RPO Replay: Zaxxon

The Ready Player One Replay is an exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Quote

I downloaded every game mentioned or referenced in the Almanac, from Akalabeth to Zaxxon. — Ready Player One p. 64

Game Play

Zaxxon was the world’s first isometric shooter arcade game. The isometric approach provided a 3D-rendered view of a massive space fortress. Your goal is to fly a small fighter craft through the structure, blowing up everything you can without being destroyed yourself. There’s a fuel meter, which adds a bit of resource management to the game; you could refuel by blowing up fuel depots within the fortress. The ultimate goal was to fight and defeat the robot at the game’s end.

The game used a projected shadow to help indicate the high you were flying at, as well as left and right tips of the wings as you banked around the screen. While evasion certainly plays a role in the game – lots of things want to shoot you down – the game was very much about blowing things up.

Impressions

When I was in elementary school, I went to Puerto Rico for two weeks with a family friend. A lot of things stand out to me from that trip: exploring the old Spanish fortresses in San Juan, the phosphorescent bay near Ponce, the old, weaving (and nausea-inducing) roads between the two cities, being immersed in a culture that didn’t speak my native language of English, and reading Raise the Titanic for the first time. But also … Zaxxon.

At the time, we had an Atari 2600 at home, and I don’t think I had my Commodore 64. We played Zaxxon on the ColecoVision, which seemed so amazingly cool and high-tech compared to my standard. My friend Jimmy and I played the game a ridiculous amount, and while I can’t say I got good at it … I did enjoy the heck out of it.

That was then. Today … well, nostalgia is a thing, and it’s fun to fire up Zaxxon in a virtual console, but the once-novel gameplay is just frustrating today. It’s difficult to understand exactly what height your spaceship is at, which means it’s hard to actually line up your shots with your targets. Moving back and forth is also awkward, making the game an exercise in frustration.

High Scores

  • My High Score: 2,750

Resources

Where to Play

Commentary

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