Gottlieb Reactor at Habo's Arcade


Manufacturer:  Gottlieb

Released:  1982

Designed and Programmed:

    Tim Skelly  

Audio:  David D. Thiel

Number of Players:  2

World Record:  448,833

Production:  ~1000

Serial Number: ???

Purchased:  December 2011


Click above for a video of the game play



Reactor Quick


Operation Manual


  1. - Front
  2. - Back


Reactor Sounds

Attract Mode


Revving up!

Game Over

Entering Initials

Quarter Drop


Reactor Links

Phoenix Arcade - Reactor Reproduction Artwork

Quarter Arcade - Original and Reproduction parts

ArcadeShop - Conversion Power supplies







Click on the arrows below to scroll through all the pictures.  Highlight a picture to make it full size. 

30 High Resolution Photos --->  here




Gottlieb Reactor - Players Ship

First called 'Ram-It', then 'Expander', Reactor was Tim Skelly's first game design with Gottlieb after leaving Cinematronics.  Skelly was one of the first independent game designers and even had it written in his contract for a credit on the attract screen. He designed a number of games for Gottlieb, none of which were ever released.

            While the graphics might not be groundbreaking, the audio by David D. Thiel was.  Synthesized guitar riffs against a pounding baseline delivered some of the coolest music in arcade history.  The cabinet design has the speakers facing the player for a more dramatic effect.  Reactor also speaks.  The ships computer counts down how many particles "to go"  for status updates.  Some of Thiele's other work from that era includes Q-Bert, Krull and MadPlanets.  Thiel is still very active for the last pinball manufacturer - Stern Pinball.  He has worked on such hits as Tron, Spiderman and Family Guy.

            Reactor took nine months to create with a production of approximately 1000 units.  The game is considered unique with abstract sub-atomic particles for enemies and game play.  For the average gamer it wasn't obvious how to play or what the objective was.  The only thing most knew about a Reactor at the time was from the partial core meltdown of Three Mile Island in 1979

        The player pilots a ship inside an unstable Reactor that is constantly expanding towards the outer walls.  This leaves less real-estate for the player to maneuver.  Attracted to the players ship, Sub-atomic particles dance and trash around bumping you off course.  Not everything in Reactor is meant to kill the player.  In fact, the only thing deadly to the ship is the outer wall.  If the ship contact with the wall it explodes and the player looses a life. 

        To defend against particles the player's ship has the ability to emit a burst of energy and decoy's.  The energy burst emits an outward force to aid in shrugging off the pesky particles but only for a moment.  You can use the energy burst strategically to "heard" the particles in a certain direction.  When a decoy is released from the ship it remains stationary and particles swarm around it.  The decoy eventually dies out and the particles again seek you out.  Both can be used defensibly and offensively in the chaotic core.

        Control rods and bonus chambers inside the core to aid the player.  If the player successfully lures a particle into bumping into and destroying one set it will cool the Reactor down to it's original size.  If both sets of control rods are destroyed the player is rewarded with and extra decoy.  Bonus chambers can be used to kill particles and gain points.  If particles are trapped  inside an increasing amount of bonus points is awarded. 

         There are four levels in Reactor with varying elements to expose the player to more danger. 

Level 1: Protected core and visible walls Level 2: Vortex core and visible walls
Level 3: Protected core and invisible walls Level 4 and beyond: Vortex core and invisible walls


Tips and Tricks

Save your decoys for the Vortex

Don't waste your decoys.  If nothing else, each one you have at the end of the game is worth 500 points.  You might have had enough unused decoys to net an extra ship and keep playing.  Compared to levels 2 and 4, levels 1 and 3 with the protected core are easy. Therefore, they should be used to rack up as many decoys as possible before you proceed to the Vortex levels where the decoys can mean the difference between life and death.

Knocking down control rods

It can be hard to get particles to cooperate and move into the rods. One generally safe strategy in levels 1 and 3 is to hug the top of side of the core, hold the energize button down, and wait for it to reach the size where particles that approach you will be repulsed into the rods. Once the core gets too big, this becomes difficult to do.

Surviving a large core

Once the core gets to big the maneuver around safely, hug the wall of the protected core and let the particles turn in to photons and wear themselves out. Because of the difficult of the Vortex core levels, it is more important to eliminate the particles quickly or knock down the control rods before the core become inescapable.

Using the decoys to earn more decoys

Place your decoy right in front of a set of control rods, as close to the wall as you dare to. This is especially important to do on the Vortex core levels. The particles may or may not knock down a lot of the rods, but you can "persuade" them to hit more if you hang out in the area. By the time the decoy leaves, you should only have a few rods remaining which you can maneuver the particles into and shrink the core back down before switching to the other side and leaving another decoy.

Using the decoys for points

This is less useful for survival, but if you're trying to rack up a high score, drop decoys right in front of the bonus chamber entrances. Particles will flock to the decoy and often slide right past them and into the chamber. The more particles you have bouncing around in there are once, the more bonus points you earn.

"Keep particles between you and the wall"

The attract mode says it best.  The first technique to learn is how to deal with the hostile particles.  Obviously you can't kill the particles without being able to knock them into the wall, and they will hug the core if you let them. Practice bouncing with them and learn to keep control of your ship when it gets hit. Watch how they bounce off you, because if you try to follow up a hit and the particle went off at an unexpected angle you will throw yourself right into the wall.




Gottlieb Reactor - Positron

Positron - The most basic sub-atomic particle in Reactor and lightest to repel (50 Points)

Gottlieb Reactor - Pion

Pions - Posses stronger nuclear force than positrons (75 Points)

Gottlieb Reactor - NeutrinoGottlieb Reactor - Neutrino

Neutrinos - The result of radioactive decay or destroying a Nucleon.  They are smaller than positrons but quicker (100 Points)

Gottlieb Reactor - Nucleon

Nucleon - Created from an interaction of two neutrinos by a strong nuclear force.  Increasingly stronger and tougher to push around (200 Points)

Gottlieb Reactor - Lepton

Lepton - A fundamental component of matter, it's the largest and toughest particle in Reactor to repel and destroy (400 Points)


Photon - Appears when a basic particle transitions to a lower energy level.  Unpredictable and quick but die out quickly.




            Originally, this Reactor was part of one of the coolest home arcades - Luna City by Peter Herschberg.  It was then was purchase from a local collector that did a complete restoration of it.  The cabinet was sanded and rough spots were filled in with bondo.  After repainting new reproduction artwork was applied.  Below are a few photos of the restoration.