It’s uncommon in this day and age for there to be zero information on something, it seems that everything has a Wikipedia page or an article explaining it somewhere. Bomb has no Wikipedia page nor does it have any articles, Bomb has nothing but word of mouth, and frankly I haven’t heard any of it so I can’t form a proper opinion of the company. From what I can understand these guys were most active over in Europe, due mainly to the fact that 90% of all Bomb carts are PAL. From looking at the available advertisements on AtariMania it seems these guys were based out of Germany, or at the very least distributed from there, if this is the case that would make Bomb one of the only non-U.S. companies to sell games in the U.S. The game in question today is Z-Tack, and strangely enough we actually know who programmed it, its Robert Esken Jr. the guy who programmed Gamma Attack, probably the rarest game on the 2600. I’m curious though, how did an American programmer wind up programming a game for an assumedly German company, where it was then sold all over Europe, then later it was distributed in the U.S. where it was originally programmed? How confusing.
Z-Tack doesn’t look half bad; actually I think there are elements of the game that are quite good in fact. The enemy base designs are quite stellar there are over eight unique base designs which helps stave off the boredom that inevitably follows same-y looking games. There is also a good selection of different level designs/terrains, according to the manual there are six unique designs that will loop as the player progresses. Z-Tack has something that many games of this genre lacked, variety, you’re not going through the same looking stage against the same looking enemies over and over again, the game changes as you progress and I think that’s an excellent touch. That being said there are a few gripes I have with the game, the first being the terrain itself, it is incredibly blocky and is monochrome, though I did notice that the life counter changes color with the terrain so I’m guessing that this was programmed in due to necessity. The saucer doesn’t look too bad, but there is a strange visual issue that causes it to stretch vertically whenever it crosses certain parts of the screen, I don’t know what causes this so if any of you programmers out there can explain this I would be grateful.
This game barely has any sounds. All you get are a few squeaks and beeps and a few explosion noises. Sadly I think the explosions are miscast, if the explosion that plays when you are destroyed plays whenever you destroy an enemy I’d find the game to a more fun experience since a good explosion makes everything better. Yeah, there isn’t anything else to talk about let’s just move on to the gameplay.
This is a simple shoot ‘em up, but there is a twist (as always), instead of shooting enemies to protect your bases/cities, you are the enemy destroying cites, and they are shooting back to protect themselves. The cites are well protected by the terrain, often appearing at the bottoms of holes or are nestled in caverns with only a small opening to shoot through, making hitting them more challenging. Your saucer is quite nimble, moving quickly and able to go in eight directions, you’re also able to shoot in four directions. There is a caveat to this maneuverability; your saucer suffers from ‘Cruise Missile’-itis, in that you must be moving in the direction you want to shoot to shoot in that direction, which will make the game far more difficult in the long run. As you progress through the game you’ll notice that sometimes a city’s shot will turn into a skull ‘n crossbones and hang around for a little while, these things are death and I would recommend against touching them. Later still those crossbones will turn into heat seeking missiles that will shoot in the horizontal direction of your ship. Soon you’ll be warding off attacks from left right and beneath which makes the game a hectic and fun shooter with the only downside being the ‘Cruise Missile’-itis, but you can get used to it pretty quick especially if you have a fairly sensitive joystick on hand.
Z-Tack is fun, which is odd from a no-name company that released four games and then rode off into the metaphorical sunset. As you can probably guess this isn’t an easy game to track down, at least in the NTSC format. You can find PAL copies all day long for around 50 dollars, and a boxed PAL copy sold for over 90 dollars a little while back, but I have no concrete sales info for an NTSC copy. If you’re wondering I bought a reproduction copy for 26 dollars which is good enough for me. This game goes to the Collector’s Zone for just being inaccessible to the general gaming audience, sorry guys unless you have a Harmony Cart or a repro copy you just aren’t playing it.