Zaxxon

While Donkey Kong was the AAA pack-in for the Colecovision, it was the isometric shooter Zaxxon that dropped people’s jaws in 1982. Here was a huge 24K cartridge (yes, 24K!!) with screenshots seeming to confirm it was very much like the arcade game. Donkey Kong was a kick in the teeth for rivals Atari, but Zaxxon was something else, because their VCS console was incapable of even attempting an isometric scrolling game. Coleco had Atari on the ropes, and there was absolutely nothing they could do about it.

Zaxxon is a difficult game to play at first due to the isometric perspective, especially with moving your craft through gaps in the walls, but you can the use your laser as a guide by shooting in front of you to see how high up you are. The scrolling is a little choppy, but it doesn’t really matter in terms of the gameplay. More importantly, the graphics do carry much of the style and atmosphere of the arcade machine, and it’s accompanied by some occasionally meaty sound effects too. The levels are shortened, but the good thing about that is the CV version gets to the end of level battles quicker without any big loss in variety or challenge.

Like with Donkey Kong, more accurate versions of Zaxxon would later appear on technically superior consoles. However, this is historically the most interesting version because it came out in 1982 when most people were playing 4K versions of Pacman on the VCS, and the visual jump must have felt astonishing to the gaming public back then. Also, when I recently played the Zaxxon arcade machine at a retro gaming event, I managed to go further than ever before, and I credit this to heavily playing the Colecovision cartridge in the weeks leading up to it. Therefore, while the hype on the box isn’t literally true, to a certain extent, Zaxxon really does “play like the arcade”. Not only that, it might even make you better at the real thing!

  • 8/10
    Gameplay - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Graphics - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
8/10

Summary

Can be considered the beginning of a new generation of conversions that wowed you simply by looking at the screenshots, and still a good game in its own right.