ZX Spectrum Missile Defence
Our last review (Space Harrier) was of a later arcade conversion developer by Keith Burkhill and this game is yet another great conversion by the same programmer.
An earlier release for the ZX Spectrum, Missile Defence was released in 1983 by Anirog software - and remains probably the best (and unofficial) version of Missile Command available for the Sinclair machine.
The arcade game of Missile Command was originally released by Atari in 1980. Players loved the simplicity of the game and the novel trackball method of controlling the cross-hair.
Needless to say, as well as Space Invaders and Galaxians, Missile Command had to be converted to the home format, and Missile Defence was one of many conversions.
This retro arcade game involved defending a group of cities against ariel bombardment from incoming ballistic missiles and smart bombs. Your six cities (although in this version it seems that you are defending large vehicles) were dotted along the bottom of the screen and you had three missile silos of your own with which to mount your defence.
Each silo contained ten surface to air missiles giving you thirty missiles in total. A cross-hair was displayed on the screen showing where your missile would detonate when fired. As the enemy missiles rained down you would have to position your cross-hair at the nose of each one to destroy them in mid air.
Your surface to air missile would explode and expand out nicely, taking out any missiles which came into it's 'detonation cloud'. It was possible to destroy multiple inbounds that were converging on each other with one well placed shot.
As well as the incoming missiles, aircraft would also fly across the screen dropping even more missiles and sometimes smart bombs. The smart bombs were difficult to destroy and required a direct hit on them to take them out, otherwise they would 'bobble' above your own missiles detonation cloud before continiuing to drop towards the ground.
As you progressed through the game, each level increased in speed with the enemy missiles raining down on you more quickly and in greater numbers than before. Once you got to level 9 the speed of the game was incredible and you would be doing well to survive it at all.
Bonus points were awarded at the end of each level for each 'city' still intact and for any spare ammo you had left over. Bonus cities were awarded for a certain amount of points too, but you were only awarded with one if at least one of your current cities had been destroyed.
Players also had to ensure that their missile silos were not taken out too, otherwise you would have nothing to shoot with and would watch helplessly as the ariel bombardment rained down and wiped out everything on the ground.
Controlling the game was one issue which may have put ZX Spectrum gamers off. Keyboard control was with the dreaded cursor keys (although your trusty reviewer here never had a problem using the cursors) and keys 1,2 and 3 to fire from silo's 1,2 and 3 respectively. Joystick control was somewhat easier, but you always fired from the central silo (number 2) with this particular silo being re-stocked from silo's 1 and 3.
This could leave you at a disadvantage sometimes depending on what area of the screen you were shooting at - so using the keyboard really was the best option for high score seekers.
The game could never be 'completed' and just kept going and going until your poor old trigger finger couldn't keep up anymore. Anything past level 9 on Missile Defence was insanely difficult - it was a case of laying down a blanket of fire and hoping for the best!
This arcade game was pretty well received, but 1983 was still the early days for Spectrum gaming. People who did pick it up marvelled at the fast gameplay, the good sound effects, (the missile zapping sound, the explosions and even the 'extra' award were suitably 'arcadey' (and really captured the spirit of the original) and the addictive qualities. Anyone who liked Missile Command would keep coming back for more - it definately had that 'one more go' factor. At £5.95 it was properly priced, and for 16K Spectrum owners it was one of the best titles they could obtain.
The test of time:
Well here in the land of Spectrum Games reckon that this is the best Missile Command conversion for the Spectrum that you can play. It is still very playable and on the later levels is a real challenge. The speed of the game is impressive, and it suffers from very little slowdown at all. The sound effects are great, especially considering the year the game was released. The fact that it could run on a 16K Spectrum makes this game (in our book) a true classic arcade game. Well done to Keith Burkhill and Anirog software.
This classic game (unofficial) is worth another look after all these years.
We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Missile Defence for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
Please see our other ZX Spectrum games reviews and programmer interviews - all links are in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.
GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: 1983
RELEASED BY: Anirog Software
DEVELOPER(S): Keith Burkhill
PRICE: £5.95 - UK
Mart shows he is still a dab hand with the cursor keys and puts up a valiant fight against the enemy in an excellent version of the classic arcade game:
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