Some time ago I uploaded a Windows arcade game, Alien Force. It was among the first Windows 3.0 games and very popular in its time, you found it on most shareware CDs. Today I uploaded a similar, but far less known game, ZoneGame from Outer-Space. In spite of the obvious similarities, the two games claim to be remakes of two different 8-bit games: Attack Force on the TRS-80 resp. Crossfire on the Apple ][. That got me interested, and I researched a bit.
The common source for both games is the Exidy arcade machine Targ, released in 1980. It set the basic gameplay: a 9×9 grid of square blocks through which the player steers a little green car, the Wummel. The Wummel is hunted by Targs, red wedges that move at about twice the speed. The Wummel can shoot the Targs, but the Targs can only ram the Wummel. The whole thing looked like this:
Attack Force was released in the same year, as far as I could find out only on the Tandy TRS-80. It is a fairly direct clone of Targ. The grid has been reduced to 7×5, and as a new feature
Flagships were introduced. They can turn an enemy into a clone of the player, which the player than must avoid shooting. Here’s a screenshot from the TRS-80 Gaming Guide:
Robert Epps based Alien Force, as he writes, on fond (albeit vague) memories of Attack Force. In some ways it is closer to Targ, the grid is enlarged to 10×10. I don’t know if it has Flagships, but the enemies can shoot on higher levels. Robert Epps does not mention Targ, but the enemies are red in his game as well. The player sprite however is a craft, not a car. Alien Force is a very well done game, with good functional graphics and a PC-style interface (arrow keys). And the download size is only 15kB! Here’s what it looks like:
Jay Sullivan’s Crossfire (as the VIC-20 original was named) was a far bigger thing than Attack Force. It was published by Sierra On-Line between 1981 and 1984 on at least five platforms, VIC-20, Atari, Commodore 64, PC, and finally Apple ][. It is less similar to Targ. Most notably there are several different enemies, and they can all shoot at the player. Here’s a screenshot of the Apple ][ version that inspired ZoneGame:
ZoneGame from Outer-Space
In spite of the gameplay similarities, ZoneGame from Outer-Space is quite different from Alien Force. It belongs to another era. Alien Force was one of the first Windows 3.0 games, when ZoneGame was released, Windows 3.1 was already in decline. Alien Force is designed for VGA, but will scale to larger desktops. ZoneGame is designed for 800×600, 256 colors, not exactly standard even in 1996. Here’s a screenshot, click it for full size:
I found its interface inferior to the older game, it uses a hardcoded
both hands key setting (left hand for shooting and horizontal movement, right hand for vertical movement, very popular on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum) that I found rather irritating, especially as the keys for vertical movement are not the same on the keyboards of different languages. I also noted that if you restore the window and then maximize it again, it does not display correctly. So in general I preferred Aliem Force, but both games are worth checking out.