You pilot an attack shuttle whose mission is to strafe the enemy’s “Asteroid City”. Destroy fuel tanks, gun implacements, missiles, fighters and a large enemy robot. The game uses an isometric three-quarters perspective that was a unique concept to arcade games of that era.
Using your on-screen altimeter, you control your ship with an aircraft-style joystick, barnstorming your way through wall openings, under electronic barriers, dodging rockets and in a later round, dueling with the ominous enemy robot. Your ship gains fuel by destroying the fuel tanks. A successful attack-run across Zaxxon leads you to a deep-space dogfight with enemy planes. A “cross-hair” appears indicating when an incoming plane is able to be hit by your laser. After a specified number of ships have been destroyed, the robot appears. To destroy the robot, you must hit it’s missile launcher six times, after which the round changes and the difficulty increases.
The game is much harder than it appears. If you hover over the asteroid city and do nothing, Zaxxon will shoot a homing missle at you. Enemy missles will create turbulence which will lower your altitude and shake your plane.
The attract mode does an excellent job of showing how the game is played.
Use the altimeter well since it is a very important part of this game. Shoot the red cylindrical fuel tanks to replenish your fuel. There are also two fuel tanks that fly by in space. Both can be shot if your altitude is one mark below the top.
If you destroy 20 planes in a single round, you will get a bonus of 1,000 points. Planes on the ground also count. In space, the best altitude is about 2 to 2.5 marks from the bottom. When you are in line with an enemy plane, a cross hairs will show up along with a beeping sound.
Hit as many radar towers as possible, they are worth 1,000 points each but usually located in dangerous areas (if you drop down and right immediately after you enter the first asteroid, you can always get that first one on the right).
To get past the electronic barriers or through the holes in the walls, align yourself approximately with the hole and start firing, if/when your shots go through without hitting anything then you are aligned and can fly through safely.
If you fly too high for too long (except in space), Zaxxon will fire a homing missile at you. While possible to destroy it, it’svery difficult to do so and you are better off trying to escape by flying below it.
Zaxxon (the robot) can be destroyed with six well placed shots on his missile before he launches it. Fly at an altitude of 2.5 marks from the bottom. Position yourself so the nose of your plane is pointing between the second and third hexagon on the ground (see last screenshot on this page for approximate position). If you fire fast enough, you can take out Zaxxon before it has a chance to even try and avoid you. Destroying Zaxxon gives you a whoppin’ 1,000 point bonus. If it manages to launch the missile, you can still destroy the missile, but that will only give you 200 points.
The guns are worth 200 to 500 points randomly. The planes are worth 100 with an additional 50 points per level tacked on after level 2. Radar Towers are worth 1,000 points. Zaxxon is worth 1,000 points.