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Word Zapper (Atari 2600) artwork

Word Zapper (Atari 2600) review

"The first time I played Word Zapper, I thought it was some sort of an educational game that was meant to help kids learn how to spell out words. The more I played it, the more I learned that not only is it not educational, it's not even fun in the least sense! "

The first time I played Word Zapper, I thought it was some sort of an educational game that was meant to help kids learn how to spell out words. The more I played it, the more I learned that not only is it not educational, it's not even fun in the least sense!

To start off, you have the unfortunate honor of controlling a wacky-looking spaceship. At the top-middle part of the screen, you will see all the letters of the alphabet scrolling to the left. You have to use the ship that has flailing arms to shoot, or zap, the letters that correspond to what you have to spell.

When you first begin a game of Word Zapper, your ship will move and land on the ground, and at the same time, it will show you a word at the bottom of the screen, such as ''SHIP''. Then the letters start scrolling to the left and you have 99 seconds to try and spell out 3 different words. Your opponent or friend must do the same thing because Word Zapper is only a two-player game, and there's no computer player to be challenged.

It's real simple to spell all the words out, just as long as you have a decent memory of what word you're trying to spell out, or if you're a good speller. You can move your ship in any direction, 360º, with the joystick and every time you press the joystick's button, the ship will shoot a beam up to the top of the screen. As soon as you begin your letter-zapping quest, the word it showed you to spell out will be replaced by a bunch of question marks at the bottom of the screen.

You must zap the letters in the correct order, starting with the first letter of the word. Each time you shoot the wrong letter, that letter will just disappear without causing you any harm (lame). Shoot a wrong letter and it won't even take any seconds off the clock or do anything else to give the challenge a new flavor. When you zap the correct letter, it will go to the bottom of the screen, replacing one of the mysterious question marks.

As I said, you have three different words to spell out, if of course, you and your friend successfully complete the first two words. To perform your overly easy task with success, all you have to do is zap the correct letters in the right order and then zap the snake symbol that follows the letter Z. If you do it right, your ship will happily zoom left and right in a frantic fashion, and then land and show you the next word that needs spelling out. If you zap the snake-looking symbol before spelling out your current word, one of the letters will be given to you out of pity, and then the serpent won't be in the lettered lineup for awhile.

Successfully spelling out three words in 99 seconds will earn you and your friend a rating based on your success, and then the game will be over. Even if you and your friend don't spell a single word out, the worst you could do is be given the name ''ROOKIE''. The best you can do is earn the honorary tag of ''ZAPPER''.

To make your 99-second task a bit more tedious, there are three different kinds of spacecraft that come from the sides of the screen and fly either left or right in a straight line to the other side. There are stars, three-sided wonders, and hexagons. You would be best to avoid as many of these wimpy aliens as you can. Most of the time, if one hits you, your spaceship will just be pushed to the side a bit. But if one of the hexagons hit you, all the letters of the scrolling alphabet will be jumbled up for many seconds. Don't worry about losing a life, because you can't.

Push left or right on your joystick and press the firing button at the same time, and you will shoot a line-shaped projectile across the screen. You can destroy any of the enemies with just one shot, but what's the point? They just keep coming back, and since the game doesn't have a point system, you're pretty much just doing it for nothing.

There are 24 variations included in Word Zapper. In the first variation, or game, the words and enemies scroll pretty slowly, and the words are all real words.

Once you get to about variation 15 and up to #24, a few of the enemies will be blasting across the screen like their ass is on fire, and the letters scroll across the screen real fast. Also, the words you have to spell will no longer be words. Instead of spelling something like ''RAIN'' or ''UNDONE,'' you will have the job of spelling 'words' such as ''VNHZ.''

Finally, for some odd reason, the snake symbol will no longer be included in the set of words at all! Sometimes, you might see it absent, and then it'll pop out of nowhere. But other times, it won't be there at all for the entire 99 seconds. That makes it literally impossible to spell out a word and complete it; talk about a glitch!

Word Zapper is a game that is either so easy that it's not even fun, or so glitchy that it's impossible to even finish a game you start. I never owned this game until I was about 8, so I already knew a good deal about spelling. I guess a young kid who likes playing video games could get a little bit of practice in the spelling department by playing Word Zapper, but if I were a kid, I would rather eat my least favorite foods such as cabbage or onions before I would want to play this simplistic and no-thrills game.

GRAPHICS - The graphics in Word Zapper look a little childish. The ship owns flailing arms and it just has a downright weird look to it. The enemy spacecrafts look pretty silly. They're not intimidating in the least sense in their looks; they look more 'friendly'. On the other hand, the letters are big and easy to read, and the game does have some nice colors; that's about all there is to brag about.

SOUND - The sounds aren't terribly bad or great in any sense; they're more mediocre than anything. The sound effects are clear and they're actually not bad at all, but they're not really memorable either. I hope you're not a music fan because there's not a single tune included in the poor game of Word Zapper.

CONTROL - Controlling the zap machine is real simple because all you have to do is move in any direction and press the button when you want to zap a letter or destroy an ugly enemy. The controls aren't sluggish or overly responsive; they're like they should be.

REPLAY VALUE - One word: yuck. I haven't played this game much at all compared to all of my other Atari 2600 games. As a matter of fact, I believe it's the game I've played the least out of every video game I own for any system. Word Zapper isn't challenging, it's full of glitches, and it's not fun at all. Therefore, its replay value is just about nonexistent.

OVERALL - To enjoy playing Word Zapper would be like trying to get Garfield to quit eating so much lasagna; it's not going to happen. As I said earlier, a few, and very few at that, young kids might get something from playing this game, but I even doubt that. I wouldn't recommend getting or even playing Word Zapper; zap the game into several bits instead. Walking down a street full of dogs while dressed up as a fire hydrant would be more fun than playing the forgettable game of Word Zapper.

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Community review by retro (October 31, 2003)

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