Retro-Gaming with Coleco

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Zaxxon and Q*Bert

3D Space Warfare



Zaxxon was the first game to use a 3D perspective.  In it, you must pilot your ship around and over various obstacles while keeping an eye on enemy planes and tanks, with the final goal of defeating a robot named Zaxxon.  Playing in "3D" posed some new challenges for game players - lining up enemy fighters never required such an effort.  "3D" also posed a challenge for conversion to home use.  The console was completely different inside and out, and it used a combination of mirrors and dual VFD displays to pull of the three-dimensional effect.  The planet surface and ground based enemies were created on one VFD, while the player's ship and other air-based enemies were on the other VFD, which was in turn reflected off of the mirror.  Sounds good on paper, but gameplay was harder than expected.  The "3D" effect was hard to completely grasp, and players were just as prone to crashing into walls as they were getting shot down.  It still looked undeniably cool, however, and could be the showpiece to any collection.

Technically not Coleco, but who cares?



Q*Bert was inspired by the artwork of M.C. Escher, and his name originated from the combination of "Cube" and "Hubert".  The sole point of the game was to change the color of the cubes, but what really gave this game its needed twist was the angular jumps.  Q*Bert jumped on diagonal paths, which led to some eye-straining (and sometimes console pounding) when the player jumped off the edge of the pyramid in what appeared to be a safe jump.  Our last showcase was not from Coleco, but from Parker Brothers, the only such handheld game they produced.  The design was totally different than Coleco's handhelds with a more vertical VFD screen and large diagonal joystick.  These design choices actually made it easier to physically play the game, although the way the cubes were displayed made for a less enjoyable experience overall.  Released too near the video-game dropout of 1983, and not having the build-up and recognition that Coleco enjoyed at the time, this tabletop game remains a mystery to many players and collectors.

Tags:  Gaming, eco, Gamin, retro, AM

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