The explosion in the popularity of video games was extraordinary. New home consoles such as the Atari 2600 and the CBS ColecoVision quickly appeared and merely had to be hooked up to a TV to enjoy an arcade experience of sorts, but one system went even further with a portable all-in-one system that had its own TV built in.
The Vectrex console was originally launched by American company GCE in 1982, but Milton Bradley (makers of children's games such as Operation, Guess Who? and Twister) soon took over the running of GCE and consequently made the games system its own.
Vectrex was different from the fare being offered by Atari et al. Vectrex comprised of a 9-by-11-inch TV screen housed vertically rather than horizontally in a black plastic case with an integrated cartridge slot and joystick controller. The TV screen was monochrome rather than colour, and the images it displayed were vector line drawings rather than solid, blocky lumps. For colour, tinted plastic sheets had to be slotted in over the screen.
In the short life of Vectrex, one football title was released - Heads Up - which showed the versatility of the console, if not the ability to create the perfect football game. For one thing, football rises and falls on the fanatic following of the colours worn by the teams. As previously mentioned, Vectrex didn't do colour, so one team (your own in 'human v computer' mode) was displayed in rather brighter lines than the other.
Where playability was concerned, Heads Up suffered from its slowness. Though the player figures were beautifully drawn and animated, they ran around the pitch at a deceptively slow pace. The ball never bounced or crossed the goal line when you scored, and the influence of your controller over the actions of your players was, at times, a little random.
True, the depiction of football's rules and regulations wasn't strictly correct throughout. After every goal, the teams run out onto the pitch to kick off again and throw-ins actually turned out to be kick-ons, but in many ways that doesn't matter.
On a venn diagram where Tron and Soccer overlap, Heads Up appears in the middle with its skeletal players and glowing footballs. It's a thing of delightful visual beauty, not to be taken seriously and an appreciation of the 'less is more' approach to video gaming, despite its obvious flaws.
Maybe pared-down graphics are due for a renaissance in the modern era of computer gaming. If they are, Heads Up should be rightly cited as a great example of how it ought to be done.
COME ON YOU BRIGHT GREENS!
(Vectrex console image courtesy of Evan-Amos via Wikipedia)