'Long live', or 'so long'?

Source // Arcade Museum

Reading about Gorf didn't exactly get me hyped. "Another space shooter," I said to myself, "what does it do differently?"

Turns out it has a clearly defined mission structure, which mixes the gameplay up a little, has shots that you can cancel, in effect, so that you aren't waiting for a wild miss to keep on missing before you can fire again, and even outright rips off Galaxian, name and all. So that's bold.

But does the game live up to it all?


I wouldn't have a clue, I can't emulate it. Well, to be more specific, I can't emulate the graphics. The sound works, my virtual coins are detected, so is my fire button, but you can't play Gorf without looking at the screen, so I've got to resort to a port.

This here is the Atari 5200 port, which doesn't look too bad. Shame it plays a lot worse. I can only seem to move my ship into one of four different places on the screen, two of which are at the very sides, as you can see. Why this is the case I don't know. Blame emulation. I can't imagine it shipping in this state back in 1982.

As you can tell, Mission 1 looks an awful lot like Space Invaders. Plays a lot like it too. It basically is Space Invaders, without calling it Space Invaders. It's not looking too good for Gorf to break into some new territory and really get me interested.

This version will have a hard time doing so, at least, so I am faced with an Atari 2600 port instead.

I've got some woes with capturing all the elements on screen, resulting in a fair few empty screenshots, but here's most of Mission 2, minus a giant laser from the purple ship. It moves pretty fast, it's tricky to shoot down, but it's a new kind of gameplay. After just another Space Invaders level, a change of any kind is nice.

From here, the ports skip over Mission 3 from the arcade, so I headed to YouTube to find out why.

It's Galaxians. Both Gorf and Galaxians are published by Midway, but still, to just grab an entire game and bundle it into a level in another, it's not really the done thing, is it? We even started with a Space Invaders clone.

Other missions include some fancy Space Warps (and the Atari 2600 could not do fancy space warps in any way, shape or form. Imagination is a must), and the final Flag Ship boss level. Varied, should you be skilled enough to get there (or have a version of the game where you even can).

Final Word

Gorf's mission structure appears to tell a story, where your ship battles through an invasion force in the upper atmosphere on Earth, pushes through the alien defences until it finally reaches the Flag Ship, defeating it and then, well, looping back and doing those five missions all over again until you run out of lives.

Could that have been told with a different set of game mechanics, rather than clones of what was already successful? Perhaps there's an argument to be made that, if you want a variety of games without sinking too much money into arcade cabinets that having a bunch of a games in one is a nice idea, but to me it seems a bit forced.

Maybe if I get a chance to play it, rather than watch it, I'd have a change of opinion, it's hard to tell. All I can say for sure is that I hope the next space shooter is revolutionary.

Fun Facts

A sequel to Gorf would go unreleased, and is known as Ms. Gorf...

Gorf, developed by Dave Nutting Associates, first published in 1981.
Versions played: Atari 5200, 1982, via emulation.
Atari 2600, 1982, via emulation.
Versions watched: Arcade, 1981.