David Braben‘s 1987 shoot ’em up, Zarch, is probably the most well-known Archimedes game around. It was an early release for the Acorn computer and it really made the gaming world sit up and take notice.
Zarch is a 3D shooter that is controlled exclusively with a mouse. Holding down the left mouse button applies thrust to your craft, propelling you in the opposite direction. Pressing the right mouse button fires the ship’s weapon – a front-mounted gun. Moving the mouse applies roll, pitch and yaw to your craft and you have to fly around (and fight things) using very sensitive controls.
In fact: the controls are so sensitive that getting a decent game out of Zarch is beyond most people. It takes a special kind of pilot to tame the beast inside this game…
What you’re essentially trying to do in Zarch is stop an alien race from infecting the Earth with a virus. Spreaders drop the virus onto the landscape and change its colour from green to red. You have to destroy the spreaders, and every other alien craft, to complete a level.
To make things trickier (as if they weren’t hard enough), the game even awards negative points for shooting the wrong stuff! You actually lose one point for every bullet you fire – so you shouldn’t go around blasting everything in sight or you’ll end up with a huge negative score…
In spite of the level of difficulty, Zarch is a great game. Actually flying the ship and not hitting the ground is an achievement in itself, and – with a bit of practise – you might even complete a level… It’s a challenge worth undertaking.
Note: Zarch is possibly better known as “Virus“, which is the name the game was titled as for its release on other systems (by Firebird Software). Superior Software published the Archimedes version.
More: Zarch on Wikipedia