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Word Zapper (Atari 2600) artwork

Word Zapper (Atari 2600) review


"A good number of these things will ram into you and bump your ship a smidgen off to the side, making it tougher to get a bead on the proper letter. Another type threatens to make the game fun by temporarily scrambling the letters, so you don't know when the one you're looking for will appear. And the final type just obliterates your ship — a tactic that's far more useful in preventing players from spelling words than those used by the other shapes. You can destroy these objects, but there's no real point, as they aren't hard to dodge and you get no reward for doing so."



When I was a young'un, my folks were cool with my obsessive video game playing, but felt I should get a bit of educational content along with my enjoyment. So, one fine day that would live in infamy if I could remember it, I was bestowed the gift of Word Zapper -- a game where you shoot letters to make words while avoiding evil interplanetary objects who apparently hate it when people create words.

Each game of Word Zapper lasts for 99 seconds. During this time, you are forced to properly spell three words with, as the instruction book bizarrely calls it, "a most profound vehicle of amusement, the rotary wing Word Zapper". Ready.....set.....GO!!!! There you are in the middle of the screen. A word (maximum of six letters) appears briefly on the bottom of the screen. At the top is a scrolling alphabet. If the word you get is "DUNG" (which likely isn't actually in the game....), you wait for the "D" to scroll by and hit the fire button to shoot it. And then the "U" and so on. Not that difficult of a concept now, is it? Especially since if you exhibit the competence of a dust bunny and shoot the wrong letter, you face no consequences or repercussions.

However, spelling isn't supposed to be EASY, damnit! And that's where a diabolical array of flying shapes attempts to stop your most profound vehicle of amusement from doing its thing. A good number of these things will ram into you and bump your ship a smidgen off to the side, making it tougher to get a bead on the proper letter. Another type threatens to make the game fun by temporarily scrambling the letters, so you don't know when the one you're looking for will appear. And the final type just obliterates your ship -- a tactic that's far more useful in preventing players from spelling words than those used by the other shapes. You can destroy these objects, but there's no real point, as they aren't hard to dodge and you get no reward for doing so.

And so, you either spell your three words in 99 seconds or you don't and wind up pondering if there's a reason for your pathetic existence. That's it. However, like many Atari 2600 games, this one does have a number of levels --  24 to be precise. Here, you may control how fast the alphabet scrolls, as well as the speed and number of attacking shapes. Oh, and you can choose if you want to spell words or random assortments of letters. Yes, in a supposedly educational game, half of the levels you can play test you on your ability to correct spell "GLXF" or "QNYA".

I'd say that defeats the purpose of an educational game, but let's be real -- there's nothing particularly educational about Word Zapper. You see a short, simple word and then you shoot letters to spell said word. By the time I was 10 years old and playing this game, I'd pretty much mastered that skill with the caliber of words generated by it. So I was stuck with an inane, short, simplistic and horrible shooter that I didn't learn anything from. Most profound vehicle of amusement, my ass.

Rating: 1/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 09, 2008)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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