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US Gold Ltd
1985
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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30
Chris Bourne

It's taken a long time to get Zaxxon (the real life official version) to the British Spectrum screens. But here it is.

The game hardly needs much explanation, since the arcade original is probably the most famous of all arcade games, but briefly: Zaxxon is a three-quarter scrolling space attack game in which you control an attack fighter as it sails above the surface of an alien enemy Asteroid City, a deep space fighter encounter and then another Asteroid City where you attempt to destroy the robot defence system ZAXXON. Destroying the robot takes you back for another go but with increased difficulty. Hazards include the walls which must be flown over, forcefields to shoot out or dodge, enemy fighters, gun emplacements, radar towers and launching missiles. Falling fuel is replenished by destroying the fuel dumps. The craft can move to the left and right as well as up and down. A classic tactic to judge the height of the approaching walls with their small gaps is to fire at them until you see your laser shots passing safely over, then you know you are high enough. Height may also be judged by the relationship between your fighter and its shadow on the ground, although this obviously won't work in deep space.

US Gold released a version for the Commodore 64 some months earlier and there has been much speculation as to what the Spectrum version would look like.

CRITICISM

'ZAXXON the arcade game was the thing at one time. There has been the odd unofficial Spectrum version, but this is the 'real ' one. Well it may be the official one but no way is it like the original. Basically it's a down-market version of the real game with a distinct lack of colour. The graphics are a bit on the jerky side, okay, but by today's standards not fantastic. Lunar Jetman, a scrolling game with complex graphics, achieved super-smoothness well over a year ago. Zaxxon itself is fairly playable but not really addictive. The scenario of shooting everything in sight is wearing thin. If manufacturers wish to distribute arcade originals then they must do so when the original is still new. Overall, I was disappointed with Zaxxon and I have come to the conclusion that official versions are not necessarily as good as the originals. In terms of this game Zaxxon is probably the best about, but does leave a little to be desired.'

'US Gold have been advertising Zaxxon for months now and then one day it just appeared out of the blue, and to tell the truth, l wish it hadn't The graphics, while adequate, are jerky, co/our is used scarcely and sound is barely used at all. The game is quite playable but it doesn't capture the excitement of the arcade - or, dare I say it - the Commodore version. If you still want a good ZAXXON then this isn't it. Official or not, it isn't much better in my opinion than the Starzone one.'

'ZAXXON must be called the arcade success story, a game which inspired many other 3D games. The success was mainly brought about by its superb 45 degree 'above' angle view of the very colourful and wonderfully detailed graphics. It must be said that obviously the graphics cannot be faithfully reproduced on a computer such as the Spectrum, nor the gaming element of the original. So far there have been about three unsuccessful attempts on reproducing ZAXXON (Zaxxan by Starzone, Havoc by Dynavision and now Zaxxon by US Gold). The US Gold version is definitely the best effort. The graphics that make this type of game and play a major role have failed to produce any atmosphere whatsoever. They are slow, jerky, unattractive and untrue to the original in the sense that there is no back wall or floor. Everything seems to hang in empty blackness. The 3D effect works fairly well if you get low down and try (and I do say try) to weave in and out of the objects; but problems are met again - the dreaded attribute problems. They can get so bad that it becomes a matter of luck whether you hit anything. I would go as far as to say that the programmer has got his sprite priorities wrong, that is to say that ground obstacles should not overwrite that of your craft. Another point that should be mentioned is your fighter's shadow - yes it is there, but whatever happened to the 3D 'hidden view' theory? As you pass over a wall you can still see your shadow through the solid wall as well as the other objects. Confusing. Moving onto the Space sequence, the 3D effect (which did work in the original) fails to do so here - it is just a matter of luck and chance if you hit an enemy fighter and the screen becomes very cluttered up with more than four fighters flying about. About the only thing I can commend on the graphics side are the explosions, yours or theirs - pretty effective whichever way. Moving onto the 'nerve-rattling sound effects' my Spectrum, I think, has lost its tongue - constant clickings is about all you get - very rattling. Finally, perhaps most importantly, the control response is so sluggish that you are forced to think miles ahead to be able to shoot anything. It's this that finally knocks on the head any playability or addictiveness.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: user definable, preset are I/P left/right, Q/Z dive/climb and N to fire. Our copies failed to allow the user-definable function to be selected, nor the instructions
Joystick: Sinclair 2, Kempston, AGF, Protek
Keyboard play: not really a keyboard game; key response is sluggish
Use of colour: colours tend to be bright but sparse and obvious
Graphics: slow and jerky, not much detail
Sound: very poor
Skill levels: 3
Lives: 3
Screens: continuously scrolling with three sections
General Rating: A grave disappointment.

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Screenshot Text

The missing floor and backwall takes a lot of visual fun out of ZAXXON.

Approaching a force field in ZAXXON.