Harrier Attack was an earlier right-to-left scrolling arcade game probably inspired by the arcade classic, Scramble. This game achieved cult status and put Durell Software on the Speccy games map.
The developer Mike Richardson would go on to create many more quality titles for the ZX Spectrum during the 1980's (such as the quirky and original Scuba Dive and the excellent battle simulation Combat Lynx also released by Durell)
On load-up the loading screen picture was simply animated and the front most harrier would launch a few rockets before you were taken into the games menu. Once you had selected your controls it was into the game proper.
The aim of this classic arcade game was very simple - take control of a Sea Harrier jet to bomb enemy ground installations, ships and also defend yourself from opposing fighter jets.
Starting on an aircraft carrier you would take off and increase speed, and the sea (and clouds) would scroll past from right to left. It was possible to 'stay low' over the sea to avoid radar, but you would run the risk of being shot down by an enemy destroyer.
You would soon be flying over land where flak batteries would pepper the sky and enemy fighters would swoop in to try and take you out.
You could drop bombs onto the ground targets and you were also armed with air-to-air missiles to defend yourself against the enemy aircraft. These missiles were short range and were guided by your flight path.
If you fired then made your harrier climb, the rocket would also climb with you. This made for interesting tactics when shooting down any enemy planes. It was also possible to fly above the planes and drop a bomb onto them and destroy them this way - not the most realistic of scenarios eh?
If you made it to the end of the 'island' then you would fly over the enemy 'base' (which happened to look like a load of seafront hotels) and you would pick up the majority of your points as you unleashed your remaining payload onto the installations. Once past the base you would return to your carrier and land (carefully - otherwise you would put your harrier down too hard and destroy it)
There were simple indicators in the game showing your airspeed, fuel and remaining ammunition. You would need to land on the carrier before your fuel ran out to succesfully complete the mission.
It was also possible to 'bail out' and your pilot would parachute to safely as your harrier plummeted into the sea or ground. It was better than crashing if you ran out of fuel and was a cute little touch to the game too.
One thing should be noted with Harrier Attack was the fact that it was possible to bomb your own ship as you took off from it. If you did bomb it, then when you made it back it would no longer be there (presumably having sunk) and being unable to land on it your plane would just continue flying until it ran out of fuel and crashed, or you bailed out.
Nice attention to detail there by Mike Richardson.
The game was an early release, but was generally given high accolades. It was probably the best side scrolling arcade game available for the Speccy at that point in time. Gamers enjoyed the fast paced action, the bombing runs and the five skill levels. The fact that it was available for a 16K Spectrum ensured it had a wide fan base. The quirks in the game (such as flying 'behind' clouds, bailing out of your plane and bombing your own ship somehow seemed to make the game even better).
The test of time:
Let's be honest here, this game is extremely simple. There is little depth and the action is repetitive. But you know what? It's still fun, and it represents the early days of home computer gaming. Remember a full scrolling arcade game was *squeezed into a 16K Spectrum - a minor miracle. If you've got 15 minutes to spare you could do worse than having a quick go on Harrier Attack - a fine retro arcade game.
*Good old Mike managed to get the executable size down to just under 9KB, which allowed for a fast loading time from cassette. The game is rumoured to have sold roughly a quarter of a milltion copies in total. Some going.
We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Harrier Attack for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online. Fly fly fly!
GENRE: Scrolling Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: 1983
RELEASED BY: Durell Software
DEVELOPER(S): Mike Richardson
PRICE: £6.95 - UK
Flying ace Major Lawrence Bartle Frere shows he is still an ace when it comes to classic arcade game action...
Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games