Game Review: Neutron Zapper (Vic 20, Mastertronic)

Neutron Zapper, Mastertronic, Vic 20, IV0032
  • 7/10
    Score - 7/10
7/10

Summary

While a simplistic shooter, the increasing difficulty makes Neutron Zapper quite challenging even for the most accomplished gamer. With its random attack patterns it ensures that no two games will ever play the same, giving plenty of long-term appeal if you can look past the simplistic visuals and sounds.

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The Vic 20 was a major part of Mastertronic’s early catalogue. While it was probably the weakest system in terms of technical capabilities, it was still well supported with a total of 18 released coming from the publisher. One such game was Neutron Zapper – a title licensed from Galactic Software, the early company set up by Richard and David Darling…

Neutron Zapper – An Overview

Running on unexpanded systems, Neutron Zapper is a non-scrolling vertical shoot-em-up. Starting off with three lives, your ship is positioned at the bottom of the screen and is limited to left and right movements and can fire at everything heading towards you. Unlike most of the contemporary shooters on the market, there are no attack waves or screens of aliens to defeat. Instead, it’s an endless onslaught that you have to endure.

While nothing shoots back at you, that doesn’t mean Neutron Zapper is a simple game. There are large asteroid-type objects that split in two when shot (with each piece flying towards you at high speed), smaller objects, and large alien craft. Each scores different amounts and the attack patterns are completely random.

A Tough Challenge

This may sound like an easy game to beat, and to start off with it’s relatively simple to keep up with the creatures heading towards you. Where the real challenge comes with Neutron Zapper is that the speed increases the longer you survive and more adversaries start to appear on screen as you progress. Soon enough, the game becomes an intense, frenzied shooter that even Jeff Minter would be proud of.

The only respite you get from the frantic action is when you inevitably lose a life and then the gameplay slows back down, giving you a chance to catch your breath, before the pace picks back up once more…

Looking Dated

It has to be said that Neutron Zapper isn’t the best looking Vic 20 game to have been released. While the character used for your ship isn’t too bad (somewhat reminiscent of Galaga), the rest are quite bland and not up to the quality the Vic is capable of. The sound effects grate quite quickly as well, especially the increasingly rapid bleeping as the game speeds up.

I’d say this is more a combination of the game’s age and memory limitation than anything else though. The unexpanded Vic 20 can do better as we saw with King Tut but this was originally released a couple of years earlier.

Overall

Despite its looks, Neutron Zapper provides plenty of fun and enough of a challenge to keep you occupied for quite a while. The fact that it doesn’t rely on learning attack patterns forces you to rely on skill more than anything else, something a lot of arcade shooters are lacking. The real strength lies in the random nature of the game, which helps to give it that “one more go” factor, bringing you back with a never-ending desire to beat your high score making this a surprising early winner for Mastertronic.

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