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Zaxxan

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Released: 1982

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Starzone Software

Developer: N. Mardon

Submitted by: Ian Marks

I bet you can’t guess which game Zaxxan is a copy of? Give up? It’s Sega’s Zaxxon of course. Now I know what you are saying, that you could have guessed that from the name. Well possibly, but I suspect if I’d just shown you a screenshot you’d have struggled a bit more to identify it correctly. Zaxxan really only resembles it’s illegitimate arcade brother if you squint, or are drunk, or both.

Clever use of the letter A rather than the letter O enabled the software company to get away with releasing this game. I suspect though that even if the bigwigs at Sega had seen it, they wouldn’t have pressed charges… just laughed and laughed and laughed.

You see Zaxxan is a perfect example of the sort of games that we got in the early Spectrum scene. Rush released arcade clones, that were p**s-poor at best. Sadly Zaxxan doesn’t even reach the dizzy heights of p**s poor, it’s well below that level.

I cannot stress highly enough how much I think you should play this game, just to see how absolutely awful some aspects of our great hobby of gaming can be. What’s that? You can’t be bothered, well let me give you a brief overview.

Zaxxan looks like it is written in Sinclair Basic, and might well be. The colour scheme is a glaring blue and yellow, and the isometric view is completely skew whiff.  Scrolling (that should probably read jerking) is awful, and controls are very unresponsive. What makes it worse though is that the main sprites are only one character big, including your ship. This makes it nigh on impossible to judge the height you are flying at, and very, very easy to crash into one of the other one box sprites. If you do crash – and you will, very quickly – you will be treated to that old staple of crap Spectrum game endings, the whole screen cycling through the colours. Brilliant.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I love bad games. Not only do they make me appreciate great games even more, but they amuse me immensely. How the programmer of Zaxxan ever thought he’d programmed a winner is beyond me, what he’d actually written is possibly one of the worst arcade conversions ever… good work fella.