ZX Spectrum Games

ZX Spectrum Games

30 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - Starquake - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Starquake

Now this classic game will bring back plenty of memories for lots of you ZX Spectrum gamers.

Starquake was released by the delightfully named Bubblebus software late on in 1985 to much critical acclaim.

The developer of the game Steve Crow was already well known for his previous (and very good) efforts Factory Breakout and Wizards Lair.

Steve would go on to develop more excellent titles for the Spectrum over the next few years.

Starquake was an arcade adventure - mixing arcade action and platform gaming with a large dollop of humour to create a nice game full of challenge and character.

As usual it was up to you to save the day, in this case our lovely planet Earth.

The inlay text of the games cassette gave a nice overview of what lay ahead:
"Message has just reached Earth of an unstable planet emerging from a black
hole somewhere at the edge of the galaxy. If the core of this planet is not
rebuilt it will implode causing the whole universe to go "Ka Boomf!" -
Strewth, a Starquake...
"

This was obviously not very good news, so a hero was sent to this rogue planet (a little being called BLOB - or Bio-Logically Operated Being) to rebuild the core of this rogue planet and avert the impending disaster. Game on!

This game was presented in age old arcade adventure style. The screens flicked between each other and the majority of the action occurred in a system of caverns below the suface of the planet.

Our hero was a creature with some of the usual abilities who could go left and right and had a nice line in falling (for moving downwards).

It was possible to propel Blob upwards too, by use of his platform laying device. In this novel twist platforms could be used to prevent a fall or be 'stacked up' to create a vertical stairway.

Once laid the platforms soon faded away (sort of super quick bio-degradable), crumbling away to dust leaving poor Blob unsupported in mid air (if you had not made it onto more a more solid piece of rock in the meantime).

You began the game (in classic arcade game style) with four lives, a stockpile of platforms and some ammo.

The top of the screen displayed valuable data such as lives remaining, energy levels (each life had an energy bar) which was sapped by colliding with any of the nasties roaming around the caverns, and your platform and ammunition levels.

To aid you in your planetary quest it was also possible to jump on 'hopper pads' to move around the screens. These hover pads allowed you to zip around the screens in all directions, thus saving on your platform stocks.

The downside was that you had to park the pad and leave it if you wanted to collect any items (such as extra ammo, platform packs, energy boosts and even the odd extra life).

You could also move around using the built in teleport system and jump from one area of the planet to another. When you entered a teleport, it informed you of its teleport code and requested a destination code to allow it to transport you to another teleport booth.

The teleport network was a really great feature - once you had played the game enough and found the codewords to all six teleports.

Starquake is a classic game

The whole game was large and was smattered with lots of different features and items.

Security doors barred you way in certain areas (usually blocking your path to an essential 'core piece') and you would have to find the key code to open it. Little pyramids could be used to trade in items you were currently holding for a more useful item and an access card would allow you one time access (get it?) to any door.

There were also secret passages, zap rays and 'breakable bridges' which would prevent upwards passage, but could be broken by falling onto them from a great height.

The variety of objects, masses of locations and imaginative graphics marked Starquake on the ZX Spectrum as a unique and playable game.

On Release:
Steve Crow was already building a good reputation for himself on the back of his previous games and this one made him a household name (well in ZX Spectrum households anyway). Gamers loved the frantic mix of arcade and platform action that Starquake offered. This coupled with the puzzle solving elements, polished presentation and slightly wacky graphical style ensured that Steve Crow's game was a big hit. Speccy gamers bible Crash magazine scored it with a very nice 96% praising it's gameplay and technical acheivement.

The test of time:
This is a playable and fun game. The visuals used in the game still work, and the action is as frenetic as ever. The central character BLOB is a nice little being, and the strategy you have to employ (use of platforms, hover pads, learning codes etc) makes Starquake a challenging yet playable experience. A lot of people have fond memories of this game - and here in the land of ZX Spectrum Games we can see why. This is a bona fide classic game.

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Starquake for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Arcade Adventure
RELEASE DATE: Tail end of 1985
RELEASED BY: Bubblebus Software
DEVELOPER(S): Steve Crow
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

Classic Arcade Gaming:


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

ZX Spectrum Game - West Bank - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Westbank
Westbank was released for the ZX Spectrum by Dinamic software (the UK rights were won by Gremlin Graphics who had also published another Dinamic game, Rocco) in February of 1986. Westbank was basically a clone of the popular arcade game Bank Panic.

In the game you had to defend a bank which was in a tough old town in the wild west. Less than honorable cowboys and bandits would make attempts to rob the bank, and the good citizens would walk in to make cash deposits.


ZX Spectrum Games West Bank
The bank had a total of twelve doors with three being displayed on screen at any given time. This window of three could be scrolled left or right to allow you to view all tweleve doors by 'rotating' through them.

The aim of this ZX Spectrum game was to allow the good customers to come in and drop off their hard earned cash and to shoot any would be robbers before they lined your lungs with lead - the goddam varmints!

Each door would swing open at random intervals to reveal either a good customer or a robber - it was all down to quick reflexes and a cool trigger finger to decide whether to blast away or hold your fire.

If you were too quick on the draw and shot down an innocent customer then the bank manager would not be best pleased and you would lose one of your lives. If a bandit got the drop on you and got a shot off then this also resulted in a loss of a life. To make your life more difficult some honest citizens would show up only to be robbed at the door, and you had only a moment to dole out six gun justice to the cowardly thief.

Another character (called Bowie the dwarf - I ain't kiddin') would routinely show up with a pile of hats on his head. Anyway, you could shoot away each of these hats (from top to bottom) and the bottom one would either reveal a bag of money or a bomb. Shooting the money rewarded you with cold had cash, shooting the bomb resulted in the whole place being blown sky high. Taking it steady and easy here was the trick pardner....


Once all twelve doors had been used by customers to deposit cash then the working day was officialy over. Time for a sasparilla? Maybe, but not before earning some extra cash on side in bounty money by engaging in a shootout with some bad guys in the bonus level. The odds were 3-1 against you, but should you take them all out in a quick draw contest then plenty of bonus of points would awared. Those of you with Doc Holliday iron skills would be given an extra life for being extra quick on the draw.

To add variety to this classic game it was also possible to work different shifts (such as morning, afternoon, or early evening) and the later in the day it was - the tougher it was to keep order. Working at dusk made it especially difficult: the doors would swing open to reveal a shadowy figure against a dark blue background. Telling the difference between a good guy and bad guy was now no mean feat...

On Release:
When this game was released for the ZX Spectrum gamers enjoyed it because of it's simplicity - the game was all about reactions and a cool head. The graphics were nicely drawn and suitably 'western' in style, and the banks customers were pretty big on the screen. The variety of actions that could occur (the multiple hats, the robbers attacking a decent customer etc) made the action fast and furious and it was easy to be over eager and shoot down an innocent. Bank Panic was a fairly popular game in the arcades and West Bank was a very good arcade conversion for the ZX Spectrum.

The test of time:
Your trusty double act here in the land of Spectrum games reckon that this game still holds plenty of appeal. It was always a simple affair, and moving between the doors and shooting down the baddies is still a lot of fun. As you move through the game the pace really hots up (in classic arcade style) and it becomes far too easy to shoot early and blow away a poor customer. This is an arcade game to fill in a spare fifteen minutes - and is still good in that respect. Yee haa!

Watch any of the Clint classics and give West Bank a go - it's a rootin' tootin' little game.

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download West Bank for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: February of 1986
RELEASED BY: Gremlin Graphics
DEVELOPER(S): Dinamic (Alvaro Mateos)
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

Dead eye dirk shows his iron skills in the East Clintwood branch of Nat West in West Bank:


Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

27 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - 3D Starstrike 2 - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum 3D Starstrike 2
Those vector graphics bods over at Realtime did it again with Starstrike 2 - the follow up their excellent 'Star Wars' arcade game, 3D Starstrike.

Starstrike 2 was released in May of 1986 for the ZX Spectrum after much hype and anticipation, and it delivered to us gamers in spades.

The back story to Starstrike 2 didn't really matter when you had graphics like this, but we'll have a quick reminisce anyway.

ZX Spectrum Games 3D Starstrike 2
The scenario of Starstrike 2 continues from the story told in 3D Starstrike. After the Outsiders' first attack was repelled by the Starstrike fleet, the aliens regrouped an returned to their homeworlds to plot once more against the Federation (the good guys).

The Federation decided that attack was the best form of defence and a new all-purpose fighter (the Starstrike II series) was created. You were the pilot of this new craft, and had the task of taking out the defences on each of the Outsiders planets

ZX Spectrum Games 3D Starstrike 2

There was a lot in this classic game, pentrating force fields, refuelling your ship, battles in orbit with alien fleets and of course, a nice variation on the famous 'trench run'. Gamers who had played the original Starstrike would be familar with conrols and weapons of the craft. As in the first game being too trigger happy would cause your blasters to overheat and you would have to wait a few seconds for them to cool.

You had one life to play with, but your craft was equiped with defensive shields which could be topped up at the end of various levels.

Starstrike 2 had a great combination of ariel combat, ground attacks and sequences to destroy a planet. The combination of brilliant gameplay and (then) state of the art graphics ensured it's status as an instant classic. Starstrike 2 was a massive and deserved hit in the summer of '86.

On release:
This game had been the subject of a lot of hype prior to it's release. Could solid 3D graphics be animated properly on a humble ZX Spectrum? Thanfully, the answer was a big yes. Realtime managed to create a game with depth, variety, action and amazing graphics. Starstrike 2 was a landmark achievment in ZX Spectrum gaming and proved just how far clever developers could push the hardware. The first time I saw this running on a friends Spectrum 48K my jaw hit the floor. Solid vectors were unheard of on 8-Bit machines until this game was released. I saved up for four weeks to buy a copy!

Crash magazine awared it a stunning 96% - a true seal of quality at the time.

The test of time:
Here in the land of Spectrum games we must acknowledge that Starstrike 2 remains a classic. Of course the graphics are nothing special by todays standards, but once you see past that there is still some good gameplay in there. The pair of us are still amazed that Realtime crammed this much in to a 48K ZX Spectrum; a truly stunning achievement. Starstrike 2 proved that Realtime were the masters of vector graphics - and it is still worth playing today. Give it a go - it's still good.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Starstrike 2 for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Solid Vector Graphics Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: May of 1986
RELEASED BY: Realtime Software
DEVELOPER(S): Ian Oliver, Andrew Onions and Graeme Baird
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

Mart needs to play a few more times to get the hang of the classic arcade action again...
Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

26 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - Bounder - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Bounder
In the mid-eighties, ball based arcade games (such as Marble Madness and Trailblazer) were all the rage on 8-Bit machines - and Bounder was another good ball based game.

Gremlin Graphics released bounder for the ZX Spectrum in the summer of 1986 - and it was well liked by those classy Spectrum gamers.

ZX Spectrum Games Bounder
Bounder could probably be regarded as a platform game with a difference: the game was viewed from a top down angle, or birds-eye view. The whole idea of the game was to guide the ball (which was a tennis ball) through varying screens of obstacles whilst it bounced along.

Our bounder had to negotiate a pathway of hexagonal paving stones that continuously scrolled down the screen.

This game contained a whopping 174 screens which were split into ten levels meaning you really had a tough task in completing the game. The general rule was to avoid anything that moved and to bounce only on the hexagonal parts of the screen. Sounds easy you say?

Well, Bounder was pretty tricky due to the nasties put between you and the end of the levels. Obstacles to avoid included piles of jagged rocks, stone walls (which had to be bounced around), and shards of broken glass which punctured your tennis ball if you bounced onto them.

Apart from the rocks, glass and walls, a range of nasties roamed the playing area intent on bursting your little tennis ball. The excellently named Binoculoids zoomed around trying to knock your ball off course, Moscita birds swooped down on top of you and Stickits, Exocet missiles and Chomper Domes (truly superb named baddies!) tried to stop you in their own way.

A stock of seven tennis balls Was given to the player at the start of the game and a life was lost every time you strayed off the yellow pathway or collided with any of the nasties. There was some help in Bounder though - as was usual with classic arcade games some powerups were available.

Landing on a square with an arrow in it supercharged the next bounce allowing you to hang in the air for twice as long as a normal bound. Teleport areas warped the ball to the next teleport square which could allow you to avoid any nasties lurking in between. Some squares were marked with a question mark and these squares concealed a surprise. Landing on one revealed a random powerup, which could be something nice like an extra life, or something not so nice!

Once you reached the end of a level your tennis ball was shot through a goalmouth and you were taken to the bonus screen. The screen was full of 'mystery squares' and each one held a random number of bonus points. A bounceometer in the status area of the screen told you how many bounces were available to you to use on the bonus screen - so using your bounces wisely was the way to gather maximum points. You could claim yet a further bonus (it's starting to sound like a game show!) by landing on all of the bonus squares on the screen.

The game was always moving (as in the ball always bounced on it's own), increasing and decreasing in size as it bounced in relation to the ground. You HAD to control the ball as it always bounced forwards - the real trick to the game was keeping it 'alive'. Once you got the hang of it, addictive was the word.

On release:
When Bounder was released for the ZX Spectrum it was praised for it's original concept and gameplay. It was a definate nice twist on the platform genre, and the simple concept combined with the smooth scrolling levels and imaginative enemies marked it as a game with a difference. Bounder was a big hit and plenty of gamers picked it up. Tennis balls were only more popular when Wimbledon was on!

The test of time:
Your humble reviewer here in the land of Spectrum Games reckons that Bounder is a bit of a cult classic. Make no mistake, Bounder is no pushover (although my reflexes are probably not as sharp as they used to be!), but it's a fun little game. It needs a few goes at it to get the hang of the gameplay, but once you do, there is a good game in there. Gremlin rarely released a dud, and Bounder was another quality title from a quality software house.

Please give Bounder a go and perservere with it, it's a good little retro game.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Bounder for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Top down platform game (arcade game)
RELEASE DATE: Summer of 1986
RELEASED BY: Gremlin Graphics
DEVELOPER(S): Sean Hollingworth, Marcos Druroe, Peter Harrap and Chris Kerry
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

Mart makes a balls up in Bounder - a classic arcade game:

Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

25 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - Star Wars - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Games Star Wars

The officialy licensed conversion of the world famous arcade game landed on the ZX Spectrum right at the tail end of 1987. The arcade version of Star Wars had been a phenomenon with it's fast moving vector graphics and sterio sound, not to mention the full cockpit sit down version.

Domark released Star Wars for the Sinclair Spectrum and those clever guys at Vector Grafix (who would also develop The Empire Strikes Back on the Speccy) handled the conversion.

The game was loosly based around the movie, with three main levels to contend with. As the game started up you were treated to a nice rendition of the Star Wars theme tune - the style of music was the now familiar ZX Spectrum 'synth sound' that really pushed it's humble beeper to the max.

As in the arcade game, you could choose your level of skill by pointing your X-Wing cross hairs at the Easy, Medium or Hard level Death Stars and pressing fire. The game would begin and you were flung straight into action on the first stage of the game.

Your X-Wing fighter was fitted with quad lasers and defensive shields which could absorb nine hits from the enemy before you were blown into smithereens. As most of you will know, the first stage of Star Wars was basically shooting down enemy tie fighters (and fireballs they would shoot at you) as they weaved around the starry backdrop of deep space. Lasting long enough put you into stage two.

Stage two had you flying over the surface of the dreaded deathstar, shooting gun emplacements and towers whilst avoiding enemy fire and crashing into the surface and the aforementioned towers. Weaving your way across the surface would lead you to the final, and probaly most exciting stage.

ZX Spectrum Star Wars trench run
The final stage was the trench run. Just like the movie you had to fly your X-Wing down the trench of the Deathstar and make it to the exhaust port. On the way you had to avoid enemy fire, beams spanning the width of the trench and of course collision with the deck. You could pick up a huge bonus by 'using the force' and not firing a single shot during the trench run until you reached your goal. A well placed shot into the exhaust port would treat you to a scene of the Deathstar exploding before the game returned to the first level with the difficulty level increased.

On Release:
When Star Wars was released for the ZX Spectrum it was met with only mild enthusiasm. The arcade game was getting on a bit and had been surpassed on a technical level by more modern offerings. Not only that, but other unofficial versions of Star Wars had already been released on the Spectrum, such as the excellent 3D Starstrike from Realtime Software. Starstrike had been released around three years earlier, and was regarded by many (with it's smoother graphics and tighter gameplay) as the superior game. To make matters worse, there were NO in game sound effects in Star Wars at all; no lasers, no explosions, nothing. This lack of sound reduced the atmosphere of the game considerably.

Star Wars was by no means a poor effort, and Domark's release did replicate the arcade game quite nicely (they captured the look of the game very well, with the use of colour and font being very accurate). The famous scrolling Star Wars story was in there too, and the game itself was pretty good to play (despite the sometimes jerky vector graphics). Due to the Star Wars name, it did pretty well and sold plenty of copies.

The test of time:
Here in the land of ZX Spectrum Games we reckon that Star Wars is worth a look to see how they converted from arcade to home computer. The game is still quite fun, but the lack of sound is a real drawback. If you want to play a game of this ilk then also try 3D Starstrike - I'm sure many of you will find it more playable. Nice theme tune though.

Watch the movie and feel the force before giving it a go. Yahoo! Your all clear kid!

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Star Wars for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: 3D Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: End of 1987
RELEASED BY: Domark
DEVELOPER(S): Vector Grafix
PRICE: £9.95 - UK

Luke grooves to the music for a bit before going solo in ZX Spectrum Games - Star Wars:

24 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - Tapper - ZX Spectrum

ZX Spectrum Games Tapper

ZX Spectrum Tapper
Tapper (or Root Beer Tapper as it was also known) was a good arcade conversion of the famous Bally Midway arcade game. It was released by US Gold for the ZX Spectrum in June of 1985 and was yet another good game from the people that had brought us Beach Head and Raid Over Moscow.

Like many computer games in the mid-eighties, this one was a very simple idea and focused on fast and furious action to hold your attention. The simplicity of the game made it an ideal title to convert to the ZX Spectrum.

As you may have guessed from the title, in this classic game you had been put you in charge of a bar (different bars as you advanced through the game) with the sole task of serving the thirsty punters as quickly as possible and collecting the glasses - surely an easy task for any wannabe barmen or barmaids. Not quite.

You had to serve the customers in a 'western style' by pouring the drink, slinging it down the bar to them and catching any empty glasses they slung back at you. No time for fancy dan cocktail moves a la Tom Cruise and Brian Brown in these bars.

Each bar (screen) you worked in had four taps at the opposite end of four serving bars for you to cover. The customers would walk in through the door at the opposite end of the bar (opposite to the end where the tap was located) and move towards our trusty barman. You had to pour and sling a drink to them before they reached your end of the bar, otherwise you would be ejected from the place by being slung along the bar and out the door yourself!

Some of the customers would fling the empty glass back along the bar to you - which you had to catch to prevent it from dropping to the floor and breaking. If you slung too many drinks down the bar (say four drinks but only three customers) then the last drink would be ignored and would fly off at the door end and smash. Any glass breakages would cost you a life - so tidy serving and prompt catching was the way to keep everything ticking along nicely.

If you managed to serve all of the customers then you would take part in a bonus round. In the bonus round it consisted of a spot the tumbler puzzle where 'The Soda Bandit' stood behind seven cans of drink lined up on the bar and shook six of them before jumbling all of them up. You had to pick the unshaken can to get the bonus reward.

During the levels there were other bonuses to collect such as tips left by satisfied customers. Picking up the tips would make a duo of dancing girls appear on stage to entertain you and the drinkers for a short while. Unfortunately this entertainment could make the customers miss their drinks and let them sail off the bar, thus losing you a life. Pah!

Your game character could move up and down the bars and also along the length of the bars to collect empties more quickly. As the levels progressed the amount of customers and speed of the game really hotted up. Keeping pace with everything was no easy feat.

On Relase:
Tapper had been a pretty succesful arcade game, and the ZX Spectrum conversion was awaited with mild excitement. When it arrived gamers loved the fast paced action and touches of humour within the game. The different levels (some bars were in space and had you serving aliens) added variety to the game and it had that 'one more go' factor as you wanted to reach further levels and beat your high score. Crash magazine awared it the legendary Crash Smash status and Tapper went on to be a big summer seller. The only complaint by gamers was the lack of finesse on the graphics, which probably should have had more detail and better animation. At £7.95 it was priced just about right.

The test of time:
Tapper was (and is even more so) a very simple arcade game. But here in the land of Spectrum Games we reckon that the fast and furious gameplay still has that fun element. As you work your way through the levels the speed of the game really increases, and you have to move like lightning to keep everyone served and catch those empty glasses. Still fun, still playable, this simple arcade game is worth a go.

Get yourself some rootbeer and a child glass and give it a go. Sling those drinks dudes.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Tapper for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: June of 1985
RELEASED BY: US Gold
DEVELOPER(S): Ocean Software (plus David Anderson and Ian Morrison)
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

Resident bar-fly Mart keeps plenty of customers happy in this nice conversion of a classic arcade game:

Classic Games and Arcade Games

22 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - Trantor (the last stormtrooper) - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Trantor
Trantor: The last stormtrooper was released for the ZX Spectrum (both the 48K and 128K versions) in November of 1987 by GO! Software.

The developers behind the game were Probe software who were knowm for arcade games such as Harvey Headbanger and Slap Fight, as well as the conversion of the classic Out Run. This arcade game had been the subject of some hype prior to its release, some of it justified, some of it not.

The whole story of Trantor was the usual sad tale of deep space abandonement and betrayal. Wiping a tear as I type...


ZX Spectrum Trantor (the last stormtrooper)
Our hero was left marooned on an alien world, and the only way to escape was by activating the main 'planetary computer' located within the terminal building. Sounds simple no?

Well, as usual there were a lot of enemies and obstacles to overcome on your way to this terminal building. Our hero was a large and well animated sprite, who could run, jump and duck (sounds like Dodgeball!) his way through the game screens, which scrolled along smoothly as you moved.

On first loading you would be amazed by the loading screen, which really pushed the display capabilities of the Spectrum and was very, very impressive.

You would be amazed yet further once you started the game and got an eyefull of the intro screen. A large and nicely detailed space ship slowly decended through a rocky cavern, dropping deeper and deeper before gently coming to rest (nice landing struts) on some sort of landing platform.



A little figure emerged and was thrown to the ground as the ship exploded into a trillion pieces - our Trantor had been left all alone.

So - it was up to you to fight your way through the caverns, the terminal building and locate the central computer.

Trantor was armed with a powerful flame thrower which would make short work of most enemies. The flame effect if produced was pretty cool at the time. Items were also littered around the levels (such as shields), many of which would come in handy at some point during the game.

To make good your escape, you had to collect (8 I think) letters and feed them into a terminal. Once all of the letters were collected they had to be re-shuffled into a technical sounding word which would activate the beaming device to get you offa that rock.

To make matters more tricky, you were constantly running against the clock, and had to complete each sub-section before the time limit expired. If the time ran out, poor old Trantor would die (strangely exploding into tiny fragments) and the game was over.

It did take quite afew goes to learn the layout of the levels and what traps were lurking around the corner. Trantor was a pretty difficult arcade game.

On Release:
This game had been subject of some hype during the run up to it's release - mainly due to the impressive graphics. The presentation of the game was noted as being top notch, and the in game graphics were of a high quality - much like the loading and intro screens. At this point in time, many developers were really pushing the hardware of the ZX Spectrum in an effort to keep up with 16-bit machines such as the Commodore Amiga, but sadly none could ever quite pull it off. In this case, the graphics were large and detailled, but the famous 'attribute clash' hampered the game visually (only a little).

Most gamers regarded Trantor as a pretty good arcade game, but once you had got over the 'wow' effect of the graphics and presentation, then the limited gameplay became apparent. Aside from running, jumping and shooting, the game offered little else and the game suffered from the 'Shadow of the Beast effect' ;-). £8.99 was probably a couple of pounds more than it should have been too.

The test of time:
Here in the land of Spectrum games we reckon Trantor is a curious one, it is one of those arcade games that 'coulda been' - if only Probe had managed to put more into the game itself. Your humble reviewer here reckons if they had then Trantor would have been a true classic game. Still, it's worth a re-visit for the graphics and sound. Not the worst game by any stretch, but a long way from being one of the best.

My best friends dads pal's surname was Tranter. He always wondered why I called him 'The last stormtrooper'. Remember I was quite young!

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Trantor: The last stormtrooper for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

Flame on!

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: November of 1987
RELEASED BY: Go!
DEVELOPER(S): Probe Software (Nick Bruty, David Quinn and David Whittaker)
PRICE: £8.99 - UK

Trantor runs around like a loony for a bit before meeting his doom in another classic arcade game:



Classic Games and Arcade Games

ZX Spectrum game - Thrust - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Games Thrust

ZX Spectrum Thrust
Thrust was released by Firebird software as a budget release for the Spectrum in November of 1986. Firebird were well known for games such as Fahrenheit 3000, Booty and one of the most famouse games of all time, Elite (on the ZX Spectrum anyway).

Thrust proved that good arcade games did not always have to be expensive and was a pretty sizeable hit.

In this game the story was the tried and tested classic game good versus evil formula. A rebellion/resistance movement is planning to move against a tyrannical and evil Empire, and you of course are on the side of the good guys.

The resistance had already captured some battlecruisers to use against the enemy - the catch was they had very little fuel to power them. This was where you came in. It was up to you (as one of the best pilots in the galaxy), to raid empire owned planets and nab the radical sounding 'kylstron pods' before hauling them into outer orbit so your buddies could collect them. Your mission was set, would you choose to accept it?

Each planet in the game had strong defences, such as batteries of guns, reverse gravity fields and even invisible pieces of landscape (a tad unfair methinks).

The real trick to the game was piloting the craft, and this was where the playability came in. Your craft could be rotated both clockwise and anti-clockwise through a full circle, and could be 'thrusted' in the direction it was pointing.

Your craft was always being pulled towards the ground by the planets gravitational pull (think Moonlander or Gravitar) so it took a lot of skill to keep it airborne and to fly through caverns whilst avoiding being shot down. The whole 'inertia' effect on your craft was the bread and butter of the game.

Making sure you never ran out of fuel was another factor to consider, but spare fuel was dotted around the caverns for you to use.

It was not all against you though. Your craft was armed with a forward facing cannon - so you could shoot in any direction by spinning the craft and firing off a volley. The gun batteries could be disabled by shooting the nuclear power plant (which energized them) - the more hits you landed the longer the guns would be out of action for.

You had to be carefull though as totally destroying the power plant would cause the whole planet to go into meltdown - giving you a mere ten seconds to grab the kylstron pod and make good your escape. Failure to do this meant adios muchachos and game over.

Once you had liberated a pod, it was time to head out into space and into orbit. Once there you would be moved onto the next planet, with each new one being different from the last.

On release:
If your humble reviewer here remembers correctly, Thrust on the ZX Spectrum was the last version to come out on the 8-bit formats (it had already been well recieved on the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC 464) so comparisons were inevitable. Many noted the simplicity of the graphics (they were very basic) and sparse sound effects. But this arcade game was all about playability and skill, and once you had got the hang of flying your little triangle craft around, a very good game it turned out to be. For only £1.99 it was fantastic value for money. This game was a big hit and went on to spawn a sequel, the imaginatively titled Thrust 2.

The test of time:
Here in the land of Spectrum games we like this one - it has to be a bit of cult classic game. Make no mistake, it is very simple in concept, and the visuals and sound effects are pretty basic. On the first few goes it is very difficult to get into - but I stuck with it and once I'd (relearned!) how to fly the ship, that old playability reared it's head again. Thrust is a simple yet addictive game, a true classic.

Please give it a go and perservere with it, there is a good little game in there. You'll soon get the 'thrust' of it.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Thrust for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: November of 1986
RELEASED BY: Firebird Software
DEVELOPER(S): Spectrum version by D Lowe
PRICE: £1.99 - UK

Mart needs more practice when playing this classic arcade game:

Classic Games and Arcade Games

ZX Spectrum Game - The Empire Strikes Back - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum The Empire Strikes Back
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.


The Empire Strikes Back - ZX Spectrum
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....

Thank goodness we're coming out of that Asteroid field
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.

On Release:
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

18 Jun 2009

Spectrum game - Pyjamarama - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Pyjamarama
Pyjamarama was another outing on the ZX Spectrum for working class hero Wally Week, who had first appeared in the game Automania. Mikro Gen had created a great character in Wally Week, and Pyjamarama was another great outing featuring the same game character.

Mikro Gen would go on to develop other 8-bit games featuring Wally and other members of his family.

The concept of this arcade game was slightly bizarre. In the game our Wally was asleep - and you took control of him 'inside his nightmare'. The character was suitably atired in a pair of pyjamas and a night cap. The aim of the game was to find the key that would wind the alarm clock to wake him up in time for work (in the car factory that was the setting of the previous game Automania - clever huh?).

ZX Spectrum Game Pyjamarama
As the game took place inside a nightmare (inside Wally's house), the surroundings were suitably surreal. Sharp items such as axes flew through the air, ghostly apparitions floated around the rooms, hands rose up through the floorboards to snatch at your ankes and there was also a room with the floor that seemed to prevent you from getting anywhere no matter how hard you tried to run (we've all had that dream eh?).

Controlling Wally was simple enough, move to the left, move to the right and jump. There were a lot of objects to collect around the dream house, most of which served a purpose and had to be used to progress through the game. The more objects you used would open up other areas and the percentage of the game completed would increase - this was your overall score (rather than a straight points scored system).

The difficulty with this was not only finding where to use the objects, but was the fact that you could only carry two items at a time. Carefull planning was needed to progress throught the game.

Coming into contact with a nasty would drain some of your 'snooze energy' which was represented as a glass of milk. Nice novelty. The more contact with nasties resulted in the milk level lowering towards the bottom of the glass. If it reached the bottom then it was game over, and poor Wally would sleep in for work (and probably be fired!). It was possible to top up your snooze energy by eating food that was scattered throughout the game.

In another novel twist, one of the rooms in Pyjamarama was called the 'Video Games' room, and if you entered it you could play a nice version of space invaders!

You could move Wally left and right and fire knives and forks (instead of lazer bolts) at the invaders, which were unusual things such as roast chickens. This all sat in with the bizarre feel of the game, and not at all bad since you were getting a game within the game.

Pyjamarama was a nice variation of the platform genre, and the large and colourful graphics (which really highlighted the attribute clash of the Speccy!), bizarre setting and humour ensured Mikro Gen had another hit on their hands.

On Release:
A lot of people had a soft spot for Wally Week, and Pyjamarama did not disappoint. Platform games which included elements of puzzle solving were very popular on the ZX Spectrum in the mid eighties and this offering was certainly one of the better titles in this genre. It was awared a Crash Smash and gave Mikro Gen another big seller.

The test of time:
We here in the land of Spectrum games reckon that Pyjamarama still holds some appeal in a retro gaming way. The colourful graphics and setting has a fair amount of retro charm, and the built in Space Invaders is actually better than some stand alone versions that came out on the ZX Spectrum. Pyjamarama is tough to complete - there are plenty of puzzles to solve and steps to re-trace. I doubt that I would have the patience to be honest. It's worth a look for nostalgia and for those that remember Wally.

So, stick on a before bed and give it a go. If all else fails go to the video games room!

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Pyjamarama for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Platform game (Arcade Game)
RELEASE DATE: November of 1984
RELEASED BY: Mikro Gen
DEVELOPER(S):
PRICE: £6.95 - UK

Wally explores his dream world in another of our classic games


Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

17 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - Trailblazer - ZX Spectrum Classic Games

ZX Spectrum Trailblazer
Trailblazer was released for the ZX Spectrum in November of 1986 by Gremlin Graphics and was yet another addition to the ranks of bouncing ball arcade games that were being released at the time.

Gremlin Graphics were famous for the Monty Mole series of games, and would go on to develop many more fine arcade games for the ZX Spectrum before moving into the 16-Bit arena in the 1990's.

There was not much in the way of a back story for Trailblazer, and for a game of this type there did not really need to be.

ZX Spectrum Trailblazer
You play the part of 'bouncing ball' and must blaze a trail through fourteen different courses (which are somewhere in space), for others to follow. Deep eh?

Trailblazer was basically a fast moving 3D speed and reactions arcade game played against the clock. The 'trail' would smoothly scroll towards you (a la Space Harrier), and you could move your ball to the left and right, and also make it accelerate (and slow down) and jump. But simply zipping along a chequered trail would be far too easy, and there were a lot of obstacles to slow you down.

As you sped along, you would come across missing squares (best to jump the gap), different coloured squares (which would slow you down if you rolled over them), squares which would boost you forward and even squares which would reverse the controls (really nasty). The only way to set the controls back to normal would be to roll over another of these 'reverse control' squares - which could be tricky to accomplish when your controls were back to front.

You did not lose any lives in this arcade game as you had to beat the clock. Falling off the trail would cost you valuable seconds before you were allowed back into action, and sometimes regaining the rythm you had was difficult if you had fallen off.

The later levels were particularly fiendish with thin 'catwalks' to negotiate and huge gaps to jump over which required pixel perfect timing. You had to complete each course in roughly 40 seconds to make it to the next. Make no mistake, Trailblazer was pretty tough.

The game was over if the clock ran down before you reached the finish line.

On Release:
Trailblazer was met with enthusiasm when it was released for the ZX Spectrum. There were other ball based games to play such as Bounder and Marble Madness, and Trailblazer proved to be playable in it's own right. Gamers enjoyed the fast and furious classic gameplay and the 'one more go' factor. Trailblazer was challenging and addictive and was another quality release from Gremlin Graphics.

The test of time:
Here in the land of Spectrum Games we reckon that Trailblazer has still got it. The 3D effect (nice perspective too) is convincing, and the trail moves towards you incredibly quickly and smoothly. Getting into a good rythm on a course is great fun, and bouncing around the missing squares and other obstacles is rewarding. A simple and addictive classic game.

Catch the end sequence of 2001 then give Trailblazer a go. You'll need cat like reflexes.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Trailblazer for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: 3D Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: End of 1986
RELEASED BY: Gremlin Graphics
DEVELOPER(S):
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

Even the first level is tricky when you haven't played it for years in this classic arcade ball game:



Arcade Games and Classic Games

16 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - 180 - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum 180
180 was released for the ZX Spectrum by Mastertronic Software (under their MAD label) back in December of 1986.

Mastertronic were budget software spectialists with most of their titles selling for £1.99, and had (slightly unfairly) garnered the nickname 'Masterchronic' due to the 'quality' of their titles.

Their MAD label (or Mastertronic Added Dimension) released games that were slightly more expensive (£2.99) and were usually better in quality.



ZX Spectrum Games 180
One 'Undred an Eiightyyy!
 180 was an arcade darts game that enhanced the reputation of Mastertronic - in fact they generally went on to better things from this point forward.

The version of 180 being reviewed here is the release for ZX Spectrum 128 - which was basically the same as the 48K version except for nice music playing whilst your opponent threw his darts.

The rules of the game are the same as real darts, you start on 501 and must bring this score to zero and finish on a double. A nine dart finish was possible, just like in real life. When competing against the computer, you would face opponents of increasing skill, one after the other.

The first couple of opponents were pretty easy to defeat, and often missed relatively easy shots and finishes. However, when facing the final player you often needed to conjure up a nine dart finish to win, he was almost always that good!

The gameplay was well implemented too.

You would view the dartboard and a disembodied hand (which was nicely animated) would 'float' in front of it, ready to throw your dart(s). The trick to hitting good shots was lining the hand up correctly so that you could hit your desired target. The hand was constantly moving, so lining up a good shot required a fair amount of skill and patience - but it was implemented well and had the right arcade gaming feel to it.

Once you got the hang of making shots to trebles and doubles (and even the bullseye), there was enough satisfaction in it - there was no 'randomness' to what you were doing.

Throwing a good shot and checking out with a good finish could cause you to raise a smile. Also - and this was a big feature within the game, if you scored a maximum (with three darts) of 180 then the computer shouted this out to you in true darts and oche style!

Digitised speech (without a speech unit) on a ZX Spectrum (or any 8-bit machine) was always a big thing.

When your opponent was taking his shots then the view switched to the bar (in which you were playing), complete with pumps, taps, spirit rack and a busty barmaid!

Often whilst the player was throwing his darts (which you viewed from a 'side on' angle) humourous things would happen like pints being poured and sometimes a dog would stroll up and lift it's leg against the bar. Hilarious stuff (which did tend to wear a bit thin after a while).

The two player option added more to the game, and a lot of fun could be had playing computer darts against a friend.

Nice darts!
On Release:
180 was pretty well recieved when it hit the high street. Up until this point there had been few (and mostly poor) efforts at reproducing darts on the ZX Spectrum, and this game was the best of the bunch. There was not much depth to the game, but the humour, speech and all round gameplay made it a really good 'budget effort'. For £2.99 you could not really go wrong - and 180 went on to become a bit of a cult classic arcade game.

The test of time:
We here in the realm of Spectrum Games reckon that this is a nice little game that still has some kind of magic about it. Yes it is simple overall, yes the synthesised speech is laughable, and yes, the bar scenes become repetitive quickly - but you know what? It is actually still pretty playable! Throwing the darts takes a little bit of skill and there is some playability in there once you have played a few shots. Two player mode can be fun too. It's a good way to spend half and hour - a nice little retro game.

Catch a re-run of bullseye, step up to the oche and give it a go. One 'undred an' eeeighhtyyyy!

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download 180 for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: End of 1986
RELEASED BY: Mastertronic (MAD) Software
DEVELOPER(S): Binary Design
PRICE: £2.99 - UK

Mart shows a decent throwing arm...


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

15 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - Horizons - ZX Spectrum

Horizons ZX Spectrum
ZX Spectrum Horizons
It was all connected up - the cassette recorder linked to the Spectrum, the ZX Spectrum linked to the TV, and after half and hours messing around the TV was finally tuned in (usually on channel 8) and the following was displayed:

(C) 1982 Sinclair Research Ltd

Excitedly you press the rubber 'J' key, the soft click sound that accompanies the word LOAD appearing invokes both awe and wonderment.

After working out how to add "" you finally had what you wanted. You inserted the Horizons tape and pressed play on your tape deck.

Multi coloured lines, strange screeching noises, was this normal? Was the tape ok? You wait for a few seconds, then magically a picture of a rainbow appears. How nice it looks. A few seconds later it is replaced by a picture of a ringed planet and the words 'PSION'. This is it - you're in the space age. Already you are a technological wizard.

A menu with eight options appears, and one leaps out at you and catches your eye.
Top of the list is

  • Thro' the wall

The classic game of breakout re-created on a ZX Spectrum. Written in BASIC with little in the way of sound effects, for many users this will be the first ever game they play on their new and trusty rubber-keyed friend.

The game is simple yet you probably played it for hours and hours. The other programs on the Horizons tape probably intrigued you too, but you probably kept returning to Thro' the wall - desperate to knock out those two 1/2 blocks that were almost impossible to hit.

Once you had played the likes of 3D Deathchase and Manic Miner the Horizons cassette was most likely consigned to the back of the cupboard, slowly gathering dust as it was left behind to the advances in gaming and your own ZX Spectrum prowess.

But you know what - despite their simplicity and being written entirely in BASIC, the Horizons programs weren't half bad...

Thankyou Psion for making my introduction to the wonderful ZX Spectrum just that little bit easier.

Not bad for a BASIC progam - a nice a simple version of classic breakout, this classic arcade game kept us going for hours on end...

ZX Spectrum Game - Barbarian - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Barbarian
We have already had one classic beat em up on the ZX Spectrum from Melbourne House in Way of the Exploding Fist - so let us discuss another good fighting game from another company (Palace software), Barbarian.

This arcade game was well received when it was released due to it's gameplay, nicely animated graphics and the fact that you were fighting with swords rather than feet and fists. This game really built on past succesfull beat em ups such as Exploding Fist and Yie Ar Kung Fu.

Barbarian ZX Spectrum

Palace software released Barbarian in 1987 and it notched up a high score in Crash magazine, earning an overall of 85% which was a very good score. The game was an instant hit, and the versions for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 sold really well.

Barbarian is set in a land of mythical creatures, warriors, wizards and warlocks, which made this classic fighting game a bit different from most other offerings in this mould.

In a slight twist in the beat em up genre, there is a backstory to go with the game. An evil sorcerer who goes by the name of Drax (sounds like a carpet cleaner) has a fancy for a rather tasty princess called Mariana. If she is not delivered to him then he will unleash his powers on the Jewelled City - which will probably mean not the best of times for the local townsfolk.

As a compromise, he agrees to let the champion swordsman of the city (a strange Barbarian, who saunters in from the northern wastelands) to compete against his own band of fighters. That Barbarian is you - and it is time for the tournament to commence.

The aim of the game is to defeat Drax's series of opponents in one on one battles of swordplay. As you would expect, each opponent is a better fighter than the last, with greater intelligence and better reactions to your attacks.

Both fighters would start the game with a full amount of energy which would be depleted by the landing of succesfull blows. To win the bout you would have to completely deplete your opponents energy. There were plenty of moves you could perform as the Barbarian (16 in total) which allowed for a good variety of attacks and evasive manouvers.

It was possible to swing your sword and aim for a high blow to the head, mid level blows, crouching chops to the opponents legs, hacking actions into the top of your opponents skull and so on. You could even kick out at them with your leg and cause damage this way.

Everybodys favourity move had to be the full 360 degree turn slash. Your barbarian would spin completely around and swing his sword at your opponents neck level causing alot of damage to your opponent. If you caught him just right, then his head would be chopped off and the bout was instantly over in your favour.

This was a nice touch to the game and was great fun. I don't know about you, but this method of win by decapitation was always good for a laugh - except when it happened to you.

Whenever your opponent was defeated a small lizard like creature would wander across across the screen and drag the corpse away whilst booting the decapitated head like a football - another good touch.

There were four stages to fight through (with four bouts per stage I think), with the background you would fight in changing in each stage. If you were handy enough and fought your way through all opponents then you would face off against Drax in the final battle, who would resort to cowardly fighting and use magic to engage you in combat.

He would hurl fireballs at you from a distance and generally be a chicken. It took a bit of skill to move in close and hack the crap out of him. Anyway, if you finished old Drax off then you would win the day, and also the delectable princess. Nice.

All fights were enjoyable, the characters were well drawn and animated and moved nice and smoothly through their moves - the animation was good back in 1987. The only real let down of Barbarian was the final fight with Drax, which was probably the least enjoyable part of the game.

Still, the playablity of the game (things like rolling into your opponents legs, then booting him in the face as he gets up), the nicely drawn characters, the mythical setting and little touches like decapitations and the snake graphics up each side of the screen marked this as a worthy game to buy. The two player option was good fun too, slicing and dicing your best mate over a Speccy keyboard was always good for a laugh, and added further longevity to the game.


Barbarian Cover - ZX Spectrum


On Release:
Barbarian for the ZX Spectrum was actually popular before it was released. This was due to some 'outrage' at the scantily clad princess on the front cover of the cassette (played by glamour model Maria Whittaker) - many deemed it not suitable for a computer game. The furore surrounding the game ensured its success before it was even released - but it was a great fighting game and any success it gained was well deserved. It was quite steep retailling at £9.99, but most folk did not mind paying a little extra for a quality beat em up. Incidentely The Barbarian on the cassette cover was played by Michael Van Wijk who went on to play everyones favourite villain 'Wolf' in the TV programme Gladiators (UK).

The test of time:
Well we here in the land of Spectrum Games reckon that Barbarian has a good amount of retro appeal. The playabilty is still there, the computer offers you a decent challenge. It is far superior to later awful offerings such as Rise of the Robots. The two player option is still great fun for you and a friend - a classic beat em up game.

So stick on a bit of Conan, flex yer pecks and give this one a go, you'll enjoy it.

This fine beat em up for the ZX Spectrum is definately worth another look after all these years.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Barbarian for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Beat em up (arcade game)
RELEASE DATE: 1987
RELEASED BY: Palace Software
DEVELOPER(S): Steve Brown and Shaun Griffiths
PRICE: £9.99 - UK

One of Drax's henchment meets cold steel in this classic arcade game:


Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

12 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Games - Thanatos - ZX Spectrum

ZX Spectrum Thanatos
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.


Thanatos ZX Spectrum
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.

ZX Spectrum Games Thanatos In Game Screen
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?

On Release:
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

11 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Games - The wee small hours - ZX Spectrum

You know the score...

It's half past nine at night and you've been playing your latest arcade game for four hours. The game is good, you're getting good (at it), and it's been a worthwile purchase at £6.95.

For three weeks it has kept you occupied, and you just know you are nearing completion. You keep playing, your hands majestically flying over the keyboard or manouvering the joystick, reactions and mind melded together in 100% concentration.

You realise how dry your mouth is - it has been hours since you last had a drink. You hit the pause key and head to the kitchen to grab a glass of anything. A quick glass of diluting orange is quickly gulped down - you can't be 'out of the zone' for too long otherwise you will lose your gaming rythm.

A quick glance at the clock reveals it is now ten thirty - but not to worry, the end of the game is nigh.

You return to your still warm seat, the game is un-paused, and you continue on.

Enemies are destroyed, obstacles are evaded, and another end of level boss is defeated after a long, hard battle. Surely the end?

Eleven thirty comes and goes, as does yet another level. One life remains. One level remains... perhaps.

Midnight has come and gone... but you barely noticed. You are pre-occupied desperately clinging to your last life.

It's here at last, the final, final battle. Dodging and weaving you blast away, moving and leaning in your seat as you move up, down, left and right. Almost there, just a few more hits will ensure victory... the computer unleashes a surprise move.

No way you could see that coming. Your last life is gone and GAME OVER is displayed.

It's half past one. So near yet so far....

But it's only half past one, time for one more go before bed.

10 Jun 2009

ZX Spectrum Game - The great Escape - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum The Great Escape
The Great Escape was released by Ocean Software in December of 1986 - just in time for Christmas sales and nicely coinciding with the usual TV showing of the movie by the same name over the festive period.

Denton Designs actually authored the game and had already developed a few quality titles for the ZX Spectrum (released through various companies) such as Shadowfire, Gift from the Gods and the arcade conversion of Spy Hunter.

The Great Escape ZX Spectrum
This game had you as a British prisoner of war, planning and performing a daring prison break during World War 2. The prison compound was viewed in what was becoming a tried and tested classic game style of isometric 3D isometric angle.

In what was probably a first for Sinclair ZX Spectrum gaming, on first playing it was a good idea to leave the controls well alone. Your character would go about the daily grind of prison life (of his own accord) with the other prisoners, which would give you an idea of what was going on around the camp.

A normal prison day consisted of mealtimes, roll-call parades and exercise periods, all of which were marked by a bell (which was displayed in the status area of the screen).The bell would ring and a message would be displayed giving updates on events within the camp (thus explaining why the bell was ringing and what 'event' had to be attended).

To the left of the main play there was a flag which acted as the 'morale level' of our hero. Basically, the higher the flag was flying, the higher the morale of your character. For instance, Red Cross parcels arrived in the camp sporadically, and of you managed to collect one your morale level improved.

Morale was lowered if your character was searched (by a prison guard) or arrested. Your morale level also diminished as time elapsed, and if the flag reached the bottom of the pole, you lost the will to rejoin the war and finally resigned yourslelf to life in the camp with the other prisoners. The character was now under computer control, and you had to start a new game. In other words, it was game over.

While the flag was green in colour you had limited control of the hero (who could only be searched by the Camp Commandant). Should any contraband be found, it was off to the cells for a while - so keeping out of the commandant's way was wise. The flag turned red in colour as soon as the you breaked with prison routine and moved to off limits areas. While the flag was red objects could be picked up and dropped, but the would-be escaper was liable to arrest and search by the guards. Oh the dilemma!

The key to the game was establishing the routine of the compound, and once you knew where to go and when you could start to formulate an escape plan. To keep things tough, only two items could be carried by the character, so part of the game was finding safe hiding places to stow away useful items. Any items found by the guards were confiscated and returned to their original locations. You would of got away with it if it wasn't for those pesky guards!

It was possible to outsmart the guards as they adhered to patrol routes with precise timing and movement. They followed the routes regularly - so it waspossible to move around without crossing their line of site and access buildings and areas un-noticed.

At the beginning of the game, the security level was pretty lax - but as the game progressed the security level increased and avoiding detection by the guards became more difficult.
It was possible to wander around at night, but you had to pay heed to the searchlights which would sweep the yard as you would be arrested on site and thrown into the cells.

There were a number of routes to make your escape by such as a tunnel, cutting through the wire fence and even bluffing your way past the sentries at the main gates.

Once you were outside the game was not quite over. If you forgot items such as a compass and papers or you would not make it very far.

On release:
The Great Escape on the ZX Spectrum was praised for it's nicely drawn graphics and different gameplay. The fact that you could enter huts within the camp (where the view would change to the interior of the hut complete with beds, stoves etc) added more locations and realism to the game. With the open-ended nature and almost infinite ways in which to escape Ocean Software had released a title that was definately different. Watching your character at the start go about his daily business and attend roll call, breakfast and so on was quite something. The Great Escape was a huge success and plenty of people had a copy come the end of December. The fact that it was awarded a Crash Smash in the famous Spectrum magazine did it no harm either.

The test of time:
We here in the land of Spectrum games reckon that this classic game still holds some appeal, even today. The style of the game and other in-game characters (moving in real time and showing some 'intelligence') was quite something back then and influenced future titles. The game is quite absorbing and still holds a challenge. This is one classic game for the more thoughtful gamer.

Stick on the movie, grab a baseball and glove and give The Great Escape a go. Watch out for Werner, he's a crazy mixed up kid.

The Great Escape for the ZX Spectrum is worth another look after all these years.

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair ZX Spectrum hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download this game. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Real Time Strategy (RTS - Arcade Game)
RELEASE DATE: December of 1986
RELEASED BY: Ocean Software
DEVELOPER(S): Denton Designs
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

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