North American arcade flyer
|Cabinet||Upright, cabaret, cocktail|
|CPU||Z80 (@ 1 MHz)|
|Sound||(2x) Astrocade (@ 1 MHz)|
|Display||Raster, 204 x 320 pixels (Vertical)|
Gorf is an arcade game released in 1981 by Midway Mfg., whose name was advertised as an acronym for "Galactic Orbiting Robot Force". It is a multiple-mission fixed shooter with five distinct modes of play, essentially making it five games in one. The game makes heavy use of synthesized speech, powered by the Votrax speech chip. One of the first games to allow the player to buy additional lives before starting the game, Gorf allows the player to insert extra coins to buy up to seven starting lives.
Gorf is a fixed shooter game in which the players take control of an unnamed starship from the Interstellar Space Force, capable of moving freely on all directions around the lower third of the screen, in an attempt to prevent the Gorfian Empire from conquering Earth. Gameplay comprises five distinct missions; each mission presents its own distinct playstyle, but the central goal of each is to destroy all enemies. Successfully completing all five missions increases the player's rank, which represents the current difficulty level of the game, and loops back to the first mission. Gameplay continues until the player loses all of their lives.
Before starting a new game, players can buy up to seven additional lives by purchasing more credits; an extra life is also granted after clearing the first five missions. Unlike similar games where the player can only fire their weapon after an existing shot has disappeared from the screen, the ship is equipped with a laser cannon capable of firing a single vertical shot (called a "quark laser") at any time, although doing so causes the previous shot to disappear.
Players can advance through the ranks of Space Cadet, Space Captain, Space Colonel, Space General, Space Warrior and Space Avenger, which increases the speed and difficulty of the game and introduces more enemy patterns. Along the way, a robotic voice heckles and threatens the player, often calling and mocking the player by their current rank (for example, "Some galactic defender you are, Space Cadet!"). Depending on the version, the player's current rank is displayed via a series of integrated lit panels on the cabinet.
- Astro Battles: A clone of Space Invaders; it is the only mission that takes place on Earth instead of space. 24 enemies attack in the classic pattern set by the original game; however, the player is protected by a parabolic force field that switches off temporarily when the player's shots pass through it and is gradually worn away by enemy fire.
- Laser Attack: The first mission set in space, where the player must battle two formations of five enemies. Each formation contains three yellow enemies that attempt to dive-bomb the player, a white gunner that fires a single laser beam stream, and a red miniature version of the Gorf robot.
- Galaxians: As the name implies, this mission is a clone of Galaxian, with the key differences being the number of enemies and the way enemies fire against the player. Gameplay is otherwise similar to the original game.
- Space Warp: This mission places the player in a sort of wormhole, where enemies fly outward from the center of the screen and attempt to either shoot down or collide with the player's ship. It is possible to destroy enemy shots in this level.
- Flag Ship: The Flag Ship is protected by its own force field, similar to the one protecting the player in Mission 1, and it flies back and forth firing at the player. To defeat it, the player must break through the force field and destroy the ship's core. If a different part of the ship is hit, the player receives bonus points, and the part breaks off and flies in a random direction, potentially posing a risk to the player's ship. When the player successfully hits the core, the Flag Ship explodes in a dramatic display, the player advances to the next rank, and play continues on Mission 1, with the difficulty increased. Later encounters with the Flag Ship on higher ranks include additional enemies during the mission.
Development and release
Gorf was originally intended to be a tie-in with Star Trek: The Motion Picture but after reading the film's script, the game designers realized that the concept would not work as a video game; however, the player's ship still resembles the Starship Enterprise. The underlying hardware platform for Gorf allowed arcade operators to easily swap the pattern, CPU and RAM boards with other similar games such as Wizard of Wor, since only the game logic and ROM boards are specific to each game. The name of the game is also Frog spelled backwards; "Frog" was the nickname of designer Jamie Fenton (then Jay Fenton) during college. The game was released in North America on February 1981 and, notably, became one of the first titles to use synthesised speech (powered by the Votrax speech chip) as well as one of the first games to feature multiple screens.
Gorf was ported to various platforms including the Atari 8-bit family, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, BBC Micro, ColecoVision, Commodore 64 and VIC-20 by multiple developers between 1982 and 1983 but due to copyright issues, the Galaxians mission was removed from almost all versions. The Commodore 64 port is the only one that features synthesized speech via the Magic Voice Speech module.
The Atari 2600 version of the game received a Certificate of Merit in the category of "Best Solitaire Video Game" at the 4th annual Arkie Awards, and received the "1984 Best Computer Game Audio-Visual Effects" award at the 5th Arkies the following year. At the 5th Arkies the judges pointed out that the Atari versions had out-polled both the ColecoVision and Commodore 64 versions of the game, and they suggested that it is the game's "varied action" that "keeps players coming back again and again."
Regarding the VIC-20 version, Electronic Games wrote that "this fast-moving colorful entry is a must ... one of the best games available for the VIC-20", and Ahoy! stated that the VIC-20 version "still has my vote for the best of the bunch ... The graphics are excellent".
A planned sequel, Ms. Gorf, was never released. It was programmed in the programming language Forth. The source code for the prototype is owned by Jamie Fenton. The game exists only as source code stored on a set of 8-inch floppy disks, and would require access to a development environment that no longer exists in order to compile it into executable machine code.
In 2006, an unlicensed port of Gorf was released for the Atari Jaguar CD by hobbyist developer 3D Stooges Software Studios. Another hobbyist clone for the Game Boy Advance was made available in 2010. Other independent developers have also created titles influenced by Gorf on other platforms.
On July 8, 2019, Matthew Garrett set a new GORF world record score of 1,543,160 points, recognized by Twin Galaxies. His game spanned 953 missions across 6 hours 41 minutes. Garrett holds the world record for both the arcade 3 & 6 life settings and is the first person recorded to reach mission 500 (having beaten each of the 5 individual levels 100 times) without losing a life. The previous world record was set by Keith Swanson in 2011 with a score of 1,129,660.
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