Dedicated versions of the game used a roller control for left-right movement, while conversion kits used their native controller hardware, such as the Tempest rotary spinner knob.
The game also featured a "warp system" that allowed the player to skip levels and gain bonus points. The warps were activated by a Breakout clone at the bottom-right of the screen, where there would be two- or three-digit numbers. The player would have to move the joystick until the number matched the number required to warp. For example, the red warp required the number 23, so the player would move the joystick to the right or left until the first digit matched 2, then the player would click the fire button, the Breakout ball would start moving, so the player would have to play the breakout while moving the joystick to the 3 at the same time. When the player finally entered the warp code, the player would be transported to a higher level.
Extra lives were earned not only by achieving a certain number of points, but also by completing the Breakout mini game.
According to the story provided by the game's original cabinet, long ago the evil Vaxxian Empire overran the galaxy. Most of humanity was enslaved and abducted to the Vaxxian homeworld. A few humans, who were scientists, managed to escape. At the current moment (according to the timeline of the game), the Empire has since collapsed. However, numerous Vaxxian space stations, all blindly controlled and defended by robots, still remain in the galaxy, mindlessly pursuing their original orders.
The small band of scientists who initially escaped managed to clone the great human hero Major Havoc, in order to fly his Catastrofighter through a wormhole in space, so that he may lead a clone army against the dreaded Vaxxian robots, and to liberate the remnants of humanity by destroying the enemy reactors. The player controls Major Havoc, the leader of this very band of clones.
The player controlled the titular character, Major Havoc, first in the "shoot-'em-up" style game, in which the player operated Major Havoc's spaceship, the Catastrofighter, against the numerous robot ships who defend the enemy reactors. The ships are encased in a sort of "buckyball" force-field shield which must be shot first before the ship can be killed. In the next phase, the player would land on the robot space-station by centering the Catastrofighter in between the moving white line and Major Havoc would exit his ship and enter the space-station. The roller-knob controlled left and right character movement and a "jump" button permitted the player's character to leap over obstacles. Thus, a minor amount of "gravity" interacted with the player. The object was to get to the core of the space-station unmolested and sabotage the reactor. Once the charge was set, the player had to get out, back into the space-ship and MSD (minimum safe distance) before the space-station went critical and exploded. Red arrows lead the players direction in and the word out, also in red, points the direction out. The "mazes" get gradually more complicated to navigate in difficulty as the player progresses. Upon a successful mission, the next space-station became more difficult and the time allotted (both in and out) was accelerated.
Major Havoc was not ported to any gaming consoles or home computer systems of the day, but in more recent years it was re-released as part of compilations of older Atari games, such as Atari Anthology. In July 2010, the game was re-released on Microsoft's Game Room service for its Xbox 360 console and for Games for Windows Live.
In the Competitive Arena
- Atari Museum: Major Havoc
- The Games that Time Forgot: Video demonstration of Major Havoc
- Owen Rubin's (the creator's) home page. See Game Stories Link for more info
- Twin Galaxies High Score Rankings on Major Havocfr:Major Havoc