We made it to Z once again, folks, and it’s time for an all-time classic shoot ’em up for the Atari 8-bit: it’s Zybex, from Zeppelin Games.
Zeppelin began their life as a company specialising in budget-priced titles on cassette; the first time I came across them was when they released today’s game Zybex and motorcycle racer Speed Ace for £2.99 each. Speed Ace was fairly decent, from what I recall — though at the time of writing it’s not one we’ve revisited as yet — but Zybex was something truly special.
Featuring frantic shoot ’em up action for one or two players, Zybex truly brought the arcade-style scrolling shoot ’em up home in style — and it still holds up pretty well today.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE–
Better get used to that sound! It’s Fantastic Voyage, an extremely timely 1982 release from Sirius Software that adapts the 1966 movie (or possibly Isaac Asimov’s novelisation) about injecting tiny submarines into scientists to blast health problems from within.
It’s actually a very enjoyable shooter — albeit one that isn’t going to blow your mind with its visuals, being barely distinct from its Atari 2600 counterpart. It plays well, though… and you’ll be hearing that beep-beep-beep in your sleep!
Ah, Activision. What a wonderfully creative variety of games you put out in the 8-bit era. What a hollow shell of yourself you are today.
Ahem, sorry, got a bit nostalgic there for a moment. Anyway, here’s Pastfinder, one of my favourite shoot ’em ups on Atari 8-bit, and one of the most peculiarly interesting ones to boot. You take on control of a little jumping bug of a spacecraft as you attempt to track down alien antiquities.
Better be careful, though; the whole planet is irradiated, so time is of the essence if you want to keep all your hair and/or internal organs intact to enjoy your loot.
Well, here’s… a thing.
Onslaught, apparently also known as Klystron Raider, is a game that appears mostly shrouded in mystery. And, having spent far longer with it than it probably deserved, I feel it should probably remain shrouded in mystery.
But I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment, so here it is for your enjoyment regardless.
SNK had some top-notch arcade hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and many of them came home in one form or another.
One great example was Ikari Warriors, which saw several different home ports over the years. The one we’re concerned with today is Elite’s Atari ST version, which remains surprisingly true to the arcade original despite lacking SNK’s iconic “loop lever” control scheme.
It’s a solid top-down run-and-gun that still holds its own well today, and back then it demonstrated that the ST was more than capable of providing a convincing “arcade at home” experience!
Legend has it that in the Davison household, the usually entirely justified righteous fury of our matriarchal figure towards yet another example of silly men and boys doing silly men and boys’ things could only be quelled by one thing: Millipede.
And for sure, Millipede makes for a great stress-reliever, with its frantic, non-stop blasting action not really leaving you any time to be annoyed about who dribbled wee on the floor, didn’t load the dishwasher or failed to tidy their room when requested.
Of course, if you’re not already stressed, its defining characteristics are also a pretty good means of elevating your own anxiety levels somewhat, too… so please bear in mind that this is not in any way intended to be clinical advice!
Horizontally scrolling shooters are perhaps most commonly associated with the 16-bit Japanese consoles, but there were some great ones on offer on earlier home computers.
One such example was Laser Hawk from Red Rat Software, developed by Kiwi programmer Andrew Bradfield with graphics by Harvey Kong Tin. This was an enjoyable, speedy, helicopter-based horizontal scroller with a cheeky line in fanboy-baiting — the structures you had to destroy at the end of each level all bore an uncanny resemblance to rival, non-Atari computer manufacturers’ logos!
It’s a game that I greatly enjoyed revisiting, and was very pleasantly surprised to discover still plays rather well today. Give it a shot!