A World of Games: Zwackery

I think some of the fun I have with arcades are the sheer number of games I’ve just never seen before. Walking through a retro arcade (which might be a redundant term nowadays) there’s a great chance there’s a game I’ve never seen let alone play. When perusing a place like Galloping Ghost that happens more often than not, and that’s where we find ourselves with Zwackery.

First things first, the arcade cabinet itself attracted me: bright colors, a lot of art and fun theming, bloops and blips to round things out. Trying to think of how gamers might find new games in the 80s, this is exactly the type of game I’d meander on over too. The medieval brickwork and the cliche wizard would likely push this as a game I’d enjoy.

What I’m not sure I’d be all that into are the controls. Zwackery has, well, a wacky control scheme. There’s a large almost cockpit style joystick you use to move around, and then there’s this dial like controller which you rotate left or right in order to perform sword and shield actions. The dial can also be lifted to cast spells, and pushed down to pick things up. Combining that with a couple of other buttons and the game is in my opinion overly complicated. It’s also essentially an action platformer, meaning precision platforming is a must, and when it’s this hard… ouch.

Apparently the arcade release of Zwackery in 1984 didn’t fare all that well, and I have to think it is due to the game’s controls. It likely isn’t from the visuals, as they are stunning for the time. I wonder if it is due to the game’s unlikely controller setup, or perhaps its poor sales performance, that we haven’t seen a home port. Or at least I’m not sure there’s a home port? With that in mind, and getting back to the topic at the front of this post, it’s always fun to look at new types of games in arcades.

Looking online, it seems Zwackery is a bit of a rare arcade find. I can certainly say I haven’t seen it prior to this first spying, and have not since. My knowledge of arcade gaming is growing year over year, and I hope to be able to identify these rarer arcade games in the wild so I can ensure I spend enough time with them before apparently never being able to see them again! I recommend taking some time to play those wackier games, those ones with weird controls, or those ones you’ve never seen before.

Played at Galloping Ghost in Brookfiled, IL 2019

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– Jason J

Original blue and red Nintendo Switch controllers
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