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Moby ID: 27772

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 75% (based on 8 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 11 ratings with 1 reviews)

The most competent shootemup of its platform

The Good
Zybex is an unusually well realised space shootemup, for a low budget home computer game. Moreover, it has an Atari 800 port, which even turned out good. The playfield keeps scrolling from left to right. Instead of a space ship, we control little people with a space suit and jetpack. It does feature a co-op 2-player mode.

The graphics are nice and detailed. It has that late era C64 aesthetic to it (after all, it IS a port from the C64), something that was unseen on the Atari before Zeppelin's releases. The screen scrolls smoothly from left to right, and the screen is busy with sprites (that even have working hit detection, what a luxury!). The level sceneries are minimal, but they convey a good idea of what kind of location we are traversing (and act as an obstacle at occasions). The backgrounds are just blackness, but after all, SSSSPACE!!! The enemy sprites in the C64 version are more colorful, while on the Atari they share their palette with the scenery. As far as I got in the game, this didn't pose a problem.

The title music is one of the best tunes for the system! During gameplay there's only sound effects, but they at least make a nice soundscape. In comparison, the sounds in the C64 version are quirky and effect-heavy, while in the Atari version has a crystal clear square-wave rendition of them. Both versions have their strength.

One notable feature to talk about is the weapon system. Destroyed enemies drop various powerups, which we can collect. When we pick up a new kind, it does not automatically switch to that weapon, rather we gain a new weapon in our arsenal without losing the current one. We can switch weapons at will! When we pick a powerup for a weapon what we already have, it upgrades that weapon's firepower. When we lose a life, the current weapon's firepower gets downgraded by one unit (we can also lose weapons if is on its lowest firepower), but the rest of the weapons are not changed.

Another good feature is, the game does not progress linearly. After the first level, we get a selection of levels we can chose from. Some levels are locked, and we gain access to them by collecting tokens on the accessable levels. Quite a novel idea for the era and circumstances.

The Bad
The joystick fire button does not shoot - the game does that automatically, by making the game character fire away constantly. (The fire button just switches weapons.) On one hand, this is a good thing: it goes easy on our joystick button and fingers, without needing a controller with autofire function. On the other hand, it takes away a little bit of control. Especially at low firepower, when the shots do not connect, we are vulnerable until our bullet leaves the screen. I wish there an option for manual firing, or a version with such a hack.

This game still does cheap shots: waves of enemies coming so fast you can barely react in time. I guess you would have to find a way to survive and memorize when these happen. This is one game where I wish I could explore more from it, but it is very rigorous in its challenge.

The Bottom Line
The Atari 800 line of computers are one of my favourite vintage system. They had pretty exciting (if quirky) hardware capabilities, with great potential. Tragically, they were neglected as a gaming platform. Sure, it enjoyed some relevance in the early 80s, but after 1985, the gaming industry kind of abandoned it. While the system theoretically still competed on store shelves against the likes of C64/Spectrum/Amstrad or even the NES, where more and more exciting and advanced games pushed the limit, the Atari 800 line was kind of stuck in the past. Thus it missed out on the genres that were popular in the late 80s, like Super Mario-esque platformers and Gradius-like shooters, which would have been appropriate for it. Zybex is a bit of a redeemer, or gap filler in this regard. Whoever happened to buy this game back in the day (instead of getting suckered with Transmuter), got a good value for their money.

Atari 8-bit · by 1xWertzui (1135) · 2024

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by lights out party, FatherJack, Jo ST, Hello X), Patrick Bregger.