Bally/Midway's 1981 Solar Fox
Solar Fox is a deceptively simple looking game. It's part shooter, part maze game, and has surprising depth to it.

The goal is straightforward enough - clear each level of Fuzors (flashing dots), and avoid being shot by the Thrustors that patrol the edges of the playfield. You have a four-way joystick, a fire button and a speed control button. You can choose to move fast or slow by default, which determines whether the speed control button slows you down, or speeds you up.

Moving slowly makes it easier to maneuver and avoid getting shot, but you have to move fast if you want to beat the "Skip-A-Rack" timer which lets you advance more quickly through the game and get higher scores. Plus, speed is essential during the Challenge Racks, where one mistake will cost you valuable bonus points.

Fuzors can either be shot or just run over at first, but as the game progresses, they take more than one hit to get rid of. There are also several ways to deal with the Thrustors, some more effective than others. Watching the attract mode a few times will help you get a handle on what's what. Some of the items in the game are helpful, while others just get in your way.

The audio is first-rate, with nice use of stereo effects. There's also plenty of variety in the playfield layouts that will keep you coming back to this game for quite some time.

Missing Ingredient
Auto-fire. There's so much going on in this game, that just keeping track of your speed and position is more than enough to handle. Having a gun that fired a few bursts automatically as you held the button down would have helped a lot. I'm usually so busy maneuvering the ship around, I often forget to fire at all. However, that could have something to do with how I discovered Solar Fox.

Similar to Anarcade Vet's experience with Gravitar, I first played the Atari 2600 version of Solar Fox, and it became one of my favorite games for that system. Due to the 2600's single-button joystick, they left the fire button completely out of that version. While the complexity of the game was also reduced, it was still a fun and challenging game, without ever firing a shot.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


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