Thanatos for the ZX Spectrum was released in December of 1986 by Durell software - who were by now making a name for themselves as one of the premier games developers for the Speccy.
With legendary titles under their belt such as Saboteur, Scuba Dive and Harrier Attack, Durell (and Mike Richardson) proved yet again with Thanatos that they were at the forefront of ZX Spectrum arcade gaming.
The premise of this game was that a good Sorceress called Eros had been imprisoned by an evil Lord of the underworld. Not only that, her belongings such as spell books, potions and so on had been locked away in separate castles.
These had be returned to the Sorceress to allow her to bring enlightenment back to the land and forever clear the good name of dragons, who were misunderstood as being fierce creatures.
Enter the dragon ('Thanatos the Destroyer') who would undertake this quest and free the sorceress and restore the image of dragons throughout the land.
This ZX Spectrum game took place over a parallax scrolling landscape, which was suitably displayed with mythical creatures such as sea-serpents and giant spiders and medieval buildings, all of which were smoothly scrolling with a multi-layered parallax view.
You had to work your way across the land, defeating enemies, burning down castle gates and battling with many mystical creatures before eventually rescuing the sorceress.
Your game character could walk over the ground slowly, but real fun was had by flapping his wings and taking to the air. As you flew across the landscape, humans would hurl spears and throw rocks at you - all of which would cause minimal damage.
You could either breath fire on these foes to kill them, or swoop down and pick them up with your talons before dropping them to their doom from a great height. It was also possible to drop one captured body onto another person on the ground and kill both this way - great fun.
Thanatos could take a fair amount of punishment and your energy level was represented by a beating heart. The more punishment taken (battling with foes such as giant spiders, killer bees and evil dragons was a lot more damaging to Thanatos than human encounters) caused the heart to beat faster.
Too much damage would cause too much strain and poor Thanatos's heart would give up. It was possible to restore health by taking a well earned breather if you found a nice quiet spot on your travels.
You also had a limited amount of fire to breath, represented by a goblet. In some parts of the game you needed to breath fire to pass through (such as a castle gate which had to be burned down) - so using your fiery breath cautiously added a little strategy to the game. It was possible to top up your fire level by eating an evil witch, but you would have to watch out for an expert dragon slayer who always seemed to be around whenever you fancied a quick snack of 'witch - very rare'.
Once the sorceress was rescued she would climb up and ride on Thanatos's back - and she would have to be taken to the other castles and collect her stolen belongings.
There was a lot of land to play through with different environments, villages, beaches, the sea (complete with a nice shimmering moon reflection on the water), castles and caves. The varying enemies to battle added variety to the game, and certain parts were difficult to play through.
Thanatos was pretty tough, but was very playable and also something new. Who had seen a large green dragon as the main hero in a computer game before?
Thanatos was a revelation when it was released. The parallax scrolling was the best yet on a ZX Spectrum, the level or perspective as the scenery flew by was pretty amazing. Couple that with the large game character (and large beasts to battle) - this arcade game stood out as a graphical achievement on the humble Speccy. Not only were the graphics jaw-dropping, the game was fun to play and kept you coming back for more. Breathing fire on giant killer bees and picking knights up from their horses before dropping them into the ground was brilliant fun - and the whole mythical theme was different from most other arcade adventure games at that time.
Crash magazine awared Thanatos a score of 93% and Durell software were onto another sure fire winner. Mike Richardson had developed yet another quality title for Durell who always seemed to come up trumps - and not even the relatively high price of £9.95 would put gamers off.
The test of time:
Here in the land of Spectrum games we reckon that this classic game deserves a place as a unique and cult arcade game. The large game characters and parallax scrolling were miraculous when you consider the hardware. It certainly paved the way for future mythical games such as Shadow of the Beast, and even to this day it is pretty playable and challenging. Even the simple theme tune at the beginning evokes the right atmosphere before you start the game - another title that is a true classic game from Durell.
Get some fire in your belly and play Thanatos.
We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Thanatos for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
GENRE: Arcade Game (Arcade Adventure)
RELEASE DATE: December of 1986
RELEASED BY: Durell Software
DEVELOPER(S): Mike Richardson
PRICE: £9.95 - UK
Our dragon takes to the air and battles with evil foes - A classic arcade game:
Classic Games and Arcade Games