10/10 – Gorf

Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

In 1978, a little arcade game came out that you may have heard of. It was called Space Invaders. To say it was popular would be a gross understatement and with the booming arcade scene, many other developers tried jumping into the fray. If they didn’t have a solid idea for a game, that was fine, they could just make a clone game of someone else’s game! Any popular arcade game you can think of likely had at least one or two clones made of it and these games were often written off as being low quality cash grabs. Every once in a while though, a clone game would come along that pushed boundaries in ways the developers may not have even been aware of. Today’s game is one of those games. Gorf, developed by Dave Mitting and Jay Fenton, was released in arcades in 1981.

To see Gorf is to see Space Invaders, with some Galaxian thrown in for good measure. You play as a free-moving space-ship, able to move anywhere on the bottom area of the screen and you shoot at organized rows of aliens up above you, typically moving side-to-side. Some levels do involve aliens flying in patterns down at you, as well. One of the only major gameplay changes in Gorf is that unlike Space Invaders which only allows you to fire once your previous shot has left the screen, Gorf allows players to cancel their previous shot by shooting again, making their first laser disappear off the screen. The game cycles through five missions, with the difficulty increasing after each cycle as the player obtains higher ranks. 

The graphics are improved from Space Invaders as well, with a number of effects on screen such as one mission that uses vector effects to give the appearance of flying through warp speed. Gorf was originally conceived as a tie-in for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as well, and while that tie-in fell through, the player’s spaceship still resembles the Enterprise.

The reason Gorf is still relevant though isn’t for what player’s see on the screen but for what they hear. Gorf was one of the first arcade games to make heavy use of synthesized voices in an arcade game. The quality was awful and many of the lines were incomprehensible but voices of any kind were new and to hear a game talk to the player was exciting.

Gorf was eventually ported to a number of systems including Atari 2600, Colecovision, Commodore 64, VIC-20 and even had unofficial ports made by fans on the Atari Jaguar and Game Boy Advance. The game still maintains a fanbase to this day with the most recent high score of 1.5 million being set in July of 2019. 

Thank you so much for listening! If you want more Video Game of the Day, our full archives are available on videogameoftheday.com. Also reach out to me at KatosepeGames@gmail.com or on Twitter @vg_oftheday. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day.