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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
MadPlanets. Thiel is still very active
for the last pinball manufacturer -
Stern Pinball. He has worked on such hits
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
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
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.
are four levels in Reactor with varying elements to expose the player to more
1: Protected core and visible walls
2: Vortex core and visible walls
3: Protected core and invisible walls
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.
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.
The most basic sub-atomic particle in Reactor and lightest to repel (50 Points)
Pions - Posses stronger nuclear force than positrons (75
The result of radioactive decay or destroying a Nucleon.
They are smaller than positrons but quicker (100 Points)
Created from an interaction of two neutrinos by a strong nuclear
force. Increasingly stronger and tougher to push around (200 Points)
Lepton - A
fundamental component of matter, it's the largest and toughest
particle in Reactor to repel and destroy (400 Points)
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.