People who played this game are probably going to want to publicly flog me for giving it such a high rating, since it doesn't have a lot to do with it's arcade counterpart that it's supposedly a port of. However, I'm rating it fairly high due to the gameplay in itself, as there was really nothing else like it on the 2600, with it's (somewhat) 3-D presentation, what with infiltrating outer space platforms and all. Heck, I would have given it a 7, but I AM deducting a point for it not being much like it's (very distant!) arcade cousin. After all, as someone said once on the 2600 Atari Age forums, this isn't a bad game in itself, if it was just called "Floating Space Fortress", or something to that effect.
In the arcade original smash hit, the game had a very incredible, three-quarter 3-D graphic presentation of your ship flying through various space platforms of some sort and destroying everything that you could. There was an onscreen height indicator that would mark either how low or how high you were flying, as you would have to either rise or drop your fighter ship up or down in order to pass over walls and all; if you weren't high or low enough, you would lose a ship.
Once you bypassed the first wall towards your first floating space segment – I don't know exactly what these platforms were in the first place, like it was some intergalactic building that was going to be assembled, but became self aware and activated it’s self defense mechanisms -- you would need to drop down to take out any enemy missiles, gun turrets, fuel depots (where, by some magical formula, whenever you destroyed a fuel tanker, the fuel would somehow be added to your fuel tank [never have understood that, as far as video games go]), etc. Make it through a platform, and the next area of the game involved taking out as many enemy ships as possible (where your fuel magically didn't get sucked away in this segment of the game, for some reason) before you arrived at the next Evil Space Platform That You Must Blow Up (maybe they're owned by descendants of wealthy Middle Eastern terrorists of today, which explains the magical fuel additives that they won’t let us have the secret to refueling without stopping).
Then once (if!) you made it to the next platform, you were in for a real treat then: forcefields would appear between openings of walls. You had to shoot at the forcefield to determine if you could fly through it or not; if your shots hit it, you'd have to adjust your position, if your shots passed through, chances were pretty good you would pass through it as well. I still remember the very first time a crowd of us gamers were surrounding this guy who said "how do you get PAST those?" as he kept on colliding with a pesky forcefield. Meanwhile, we were going, "dunno pal, none of us have made it this far yet! But keep trying, you're doing great!"
Then, as word of this amazing game got around school (in no time flat), a friend of mine said that a big robot was next. Yep, you had to figure out what the height was of the missile he was carrying was and pound away at it before he could launch it (as I would later see for myself, which it vaguely resembled Lost in Space's Robbie the Robot, only a good 20 times his size), which, if that was destroyed, you would proceed to the next space platform, although you would fly through it a little faster, and your fuel was also consumed at a quicker rate as well.
So, how did this version of “Zaxxon” (more or less) hold up? Well, as the game was delayed (Coleco, king of vaporware, only next to Atari; anyone ever play Wild Western on their Colecovision yet?), I was wondering how on Earth Coleco would bring it to the 2600, since the 2600 wasn’t really known as to doing 3-D.
Well, they changed (of course) the 3/4 3-D presentation into a behind the ship perspective. So that was kind of an interesting twist that saved Coleco’s butts (except for the people out there who say this isn’t Zaxxon, which they’re right, in a way). Instead of gun turrets firing at you crossways, though, they’re right in front shooting at you this time around. The Colecovision version also had an addition known as Mobots, which also made it into this version as well (which weren’t on the arcade original).
However, the game still played a bit like the arcade version. The graphics also weren’t bad...for 2600 standards. But as far as everything else: HAH! (That blocky robot boss...you almost expected to see someone holding up it’s blocky, cardboard cutout; it’s a bit amusing. And I’ve still yet to figure out what those ships supposedly are, in between space fortresses; they don’t make any sense, graphically.) The sound effects pretty much sucked, though, with boring explosions that could put you to sleep, they were a bit annoying and brief.
Still, this was a unique perspective, even though Coleco must’ve been out of their minds for even trying to bring Zaxxon to the 2600...without any kind of an extra RAM chip or anything for the 3-D gameplay. Utter genius, total stupidity, or they were just trying to make a buck? You decide. 6/10