Gorf was a Midway came which came out in 1981, following hot on the heels of mighty early shooters like
Space Invaders and Galaxians. Instead of attempting a new game, Midway took the innovative step of
combining existing genres to produce what must be one of the first video games composed of distinct sub
games. In addition to this ground breaking move, the Gorf videogame was also one of the first to feature
speech. I remember being totally freaked by the Gorf speech as an 11 year old child and I have to admit, it
still spooks me now.
The structure of Gorf is divided into five stages providing hints of both past and future iconic eighties
videogames. The first and third stages are blatant descendents of Space Invaders and Galaxian while other
stages borrow ideas form games such as Phoenix. Gorf undoubtedly also contributed ideas too, being one
of the first shooters with true 8 way directional movement. Indeed, we can also see some Gorf-like
gameplay appearing in later videogames such as Exerion and Gyruss. The garish Gorf background colors
and freaky explosions with creeping red lines and unusual motherships must also be testament to the
influence of the Atari cold war classic Missile Command. All in all, Gorf was a huge and rich mix,
melding old ideas with new, and pushing the old Z80 board to produce what must be one of the first
examples of Slowdown, now fully emulated by the faithful MAME driver (or is it my useless Athlon 700?).
Sound effects and particularly explosions were handled in a brash, over the top fashion which somehow
ended up sounding good combined with the frightening speech of the alien consciousness, reproduced by a
spine-jarring demonic Speak and Spell. The constant (almost personal) vocal taunts "The end is near,
Space Cadet; Survival is impossible, Space Cadet; Prepare yourself for annihilation, Space Cadet" combine
beautifully with a deliberately frustrating pulse firing system (not one for the autofire enthusiast) creating
real frustration, tension and anxiety.
All in all, I think you can see that I like this game, but providing a score isnít going to be easy. The
graphics are nothing special, even for 1981, and you feel that there is a distinct lack of animation frames in
comparison to say, Phoenix. The sound and speech could prove annoying if you donít have the time to
explore what the voice is saying and appreciate the originality, apparent for a 1981 game. Likewise the
slowdown might be annoying for some, if they canít appreciate the limitations of a 1.78MHz Z80. On the
plus side emulation in MAME is near-perfect (if I remember the arcade machine correctly) but you do need
the sound samples. And at the end of the day it must be worth hearing the dialogue on this, the first dark
videogame (Gorf is Frog spelled backwards), so play alone, in the dark, with the sound cranked up.
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