Vortex Software did not release many games, but had an extremely high quality and critically acclaimed catalogue, some of which still feature high in top 100 lists to this day, especially for the Spectrum.
Founded around 1981 by Costa Panayi and Paul Canter, initially to publish the game Cosmos Panayi had written for the Sinclair ZX81.
They converted the game to the ZX Spectrum, but because of the small numbers sold of the ZX81 version, (the timing of it's release was unfortunate as the ZX81 was being eclipsed by Sinclair's newer machine), the game was licensed to Abbex
Luke Andrews, Costa's brother in law came on board to handle the business affairs. along with his own brother Creta Panayi who would take care of advertising.
The next two offerings from Vortex were to turn the fortunes of the company, Costa produced Android one and two, which contained some very impressive scrolling routines for the time, the second game in particular was a critical and commercial success.
The game that came next is well remembered by Spectrum fans, TLL, or Tornado Low Level used improved 3d Graphics to render a fast scrolling area for the plane to fly around, a similar game followed called Cyclone, and it was while on a visit to the mastering plant that was making the game for them, that Costa was shown a game also being duplicated there, that was to have a profound effect on him, that game was Knight Lore, and would encourage him to explore the possibiliteis for a 3D isometric game for himself, with spectacular results.
The game he produced was Highway Encounter, scoring 95% in Crash magazine, it took the 3D perspective of Knight Lore, and produced a superb looking, very smooth action game, where the player had to guide a bomb from one end of a long highway to the other to destroy an alien base, the player had all kind of traps to overcome to reach the goal.
This game was followed by a sequel written by Mark Haigh-Hutchinson, he had earlier ported Android One and Highway Encounter to the Amstrad CPC 464, but it was generally considered, although superb, to be too similar to the first game.
Costa meanwhile had been working on a new 3D puzzle game, which would debut in 1986 titled Revolution, despite being a critical success, it did not sell well, this was published by US Gold.
Gremlin Graphics took over the role of publisher, the first game being Deflektor, a top down puzzle game, that was again well received critically, but another poor seller, one final game from Vortex would be H.A.T.E, (Hostile All Terrain Encounter), this was an isometric shoot em up that really pushed the Spectrum to it's limits, but once again sales were disappointing.
Costa would now take time out to consider where he wanted to go, and it took until 1990 for Vortex to reform.
They first produced a much enhanced version of Highway Encounter for the Amiga and ST, but could not find a publisher to take it on, they also started a new version of Deflecktor, but this project was cut short by lack of funds.
So Vortex was no more, Costa returned to his original profession of mechanical engineer, Luke would go to Cyprus from where his family and the Panayis came from.
The games the company produced have continued to delight players over the years, and Vortex deserve their place in gaming history for their unique style, and innovation.
- Cosmos (1982), Abbex Electronics
- Astral Convoy (1982), Vortex Software
- Gun Law (1983)
- Android 1: The Reactor Run (1983), Vortex Software
- Android 2 (1983), Vortex Software
- Tornado Low Level (1984), Vortex Software
- Cyclone (1985), Vortex Software
- Highway Encounter (1985), Vortex Software
- Alien Highway (1986), Vortex Software
- Revolution (1986), U.S. Gold
- Deflektor (1987), Gremlin Graphics
- Hostile All Terrain Encounter (H.A.T.E.) (1989), Gremlin Graphics