ZAP game
  • Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatBBC Micro
DeveloperJamie Woodhouse
PublisherRetro Software
Price£1.95 (cassette)
£2.95 (disk)

Main review

Originally developed in the late 1980s by programmer Jamie Woodhouse (who later produced the excellent platformer Qwak, first for the BBC and later on a raft of other platforms including a recent PC release), Zap is a gallery shooter for the BBC Micro. Although it was offered to Beeb specialists Superior Software back in the day, a release wasn’t to be and the work disks languished in a storage box until Retro Software became involved. Travel twenty years down the line and Zap was tidied up for its first appearance in the wild on cassette or disk with just a few minor modifications made to the original code by Woodhouse himself.

As the name no doubt hints, the action in Zap is straight out blasting; the attractive inlay chatters on about how the Earth’s defence forces are having their collective backside royally kicked by the Dark Empire in a centuries old war to the point where humanity could soon be extinct but all that really matters is that the player is about to don a flight suit, climb aboard their small but manoeuvrable one-person craft and launch head first into the enemy stronghold with the “plan” being to give the place a serious, laser-themed redecorating.


The Dark Empire’s fighters rather handily appear grouped into waves which weave and twirl around the inky blackness of space whilst throwing around photon death; the best strategy is simply to wedge a thumb on the fire key and, if something fails to blow up after having shots slam into it a couple of times, keep on hammering the thing whilst trying to stay out of it’s way because it’ll most likely be the end of level boss. Enemies are almost as trigger happy as the player and, along with having formidable aim, the projectiles being launched can sometimes move quickly so remaining in one piece isn’t going to be a walk in the park.

On the presentation front, it proves rather basic with the sound throughout the game being limited to just explosion effects for player or enemies without even a firing noise to keep them company. The graphics are also sparse and functional, although they do offer at least some variety and a splash of colour over the star-spattered void of space.

The inspiration for Zap seems to be an assortment of gallery shooters from the early 1980s (presumably including games like Superior’s Galaforce series) and Jamie Woodhouse himself has cited the classic scrolling blaster Star Force as the major influence on Zap‘s development; it might not be in the same league as Tehkan’s coin-op classic (or indeed to BBC shoot ’em up Fire Track) but does compare favourably on just about every level bar the sound to similar titles on the 8-bits including Galaforce 2.

In the long-term, Zap isn’t the most involved of games and is ridiculously stingy when it comes to handing out points, but BBC-loving fans of the shoot ’em up genre should find that it serves up a rather stiff but solid challenge – more full-flavoured sound effects or perhaps a couple of tunes wouldn’t have gone amiss though.