The Empire Strikes Back was another wireframe 3D arcade game released by Domark for the ZX Spectrum.
The developers of the game were the famous name in 3D gaming, Vector Grafix, who had also developed the Star Wars arcade game on the ZX Spectrum.
For people who were familiar with the original Star Wars game, Empire was created in a similar style, using the settings of the movie within the game.
As nearly everyone in the world (and in Galaxies far far away) are familiar with the movie, there is no need to dig deep into the plot details. Especially considering Empire was the best of ALL of the Star Wars movies eh? ;-)
The Empire Strikes Back on the ZX Spectrum took place over four levels which roughly spanned the movie.
On the first level, you took control of a landspeeder and flew over the surface of the ice planet Hoth. Imperial probe droids were scouting around and you had to destroy them and any transmissions they relayed (viewed as wireframe 'signals' rising skywards). The probots would shoot back at you, and any fireballs hitting you would deplete your shields. Blasting enough droids would move you onto level two.
The second stage had you piloting a snowspeeder once again. This time you had to take down Imperial walkers (both the AT-AT and AT-ST types) using the same methods used in the movie by Luke, Wedge and co. It took a fair bit of practice to fly through the legs of the walkers and deploy your tow cables to entagle their legs and bring them down. Success in stage two moved you onto stage three.
Stage three now had you flying the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, the Millenium Falcon. Manning the laser cannon you had to blast away at the swarms of tie fighters that were intent on blasting you straight back to Correllia. You had to shoot away at the enemy tie's and their fireballs and ensure that the Falcon was not destroyed. Keeping the Falcon intact led you into....
The asteroid field. Lazer bolts were ineffective agianst asteroids, so you had to use your piloting skills to weave in and around the rocks. Any collision would deplete your shields, so fancy flying was the only way to survive this. The aim was to make it to the large rock (as in the movie) and to safety. Once this had been achieved the four levels were completed and the game would start again with the difficulty level increased.
There were bonuses to be had during the game; extra points could be earned by destroying a specific number of enemy targets and letters were also awarded along with the bonus points. If you managed to spell out JEDI then you were given invincibity against all enemies for a period of time.
When The Empire Strikes Back was released on the Speccy it was nothing new in concept - there were plenty of good wireframe arcade games already for the ZX Spectrum. However the graphics were pretty smooth and the large imperial walkers were pretty impressive. The game appealed to fans of 3D vector graphic games and fans of the Star Wars movies. Empire was fun and playable and was regarded as a good movie tie-in, which was not always the case with official licensed games. £9.99 was a tad steep, but official licensed games usually got away with charging a little extra.
The test of time:
Here in the land of Spectrum games we reckon that The Empire Strikes Back is definately a product of it's era. By the late 80's vector graphic arcade games were commonplace and this title did not really stand out from the crowd. However, the game is very simple to play, and can be quite fun. It is pretty easy to work your way through the four levels, gathering the bonus and JEDI powerup is the real challenge. The Empire Strikes Back is a good way to fill in a spare bit of time. Not quite a classic game - it is decent enough.
So, stick on the movie and give this one a go - but remember the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.
We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download The Empire Strikes Back for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
GENRE: Wireframe arcade game
RELEASE DATE: July of 1984
RELEASED BY: Domark
DEVELOPER(S): Vektor Grafix (George Iwanow)
PRICE: £9.99 - UK
Luke gives Chewie a Han in classic arcade action:
Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games