Sunday, 28 June 2015

Zaxxon (Colecovision review)

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1982

Zaxxon is an isometric space shooter that was originally released in the Arcades in January 1982.

You pilot a futuristic spaceship and your mission is to infiltrate an enemy asteroid and destroy their installations. Pressing Left or Right moves you from side-to-side while Up or Down controls your ship's height. You can also use the handy metre on the left of the screen or your shadow to judge spatial distance. The power of the Colecovision is on full display here as unlike the Intellivision and Atari 2600 versions (which had a behind the ship angle due to technical limitations) the isometric viewpoint has been successfully ported across from the Arcades. The great thing about Zaxxon is that you need to constantly manoeuvre your ship depending on the current landscape. Most of the time you can fly low to the ground to shoot turrets, base missiles and robots. This is where you'll also find fuel tanks that you must destroy to keep your ship moving. Sometimes you'll need to pull up to scale walls or to take out enemy aircraft. It's a great deal of fun switching between the vertical planes and quick reactions are required throughout. Once you pass the force field near the end of the asteroid you'll face a robot boss; beat it and the game loops with more obstacles and a mixture of ground and air enemies at the same time. The collision detection is slightly off and there's times you'll lose a life despite clearly being able to see distance between yourself and the obstacle! The viewpoint can cause some issues as it's tricky to judge your height in relation to walls and enemy ships, especially in the fighter plane areas as you can't see your shadow.

Zaxxon can be an acquired taste due to the unusual camera angle but those that stick with it will experience a unique shooter that's incredibly addictive. It's very faithful to the Arcade original and clearly shows how advanced the Colecovision was compared to its competitors.

Random trivia: The following year Coleco also released a table top version of Zaxxon. Although the gameplay is very primitive it did manage to include a mock isometric viewpoint. 

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