Bandits at Zero is a supremely awesome horizontal shooter for the Commodore 16, released back in 1986. You fly a single plane over an area densely populated by enemy planes, which has a few different attack procedures and weapon capabilities. There are also ships on the sea below who can blast you out of the sky given half a chance. Enemies, it seems, are everywhere!
It is fast and frantic fun, though it also requires a great degree of precision and some strategy to be successful, too. Precision is also key in the night-time stages–not only do you have enemies to contend with, but getting hitched up with the refueling aircraft is a tricky business in itself. I don’t think I ever actually managed to complete the game, but I sure had a blast trying. The sprites may be small but parallax scrolling and fast game play pushes the low-cost 8-bit machine to the limit.
At its heart, Bandits At Zero is an extremely simple game concept but it’s superbly executed, the day-night cycle adds considerably to the realism, and the refueling aspect gives the game extra depth. It even has a little radar at the bottom tracking everything–it really packs a lot into that meagre 18 Kilobytes of memory! The fact that it still plays well today says a lot. It obviously has similarities to another classic, Defender, but it definitely has its own identity.
I’m pretty sure that anyone who had a C16 will remember this game; it’s among the most iconic games ever produced for it, and one of the games that cemented Mastertronic’s reputation for releasing great budget games (this one came out on the M.A.D. label at £2.99).
This game was created by Shaun Southern, who coded quite a number of the most memorable C16 games, including Speed King and Trailblazer, and later went onto join iconic 16-bit development team Magnetic Fields.