in Category: Shoot Em Up
Overall Score3.5
  • Games Machine
  • Your Amiga

Developed in 1987 by David Braben, Zarch is a third person space shooter. Originally for the Acorn Archimedes computer, it was subsequently ported to other platforms, where it is commonly known as Virus.


In Zarch/Virus, the player controls a small ship or ‘lander’ from a third person perspective. Gameplay takes place in a small, finite 3D plane. Control of the lander is difficult and sensitive, as it needs to be pointed in the right direction as it only has one thruster. It can also fire weapons.

The goal of Zarch is to survive each wave over the limited plane. This includes various enemy spaceships, some of which land. When these land, they spread a virus over the ground. The result, as such, is to prevent this. After four waves a new landscape is presented with more water. This presents less space to save from the virus, increasing gameplay difficulty.

At the end of each wave, points are awarded for enemies defeated and spare land saved from the virus. Points are also taken away for each bullet fired. As such, wasting ammunition can effectively result in a negative score. There are also limited smart bombs and missiles; the player is given a new one of each when they gain a new life.

Fuel is also a priority. When fuel is low, players need to land the lander. This is difficult, given the sensitive controls.

Reviews for Zarch

The game was very well received critically. It should be noted, however, that there were strong differences between Zarch and its later port of Virus. Some versions often appear to run more smoothly, with better colours and graphics.

Amiga Power favoured the game highly, naming it the 5th best game of all time in 1991. The Games Machine were also favourable, giving Zarch a score of 81%. The same magazine also went on to award Virus a score of 83%.

Your Amiga were the least favourable, giving Virus 53%.  Karen Young commented that, despite its impressive technological angle, gameplay itself was limited, asking if the game was just a “very flashy demo”.