Early films, like early video games, didn’t require speech to be effective. Now, I’m not suggesting that movies aren’t overall better for the addition of speech. But, that doesn’t necessarily translate to the first video games that incorporated speech. Spike, for the Vectrex, falls into this category. Its 1982 box proudly proclaims Spike Speaks! Voice Synthesis Built In! No add-on component needed. And, for the time, it was truly a technical marvel. But, does the speech alone make it a good game? Nope. Fortunately, the gameplay can stand on its own.
In the game, you play Spike, whose love interest Molly is captured by the dastardly Spud. As she is whisked away, Molly cries out Eek! Help! Spike! in suitably feminine tones. Spike then replies, Molly! Oh No! and rushes to save her. All voices are also captioned by cartoony speech bubbles in case the gamer somehow misunderstands the computerish voice. Spike’s voice, while intelligible, is more than a little grating. And, you hear the voices at the beginning of each level.
Luckily for Spike, he can get by on his looks. He,s a pointy little fellow who is essentially a star with legs. To rescue Molly, Spike jumps across 3D platforms and climbs ladders to obtain the key to Molly,s prison. While doing this, he avoids some enemies called bouncers (they bounce) and birds (they fly).
Graphics are pretty good. The 3D platforms are a bit wavy on the Vectrex as they float along, but overall quite good. The cut scenes are very nice. The Vectrex overlay provides a purplish hue to the game and depicts a cityscape. This goes well with the platforms and ladders Spike negotiates.
Sound is also very good, and perhaps revolutionary for the time. There,s a nice tune that plays during the game. And, when Spike falls or gets killed by an enemy, he says Darnit.
Its nice to see that the Vectrex programmers didn’t just deliver a game with speech as the main feature. They delivered a fun platformer that also happens to speak.