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Lander on the Acorn Archimedes

Comparing Lander to Zarch

How Lander's big brother compares to its predecessor

Zarch is the commercial game that David Braben wrote after finishing Lander and sending off the code for inclusion on the Archimedes welcome disc. Zarch was published by the joint Acornsoft/Superior Software label, and it has a lot more features than Lander, though Lander is still a self-contained game (and is therefore the winner of the claim to be the very first ARM game). To quote the author himself, from an article in Retro Gamer Issue 128:

Effectively Lander was a demo - a snapshot at around halfway through development. This is because the code had to go off to be duplicated and packed in with the machines.

Here's the starting point on the launchpad in Lander:

The ship on the launchpad in Acorn Archimedes Lander

And here's the same scene in Zarch:

The ship on the launchpad in Zarch

They are clearly very much related, though the landscape shape is subtly different, the shading is slightly better in Zarch, there's a radar and a fancy score bar in the latter... the list goes on.

Here, then, are the main differences between Lander and Zarch. It is not necessarily complete, but it covers everything that I've discovered while looking through the code for Lander.

Tiles at edge of landscapeJaggedSmooth
Trees, buildings, gazebos, rocketsYesYes
Lots of other 3D objectsNoYes
Sea monsterNoYes
Hover modeYesNo
Enemies to fightNoYes
Virus infectionsNoYes
Smart bombsNoYes
Radar and radar installationsNoYes
Falling rocksYesNo
Stars in the upper skyNoYes
Hillier terrain on higher levelsNoYes
Stronger gravity on higher levelsYesYes
Score barTextualGraphical
High scoreYesYes
High score tableNoYes
Competition numberNoYes
FontSystem fontGame font
Demo modeNoYes
You can die on the launchpadYesNo

The games have the same core values - 3D scrolling landscape, mouse-powered flight and so on - and they also share the same steep learning curve. The atmosphere in Lander is rather more sedate, though, as nobody is trying to kill you, and the landscape is a lovely undulating green, untainted by the red viral infection of Zarch.

I bought Zarch, but I have to say that it didn't quite capture me in the way that Lander did. It turns out that they are really quite different games, albeit ones based on the same 3D engine.