Sabotage (video game)

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Sabotage Coverart.png
Developer(s) Mark Allen
Publisher(s) On-Line Systems
Designer(s) Mark Allen
Platform(s) Apple II
Release 1981
Genre(s) Shooter
Mode(s) Single player

Sabotage is a 1981 computer game for the Apple II family of computers, written by Mark Allen and published by On-Line Systems.


The player controls a gun turret at the bottom of the screen by either keyboard, paddle control, or a single axis of a joystick. The turret can swivel to cover a large area of the screen, but cannot move from its base. Helicopters fly across the screen at varying heights, progressively lower over time, dropping paratroopers. The gun may fire multiple shots at once, and the shots may destroy helicopters or shoot paratroopers. Optionally the gun can also control its shots after they are fired (an initial game setting).

Paratroopers may be disintegrated by a direct hit, or their parachutes may be shot, in which case they will plummet to earth (splattering and dying if they were sufficiently high when the shot hit, scoring on impact). If they land on a previously landed paratrooper, that paratrooper is also killed. If a falling paratrooper collides with another paratrooper in the air, the lower paratrooper loses his parachute and falls (occasionally two paratroopers from different helicopters can collide causing only the lower one to fall to his death). Furthermore, destroyed helicopters turn into shrapnel, which may destroy other helicopters, paratroopers, or parachutes. Periodically, jets may fly by and drop bombs; the jets may be shot as well, but the bombs must be shot as they unerringly home in on your turret.

This screenshot from Sabotage shows the turret, paratroopers and enemy helicopters.

Waves consist of helicopters coming at progressively lower altitudes, a brief rest, then a wave of jets. If the jet wave is survived, there is a short respite, then the next round of helicopters begins with an extra row of helicopters on the first run. The next jet wave also has an extra row of jets and the potential of having bombs dropping from two directions. Paratroopers will not deploy their parachutes until they drop below the last row of flying helicopters.

The player earns points by shooting helicopters (5 points), paratroopers (2 points), jets (5 points), and bombs (25 points). Firing a shell costs the player one point, so if one is playing for score, there is an incentive to conserve ammo. The score never drops below zero.

The game ends when the player's turret is hit by a bomb, when a single paratrooper lands directly on the turret base, when three paratroopers safely land atop each other immediately adjacent to the turret base (allowing the third to jump onto the base), or when four paratroopers safely land on either the left or right of the turret (that is four on one side, not four total). If four land on a side, they are able to build a human pyramid and climb up to the turret and blow it up once the sky is clear. There is a chance to kill the paratroopers before they assault the turret if you can cause still-airborne paratroopers to fall without parachutes on enough ground forces to reduce them to fewer than four on a side, fewer than three stacked by the turret base, or remove all from atop the base. They will not perform the final assault until all airborne forces are gone.


Aircraft at a particular altitude will always travel the same direction as long as an existing aircraft is flying at that altitude. Only if you destroy all aircraft at that level can others approach from the opposite side of the screen. This can be critical in jet levels where their bombs must be shot down to survive. Try to get all jets to approach from the same side.

Jets can only drop bombs in the first third of their approach on screen, and only if there's no risk of the bomb hitting another jet. As bombs will destroy the turret if they hit any part of the base, firing upwards may get bombs that slightly overfly the turret but not those that fall short of screen mid-line. Jets fly no faster than the helicopters.

Often three helicopters will come out in a row at the same altitude. A lucky shot on the first one can destroy all three due to debris, even if the third hadn't yet appeared when the first was shot. Shooting a higher helicopter traveling in the opposite direction can easily destroy all three, and they in turn helicopters and paratroopers below them.

An essential survival skill, besides shooting bombs, is to be able to accurately destroy parachutes without killing the paratrooper before impact as well as dropping a stack of paratroopers. It is possible even after four paratroopers have landed that helicopters may drop more, and during their descent the landed paratroopers will delay their assault. An ability to shoot 'chutes and fatally drop paratroopers on top of ground forces is essential to extend game play in this situation. To maximize the ability to kill ground forces ready to assault the turret, avoid shooting helicopters as much as possible to maximize the number of falling paratroopers and the chances one could fall on a ground force.

Keyboard and paddle control are active simultaneously. The paddle (or a single axis of a joystick) can be used to swing the turret faster and more precisely than a keyboard can. Holding down the space bar also fires faster than using the paddle button, but inhibits keyboard turret control.


If the previous game ended with a bomb hit and helicopters managed to come out before the game ended, the next game may start with the release of one or more paratroopers without any helicopters present, leaving static paratroopers floating in the air for the whole of the next game (possibly even without parachutes). These hovering paratroopers cannot be killed and have no effect on any game element other than as a distraction: everything will fly right through them.

If played on an Apple IIgs, the processor speed must be set prior to starting the game. If the Classic Control Panel is accessed after the game is launched, it makes alterations to the screen holes in the secondary text screen. During game play these bytes are periodically checked and, if found altered, a copy protection routine is tripped that attempts to wipe the game from memory and locks up the system, requiring a reboot.



  1. ^ Tatge, Conrad (January 1986). "Incoming!". ANALOG Computing.