|Release dates||September 22, 2016 (original limited edition)|
April, 2018 (limited edition GCE-style)
May, 2018 (blue circuit board version)
June, 2018 (Bandai-style)
|Mode||Single player only|
Take control of a treasure hunting diver in this exciting game of deep sea exploration. Select your dive location, explore to discover many species of fish, and maybe even find the key to a treasure chest for big rewards. But keep an eye on your air supply and watch out for the shark!
Can you explore all the island locations, recover the treasure and discover all the species lurking down below?
The player has two goals to achieve during a game: to discover as many fish species and gather as much treasure as possible.
Each game starts off on the map screen, giving the player five choices as to where they should dive to begin their exploring. Once an area is chosen, a boat will take the player’s diver to that location so they can dive towards the sea bed of that area. If, upon making it to the floor bed and there is no key, nor treasure chest, the diver must swim back up to the boat and return to the map screen to pick another dive location to explore.
If a treasure chest is found first, then that dive location will be marked on the map screen. If a key is found first, the player must come into contact with it, which they will keep the key for the rest of that level until they make it to the treasure chest. Once the player makes contact with the chest while holding the key the chest will open and the treasure will be displayed if the player makes it back to the boat, then the next level will begin.
Fish are identified automatically by making it to the sea bed; a new fish is added with every new level.
There are several hazards that the player faces, however, as they have an oxygen level to keep up (denoted by the Air bar at top right of the screen). If the player runs out of oxygen then they will lose a diver and the game will end if all three divers are lost. Additional oxygen can be added if the player comes into contact with air bubbles found on most dive screens, as well as breaking the surface or boarding the boat. Coming into contact with jellyfish will also cost the diver oxygen.
A shark also guards the floor bed, which, if the diver gets too close to the shark, it will be alerted to the diver’s presence and make a beeline for the player. Coming into contact with the shark will cost the player a life, along with causing them to drop whatever they are carrying (being either a key or the treasure). The diver also has a speed burst defense where they can swim faster, although this takes up twice as much oxygen.
The dangers increase with every treasure that is successfully brought onto the boat, as more jellyfish are added to the first diving screen, along with their speed increasing. Moray eels also are added to the depths, having three per screen that move horizontally and will cost the player a diver if they come into contact with one of them. A swarm of jellyfish also start after several levels (which these screens also do not contain any air bubbles), along with caves that do not have any enemies, although the cave walls require the diver to swim around them. At the start of a new game, the player must dive two depths in order to reach the sea floor, plus one screen depth is added for each new level. There are also additional shark screens, along with the sharks becoming more aggressive.
Gameplay, bonus game
Accessible from the startup menu is a bonus game where the player controls a surgeon fish this time around. Eels, sharks and jellyfish move horizontally from one side of the screen to the other. The player’s fish can produce droppings that will only take out jellyfish (making contact with any other fish or the shark will have no effect). All enemy sea life will start increasing speed as more and more jellyfish are destroyed and if any creature makes contact with the player then the game will end.
Along with the bonus game is the ability to calibrate the air gauge so it will line up with the game’s overlay. Also after a game is a treasures captured and fish identified screen that will show what all the player encountered.
- Play Big Blue–button 1
- View Treasure and Fish screens–button 2, then button 1 to view Fish screen
- Play bonus game–button 3
- Calibration screen–button 4
- Move air gauge bar–joystick (up/down only)
- Return to main menu–button 1
(in-game, Big Blue)
- Go to dive screen–button 1 on map screen
- Start level/return to map screen from boat–button 1
- Move diver–joystick or D-pad
- Boost–button 2
- Pause game–button 4
- Unpause–button 3
(in-game, bonus game)
- Move fish–joystick or D-pad
- Produce dropping–button 1
- Capturing a fish–1 base point + 1 point per extra depth (i. e. a fish caught during the first level/a depth of 2 is worth a point, a fish caught during the second level/depth of 3 is 2 points, etc.)
- Collecting treasure–10 points x level (i. e. the first treasure is worth 10 points, the second 20, etc.)
- The game’s idea was suggested to creator Chris Parsons by his son. Work began in February, 2014, with updates put up on the Vector gaming forums, brief videos on Parsons’s YouTube channel and the Facebook group Vectrex Fans Unite!.
- Changes were made throughout development, such as sharks appearing on several depth screens in a row, along with them eating fish (which would later be left out). A key with a treasure chest could be on the same screen, along with the treasure chest, once unlocked, would have to be returned to, which the player would find a cube in its place, which would contain the treasure. The first treasure was also originally a diamond, rather than a coin as on the later released versions.
- 200 copies were made of the original game, which were numbered, came with an overlay and a protective box cover later. These boxes were made to look like an original Milton Bradley release with the box design, along with treasures collected and high scores can be written down in the instruction manual, also like an original GCE/Milton Bradley release. The wording on the back of the box was also a recreation of the original GCE/Milton Bradley releases, which read “A whole array of Vectrex game cartridge is available. Space, Adventure, Sports...each challenges you with incredibly real arcade play.” However, the beginning of the last line was changed to “Underwater and Wild West” in regards to Vector Republic’s upcoming game of Outlaw Hill/Frontier. Another run with the boxes resembling the original U. S. A. GCE boxes was released in April, 2018, along with a cheaper version that contained the game on a blue circuit board (rather than a cartridge), along with instruction manual (but with no overlay) that was released the following month, and a run with a recreation of the original Japanese Bandai boxes was released in June.
- The production version of Big Blue with many extras was put up on an eBay auction in December 2016. It included three cartridges (one black, one translucent blue [or teal] and one translucent orange), two Big Blue-themed T-shirts and a Christmas card with a special message to the auction winner. Cartridge number 01 was given to Rick Parsons (who was responsible for the box art, overlay and instructions), Chris Parsons's brother. Two copies were also used as prizes during Vector War VII, which included a personal note from Chris Parsons to the winners.
- The first public showing of the game occurred with the Revival: Winter Warmer expo in November, 2015, along with being shown at the Revival Retro event in Walsall, UK in July, 2016. Big Blue toppers were on display on top of the Vectrexes, along with Chris Parsons wearing a Big Blue t-shirt.
- The game was released on September 22, 2016 and was sold out by November 12, unlike fellow non-shooter Vector 21 that took two years to sell out, which Big Blue didn’t take a full two months before its 200 copies were gone.
- Eight different treasures and fish can be found, the final treasure and fish being Vectrex-related. If the player is able to collect all eight treasures then the final treasure and fish will repeat from then on.
- There is a large and small island on the map screen, which the graphic was taken from an asteroid from the arcade vector game Asteroids.
- The bonus game is "a graphics hack of the Present Drop game rom" that Chris Parsons "released for free one Christmas".
- As of early-2019, this is one of the very few nautical-themed Vectrex games ever; others include Polar Rescue, Marine Fox, TREASURE DIVER and Sub Wars. This is also only the second Vectrex game ever to have a shark in it (the first being Marine Fox).
- Clean Sweep music plays during the title screen. Originally it was suggested on the Vector gaming forums to include a Jaws-type theme (from the movie of the same name) when the shark appeared but that ended up being left out, although arguably the first few notes of the dive screen music sound similar to the theme. Der Luchs created all of the music for the game.
- Big Blue official site
- Parsons’s YouTube channel
- Hit the corresponding tabbers below for a strategy guide and a review.
- Practice getting air bubbles, as you’ll have to do it often after just clearing a few levels. Once you grab one, the odds are the next one will also be close as well.
- Once it gets to the point where you need a lot of oxygen, when gathering bubbles, stay at about the middle of a screen, which should give you enough time for you to reposition yourself for the next incoming air bubble (staying close to the bottom of the screen where they originate isn’t a very good idea usually, not giving you enough time to grab one as it appears). A speed burst for a second or so can also help, just don’t use it for long though. Once you start entering cave screens, also make sure you’re in a position where you don’t have to try to whip around a reef on your way to collecting oxygen, which will waste that and time.
- During a screen that has air bubbles but sharks as well, if the shark starts chasing you and you get far enough away from it to the point where it stops chasing you, you can stay there and collect air bubbles as long as you’re not in a position where you’re too close to the bottom and you might miss them as they come up.
- There is no rush in general during the game, as there’s no time limits, nor penalties or a bonus for anything, points-wise, for clearing a level quickly, so feel free to go back up for more air if needed and/or for a clearer path at the treasure or key in case it is too dangerous to attempt the first time around.
- Learn the enemy patterns, like with the eels, there are ones that wrap around the screen, then the next one will come straight back after hitting a screen edge, possibly coming straight towards you. Learn the patterns to dictate what action you will take next to avoid them.
- Try to recall what is next/don’t necessarily rush to a new depth screen (unless it’s a severe emergency), as you could hit an eel or shark that is very close to the screen edge and die.
- If the shark’s in a dangerous position on a screen, leave that screen and come right back and it should have changed its position.
- Be leery of screens that don’t have air bubbles and keep your eye on the oxygen bar. Also keep in mind that, even though the speed boost can be a lifesaver, it takes up more oxygen. (It can also speed up the game when you’re on the top screen where you return to your boat [plus once you finish the first level an eel screen is always right before you reach the surface, as you can speed through those too if you have sufficient air], along with save you in case you have to collect a treasure and the shark and other fish are nearby and you have no other choice.)
- Keep in mind how the shark will sense you from further away the more levels you clear in the game and plan accordingly, giving him plenty of room and when he is moving away from you before you make a move for the treasure chest or key. Again, there’s no bonus points-wise if you complete a level quickly or not, so keep this in mind should you need to go back up a screen or two for more oxygen in case there’s too many enemies onscreen and/or several are too close to the shark when you need to get a key or treasure chest.
- The only “bad” enemies are eels, jellyfish and the shark, so you can pass through/collect any other kinds of fish unharmed, saving time without having to do an unnecessary detour around them.
- If there’s either no key, treasure chest, or a chest but no key with you at the bottom depth of a level, immediately return to the surface; there’s no reason to hang around either way.
(Strategy guide by Darrylb500)
When the production of Big Blue was announced in 2014, probably the majority of the Vectrex community was immediately enthralled, as there haven’t been many nautical-themed games for the machine since it was originally released in 1982. Then once that SHARK was shown as well; wow! This was killer (who isn’t interested in sharks in general?). Big Blue is also only a handful of non-violent games for the Vectrex as well, making it a good one to play for the whole family (those that are into our beloved vector machine, that is, as some people just don’t “get it”, unfortunately).
The game sold out pretty quickly upon release and is, to the best of my knowledge, a bit original, but with tons of games being made since the dawn of commercial gaming there could be other similar ones, but at least it’s quite original for the Vectrex.
First off, the packaging is very cool, having the look of the GCE/Milton Bradley/Bandai boxes from back in the day but crossed with more modern day web sites included and all (thanks for the shouty of my vector gaming forums!), although unfortunately there’s a few typos in the instructions. The overlay is simple and looks nice, and for those who got the blue circuit board version that was also available, again, that SHARK is imprinted on it, which is very cool (although minus the overlay with that package though).
Upon starting the game, the music is good and fitting (even sounding like the Jaws movie theme initially), although it would’ve been nice to have the option to turn it off), although there are not many sound effects in this sea adventure. This release has, I do believe, bar none THE best graphics ever in a Vectrex game, as you can tell what every single creature is in the game, along with the treasures, although those are blown up real largely on the screen but they’re also well drawn. Controls also work very well.
The game starts off simple, but once treasures start accumulating, dive screens start adding up, taking longer and longer to reach sea beds. Some might find these plodding to go through several screens to not finding the key, nor treasure, but I don’t really mind them (Pitfall! screens [on many console and computer platforms in the early 80s] where you’re just running with several logs and there’s no treasure to pick up might be an apt comparison). Difficulties ramp up with larger and larger levels, more jellyfish appearing, eels being added, screens without oxygen bubbles to fill your meter and the shark being aware of your presence quicker.
The included bonus game is simple and I didn’t find to be real fun but at least it was included in the package, along with not having to be unlocked.
There isn’t a lot to dislike here; not everyone can make it to the last treasure and fish, but for those that can might’ve been disappointed as to there being no ending (the last fish and treasure are pretty funny and clever though!). It’d be nice to be able to shoot the shark occasionally (maybe for a sequel...). Calibrating the oxygen bar meter is worthless to me, as it gets out of whack, appearing below the area on the overlay (although maybe my Vectrex is starting to get jittery or maybe my model wasn't playtested) although this isn’t much of a big deal, as you can still see it (you can see what I mean with a score I posted here). It’d also be good to remove the "dive to sea bed" message after clearing out a few levels (c'mon, we know how to play the game by now!).
As you want to get deeper into the game (sorry) to see what the next fish and treasure is, this is something that creator Chris Parsons should definitely be proud of. And, even though it can be annoying at times, that shark still rules. 7/10
(Review by Darrylb500)