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Comments (27)
Steve - 07/01/2023
Oh no Mr McLean has died: (. RIP Mr McLean. Thanks for the superb coding, doing the Atari justice!
Andrew - 26/12/2022
Sadly, Mr. McLean passed away on Christmas Eve, 2022.
Vinnie - 10/10/2022
Great game, used to play it for hours with friends, should make a new version with up to date graphics, and add new content etc.
JT - 18/04/2022
Now *this* is a game that deserves its high rating. Probably the single best and most impressive shooter on the A8's. The technical skill (programming) was evident with its smoothness and speed...very impressive. I spent ridiculous amounts of time playing this one. One of my absolute faves.
XHale4Me - 17/02/2021
@Ayrat - on one occasion I spent almost all day playing this amazing game and I made it past the 1M mark. There was a competition in a magazine and all I had to do was send in a photo as evidence... so after running down stairs to get the camera, I'd discovered there was no film... I was pretty gutted that day!
Ayrat - 04/09/2020
The best shooting game of all time! It is unique in settings that always keep you on edge. My record is -1 210 000!
tkarner - 18/10/2017
Dropzone looks and sounds great but I don't play it much. It's just too hard. I feel like I'm missing out. It's a shame it doesn't have difficulty settings. I wonder if the problem is that it was designed in the UK for 50Hz PAL systems and we're playing it at 60Hz in the US.
Pengwin - 03/08/2017
If you thought Defender was, you ain't seen nothing yet. This game was the de facto shoot em up, but damn was it hard.
Monk - 30/04/2015

A good game, and an impressive showcase of the Atari's capabilities.

The C64 version comes close, but I guess there is slightly less action on the C64 screen (not that I notice it, because I really suck at this game and die immediately if I try to notice things like that).

The High Score screen is really beautiful on the Atari, so colorful, so eyepleasing with those great, glowing rasters. Wow. The C64 can't even dream of something like that (the C64 version's High Score screen looks pretty awful).

The title screen has the "Dropzone" logo drop to the bottom line by line on the Atari version instead of just moving there, like in the C64 version. I prefer the Atari version's look.

This game is too difficult for me, so I can't really comment on the gameplay differences - to me, it feels pretty much the same, just as frustratingly annoyingly difficult (though it seems that the Atari version might be a little bit harder).

The only things where the C64 version is better, is the filtered noise wave sound (this makes it sound more 'cosmic' or 'otherworldly', when you die, and the stars blink and you hear this filtered noise humming in the background - a peaceful moment after all that hectic blasting), and the colors of the ground.

The ground looks better on the C64 version, if only because of the odd color choices on the Atari version (It could be that because I have a PAL Atari, the colors are not right - sometimes 'red' becomes 'purple', and so on, so perhaps the ground would look better on an NTSC Atari). It is still a good-looking ground, but the colors match a little bit better on the C64, in my opinion.

Apart from that, the games seem pretty identical to me.

Oh, and the explosion of the man is just _SUPERB_ on both platforms! You really feel like you exploded in an exciting way, and you absolutely can't get enough of that effect. So you are not sorry to die, because the lovely effect is so delightful to experience anyway.

By the way, I wonder why the spaceship looks like a man in spacesuit, though (or the MEN you save are some kind of supertiny midgets in odd, rolling ground vehicles, and you are an enormous giant).

A probably good game, but too difficult for me, so I can just appreciate the visual-aural-atmosphere qualities. This game has lots of atmosphere. It'd probably be great to play this early on a wintery morning, when it's snowing and everyone else is still asleep.
Brenski - 22/02/2015
yeah...thought i was "home n dry" with the 95k score...especially when Baz's pre-deadline best was 69k.
Next thing I know he's extended his own - pre-determined "close of game deadline" and mysteriously added himself four hours of extra "Fergie Time" - which in the time-honoured tradition of all things Alex Ferguson - extended further by another 10%.
Then lo! and behold...Bazza suddenly (some might say even more mysteriously) beats my score by 3k. Game door firmly shut. Nice shenangans Bazza, you single-density waggler.
Bazza - 22/02/2015
Me and two other Atari nuts just spent a week hammering away at this classic. Brilliant. The smooth action, 80s arcade graphics and sound coupled with the strategy/tactics needed to get through the increasingly mental levels is second to none! Drove us bananas. Our top scores: 95K for Brenski and 98k from me. Very nearly put me in a Torette's clinic tho and our lass has banned me from future Atari 8bit comps...LOL! Keep it nostalgic, lads.
Gwobby - 26/01/2012
At last there's an NTSC version of DropZone available! Details here:

steve - 04/07/2009
Upon seeing and playing this game for the first time(all those years ago) it seemed to of come from another planet. The crisp graphics, sharp sound and incredible speed at which this game played blew us all away. The programmer pushed the atari's potential to the limit and then some. Upon the intro screen you know this game is not kidding. Today this feat of programming is appreciated even more greatly in retrospect. Outstanding game.
ElB - 04/10/2008
Archer Maclean teamed up with another British legend, snooker player Jimmy "Whirlwind" White, and they had quite a franchise going for a while with jmplementations on a range of platforms. The relevance? Jimmy White's Cueball 2 for the PC has a Dropzone arcade machine in one of the rooms. :)
Auntie Pastie - 22/03/2008
Byte; "All-American Software" was in U.S. Gold's logo because they started life as a UK distributor of games by American companies (Synapse, Datasoft, etc.) They stuck with that logo for quite a long time, even though it was no longer strictly true. As for Dropzone, it was a very well-developed game that had a real, quality "arcade feel" to it. Pretty hard though!
Byte - 21/08/2007
After reading the quote "in 1987 or 1988, I saw a double page ad for it in a US magazine and bought a copy to run on a US machine. It didn't look or play too good because it was tuned for a European machine, and it looked real bad, almost embarrassing" it's actually quite funny is seeing U.S. Gold use the phrase "All American Software" in the logo on the tape cover.
Pengwin - 23/07/2007
One of my favourite games on any platform. This was a perfect example of how games should be written: with playability in mind.
Paul Westphal - 01/07/2007
Wow! Of all the games I had back in the day, I wish I would have played this.It would have increased my patience level tenfold.It is a bit hard at first, but you get a feel for it after a while. Sound=A Graphics=A Gameplay=A Note: If only the C64 guys could have seen this when we were comparing systems!
Atari 4ever - 09/04/2007
This is best games on atari 8 bit !
Maggi1971 - 01/01/2007
"Squeezing the hardware in the Atari 800 to its limits and making it better than anything else then available. What was more amazing to me was the challenge of making it work on the less capable Commodore 64. It was a real nightmare implementation, but I did it."

Enough said. A true classic indeed (on the Atari!). Archer Maclean is still a programmig god for me. He designed only a few games, but he always kicked the players butt.
Jonny EOL - 11/11/2006
I found this one a bit hard to get going on, but once I had a feel for it, there was no going back. The sheer quality of the graphics alongside the speed of gameplay offered an experience never quite equalled. Those trailer invasions and anti-matter balls, meanwhile.....
Roger - 13/06/2006
How stupid of me, I was so excited that I found info on this game that I didn't even notice I could download this game from this website. Can't wait to get home from work and spend countless hours playing it again!!!!!!!!!!
Blair - 22/05/2006
Dropzone is one of the best 8bit games ever. The quality and attention to detail is amazing.
Nixon - 17/04/2006
completely agree on that...it's the best looking shootin game at arcade speed that i ever seen on an 8bit atari ...maybe it is the best maybe some other game is ;)
Lewis D'Aubin - 07/04/2006
The author's account of writing this game for 50hz PAL systems explains why the game runs so heart stoppingly fast on a 60hz Atari! Best Atari action game EVER. When this came out, I never played Defender again!!!
Houdi - 06/08/2005
Quite simply the best scrolling shoot 'em up of all time. Archer MacLean's 'Defender' clone was way ahead of its time using the Atari's superior capabilities and showing exactly why it was the best 8-bit machine ever produced.
BrunoN - 28/05/2004
This game fucking rules. One of the best(best?) shootem ups on small atari. Incredibly fast paced game. And check that explosions :)


Dropzone atari screenshot
Dropzone atari screenshot
Dropzone atari screenshot
Dropzone atari screenshot


GenreShoot'em Up! - DefenderYear1984
LanguageMachine LanguagePublisherUS Gold
ControlsJoystick, KeyboardDeveloperArena Graphics
Players1CountryUnited Kingdom

Maclean, Archer

Graphic Artist(s)MediumTape Disk
Cover Artist(s)Serial
Dumpdownload atari Dropzone Download

Additional Comments

Other versions with the same title:

Americana, Microdaft.

Excerpts from an interview with Archer Maclean by James Hague:

JH: 'What's the story of your first published game, Dropzone?'

AM: 'After getting my degree with the minimum amount of work - too much game programming, aided by copious liquid inspiration - I eventually decided to try and produce a game which at least equaled the quality, speed and gameplay of the arcade games of the time. So I took inspiration from Scramble, Defender, Stargate, Galaxian and many others and went for it. It took me about six months to come up with something looking so good it could be an arcade cabinet and I started showing it. It was a great feeling to see big crowds build up, blocking the aisles, around at various computer shows. It wasn't long before pioneering publishers / sharks were making offers to publish it. In those days, publishers and contracts were mutually exclusive terms, but I did strike up a contractual deal with one of the big UK-based publishers.

The name Dropzone wasn't applied to my effort until it was nearly all wrapped up and ready for duplication. It was very colorful, ran at a constant 50Hz, had masses of lumps of graphics flying around everywhere, lots of explosions and stacks of tiny animated touches that I didn't expect anyone to notice. But it was a huge hit over here in 1984-5 and deemed well ahead of its time. It was number one for months and remained available for five or six years.

Trouble was, the publisher had told me it was no longer in production about eighteen months after releasing it and stopped paying royalties. But they didn't know that I traveled a lot and saw it for sale all over Europe and in Australia, and I used to buy copies of my game, get receipts for it, and often take photos on site too. And my contract with them prevented them selling it outside of Europe. Then in 1987 or 1988, I saw a double page ad for it in a US magazine and bought a copy to run on a US machine. It didn't look or play too good because it was tuned for a European machine, and it looked real bad, almost embarrassing.

On returning to the UK, I sought legal advice on the subject. After four years of "we've done nothing wrong" type defenses from the publisher and masses of leg-work by myself, I got them to settle out of court for copyright infringement. Once I had recovered royalties rightfully due to me, I bought my first Ferrari. I still have one now, a 288 GTO.'

JH: 'What was your favorite part of Dropzone, on a technical level?'

AM: 'Squeezing the hardware in the Atari 800 to its limits and making it better than anything else then available. What was more amazing to me was the challenge of making it work on the less capable Commodore 64. It was a real nightmare implementation, but I did it.'

JH: 'Do you ever drag out a Commodore 64 or Atari 800 and play your old games?'

AM: 'Yes, every now and then I get the Atari 800 out and play some of the classics. Three years ago, I showed the original Dropzone to a games journalist on my PC's monitor, without him seeing the old machine. He said "this is a nice and simple great blast, really addictive! When's it coming out?"'


Dropzone Atari tape scan Dropzone Atari tape scan
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