Vectrex Wiki


Developer George Pelonis
Publishers Freeware
Release Dates 2011, 2013
Genre Shooter
Mode Single player only
Media Cartridge
ROM file
Related title Zantis: 99 Ways to Die


Spiders was an arcade game where players controlled a gun at the bottom of the screen, which they had to shoot spiders and various projectiles that emerged from any part of the onscreen web and made their way to the bottom of the screen towards the player’s gun. In between waves a fast-moving, high scoring White Spider boss would appear for the player to attempt to gun down.

Zantis is "very loosely based"[1] on Spiders, being simplified in game play and having many different characteristics than the arcade game.


The player controls a ship that is confined to the bottom area of the screen. Six cells – three on each side of the screen – will appear at the beginning of every wave, connected by a central core (the latter of which can never be destroyed). Zantis creatures start emerging from cells (two appearing at most, one on each side of the screen), which will quickly make their way to the bottom of the screen. If they do not make contact with the player’s ship or get destroyed by the player shooting them, then they will re-emerge from a cell. Shooting a cell will result in it being removed from the screen, and when all cells on one side of the screen have been shot, then only one Zantis will emerge from cells from the other side of the screen. Once all cells have been disposed of during a round, a large Zantis leader will appear from the central core and make its way to the bottom of the screen. If the player does not destroy it before it reaches the bottom, the next round will begin, as the player will not get another chance at the leader.

In later rounds, the Zantis will drop down faster and faster and the leaders will also have two Zantis’ guarding them, which must be shot away in order for the player to try to destroy the leader.

If the player’s ship makes contact with a Zantis or a leader, it will be destroyed and the game will end when there are no bonus ships left in reserve.

Difficulty levels[]

The difficulty level of the game will increase and/or decrease depending on several factors.

After scoring 1000 points, Zantis’ drop speeds will increase by one and a half times. With every additional 1000 points scored, based on the player’s remaining ship count, the speed could increase up to two times the original speed or decrease back down. Factors include if the player has four or more ships, then the speed will increase to two times, but if the player has three ships or less, the speed will drop down to one and a half. The player must have at least four ships before the speed will increase by two times before the next thousand point tier is reached. The earliest this can happen is at 2000 points[2].

Differences between games[]

Even though Zantis was never meant to be a port, nor a remake of Spiders, there are many differences between the two games.

Spiders was in raster, rather than vector. Players could only move their gun from side to side, rather than in any direction (like with Centipede or Vectrepede). There is much less going on during a wave with Zantis, as not only did Spiders have a constantly growing web, but there were also many more targets and certain mannerisms of each element (such as Growable Cocoons, Spider Eggs and Super Webs). The theme was also changed, as although it is not fully explained what a Zantis is, they were not referred to as spiders, as they rely on electricity rather than webs. The boss in between waves did not have any bodyguards in the original, there is no "Space Mona Lisa"[3] appearing to wink at the player, and Zantis is for one player only, rather than two maximum alternating turns. Score tables also do not increase as on the original, and the boss in between waves is not worth a formulated amount (depending on base score, type, and number of ships remaining).

The player is also not penalized if a Zantis were to make it to the bottom of the screen, as on Spiders, since, if 16 spiders were to make it past the player’s gun, they would lose that gun and have to start the wave over, among other differences between the two games.


  • Cells–10 points each
  • Zantis leader–10 points, + 10, 20, or 30 points (for boss 1, 2, or 3) + 10 points for each ship player has remaining
  • Bonus ship–every 1000 points


  • Start game–any button (on title screen)
  • Move ship–joystick or D-pad
  • Fire–button 4


  • Only 150 copies of the game were made, which the personalized copy number appears on the FURY startup screen.
  • Originally the price of the game was $35 U. S., then it was dropped down to $30 after several months.
  • The limited edition of Zantis: 99 Ways to Die was also available, which came in a limited edition cartridge, included a keychain and was sold in only 10 boxed sets. As far as the gameplay went, it included a mode with large bonuses and 99 reserve ships.
  • An 11th copy of the 99 Ways To Die version was sold as cartridge #000 in different packaging.
  • If the player scores 10,000 points or a multiple thereof during a game, the score will roll over to zero.
  • Zantis was made due to programmer George Pelonis thinking that Spiders had “so much potential”[1] that was squandered away, as the game did not do well in arcades.
  • The rom was released as a free download in December, 2013 for use with Vectrex emulators and flashcarts.


Playing tips[]

  • Don’t make it much of a habit of destroying Zantis’, since they are not worth any points. Do it just to pretty much keep yourself safe.
  • Be alert at all times, as it doesn’t take long for the action to start moving pretty fast. You especially have to be alert when you lose a ship, as the action doesn’t stop and you can lose one right after the other if you’re not careful. You should also be on the alert as to when a Zantis drops down after you have destroyed a cell it was emerging from, as, again, it doesn’t take long before they start quickly plummeting down the screen.
  • Keep in mind your firing range is limited, as you’ll probably be spending a bit of time at the tallest height your ship can manage in order to fire at (and destroy) the cells at the top of the screen. Wasting a shot means you’ll have to try again, which, in the meantime, keeps your ship in danger of possibly being destroyed by a Zantis.
  • At the very beginning of a wave, with just the right shot placement, you should be able to take out a cell before the Zantis’ start attacking.
  • Be patient if a Zantis keeps on emerging from a cell over and over again, making it either difficult to get a shot in at destroying its cell or you keep on shooting the Zantis by accident, not allowing you to destroy the cell you were aiming for. The Zantis will eventually come out of another cell, and rushing the situation could spell disaster.
  • Take out all cells on one side first before going after cells on the other side of the screen (i. e. take out all cells on the right, then work left, or vice versa).
  • One of the safety spots
    And in conjunction with the above, with all cells on one side clear, there is a safe spot at the furthest top corners of the screen (i. e. as high as you can move your ship up and the furthest top corner away from the center on the right side) if you need a break, as the game has no dedicated pause button. No Zantis’ will be able to touch you at these high, furthest away corners from the center of the screen (see photo at right).
  • Make sure to leave the cell closest to the central core last before destroying it at the end of a wave, as the Zantis leader is going to appear right afterwards, so you’re going to want to be as close to the central core as possible in order to try to destroy the leader, which can be worth a decent amount of points.
  • Be prepared for when the Zantis leader is going to appear so you can be ready to deal with it as soon as possible. Try not to have a Zantis onscreen when the leader is to appear, the better to have less to deal with, and the better to increase your chance of success in shooting the leader. You’re also going to have to remember, then make quick decisions as to which one you’re dealing with, since, if you’re about to face the first leader, you need to get to the bottom and shoot straight up the center as fast as you can. With the second leader, they move in a jiggly fashion, so firing straight up the center doesn’t always work; be ready to fire a little off center – either left or right – depending on which way they’re going. And for the third leader, be prepared to rapidly shoot several times to be rid of the bodyguard Zantis’ that are protecting it.
(playing tips by Darrylb500)


Not only am I actually in the unique position of not only doing a review of Zantis, but believe it or not, I can also compare it to Spiders, as I was only one of about 18 people to ever play that piece of junk (along with programmer George Pelonis!) in the arcades. The game didn't make much sense (why would the "web power" bar go down to apparently zero, but then nothing seemed to change after that?) and wasn't even very fun, as there were plenty of bottom of the screen shooters for the Atari 2600 that killed that game! I only gave that game a 5 out of 10.

With Zantis, there were many changes made (although that's obvious, as it wasn't meant to be a port anyway), plus the game was simplified, having far fewer targets than the arcade original. Granted, some changes had to be done, due to the slowdown of drawing too many vectors on the Vectrex, and obviously play-wise it had to be more fun than the piece of crap known as Spiders.

People have said online about the control being a little "stiff" (although fluid control would make it too easy), but your ship reacts fine, the sound effects are ok and I like the bolts of electricity (or whatever) pulsating from the central core. You also don't see many spider-like graphics on the Vectrex either.

Even though it's more addicting than the original crap pile of Spiders, unfortunately I must be one of those "hardcore players" that Pelonis mentioned once in the Vectrex News Group, as, with the first "real" game I played of it (my first game didn't "count", due to the phone ringing and I had to go see who it was, so I started over), I turned the score over at 10,000. Nothing really different happened after a while, along with going up to 20,000 at another point.

With Pelonis doing sequels of several of his games, I think a Zantis 2 would be good, having zantis' that go below your ship, then zip back up and all, along with selectable skill levels or something.

I would say "talk about creepy crawlers there indeed", but then, this isn't about spiders any more. ("Creepy electrical things?") 6/10

(Review by Darrylb500)


  1. 1.0 1.1 E-mails from George Pelonis.
  2. Vectrex Google group post from the programmer.
  3. From the Spiders manual.