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Atari800XL Dropzone – in search of Space Monsters
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Atari800XL Dropzone

Dropzone screenshotWhen inspiration dries up I turn to the games of my youth. There’s something quite thrilling and romantic about delving back nearly 30 years to play some of the games that defined my desire to become a game designer.

As a 14 year old boy I was mesmerised by Dropzone. I’d quite a collection of games by this point and played them all. But Dropzone seemed quite different to the other games. It actually felt like an arcade game, not just a simple home computer game.

It did of course emulate in many respects the daddy of all arcade games – Defender. Where Defender had action, lasers, explosions and pace Dropzone doubled it up with style.

Dropzone screenshot

I think it was the artistic style of Dropzone that did it for me. The simple yet highly illustrative graphics worked and worked well. The title screen has great balance with its chunky 3D title graphic and text/sprite display laid out beneath.
In game the graphics were split beautifully. The scrolling terrain and detailed scanner occupied around 1/3 the whole screen and the rest was taken up by pure action.

Like Defender Dropzone was a tricky, fiddly affair. Often you’d find yourself frantically spunking lasers across the screen but to no avail. The alien probes seem perfect at dodging your stream. But once you achieve the necessary fine-tuned control skills and actually enjoy swinging your jetpack guy around the screen there’s some real thrills to be had. Is there another game out there where the firing of lasers is so satisfying ?

I could write forever about the action / rewards at play in Dropzone. The game epitomises for me what perfect balance in arcade game design is all about.

If you have an emulator grab yourself the Dropzone ROM and see for yourself what I’m talking about.
If you need an emulator try Atari800WinPlus.

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