Thursday, 23 February 2012

8 bits, 1 byte - Part 1 (Upd 14/04/12)

I have updated this but mainly to tidy things up with a spot of spring cleaning as I wasn't happy with the layout.

So nothing major but I thought necessary.

I was going to do this as separate posts as I knew it would take longer to write than it would take the current England football team to win the World Cup.  So I chewed it over, but decided to stick to my guns and list it as one.  Hope you give it a read and then I know it's been worth it  :)

Right, I'm taking you back, in fact all the way back, to the beginning of my childhood in telling you the first home computer I owned.  It's up there with surely one of the most famous micro computers ever - the rubber qwerty grandaddy itself, please give a drum roll and a very warm welcome to the Spectrum 48K.

It all started with the ZX80 by Sinclair Research in 1980 but I suppose most people had only heard of the ZX81 in 1981, it rolled off the tongue better don't you think, no? oh never mind.  Anyway the 81 was b/w so when the Speccy was released, it was dubbed the ZX (originally pronounced Zed) Spectrum to show its colourful qualities and prove that within a year, things had moved on from b/w.

There were many different models which gradually had hardware improvements or additions.  It began with the Speccy 16K, and ended with the +3 in 1987.  I'm not gonna spin you a yarn by saying I had the lot, as in truth, I only owned two models - 48K and 128K+2 but I have many fond memories of both.

Remembering my first microcomputer

Yes I'm calling it microcomputer co's that's what it was.  I got my rubber qwerty way back in 1984, I was aged.... well mind yer' own lol, suffice to say it was a long time ago...  I wasn't too far behind its release as the 16 and 48K's were released in 82, but a couple of years was still a long time and many games were already released but thankfully many were still very buyable - I'm sure that's not even a word but I like it.

I have my folks to thank for its purchase and I'm pretty sure there wasn't really trade-in shops back then so it must've been new.  So assuming that, I reckon it was about £100+, I've no idea if there were games with it or I just got treat to some, whatever, I remember probably my first game which I'll mention soon.

The games were on tape cassettes, or better putting it, tapes.  All data information was read and worked in the same way as a music tape by a sequence of pulses.

The original games had a label (usually with some art work) and that's was the way to start loading a game (face up) by slamming it in the tape deck and press play.

Going back to how the games loaded, the software was encoded on the tape by a sequence of pulse-widths and were similar in sounding like a modem.  I'm not a cpu programmer but it was to do with 0's and 1's so written in binary and the more complex the pulse-width encoding i.e. on what K the software was used on, depended on how long the game or program took to load.

I tell you what I'll use game cos' nobody says how long does the program take to load unless its a computer program that's anything other than a game.  The look of it was brilliant and now - classic.  Black casing, rubber grey keys with a rainbow at the bottom right, for the 'spectrum' of colour I suppose.

Wibbly, wobbly lines, a common 'error' and an interface

Before I get my teeth into the games, I must mention the craziness of the psychedelic loading display, a pattern unlike to anything I'd ever seen before.

You got a mini-square surrounding by a series of fucked up, coloured wibbly, wobbly lines, which changed colour and I think width, depending on what stage the game was loading.

Other 8 bit CPUs would also follow suit with this insanity which really does say that this was the only way to write a program for games that were encoded on tapes.  I really do believe it mattered but that's one for programmers to know and for me to never care (no offence programmers :)

Before you could even play a game it wasn't as easy as just shoving a tape into a tape deck, you had to tell it to start finding the tape.  Something like L for 'Load' and "" to get the ball rolling.

When the tape was rewound, it had nothing to for the Speccy to read to start with, then some flashing lights would appear and it would 'find' the game and you sat back and hoped for the very fucking best.

What was crazier, while you was hypnotised by these lines or thought you were tripping, to pour further salt into the wound is that this lunacy was audible, it had noise - I'd best describe it as brrrrr, beeep, brrrrrrrrr beepbeep duhhhhhhhh, dit, duuuuuuhhh and some other incomprehensible audio mess submerged in chaos.

In truth, I probably never muted it as I learnt it really was important to tell if a game was loading correctly.  What I mean is that the sound and more accurately, quality of that shit could make the difference of a game loading, or the Speccy (or rather the TV on behalf of the Speccy) displaying one of the most infamous lines of text that all Speccy fans dreaded.

It was 'R tape loading error, 0:1' what did that mean?  Well apart from a whole lot of confusion, it meant the game had crashed and you had no choice but turn it off and start again.  It basically meant the tape heads were not aligned correctly.  This was because that the Speccy was designed to play on any tape player but if that tape was designed to play on a different tape player, it just couldn't handle it.

I more than likely used many 'practical' methods to try and remedy it but the best method was to use a small screwdriver (Azimuth) to realign the head.

The screw in question made itself known when you pressed 'play', so the same with any old fashioned ghetto blaster or hi-fi.  So with a bit of TLC, when the head was realigned, the game should work.

This caused a problem though i.e in fucking up other games but you get the point.  I remember affectionately calling the technique 'changing the volume' so-called as when you faffed with it, the sound volume of the lines changed and when you hit that spot, bingo.  You'll get used to my terminology - honest...

So after a loading screen was created by scrolling across the screen, best way I can put it, and after a good few minutes, or even longer depending what K you were loading the game on, it loaded and phew.

Remember to stop the tape though as many games were 'multi-loaders' a term used when a game had to load more than one part, or in some cases several.  If while taking a leak you forgot to stop, good luck finding that spot again...

But wait a min, could you finally play the game now?  Well yes and no!  Yes if you wanted to play it using the qwerty (you had the option of redefining the keys if you didn't like the predetermined ones) thoughtful eh?

But no if you wanted to play with another peripheral - glued to arcades and even slang for a man's personal bits, yes it was a joystick.

First of all, buying a Kempston was a good start, and then you needed an interface.  The most common one used was the Kempston joystick interface, it slammed in the back in an expansion port (I think) and it had a joystick port in the top and finally away you went.

When a game loaded (if you were lucky) you were rewarded with a menu which allowed you to select which input you wanted to use for that game, (usually 1-4) but all you cared about was using a joystick.

So that's the nightmare of loading, or trying to load, and then play a Speccy game and assuming that everything went yankee doodle dandy, to the games and the Speccy was host to more WTF games then you could shake a stick at....

Oops, I forgot to mention 'colour clash', well known among fans or maybe 'colour hog', my words that was notorious and even funny.  This is when a foreground and a background colour which swapped with each other at regular intervals and caused the colours to clash when they came into contact.

The result was huge blocks of colour reacting with another, like part of a background that wasn't supposed to be that colour, following it if you like.  With me?  Anyway, it was an infamous limitation of the Speccy's graphics.

Other 8 bits would not suffer, ah technology eh?

Memory is the best policy

Unlike the super consoles of today, the Speccy library had thousands upon thousands of games and trust me, I played tons, but unlike the makers of those games, I was too young to be high....  unless I was climbing a tree so in this huge section, I don't intend to review any games, but just talk about the games I vastly or vaguely remember.

This is mainly from memory but I will admit that two websites will be used purely for reference (when needed) to confirm publisher and year but my interpretation of each game remains unique and not nicked from somebody else and/or website review, which is important.

After all, nobody remembers everything like it was yesterday (and certainly not from nearly 30 years ago), so saying I know every little bit about each game I mention would be a lie and obviously cheating so whatever I write about is 100% honest as the day is long.

Inevitably, I may talk more about some as opposed to others and if I'm picked up on any mistakes, so be it as nothing's perfect.

C'est la vie as they say.

Games (in no particular chronological order) will be covered and my recollection of each I gave a tonking (some more than others).

I won't go on to talk about games I never played and/or can't remember as that would be a waste of time.  I reckon I moved on in the late 80s (it died in 1992 anyway) so that's when my interest with the Speccy ended but don't worry as there's lots and lots to talk about.

Many games would be re-released on budget format by a different publisher and would further appear on game compilations, remember those????  Imagine if such mega compilations of games existed today - you'd be talking hundreds for each.

I also appreciate that some of the very early games were 16K and not 48K but they must have worked as I remember playing them as I never had a 16K.  Although having said that, I would banish the 48K sometime in the 80s and replace it with a 128K+2 (with some games having minor improvements).

I don't want to get off the subject too much but I'm purposely ignoring many games as I would go on to play those babies on its main rival - the C64 (no offence Speccy but it was a far better machine) and would be host to many unique games (not that the Speccy didn't of course).

I will however, (where applicable) talk about ones I played on the Speccy and also on the C64 so comparison junkies, all's not lost.

So those readers with the good question 'He didn't play that and if he did, why hasn't he covered it?' that readers, is the answer so that's why some games (that were part of a series) in the late 80s/early 90s won't be covered as I might not ever of never played them due to the C64.... although the Speccy was still used.

Some games (if they were related or in a series), I may do as a little feature.

Finally, some games were nasty (I'll try and remember them), some bad but in a shit-scary sense, I don't know if it was even intended as there was no such thing as a 'scary' game back then, but things would get nightmarish in the land of Speccy, the sound was sometimes so awful and unexpected it forced me to have second thoughts before loading that game again because of the sound....

Hey, I was very young then.

Shrooming creators and mental publishers

Apart from been on harmful hallucinogens, Speccy game designers would be extremely inventive (and churn out far more original titles than the super realistic games of today) so be prepared for the downright famous and the incredibly bizarre that only true Speccy heads will remember and who knows, I may even surpass them or at least, jog memories with the games I'm gonna list.

So are you ready, on yer' marks, jet set, go!

Oh, Bug Byte and Ultimate may feature a lot.....

Don't Panic, Firebird 1985 - There are many candidates for which is the first game I ever played on the Speccy but I'm going for this (I would play games that were older later on as they were still very available...)  Never the best and most famous Speccy game but one I fondly remember.

You were a robot or droid and the aim was to transfer items to your rocket.  There was one problem, the items were poisonous so you shot a laser that looked more like a tear drop or some kind of 'blob' at them to make them safe to touch, I tell you what let's be posh and say 'decontaminate'.

Then you could nudge them or shoot them (same effect) until they fell into your rocket that looked like some kind of phallic symbol.  Oh on those items of cargo, WTF were teddy bears doing in space?

Eventually it got full and then would launch to the next screen.  Oh, coloured parts of platforms could be used as lifts.  But there was one problem, there was an invincible alien that was stalking the area, which I suppose as we are in space, maybe a cargo bay, this is when these lifts came in handy.

If you stayed still, and the alien wasn't in view, you could hear its 'footsteps' as a strange clicking noise.  The only other sound was when you were trudging when you moved (very ssslllooooowwwwwlllllyyyyyy) and a laser noise.

I might be wrong when the rocket took off but I've no idea.  The only other thing I can vaguely remember is frogs or something appeared as you progressed.  Yes, this was one of the more normal games.  Was it particularly good, I must've thought so - I played it for ages.

Horace (and others), Sinclair 1982-1983...oh poor Horace - he was not human, more like a thing, or so hideously deformed, it would be mean to describe him as human.

So Horace would star in a few games, he got hungry, went skiing and even met some spiders.  It was a blue thing or sprite, it didn't have any distinguishing features and proving that Quasimodo was a hot honey after all.

Fairly obviously, one was a skiing game, I think another was Pac-man and I suppose the other was a spider dodge 'em' up.  Whoever designed that sprite had issues.

Splat, Incentive Software 1983 - yes what a name, it was a maze game and the object was to avoid getting crushed as the screen was constantly moving, not much else I can remember.

Styx, Bug Byte 1983 - If you recognise the name, it did make sense as it was based around Greek mythology so here's a little lesson for you, but the game would be far less interesting.

The River Styx was one of five rivers surounding Hades that separate the world from the living.  It comes from the greek word stugein meaning hate so this is the river of hate.  Other rivers associated include Acheron - river of woe.

Speaking of this, if you've ever seen the classic Clash of the Titans (the 1981 original) and not the fucking awful remake, the Ferryman of Hades or actual name Charon, so he's Hades' bitch basically, crosses Acheron (or in this scene Styx) and will only take souls of the recently deceased if a coin was placed in their mouths or in this case passengers, by paying him with a coin but must've only been done for the film as Perseus and friends was definitely 'alive' at this point.

I have many interests you know but back to the game and I wish I could talk more about it.

It had something to do with spiders and you had to get by them to cross Styx.  I think your sprite was a man.  That's it.

Pssst, Ultimate 1983 - You was a robot and nasty bugs were trying to eat your beloved plant and you had to spray the baddies to prevent them from eating your plant.

Trouble was, certain cans only stunned but others killed them outright, working this out - easy? hard?  No fucking idea, oh i seem to remember you could grow a plant too.

Cookie, Ultimate 1983 - You was a chef and you wanted to bake a cake, but the ingredients were alive and he only let them out when he wanted to bake from a pantry.

When released, they'd always drag rubbish out with them so they needed to be powdered or stunned and then safely knocked into his mixing bowl.

If rubbish would get in to the wrong place, it'd fuck up his ingredients. Wow!

Chequered Flag, Sinclair 1983 -  Eat your heart out Ridge Racer et al, because here's Chequered Flag, a kick-ass racing game from the early 80's.

Actually, it was absolutely terrible and featured a whining engine noise which haunts me even now.

Might have been the first racer I ever played so thanks on that score.

The Birds and the Bees, Bug Byte 1983 - Here's a classic for you with some input from Matty Smith....  You were a bee and you had to get honey from plants and take it back to the hive but as you got greedy, you got very heavy and very slow.

The birds got really pissed at this, as did enemy plants, centipedes and even wasps but if that wasn't mental enough, a bear wanted all that lovely honey. WTF

Atic Atac, Bug Byte 1983 - The very title is fucked, it's not a typo, it really was spelt like that and I'm sure I'm missing something here as of course it should be spelt 'Attic Attack'.

The game's set in a castle and your goal was to find a key for freedom.  To stop you was all manner of baddies and your health was a turkey that depleted and you could find items to use to your advantage.

Amazingly, you had a few chars to choose from too, who they were - no idea.  But i do remember it been huge, which was obviously a big deal.

Ant Attack, JRS 1983 - Look they can spell after all and one of the first ever isometric games

Think you was a man and/or boy and you kicked insect arse, they actually looked like ants too and not a block.

Aquarius, Bug Byte 1983 - Remember this one for all the wrong reasons and it's not about astrology.

You started the game and w/o warning, your ears was assaulted with a HPB scream and you'd have seconds to remember a code.

It was an underwater game with sharks, caverns and shit and you'd better remember that code as you had to shoot the 'colours' in the correct order or you'd go bye bye.  That noise was horrible.

Sabre Wulf, Ultimate 1984 - That spelling again.  Part of a series of games (the others been Knight Lore, Pentagram, Underwurlde and the unreleased Mire Mare).

This was ace but the loading screen featured the queeriest yellow tiger you'll ever see.

Yes, you don't have to be a nature expert to notice something wrong here.

As a hunter in a jungle, a sabre really helped out.

There was loads of different enemies like snakes, scorpions, lizards, gorillas etc and there was a rhino, a very ill rhino - a very bright pink rhino....

If you had a stick with an autofire, you were usually as safe as houses and points equal lives and not prizes..

Moon Alert, Ocean 1984 - Remember this for a fairly faithful rendition of Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner.  Nice eh?

The game was based upon an arcade called Moon Patrol.  Hey we're cooking now as we're getting to arcade ports.

The game was set on the 'moon' and you was a man in a buggy with firepower to shoot various 'aliens'.  I remember it also for being impossibly hard, I mean really hard.  You had to jump over holes, but these holes and the jumps you had to make were absolutely ridiculous and you fell in them, many, many times... Addictive but I believe impossible.

Chuckie Egg, A 'n' F, 1984 - Guide Hen House Harry, that really was his name to nick eggs, while avoiding birds and eventually a huge chick that escapes from a cage.  He certainly ate too many pies as he had a pot belly.  The birds couldn't resist eating birdseed too.

I'm sure the early NES Donkey Kong games were inspired by this as this had a similar look. 

Chuckie Egg 2, A 'n' F 1985 - This game, whoah this game, was it the first of its type, dunno but certainly up there as a contender.

It was an adventure game which had loads of different screens and some wonderful colour clash.  The plot was you had to find ingredients to make choc eggs and find parts to make the toys that went in the eggs (was this an early version of Kinder Surprise?)

You had to pick up items to solve puzzles and avoid all kinds of crazy shit in the process.

I don't remember much but when the game began, a juddering lorry or it might a been a van pulled up and then out of thin air, Harry jumped from it - as you do.

A screen or two later, a large savage dog (which was scary) was hampering your progress and then you thought, what now right?  Well another screen would solve the problem as you had to find a bone for it.

Once got, you trotted back up and dropped it anywhere near the dog.  As it trudged up, it turned its back and I suppose happily gnawed away, paving the path forward.  Depending where you left the bone or how it approached it, the colour clash was brilliant, I think yellow.

I can't really remember much after apart from 'beware of the train' but certainly didn't finish it.

Amazing game for the time and set a standard for many others.

Manic Miner, Bug Byte and/or Software Projects 1983 - This is surely one of the most famous video games of all time, yes I really mean that, and few could doubt this (even Capcom or die-hard Capcom fans).

Matty Smith, you are a genius.

This classic is now 29 years old and still has a special place in my heart.  It defied the Speccy's limitations and cleverly designed around this.

I'm remembering the BB release but the later released SP version had some sprite differences, going some way to do with the companies logo.

The loading screen was animated.... big thing? Probably not be unheard back then.

You were treated to a rendition of the Blue Danube by Johann Strauss, by pressing enter you may have realised that the in-game theme was In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg.

Your aim was to collect every flashing object in each screen and then get to the (always visible) but now accessible portal.  The graphics or GPX were gr8 and as the sound were based on classical music and was recognisable, surely an unheard achievement at the time.

It wasn't easy though as the enemies were in a ridiculous pre-set routine, platforms would become reduced on touch and oxygen that would eventually suffocate you.

Oh, be careful of that leap of faith as falling too far would nick a life too.  So with all that against you, the design of it, though ingenius was pure fucking evil.  There was timing needed to get to certain objects, as many screens or levels were littered with conveyor belts, the baddies were designed on purpose to fuck you up and unless your timing and reactions were sound, you're fucked.

Upon timing things wrong too often, you stood stationary on a barrel and got squashed by a foot - Monty Python surely.

There were twenty evil screens with first being Central Cavern - you knew Spectrum games were weird or may be the norm at this time but the only enemy (apart from the conveyor belt) was a wind up robot with a protruding inny-outie hammer.

This was just a sign of things to come as you would have to do your best to avoid telephones, birds, flaming barrels, kangaroos, a solar generator (which drained your air), safes, pac men on legs and sea-lions.

The flaming barrels feature on 'Miner Willy meets the Kong Beast' and 'Return of the Alien King Beast', is of course in homage to Donkey Kong but why and when did the Kong Beast become an fucking 'Alien' kong beast?

More trivia, the screen 'Eugene's Lair' was named after a Bug Byte employee who told Smith he doubted this classic would work.  Incidentally, when you collected the final item on this level, 'rainbow' Eugene would bolt down at high-speed and block the exit so unless you timed collecting that last item correctly - no choice but to end up been squashed.

The Endorian Forest was reffed to the Star Wars universe and Processing Plant was of course, Pac Man.

The final screen was called the Final Barrier and so the title screen would turn out to be its conclusion

In the end, you made it to your garden....

It was an incredible achievement over limitation, and each level was a puzzle in itself and stumped me for a while as the jumping mechanics took a while to get used to.

Retro fans rejoice - an undeniable and evergreen classic.

Dirty Harry once said "A man's got to know his limitations."  Obviously, on this evidence, Matt Smith knew the Speccy didn't have any.

Brilliant - and that's just my muse.

Jet Pac, Ultimate 1983 - Another classic, your aim as a astronaut was to piece together you rocket, collect purple blocks of fuel and drop them into your now completed rocket and once full proceed to the next screen.

Trying to piss you off were enemies that appeared at random intervals and trajectory that ranged from meteorites, fuzzy things, space ships and bubbles.  Nice!

Jet Set Willy, Software Projects 1984 - How could you improve on Manic Miner, well they certainly tried with JSW.

The GPX were very similar to MM and the plot was you had to find all the items left around the mansion after a huge party.  Only then, will Maria allow him some sleep...

It was different to MM as you wasn't forced to do the game in a certain order, so I suppose free-roaming.

To keep in line with MM, the title music was Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (which featured the Software Project's impossible triangle logo) and in-game was If I Were a Rich Man from the musical Fiddler on the Roof.

It had famous bugs, the most famous being the Attic bug and therefore had a ripple effect making the game impossible to complete.

The enemies were just insane, walls, chefs, demons, barrels, fire extinguishers, razors and Maria (during the Nightmare where you was a flying pig).  Even the floor wasn't safe.

One screen's title fucked everybody up, I even admit, didn't know what it meant until the internet but it was a screen called 'We must perform a Quirkafleeg', it was reffed to Fat Freddy's Cat which was a comic, apparently a quirkafleeg was a ritual to be performed on the sight of seeing deceased furry animals.

As Speccy games were on a tape, it was easy to pirate so to combat this, before you could play the game, you had to enter a coloured code which came with the game.

Of course, the game was easy to copy but copying colour was trickier, but methods were quickly found.

So in short a gr8 game but did it beat MM?  I don't think so.

Jet Set Willy 2, Software Projects 1985 - Essentially the same but expanded version of the original and had an improved piracy system code bundled with it.  Gr8 still but lazy!

So Willy, go to 'toilet' and have a good 'sleep' in your 'master bedroom', courtesy of Maria, but of course you had to earn it.  If not, fuck it and have another party!

Booty, Firebird 1984 - This was one of those games that I described to 'nasty' of course I wouldn't now but at the time...

Its engine would be identically copied in the later game, Moon Light Madness by Bubble Bus in 1986 but was a totally different game to do with safes but was also by John F Cain.

Back to Booty.... The title screen looked gr8, a ship with animated with a really jolly tune - the famous Sailor's Hornpipe ditty.

Brill at first but would get very irritating after hearing it loop for the millionth time....  I don't even know if you could turn it off.

You were Jim the cabin boy, wow I bet it took them an age to think of that original name, and your aim was to get the required amount of booty strewn around the ship.

These would come in all forms from candlesticks to money bags and when you had enough, you had to locate a key (within the most ridiculous time limit ever), I'm sure it was less than a minute.

It's a shame I wasn't Alan B'stard as everyone knows he can do it in less than a minute.

The game would be like JSW as you go where you want and no forced path existed (provided you unlocked certain doors so you could of course).

The rooms were designed with lots of locked doors, keys for the locked doors, robotic pirates who stalked haughtily with a sword attached to their arm, booty, wooden doors, ladders and later on deadly moving platforms.

Rooms were sometimes difficult to get out of as the keys for certain doors forced you to open other doors to access keys for other doors (even if certain doors were empty apart from keys) and was essential for either accessing booty or exiting through another door.

At least the keys and doors were numbered as that would be really unfair and unnecessarily cryptic.

Tell you what was really unfair, was the fucking unseen enemies that would appear at will and at total random (usually when you really didn't them to).

Apart from all the other shit you had to worry about, a rat and parrot woud appear to scare the shit out of you.

Apart from the total shock of seeing them, their noises were horrible - a high-pitched beep for the rat (i guess the Speccy couldn't do a suitable 'squeak') and an odd click for the parrot.

They appeared from either side of the screen and disappeared once they reached t'other side.

Those things claimed many lives and even forced suicides.  Keeping with the unfair factor, some booty was booby trapped and sometimes unavoidable.

So here's the magnificent 7 ways of dying:
  1. Touching any pirate
  2. Getting blown up
  3. Pecked by the click
  4. Bitten by the beep
  5. Getting beat by a time limit
  6. Falling off a platform (you really didn't have to fall far); and even
  7. Drowning
Actually, I spoke of suicide, so that's the unofficial eighth way of meeting you maker.

My decision of suicide was purposely falling off a platform when that fucking bird appeared as I knew I had no chance of surviving.

The rat was less troublesome as it only could appear on a totally solid platform on the ground so you could escape by climbing a nearby ladder.  When these beasts appeared, they seem to nick the background, a sort of disappearing/reappearing background clash.

When you fell off a platform (either by accident or on purpose) you certainly did it in a demented fashion - arms and legs would be flailing in a way I'd never seen before.  The sound was on death was bizarre, 'eyyroyy' - it really did sound like that....

Finally, if suicide was your bag (chosen or forced), this could preempt a most unwelcome bug, which meant switch off time boys and girls.

Let's talk about the moving platforms, they would be in a style of a Pong paddle - i.e a solid coloured block and would move at different speeds.

Getting on these was a pain in the arse as you had to be very precise with your approach and it was most probable that fucking click would come and click your arse - at this point I would take a leap of death.

That is incorrect as you couldn't jump but you catch my drift.

Keeping with the unfairness, when you entered some doors, you'd think you had a chance to breathe, regain your thoughts and focus, but fuck no, the pirates' positions were predetermined and was coming straight for you as soon you entered that room so unless you memorised that position, you was dead.

The final nail in the coffin was emptyish rooms, i.e those with no enemies (apart from unseen ones, grrrrr).  Strange as it was, these rooms seemed to be played on speed and literally, everything moved faster, which forced unnatural responses from the player as clearly the Speccy didn't like activity.

To drown or not to drown, that was not the question, as it was more of knowing not to enter a certain door.

I've no idea which door it was but it shit me up, enter the door and loud, scary blue bars filled the screen and you was dead, no time to react and escape the watery grave,  and another unfound sea burial was the only option.

I swear I found the booty and attempted to get that key so many times, but it was not to be.  The ultimate tease was seeing it, but not being able to get it thanks to those wonderful platforms and hence, the time limit defeated me.  That was possibly the last straw with this pain in the arse.

So all in all, a great game, albeit littered with more faults than a cut and shut Lada but unquestionably addictive.

I do envy those who did get the first key and will for me at least, house unknown answers to the ultimate question - was it exactly the same game with recycled rooms with differently placed booty and pirates or was it entirely different?  I'll never know!

Beep beep beep and/or click click click = eyyroyy.

Kosmic Kanga, Micromania 1984 - Kosmic must've been spelt wrong as some kind of awful joke, the game however was less funny.

This bullshit saw you take kontrol of a spaced-out kanga (yeah that's right, didn't you hear about the first kangaroo in space?) and he had to find his spaceship or it might a been a rocket - who cares eh?  It jumped and attacked enemies by shooting them with his boxing gloves.

Apart from probably the only game to feature a roo in space, fairly terrible stuff.

Star Firebirds, Insight 1985 - Lots of Space Invader clones were out there but I remember this one.  You shot at birds and their motherships.  Similar to Phoenix but like I say there was loads.  Not bad.

Geoff Capes Strongman, Martech 1985 - A sports simulation based on Britain's famous strong man.  Events included the lorry pull and log chop.  Fairly basic but remember during the lorry pull, you had to tell the game to use different muscles or different parts of the body.

Beach Head, U.S Gold 1984 - Some kind of war game, remember one screen/level where you had cannons and shooting down planes.  All a blank after that but I can confirm there was a sequel a year later but never played it.  May have had something to do with how good the original was...

Alien, Mind Games 1984 - Did I have high hopes for this?  Not really, but was very innovative for the time.

It wasn't a shoot 'em' up but a tactical strategy game - am I really saying that in the breath as the Speccy?  I'm pretty sure it had all the chars from the film and you chose one before the game began.

The game was a like a blue print and you had numerous commands to order your char to do and could even pick up weapons.  The object of the game made sense and was audacious.

Options included killing the alien and getting to the shuttle and escaping (with Jones).  The enemies were spot on too, the alien, its acid and an android named Ash (of course he didn't turn nasty until later on but i suppose this didn't matter in the game).

So sounds really interesting in priniple huh?  It was and probably would be awesome if it was made today.  It was slow paced but have to applaud its idea and endeavour.

Did Aliens fare better?  Read on...

Yie ar Kung-Fu, Imagine 1985 - Possibly a forgotten game and was this game the first proper one-on-one fighter that inspired hundreds of others.

Ported from the Konami arcade, this was great.

The moves as you'd expect were limited and were all done by a stick direction (or not) with a fire button to perform a move.  So no complicated motions or special moves by way of a motion but shudder to say it but as a stick was 8-way I'd say a possible 16 moves?

Oolong suggested he was modelled on Bruce Lee.  Well, that's a surprise.

Each opponent had a special move and most had weapons, but you were handicapped with nothing.

Jumping the entire length of the screen was freaky and end boss Blues (your clone) was the only enemy capable of also doing so.

Mortal Kombat was wrongly famous for introducing so-called mirror matches...

The first opponent was unforgettable (not his name - Buchu) but more for his special move as he'd launch across the screen like a torpedo.

E Honda would later rip this move and use exactly the same attack in possibly the most famous fighter of all time, but was it the best?  No!

When you died, leg wiggling in the air followed, amusing stuff.

Once you'd beaten an enemy, naturally it was on to the next.

Oddly or unoriginally, every other char (apart from two) were named after their chosen weapon - Star, Club, Fan, Pole, Tonfun, Nuncha, Sword and finally Blues.

There was no actual ending and just looped, only harder.

So fun and probably not a classic but more an absolute inspiration for Capcom and others.  It did have a made-up sequel but was nothing to do with the original, can't comment really apart I know it existed.

The Way of the Exploding Fist, Melbourne House, 1985 - Keeping with the martial arts overtones, similar to Yee Arr (spelt wrong on purpose) but had a repeated opponent but just got harder.

The coo here though was your rep improved and became a greater dan.  I think your enemy showed effects when suffering a blow, like crumpling to his knees with a well-timed punch to the belly.

Decent moves and you were always watched by your wise old master?  Great OTT loading screen too.

Tapper, U.S Gold 1985 - Crazy, mental idea for a game, also based on an arcade game.

You were a barman and must keep the punters and/or beer junkies happy by serving them as they approached the end of each bar.

As they happily swilled the brown stuff down, they threw the empties back at you for you to repeat the process.

Two ways of dying, allowing a glass to smash or letting an alco get to the end of the bar.  I always remember them throwing you violently to t'other end of screen.  Weird shit!

Skool Daze, Back to Skool Microsphere 1984, 1985 - More classics for you - and possibly w/o these, Bully wouldn't exist or Canis Candem Edit thanks to the controversy of its name that would appear futuristically on the PS2 and Wii.

SD involved the local scally trying to find the combination for a safe where the school reports were hidden.

You did this by touching shields which later revealed a letter (yes a letter and not a number) and there you go.

Before that, it had something to do with a blackboard which was key in finding out certain letters which only the teachers knew.  You had to avoid getting lines, using the swot, getting caught using a catapult and not fight with bullys.

BTS - The natural progression as now the next term was upon you and as having nicked the report, you had to put it back in the head's safe.  Similar stuff I think.

So SD was the one I really remember but again so original as games and definitely wouldn't be allowed today as it contains behaviour that could be considered imitable....

Raid over Moscow, U.S Gold 1985 - Crazy war 'em' up against Moscow.  Did the title suggest the objective was to invade and destroy the then Moscow?

I think the it all led up to taking out the Kremlin (first outside then in).  Bonkers!

The Willow Pattern, Firebird 1985 - Featured very loud, beepy scary music.

Some kind of maze game where you had to rescue a princess, along the way avoiding sword throwing samurais.

You had to find a key to free the princess and then run like the wind to escape via the sea as her old man was seriously pissed at this jail break.  Words fail me.

Knight Lore, Ultimate 1984 - One of quite a few of games I'll mention that pioneered a revolutionary isometric viewpoint.  The idea was you were a werewolf and to break the curse you had to obtain objects which really were ingredients for a wizard to work his magic in a cauldron for a remedy.  Great humour there hey?

Underwurlde, Ultimate 1984 - The sequel to Sabre Wulf  and in turn looked very similar but was strange in its approach to enemy collision.

When touched, you didn't die but  instead bounced around the screen and was extremely annoying as this could lead to your doom.

The idea was escape Underwurlde and out of the castle.  Certain enemies could only be defeated if you held a certain weapon.

Nightshade, Ultimate 1985 - Another isometric - I've decided IM is isometric from now on....  You had to collect magic items to kills ghosts.

Head over Heels, Ocean 1987 - Although this totally ripped off Ultimate's groundbreaking perspective, it was still brilliant.

You controlled two chars which were spies... Stay with me as they were both dogs, one just a head and the other heels from the Planet Freedom.

It was all based around the evil Blacktooth empire which enslaved and control four worlds so guess who's sent to save the inhabitants from Blacktooth.  To liberate each planet, you had to collect crowns.

Both chars are initially separated and had very different abilities.  Head can jump better and only fire doughnuts (which were hard to come by) that stunned enemies while Heels could run twice as fast, carry objects and get to places Head can't.

Other gameplay elements included conveyor belts, springs, propellor driven platforms and robots (controlled by swtiches).  Springs and mobile platforms were most useful for Heels.

When together, pop Head on top of Heels and you could swap items - ingenious.

Robots also had the head of Prince Charles, why?

About those springs, use Head and you can see the room above.  This was not a bug and was supposed to happen.

Rooms in themselves were puzzles and tricky to get out of.  It was a huge game and I reckon the most complicated Speccy game ever.  Due to its success, was ported to many other systems.  Tough and original - simply superb.

Hyper Sports, Imagine 1985 - What I like to call one of many joystick wagglers doing the rounds - so-called that in certain events, required you to waggle your stick maddenly left to right in order to gain speed (in running events).

What an insane concept, this could knacker your joystick and were games of this ilk good enough to effectively break your essential peripheral?  Definitely not.

Frank Bruno's Boxing, Elite 1985 - Know what a mean 'arry?  Yes Frank, you were apparently so popular and so much of a good boxer that some bright spark decided to make a boxing game and call it after you.

They did the same with Mike Tyson in later years but although a psycho and a dickhead, we all know who was the better boxer...

It was in the viewpoint of the classic Nintendo game, Punch Out and was the same principle.

There were many weird and wonderful opponents and their fighting styles were totally 'realistic'  as nutting and kung-fu were apparently legal moves in boxing....

The kung-fu guy was the master of no-can-do - haw haw - I mean how funny is that.?  The chars were very blocky but was an interesting graphical style.  Upon battering them into submission, this forced them to daze and prompted wild celebrations from 'our' Frank.

Not bad but I remember totally unfair.

Action Biker - Mastertronic 1985 - Make no mistake, this car wreck of a game was made for one reason - to advertise KP Skips.

It had a few different loading screens where KP Skips was really in your face.

It starred Clumsy Colin and everything was out to make sure you woke up. You had to take your mate somewhere (who cares where) and items were in houses and friends would try and slow you down as too many hits or running out of fuel would force you to wake up and the game was over.

Gaining energy was done by eating Skips or refuelling at a garage.  Total dogshit.

Finders Keepers, Mastertronic 1985 - Another series of games, the others being Spellbound, Knight Tyme and Stormbringer (in 1985, 1986 and 1987 respectively).

This plot was inventive but absolutely WTF.  As a magic knight you was tasked to find the King's daughter a special present.  Your reward was to become a member of the Polygon Table.

Your adventure took place in the Castle of Spriteland where all of course baddies were there to hamper your chances at this seat at the table much more famous than the Round one!

Whoever thought of these names (especially 'Spriteland') were either comedy geniuses or comedy geniuses and didn't even know it.  I mean c'mon 'Spriteland'?  Hilarious!

Dynamite Dan, Mirrorsoft 1985 - Dan must find sticks of dynamite, use them to blow open a safe and from it, nick plans for a secret weapon.

You didn't have any lives, instead enemies sapped your energy.  Much in the style of JSW and was great fun.

The title music was Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca - it was really good. 

Dynamite Dan II: Dr Blitzen and the Islands of Arcanum, Mirrorsoft 1986 - This time, you had to find a record, play it on a jukebox on each island, refuel your blimp and move on.

I think on the final island, after doing the usual, you had to blow up Blitzen's lab and a time limit also existed.

Critical Mass, Durell, 1985 - Easily confused with 'Nass'. Some kind of shooting game where you controlled a land speeder thing.

Commando, Elite 1985 - As mentioned in my SNK war feature, it was based on a Capcom arcade game, filmed in 'custard' vision.

Featured much flicker when men poured out of a door which I think was supposed to be a boss.

Cauldron, Palace 1985 - Play a hag or witch and retrieve ingredients to make you a Queen.


Part shooter (in flight), part platformer (on foot), you had to get keys to open a door (which prompts the platform element) and gain those cliched ingredients.

Along the way, shoot puffs of magic to kill enemies.

Cauldron II: The Pumpkin Strikes Back, Palace 1986 - Roles reversed as you now played the pumpkin by bouncing (this time - forced).

Incredibly fucking annoying and you had to get a lock of hair for the cauldron to reverse things to piss the hag off.

Brian Bloodaxe, The Edge 1985 - Cue the drugs and much shrooming in this.

Clearly Monty Python-esque (relfected in the crudely realised rendition of the classic TV series).  As Mr Bloodaxe, you needed to find treasure of some shit like that.  Weapons ranged from revolvers (hmmmm), spades and bombs.

Key and main things I remember:
  1. Beer to replenish energy (those who made this, had far too much of something more illegal)....
  2. Flickering enemies (rhinos always stick out), daleks and Nessie
  3. The loading screen which looks very familiar to the one used to in poster for the Python film classic 'The Life of Brian'
  4. That music which drives you mad; and
  5. When you died, you stood on a cow and awaited to be struck down by the hand of God
Crazy, bonkers and totally lunacy.  Oh, just in case you didn't know - the theme was based on the John Philip Souza march, famously used as the theme for Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Alien 8, Ultimate 1985 - Best described as Knightlore on a spaceship only this time you're a robot.

Another IM and your aim was to connect objects in sockets (within a time limit).

Who Dares Wins II, Alligata 1986 - Scary army game, much in the style of Commando, Ikari Warriors et al with an irritating rendition of the theme from The Great Escape.

I say scary as I always remember being unexpectedly mowed down by an aeroplane even though planes 'fly' and I was on the 'ground'.  I guess they flew them low...

It was the sound again.  Before you say it, I don't think there was just a first game.

The Trap Door and Through the Trap Door, Piranha, 1986 and 1987 - Based on the lovable plasticine TV classic feat Berk, Boni and Drutt who I fondly remember.

Remember this excerpt from the tune? "Stay away from that Trapdoor, cos' there's something down there...."

The games looked largely like the show with big colourful sprites made in Spriteland - not really but thanks Finders Keepers for my awful quip.

It involved taking orders from the Thing and Berk would eventually get paid if he was successful, of course involving the Trap Door.

TTTD involved going TTTD and you needed to alternate between Berk and his mate Drutt but essentially, not much difference.  Great licence and decent games too.

Saboteur, Durell 1985 - it also had a sequel in 1987 but was basically the same sort of game but you had a sex change.

The first was an adventure game where you had to find a disk and escape via a chopper.  Enemies included dogs and other saboteurs.  I've no idea what you had to do in the sequel but was the same sort of game but 'larger'.

Paperboy, Elite 1986 - Another arcade port, filmed in blue and black.

Shoot or deliver papers in residents' mail boxes and avoid enemies such as lawn mowers with AI, drunks and cars.

For good measure, be more imaginative in your aiming and get extra points.  Shooting them through windows encourage non-subscribers and also try dustbins too.

Getting new subscribers for potting windows really makes sense, surely it'd much more satisfying smashing them yourself....

Newspapers could also be used as firepower.  More originality on Speccy and gr8 loading screen too - our paperboy was a little grey though.

The Great Escape, Ocean 1986 - Based on the 1963 Steve McQueen classic but the game was no classic and needed no great escape from me to stop playing it.

I just remember going to roll-call a lot and I never escaped.  What a shower of a certain shit.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Thor 1984 - Whoah - I didn't like this one.

The theme was English Country Garden and was just plain irritating.  As Jack your aim was to nick a treasure from each level and proceed.  Jack looked like a mutant Pac-man with a cap.

It started with Jack at the bottom of his beanstalk which you climbed and then so on.  Before doing so, you got an axe which strangely turned into firepower (in the form of a cloud) to paste the various enemies.

What I found to be really scary was when you reached the sleeping giant and nicked his harp.

His eyes suddenly opened that really shit me up, you then had to grab an axe to chop the beanstalk down and kill the giant.  Do it and he'd fall to his death, take to long and that he'd appear juddering down the stalk like a man possessed and catch you.

The game suffered from awful colour clash and the enemies I don't think did any damage but it was the timing of the giant I dreaded.

I reckon it was up there with one of the shortest games ever, it only had four screens and could be done within 5 mins.  Those two moments really startled me but would it scare me now? - impossibly not (I type with a nervous smile).

To keep with the horror, it spawned two other games, Giant's Revenge and The House that Jack Built (also in 1984).  I of course was too emotionally scarred to play them.

Aliens, Electric Dreams 1987 - They didn't fuck around with releasing this - the film was released a year earlier and if you remember, a game based on Alien didn't surface until 1984.

Okay I appreciate that the Speccy wasn't out until 82 but still, two years after its release.  C'mon boys, get your arses in gear.

So with this one, to paraphrase the film's tagline 'This time, it's war' allow me to create my own, how about 'Oi lads, we're sitting on a goldmine here so let's not fuck around, make sure we move heaven and earth and ensure a game is made (no matter how shit) based on a really great film and release it in the same year to hopefully cash in, retire and live the high life' .

I don't think that would have been a wise advertising campaign but I hope you appreciate my point.

To the game, although Alien was original and well thought out for 1984, it really didn't work so how do you solve that, make it less complex and make it a good old-fashioned shooter, with a solid scoop of exploration and even adds a touch of strategy.

Trust me this one worked and was very authentic to the film - as a movie tie-in should be of course but not all as the only thing some tie-ins have in common with the film was the title.

The game was designed in and around LV4-26 and its rooms, which boasted way over 200 - wow.

Compared to the film, you only had a paltry six and insultingly or bizarrely (whichever) you didn't have Hudson. WTF?

Anyway, the cast was Ripley, Gorman, Hicks, Vasquez, Gorman and Bishop.  So a lot of the key ones, but surely Burke should've been axed, along with Bishop and at least be replaced with Hudson and Drake.

I mean, I don't want to get into comparing this with the film, but I don't remember seeing Bishop or Burke doing a lot of shooting.  Do you?  Thought not.

The game screen itself made total sense (and no, I'm not being sarcastic for once).  Under your chars name was a number and a bar, representing room number and stamina respectively.

As you moved the room would change and depending how you moved, would drain your stamina.  Smack in the middle, was a portrait, heart rate, and a coloured bar (representing your ammo remaining).

Navigation was interesting, you could use the slow method by using the simple qwerty or the more fiddly (but ultimately much more rewarding) long-winded method of further using the qwerty.

In short, you could tell each member to move to multiple rooms (anything up to 9).  You did this by something like this - 1ER.  This meant move Ripley East 1 room.

Apart from Bishop (which was I) all members used their first letter of their surname.  NSEW were the only commands for directions so NW for example was out.  Clever stuff eh!

With practice and 'knowing' how long it took an alien to capture a char, you could get through tons of rooms and even escape alien attacks as it was classed as 'passing' through rooms.

So that's the navigation, now to the action.

Moving left and right would reveal doors, bio-mechanical growth (alien secretion), doors, sometimes broken and later alien acid.

You could die right at the start if you went through the wrong door but you had six lives.  If you died, your portrait would be replaced by an alien (always a warrior and never any other).

If you were in a room, and another char was in a different one, a faint noise would sound and if you fucked about too long, your stamina would go yellow, red and then flatline (cocooned, impregnated and dead respectively).

I'm fairly sure if you got back to that room, and killed the alien, you saved that person and his/her status was okay again.

The aliens themselves looked smart and very recognisable.

I can forgive them for being black but the backgrounds and portraits - purple amongst other colours?

At first they just walked left or right but after a bit, once the alarm got more serious, they would turn and if you they got too close, ttfn.

Instant kills were a well aimed head shot or if not, a few shots would do the same job, albeit a more satisfying close-up of an alien head being blown off.

The huggers seemed to like cocooning you...

Here's a fatal mistake, sometimes you'd be plodding around a room and shooting some growth to reveal a door, hence being able to access that door and then an alien would materialise out of view.  They would instantly turn and kill that char.

That growth would encourage alien activity so was always best shot.

Maybe we got 'em demoralised.

Automatic deaths were going through a door with acid below it and going outside the complex.

For me, face huggers looked the best and even Newt was in it, but i usually shot her.

Eggs would also make an appearance and really far in - Queens (Queens as in plural, yes I know...).

Pausing or a forced breakdown due to progress would show which attack wave you were on, which would be shown by coming together blast shutters.

Little secret here - if it was forced, that meant the alien you'd just shot was dead even it didn't look dead, trust me.

There were some key rooms in the game - armoury, med lab, the Queens Chamber and more.

Whilst in the armoury (rm 28 - I really remember that), ammo could not be wasted and would be topped up infinitely, until you left of course and then good luck.

I also reckon it was the only room where an alien wouldn't attack.  For strategy, I always left Bishop in the Generator room.

Doubting myself, even if you did, I'm sure the lights still went out.  Maybe there was a forced light failure to add tension to the game but I'd like to think 'they cut the power'.

Regardless, when this happened, you had to shoot to see and imagine how horrible that was if an alien attacked, and trust me they did this a lot.

I remember getting to the Queens Chamber several times but did I escape?  I don't think so.

Most of the time I died through stupid mistakes.  I do remember making a map, which was harder than what it sounded but did eventually become a fairly familiar shape.

I had great fun in doing that and what a storming game.  Repetitive but excellent fun and the best Speccy movie tie-in?  Let you decide.

There was another game based on the film - Aliens U.S version.  Great stuff as it was a series of sub-games and focused on other scenes in the film prior to even seeing any aliens, the landing to LV4-26, the tunnel (when the power's cut) down to the power loader fight with the bitch herself.

Never played the Speccy game and the C64 had its good points but the one I've described in detail remains the better game.

Olli and Lissa, Firebird 1986 - had two other games, Halloween and Olli and Lissa 3 in 1987 and 1989.

This series was fucked up and confusing from the beginning and that's not even the games.  As I've mentioned, Firebird started it but then, Silverbird got in (I'd never heard of them) and similarly, next was Cartoon Time (again an unknown).  FFS, just let or even bribe Firebird to them all and it would've been a lot easier.  Also its sequel, Halloween was also called Olli and Lissa 2, total head-fuck!

These were all adventure games, with a seemingly more stupid plot for each.

From making ghosts invisible to rebuilding a car.  To be fair, these were charming games and had puzzle and cartoon elements, like 'thinking bubbles' but never had time for them.

Outta the three, I'd go with the final game as being the best.

Light Force, Faster than Light 1986 - Awesome achievement for a Speccy game.  It was a vertical shooter but somehow suffered from no colour clash.

Tough, great gpx and better to play.  Oh, its title and publisher was either a bad joke or an incredible coincidence....

Jack the Nipper, Gremlin 1986 - Be a naughty child by creating havoc using a pea shooter and jumping on things.  You had a naughtyometer, pockets for objects and lives -  and no idea what else.

Jack the Nipper II: In Coconut Capers, Gremlin 1987 - Be naughty as poss again, but this time do it in the jungle with natives.  Same game but diff location with coconuts as firepower? Who knows.

Feud, Bulldog 1987 - What a great idea for a game and possibly the inspiration to another classic - Spy vs Spy.  I really hope that people will agree on these inspirations for future games but I think I'm putting excellent cases forward...

Anyway, you was a wizard and all you had to do was make spells to kill the other wizard.  You did this by finding herbs and mix the ingredients in your cauldron and then use them to good effect.

The spells ranged from projectile attacks, to more strategic ones like Swift, Zombie, Doppleganger and Teleport (there was more).  To achieve your kill, you really needed projectiles like Fireball and Lightning.

Great stuff and very entertaining so playing this really gave me feud for thought eh?  Ho ho!

Potty Pigeon, Gremlin 1986 -More drug-fuelled violence.

Percy the pigeon has chicks and must feed them worms to keep them going and feel like a true dad.  Where is Mrs Pigeon, had an affair with a sparrow and the bitch even took the nest?

Far-fetched?  Well that's good as this is really normal.

You were armed with exploding eggs to attack whatever was out to scupper your chicks' grub.  Here goes - paratroopers, planes, UFOs, dogs, cats, frogs and an evil red bird that could nick your captured worm.

So from that list, why oh why did a paratrooper decide to be in an innocent pigeon's way and Percy must be some kind of GM bird unless the paratrooper was an unfortunate victim of an experimental shrinking ray.

Energy was drained in-flight but could be recooped by having a rest or eating mayflies.

Truly crackers and cuckoo!

Green Beret, Imagine 1986 - also part of it was The Vindicator in 1988 but never played it.

Based on another arcade port from Konami.  Looked great and very playable, but rather tough.

Quick outline, it was another army shooter but side-scrolling.  You had only a knife at first until you killed the general who dropped a special weapon.  The weapon changed after each level which also featured bosses.  These included flamethrowers, rocket launchers and grenades.

Preposterously, the enemy could be skilled martial artists....

Dragon's Lair, Software Projects 1986 (also a sequel,  Escape from Singe's Castle in 1987) I played this only on C64 and won't be covering it.

This was awful to control and it started with you on some kind of huge frisbee which descended into darkness.  It'd stop for you to access a door.  Good luck doing this, thanks to terrible controls.

Cobra, Ocean 1986 - one of few times I'll be comparing the same game to the C64 port.  So Speccy first.  The film was terrible, even Sly couldn't deny that but featured a fab tagline - 'Crime is a disease. Meet the cure'.  Proof that taglines could be deceiving.

The plot was the same - Cobretti was out to reek revenge on baddie, the Night Slasher and in turn rescue Ingrid (she was never kidnapped in the film), good idea for an action game, but this game was mental.

A standard scrolling game but the enemies ranged from mutant prams, women armed with rocket launchers and apes/bears throwing knives (they wasn't apes/bears but they sure looked like apes/bears).

Get this, weapons were buried in hamburgers.

Hmmm, if this game was realistic, McDonalds are would-be secret army and munitions depots.

Your standard attack was only a headbutt.

Once holding a weapon, a rubber duck known as the 'quackometer' would appear and discintergrate as it was basically your time limit for that weapon.

Knives and laser-sighted guns were available but why a rubber duck as a weapon time limit?

The creators were clearly quackers.

Lives were repped as boxing gloves  Headbutting somebody resulted in that enemy rebounding across the screen and Sly seemed to judder when hit.

Also crazy was random music beeps, and sometimes tunes to mock you.  I have no answers.

Starting the game even teased to belt out the Rocky theme.  The Night Slasher was a midget throwing knives.  If, like the game, the film was on crystal meth, it might have been good.  But wait, this was normal compared to the C64 game...

The C64 port was even more drug-induced, mainly down to its design and then some.

Same sort of game and totally different in look.

Enemies twitched, juddered and jumped unnaturally, mutant prams now had suicidal mothers (which exploded on impact), and marauding axe murderers.

Even the innocent killed you.  Strangest of all, shooting enemies prompted such a colour change, it would embarrass a chameleon, oh and sometimes they'd fly across the screen while going to rainbow heaven, but I'm sure no pot of gold was waiting for them but instead, a pot of drugs?

Subtle HUD changes meant a hamburger was now an energy bar and bullets replaced the quackometer.

It was insanely difficult too, right as Sly emerges from his car, enemies swarm on you like zombies on the living.  The game had more bugs than an ant farm, including enemies simply walking through you like a ghost i.e awful sprite collision, but the worst was during enemy chameleons, although apparently dead - enemies could still harm and stick to you like treacle.  Oh and the controls were terrible too.

So amidst all the drugs taken, they successfully made a train-wreck of a game, totally unplayable, too random and far too difficult for all the wrong reasons.

The Speccy version was better to play but this was beyond shit with Ocean certainly shooting up more times then Renton on heat when making this steaming shower.

Bomb Jack, Elite 1986 - Well after that rant, a pretty normal game, based again on an arcade.  Fairly straightfoward but really fun.

Collect every bomb to progress (ignited bombs in order reaped more points) and collect a power ball to make enemies vulnerable (for more points).  Nice looking game and a good conversion.

Out Run, U.S Gold 1987 (sequels were Turbo Out Run and Out Run Europa in 1987 and 1989 respectively but won't be covered).

The music for your radio - Spashwave and Musical Sound Shower are already really famous, and should be belted out on Viking or Radio 1.

In arcades, it was famed for its high speed and bitchy babe in tow - a classic.

On the Speccy it looked pretty good and essentially did what it said on the tin.

The Lords of Midnight, Beyond 1984 - This was part of a trilogy of games, the others being Doomdark's Revenge also in 1984 and the unreleased The Eye of the Moon.

A strategic graphic adventure way ahead of its time, the aim was to defeat Doomdark and free the land of Midnight.  It was controlled by qwerty and was pretty complicated in its game mechanics and design.

Using qwerty, you could dish out various commands to explore the landscape including lakes, forests and mountains.  Unsurprisingly, it was inspired by works of Tolkien.

Remake please?

Combat School, Ocean 1987 - Wanna be in the marines do ya?  Well in order to do so, you'll have to sweat blood and tears by a tough army instructor.

Run, arm-wrestle and shoot your way to graduation.  Another ok arcade conversion.

720 Degrees, U.S Gold 1987 - I only used the word degrees as I can't work out how to type the degree circle thing on the qwerty as it was simply called 720.

It was a free-roaming skateboarding game where you did stunts to gain points and were chased by a swarm of bees.... don't ask.

Monty Mole games - there were five games on the Speccy but I only played the third game which was Monty on the Run, by Gremlin in 1985.

The others were Wanted: Monty Mole (the first game), Monty is Innocent, Auf Wiedersehen Monty in 1987 and Impossamole in 1990.  MOTR saw our mole escape from prison and hides in the gangster underworld who offer him a chance of freedom by way of a freedom kit and was a platform game.

Dizzy games - this was I believe the longest running series in the 8-bit era and for once with the Speccy, the next games didn't just add a number of numerals for each sequel so I'd (and I hope others) would describe them as adventures; a bit like Indiana Jones if he had a shell.

Codemasters and the Oliver Twins would kick it all off with Dizzy (nothing more, nothing less) in 1987 and cap it off with Crystal Kingdom Dizzy in 1992 (which would be the Speccy's final year).

The games were arcade adventures that involved finding items to solve puzzles to progress from screen to screen.  Do it wrong and you'd be part of someone's next omelette.

 A cross between JSW and Olli and Lissa if you like.  Very clever and brilliant at the same time.

There would be other Dizzy games but these were not adventures but spin-offs and mini-game efforts.  I liked Kwik Snax which was a maze game and featured a fun bonus round capturing goodies in a stretched net.

Others included Fast Food, Bubble Dizzy and Dizzy Down the Rapids.

Further unofficial games would be made but these would be homebrew, fans' own spin offs of classics etc.    A tough yoke to crack and amongst the best of 8-bit adventures ever.

Wally Weeks games by Mikro-Gen - The latter made a series of drugged up craziness all relating to the exploits of Wally Weeks and his family (one way or another).

BTW, he did eat all the pies...  He was about to have some very bad days and brief outlines below:

Automania, 1984 - Its theme was Laurel and Hardy.

Help Wally rebuild an incomplete car by collecting the parts (on the adjacent screen) and placing them in the correct manner.  As this was a Speccy game, this wasn't a normal garage and was full of peril including computers, wheels, moving in and outy platforms and bolts.

Welcome to the world of Wally and his days weren't gonna get easier.

Pyjamarama, 1984 - This was another puzzle adventure game and the point of it was to go back to get some shut-eye as the game was set inside your nightmare and all nasty things were out to get you like 'Z' signs, floorboard hands and axes.

I always remember a space invaders mini-game you could play and of course you shot bullets? Of course not - cutlery, at odd things like chickens

Everyone's a Wally, 1985 - Another adventure and this time, fun with all the family.  Aim was to collect letters to crack a safe combination.  This was done using other and switching chars and things could only be done using the correct char.  Very, very difficult to play.

Herbert's Dummy Run, 1985 - You played Herbert which having getting lost in a toy store (Wally and Wilma were great parents eh?) and they was waiting for him in the lost and found room...

Of course, the store was now full of baddies who wanted to kill him or really wanted to make him blub oceans of tears.

Another adventure game with object manipulation.  The music was Baby Face, irritating of course but nevertheless, faithful.

Three Weeks in Paradise, 1986 - The final adventure sees Wally attempting to rescue Wilma and Herbert from a crazy tribe on a jungle island.  More familiar adventure shenanigans from the pot-bellied hero.

So to sum up, great and original games, but with so many cryptic puzzles and objectives, it would be easier for Mr Muscle to take down a sumo wrestler.

So like many others, I gave up with some - few could argue that the most difficult was EAW.

Wec Le Mans, Imagine, 1988 - Take part in the world famous 24 hour race.  Decent looking and always remember a really nice graphic involving a car spin when you crashed.

Rastan, Imagine 1988 - Be a Conan clone and slash your way through enemies in this decent scrolling hack and slash 'em' up, ported from the arcade

Techno Cop, Gremlin 1988 - A cross between Outrun and SCI (Special Criminal Investigation) and platform action game.

In car, you shot cars until you stopped or reached a suspect and then in platform world, you had to apprehend the criminal either alive or dead.

If you had to take him alive, you needed to net him or if dead, shoot to kill.  After each mission, back to your jam jar and repeat the process.  An interesting mix of arcade action and was fairly good in what I remember.

Rampage, Activision 1988 - Fairly unique as it was 3 player simultaneously, with the correct stuff.  A destroy 'em' up featuring dinosaurs or monsters.  Climb and batter skyscrapers and reduce them to rubble, while eating bystanders, yum yum.  Of course the army are trying to stop you but really good stuff.

R-Type, Electric Dreams 1988 - Possibly the grandaddy of all arcade ports, perhaps for any home computer of any era (including 16-bits).

Highly unlikely but just in case you don't know - R-Type is a very, very famous arcade shooter by Irem.

It introduced the force which when gathered, was an indestructible object boasting great firepower.  You could shoot it off and attach it to your front or bum and was really useful for absorbing bullets; not to mention killing enemies too.

It had three levels and got bigger and more powerful as you collected power ups.

You could also collect bits which hovered above your R-9 and added further firepower.  All were essential in defeating the evil Bydo empire.

Considering this was on a Speccy and with its limitations, this was absolutely incredible.

The graphics (limited colours aside but were still expertly used) were superb, had all the weapons and remained really faithful to its arcade parent.

The bosses were also amazing to look at.  Remember the third level based around a mothership - well prepare to be impressed.  Sound was minimal but I'm just been picky.

As graphics go, how was this done on the Speccy is anybody's guess.  Electric Dreams, I salute you.

Operation Wolf, Ocean 1988 - In the Taito arcade, I think this was one of the first light-gun games I played and it obviously different and fairly crap using a joystick.  The arcade gun had a trigger for normal fire and a side button to use a grenade.  Awesome fun.  Light guns would exist at home but not now so all you had was a stick or qwerty and so never the same effect.

Looked nice enough and limited fun.

Karnov, Electric Dreams 1988 - An arcade port by Data East.  Get ready for this one...

Karnov the circus strongman had to defeat Ryu the dragon who nicked some ancient treasure.  So Ryu leaves his army to prevent you from becoming a hero.

Get ready for level upon level of arcade, trippy mayhem.

As Karnov, you shot shurikens, powered these up by getting apples for a greater spread of them, when got you sprouted wings for access to higher levels and collected ladders - wait, it gets worse, as the enemies were totally derranged.

The first level introduced you flying things, meditating statues, anorexic dragons, skeletons riding alien ostriches and demons in bird's nests.  The boss was a fucking mermaid, with a bird's head and punk hairstyle.

I don't know really where to start - if Cobra was on meth, this was on super meth.

The next stage failed to shy away from the madness.

Bearded statues which you gradually shot down and then weird shit with stone faces - fireball-shooting gargoyles which cried when shot, you eventually exploded their eye.

Was the boss a biblical reference but even if it was - it fired lions?

After that, it's all a bit vague but I think, trees, mermen, medusa and natives all featured.

What was the end boss - it's supposed to be a dragon but I reckon it was a dragon being sick, giving birth to a kangaroo while dancing in its own faeces.  I suppose I'm fucked up too.

Ramparts, Go! 1988 - Similar to Rampage but with Knights and castles.  As a rampart is a type of defensive wall - made sense don't you think?

Robocop, Ocean 1988 - Again I'll be talking about the C64 port.  You've seen the film from 1987, a brilliant violent satire right?  Ok never mind.

You played the title role and was sort of faithful to the film, insofar at least it recreated some scenes.

It had a great loading screen and when it loaded, I was left gobsmacked by digitised speech as Robo states his prime directives, although it had white noise, it was very understandable.

The game had fairly varied gameplay.  From scrolling action, target stages and a photofit mini-game.  Bikers, guys with chainsaws and guns and of course ED-209.

Each time you completed a level 'Robocop' was spoken - cool eh?  Targeting range levels tried to recreate the film from the shooting the wannabe rapist in the balls (you couldn't do this) and Dick Jones.

ED looked cool but was totally stationary - you first met him (as in the film) when you went to try and arrest Jones and your gun was nicked.  Instead, you slowly approached and battered it.

Other levels included the drug factory and the steel mill.  The photo-fit was based on when Robo had just caused Emil to have an accident with his bike.  The set-up was cool, with it trying to look like the computer in the film but those guys didn't look like any of the crims in the movie.

So you had to line up the picture adjacent to the messed up one.  Fairly simple really.  A good movie tie-in.

C64 now.  The loading screen was even more impressive, showing Robo not in the best of nick.  The title screen had great music but you couldn't choose in-game music and SFX, it was one or the other.  The music was even better, with a real beat but the FX weren't so good.

So to the actual game, it looked better but there was something about it - oh yeah, the drug factory was bugged.  I swear you couldn't finish that level w/o cheating.

A cheat I fondly remember was holding FGHJ while pushing left or right to levitate.  Very useful!

There were other cheats to skip levels, SUEDEHEAD I think.  So overall, I'd have to favour the Speccy version.

Space Harrier, Elite 1986 - It did get a made-up sequel in 1990 by Grandslam, I think the Megadrive also got the same game too.  The arcade was great as it had a moving cabinet with a kick-ass stick.  I shovelled many 10ps in that machine.  It was also noted for its speed and enemy attack waves.

How did it fare at home, well looked nice and but I'm not sure.  It did have the 3D look with the floors though.

48K vs 128K

So what was difference in with 80K, not really a great deal but was nevertheless, significant.

The main thing was it was longer and had a built-in datacorder so that's useful.  The main difference was with the games when was running in 128K mode.

Some games now had sound and multi-loading was seriously lessened.

Robocop and Op Wolf were notable examples.  The load error still happened often of course.

So what was the better machine, well obviously the 128K but didn't retain that classic look and besides, waiting for the +2 was insane as most games were years old and tired by its release.

There was a +3 which had a built-in disc drive but I've no idea if the games were further enhanced by coming on floppy discs.

Thanks Speccy

So there you have it, a few weeks in the making and anything, everything and more I know and remember about the awesome ZX Spectrum (in whatever guise).

As you can see, some serious typing has taken place, without counting I must've covered over a hundred games.

I hope this has been interesting and even provide a fascinating insight into games which some you may never even have heard of as I'd say they're definitely some oddities here, along with games that people will know and still love.

I may have missed some that escaped from the old grey matter but to be quite honest - my brain and memory is mashed.  Having put so much into this post and more, I need recuperation.

So, my final thought is what was my fave Speccy game - probs Manic Miner and my guilty sadomasochistic pleasure - that'd be Booty.

The Speccy was host to so many classics it's like asking somebody what's their fave film?  It's a question with an almost impossible answer...

As with 99% of first parts to something, there's usually always a sequel so tune in again to see what part 2 will bring.  Can I promise it'll be even more intense?  I'll certainly try but in the meantime, I have other ideas so other posts may appear before the long-awaited sequel, but best things come to those who wait...

I'd like to draw credit and thanks to the following websites for references and help.

W/o them, I couldn't confirm some games' year and publisher.


Excellent websites and the ultimate source for all things Speccy.

One is in list format and the other has an actual search bar but it helps if you include the start of the game's title for an instant hit.  For example,  'Dizzy' will bring up everything with 'Dizzy' in it, but for a specific Dizzy game, start it with 'Treasure' for 'Treasure Island Dizzy' and go from there.



Was there a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow? A rhetorical question of course.

Thanks Speccy for all the memories and a very happy and sometimes, insane gaming childhood.

W/o you, I wouldn't have been introduced to games at such an early age and I'm sure wouldn't still be playing games today.

PS. I hope my inspiration refs for future games were relevant and maybe made you think - 'Do yer' know what, I never thought of that'.

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