difficulty standpoint, the joystick that you use to move your car back and forth across the road require precision control. Sometimes it feels like only a slight move too far in one direction will result in a crash along the side of the road. In the first game option, your goal is to drive the length of the course in the shortest amount of time possible with unlimited cars to accomplish this. In the second game option, your goal is to rack up the highest score with only 5 cars available. I do think this game has its merits and looks great today but the difficulty makes it an infrequent play for me.

Pole Position, on the other hand, is an easier game to master but that doesn’t necessarily make it a better game. Pole Position was a highly influential arcade title utilizing the 3rd person behind the car approach that is so common in racing games today. You must race one lap around the track in less than 120 seconds to qualify for a 4 lap race while avoiding hazards on the road such as water, oil and of course, other cars. Unlike Hyperchase, you only have 1 car but your goal is to finish each lap in the allotted time in order to continue on the race. Each crash or slowdown you experience will reduce your chances of being able to reach the goal before your timer runs out. You must use the controller buttons to switch from first and second gear as well as accelerate but there is no brake feature to worry about. Pole Position is a pretty faithful rendition minus the color and the “Prepare to Qualify” announcement at the beginning of the race. I personally prefer Pole Position over Hyperchase but can likely be attributed to my familiarity with Pole Position which makes it easier for me to play.

Both of these titles came with my original Vectrex purchase 15 years ago and today, Pole Position can go for $50 for the cart only. I have the box and overlay but somehow missing the manual. Not a big deal besides wanting it to complete my collection. Hyperchase is a common title and goes for between $10-15 for a loose cart. Pole Position was not part of the initial launch titles for the Vectrex so it’s safe to assume that the production runs were lower and likely less carts were sold since the Vectrex was a commercial failure in 1982-1983.

Currently in my collection:

Hyperchase: game, manual, overlay and box. C+

Pole Position: game, overlay and box. B

Wish List: Pole Position manual.

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