20 Games – Scramble

The best arcade game of all-time. Scramble was such a huge leap from Space Invaders. When it first appeared in arcades in 1981 it was the game everyone clamoured around. Usually it was being clocked by some older kid, but just watching Scramble was still almost enough.

When you actually got to get a go on Scramble it was (and still is) a dream to play. Your ship has freedom, up, down, left, right. Equipped with bullets and bombs it was an easy game to get the feel of due to its intuitive controls.

The first wave saw a volcanic moon look populated with Fuel Tanks, Rockets and Mystery Blobs. With the rockets taking off at your ship randomly you were kept on edge. After a few goes you’d pluck up the courage to take your ship down to the rock levels. You’d start using the thrust and reverse to great advantage.

Wave Two sees ambling UFO’s thrown into the mix. Constant solid firing was required to take them UFO’s down. All the time you’d need to keep a beady eye on the fuel tanks below and time your bombs to perfection. When a UFO weaved past your bulletstorm you’d need to employ the thrust and reverse or you’d be down a life.

Onto Wave Three and quickly you dive down to base level and waves of indestructible fireballs surge at you. Hopping around the rocky base, again using thrust and reverse you’d be taking out fuel tanks, mysteries and rockets. At this point you’d usually be awarded your extra life for reaching 10,000.

As the fireballs pass you lock back your reverse to climb the visually brilliant Wall Level (Wave Four). Squashed at the top of the screen you take out everything you can. Rockets launching from the wall gave little (no) warning.

After the wall you are encased in The Maze (Wave Five). If you’ve managed to bluff your way through this far this is where your ship controls will be put to the real test. Fuel Tanks fill the maze. With no room to manoeuvre you need to thrust and rapid fire at the same time. Lock back the reverse after that thrust or you will not make the next Maze trap section.

At the very end is The Master. Two plans here, either go into the lair kamikaze – or time a very cute bomb. Both moves are difficult to master. Then that’s it – you’ve clocked it back round again with faster decreasing fuel.

I could at best clock Scramble three times in a row on one 10p. This took an age to master. That feel of driving the ship is what marks Scramble apart, it’s quite a unique gaming experience. Forget Defender, who could play that anyway? This was the real deal.

In 1982 I went to Alton Towers but on discovering the arcade and that they had Scramble I was not interested in The Corkscrew at all.

It is on XBOX Live as an arcade game, if you buy it do play it with the “Classic” (original) settings.

When Scramble was removed from the local chip shop in 1984 I went into a state of mourning. I mean who wants to play Ghosts N Goblins….

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