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Zalor Mercenary

Epyx 1991

Atari Lynx


This has got to be the crappiest shooter game I've ever played. Ever.

It's a sci-fi space shippy type game where you fly from an overhead view in a very choppily animated ship and blow up other choppy things with your choppy lazers and crap. First thing you notice when you start the game is there are like fifteen different pilots to choose, each with their own special weapon on their ship. Problem is beyond this minor difference (which will be something like faster speed or auto fire) there is nothing else to distinguish them. The ships look and handle exactly the same. Why put a ton of different pilots if they all fly the same ship? Why not just put like three pilots but have three different ships?

When you finally get the game going you notice just how disjointed and choppy everything is. Thing is this was probably done on purpose to reduce the glare effect on the Lynx screen. A little can be acceptable, but here it just makes the game look like it's made of fourth-rate claymation. That coupled with occasional slowdown boggs the game down into a frustrating mess.

You can shoot stuff in the air and on the ground with your (crappy) lazers. Problem is your default weapon is pretty weak, even generic enemies take two or three hits to destroy. One thing the game does right is the amount of enemies on screen - The screen will be full to the breaking point of squadrons of various enemy types (most of which don't look half bad.) Then you notice that most of them don't really move very much. But all of them fire this same large green-lima bean bullet at you. At any given time the screen is full of these little bastards and your ship is too damn big to dodge them all.

The programmers must have seen this, so instead of making the ship smaller, move faster, or put less bullets, or make your weapons stronger so you can blow crap up before it shoots or runs into you, instead they give you this immense energy shield. Thus your ship can take like 100 shots before you bite the dust. But instead of evening the playing field like you think it would it just makes you less likely to dodge or shoot at stuff, i.e. less actually play the intended game. If I can get through a level just by leaving the controls alone why bother wasting energy moving around and stuff?

Then you get to the first boss. It is this huge flying saucer that takes up the whole screen and must be destroyed in sections. Problem is this boss must take 500 shots to destroy. And it launches a billion little green bullets at you that not only are they impossible to dodge (because there's no room to maneuver, because the boss takes up all the damn screen) but also the screen forcibly slows down every time it shoots - lame. It's so bad I actually died three times, even with the ridiculous 100-hit shield they give you.

When you finally get past this thing it's more of the same. You go to a shop but have no money because whatever money you get is deleted after you die. The next level begins, same crappy scrolling, same choppy animation, same frustrating pointless gameplay, no thank you. Oh, it also gave me some kind of homing lazer which was just as weak as the default weapon. Whatever, I had no desire to continue after this point.

Zalor Mercenary - I'll pay you not to play this game.

P.S. - There is a version of Conway's Game of Life hidden in the cart, which even though it's a non-interactive simulator is much better than playing the actual game.

Graphics: Very detailed and not bad looking, but very choppy animation and scrolling. It gets so bad and sometimes when the screen is full of stuff you have no idea what is going on.

Sound: Crap. Utter crap. The sound for the explosions is the same sound used on the old Atari 800 computers! This handheld is supposed to be a 16-bit machine, please tell me it can do better!

Gameplay: Frustrating, boring, pointless, like this game.

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