Version tested: Retro
Defender was widely acknowledged by many as an instant classic upon its release into the arcade. Fans of the game held their breath in baited anticipation as they waited for the first home versions to appear in the shops. Surely the bespoke controls of Defender parent could never be replicated on the humble Competition Pro Joystick. Could it?
Archer Maclean released Dropzone on the C64 in 1985 (Initial development of the game took place on an Atari 800 that reportedly ran 2 ½ times faster than its C64 counterpart) - a tight, challenging and finely balanced shooter that perfectly exemplified how a complex game could be controlled by a stick and a single button.
All aspects of the Defender game mechanics are unashamedly present including the hovering alien types awaiting their fate, the end-of-wave re-spawning enemy should the player dawdle too long and even the cloak from Stargate makes an appearance for good measure.
Archer introduces a number of subtle game play nuances in Dropzone that necessitate a change of tactic by the Defender player. The added challenge of transporting the stranded scientists back to base whilst the hyperactive aliens insistent on homing in on your ship ensures the player has an intense, demanding and often tiring gaming experience. The games control mechanism is sublime and superbly responsive - you know that if you die, and you will, you only have yourself to blame.
The aliens initially appear pretty clueless as wave after wave are shot down with ease. A subtle malice about their actions is soon realised a few levels in and despatching them in a timely fashion is far from straight forward.
Although not as flashy, brash or complex as many other shooters, Dropzone delivers exactly what it says on the tin and achieved a whopping 95% score in Zzap!64 magazine in the process. This is surely the best home version of Jarvis' legendary arcade with a few extra knobs for good measure, and is every Defender fan's dream come true.
9 / 10