3-D Zapper

3-D Zapper
Company: U.S. Games
Model #:
Todd Marshall (Wickstead Design)
Year: 1982
Requires 3-D Glasses


In the early 1980's 3-D was seeing a brief resurgence.  Originally developed in the the mid 1850's, the anaglyph (Red/Blue) 3-D process takes two different images (one red, one blue) and offsets them slightly. When viewed through special glasses with one blue eye and one red eye it makes the image look like it's three dimensional.  Although movies briefly experimented with the idea in the early 1920's, it wouldn't be until the 1950's when 3-D movies and comic books enjoyed wide, yet brief, popularity.  Why the 3-D gimmick came back is anyone's guess, but the trend died again quickly.  But not before giving us such classics as Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3-D, Jaws 3 in 3-D, and 3-D Zapper?


Ok so 3-D Zapper wasn't a movie, but rather it was an attempt by Wickstead Design to design a 3-D based shooter on the 2600 to cash in on the current craze.  Wickstead Design wasn't the only company perusing a 3-D 2600 game at the time, Amiga (through Videosoft) was developing several 3-D based games that actually made it to the prototype stage (3-D Ghost Attack, 3-D Genesis, and 3-D Havok).  Activision and Spectravideo had also expressed interest in the possibility of doing a 3-D game, but it's not known how far those plans got.

In its current state 3-D Zapper is only a tech demo.  The player can move the zapper at the bottom of the screen left and right and shoot at the various geometry shapes that fly around the screen.  By pressing up and down the player can select the distance into the background they want to shoot.  When pushing up and down the two parts of the zapper (the red and blue) will move further apart or merge together and the beam they fire will either get smaller and thinner or larger and thicker.  It's a rather nice effect that really stands out in this early demo.

Unfortunately that's really all there is to the demo.  While the player can technically hit the various shapes (indicated by the screen flashing red briefly), they don't explode or disappear in any way.  The collision detection (as is usually the case with 3-D games) is also a bit dodgy.  The shapes themselves don't fire back or attack the player in any way and there is no sound in the demo.  The demo will continually run until it is turned off as there is no way to win or lose yet.

Although it's somewhat simplistic looking in its early state, 3-D Zapper was showing some interesting potential.  Internal memos show that in addition to the simple one screen version of the game (limited to 4K), there were plans for a deluxe 8K version that would add two additional stages to the game and improve on the gameplay.  The second stage would consist of a large mothership style boss (possibly looking like the large UFO from the earlier demo), while the third stage would have the player control a robot that needed to travel down a long road and enter a castle while avoiding enemies.  Interestingly this proposed third stage looked very similar to the second stage in Amiga's 3-D Ghost Attack.  Unfortunately neither version of the game was to be, and the project was canceled for unknown reasons.

Version Cart Text Description
12/15/82 3D Space 12/15/82
Non-Playable Demo
?/??/83 3D 2 Playable Demo


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