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Retro animated character


Zarch screenshotDavid Braben - 1987

Generation: 4

Machine: Acorn Archimedes, and others

Genre: Vehicle Shooter

To demonstrate the power of the mighty Archimedes, the folks at Acorn asked David Braben (co-author of Elite) to design them a game. The result, Lander, was bundled with every Archimedes much to the delight of school children across the UK. Lander was so impressive that my computer teacher, who was squarer than the five and a quarter inch floppies he’d throw at us when we misbehaved, made us play it for half a lesson when he introduced us to the machine. We’d never seen a game so fast, so 3d and so hard to control.

The control scheme was notoriously difficult, it was like the controls for asteroids updated for a 3d environment; one button fired your thrusters and you moved in which ever direction you were pointing in which was, more often than not, straight up or straight at the ground. The mouse movements controlled the direction the ship faced in and a high level of precision was required.

It was a fitting demonstration of the Archimedes’ capabilities and great fun but not exactly a game as you had nothing to do but fly around and crash (often). Luckily Lander was just a demo of the full game Zarch which added enemy invaders to battle and lots more.

This was a groundbreaking piece of programming; solid 3d graphics were incredibly rare at this time because they were generally slow and jerky but the speed of Zarch changed the games industry’s perception and the slow shift away from sprites was begun. So popular was the game on the Archimedes that versions were brought out for the Amiga, Atari ST, PC and (incredible though it may seem) the ZX Spectrum under the name Virus. It’s a great game on any format but the Archimedes is far and away the best.

Jakey 21 Mar '08

Another Zarch screenshotEmulator

Red Squirrel - Search Google for zarch.adf or lander.adf.


Frintier Developments' Zarch page - The Zarch page on the developers' website.

Zarchman - A free crossbreed of Zarch and Pac Man for Windows.

If you like Zarch, try:

I, Robot
An incredibly addictive game with stunning graphics that is well worth a play today. More...

R-Type has long been the yardstick that all side scrolling shooters have been measured against and it's easy to see why. More...

Tempest 2000
Jeff Minter's thrilling update of Atari's classic early arcade game is a wonder to behold. More...

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