You have landed in a clearing. Frantically, you rush through the woods toward the lights of the city far off in the distance. A vision of your family dances in your head -- your wife and the newborn daughter you have not yet seen. You must save them. As you finally scramble to a bluff panoramically overlooking the city, you see the lights in the sky and you realize it is too late. The flash nearly blinds you, and when vision returns, you feel nothing but anger as the massive mushroom cloud looms over the city. You are too late to save your home, but other cities remain, and they are still vulnerable. It is up to you alone to unravel the plot and hold back the enemy attackers.
Zone 66 is a high-tech 32-bit arcade game for 386 and faster computers. You fly your fighter jet through a huge 360-degree scrolling playfield that's jam-packed with 256-color enemies and terrain. Inflict massive damage on the enemy bunkers, artilery, and industrial sites, leaving craters and devastated earth in your wake.
~ advertising blurb
It's not often that you get a full, original game from a demoscene, but Zone66 developed by Renaissance and published by Epic Megagames in 1993 is one such a game. This top-down 360° shooter may look and play like a basic shoot-em-up at first glance, but there's more going on than you might expect.
From a technical standpoint, the fullscreen refresh was compatible with low-end DOS computers - as low as 16Mhz! That means nothing to modern gamers playing on DOSBox, but back then it was a double-edged sword. It meant those behind the times could play something previously unheard of, while those cutting edge Pentium users had difficulty getting it to run.
Gameplay-wise, there are a few neat mechanics to take advantage of. The aim is to destroy a number of targets over a large map, but your ship cannot possibly hold enough fuel or ammo to succeed with this. To get anywhere, you have to land your ship on a launchpad, refuelling and restocking from there. You can even change the type of ship if you want too. There are 9 allied ships and potentially 21 enemy craft to choose from, depending on the level and the base you've docked at. Each has their own stats, but I found the Hawke packed the biggest punch while the Stiletto's machine gun felt the most satisfying. Don't bother with enemy craft as none of them are as powerful. They don't even add anything from a tactical perspective either which is something of a missed opportunity.
Originally, Zone66 released as Shareware with multiple packs carrying different stages and craft. The full version has eight stages in total, each one being massive in size. They're so big that it can take some time to complete a single level. As such, tedium quickly sets in which is a shame as the first ten minutes or so are entertaining arcade fare. By the time you get to the last level, the rinse-and-repeat destruction feels like a chore.
All is not lost, though, as a cheat menu can be found out in the open. You can select invulnerability and unlimited fuel, missiles and ammo. Now you can reign hell on whatever level you wish which is very fun in short bursts. That's perhaps the best way to play any schmup - in short bursts. If you want to play Zone66 the way it was intended, you have to fly, bomb and shoot potentially for hours on end. Before the tedium sets in, it is a damn good time, but don't expect a lost arcade classic here.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Tested on and Windows 10.
File Size: 11.5 Mb. Install Size: 14.8 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Zone66 is © Epic MegaGames
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me