ZX Spectrum Games

ZX Spectrum Games

29 Sep 2009

ZX Spectrum Games - Operation Wolf - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Operation Wolf
When this came out for the ZX Spectrum late in 1988 conversions of arcade games were still popular.

The original arcade game by Taito had been more popular than harsh language in a Tarantino flick - with gamers loving the pseudo 3D viewpoint and control via the force feedback cabinet mounted uzi.

The arcade game (at the time) featured state of the art graphics (large animated enemy soldiers, helicopter, tanks etc) and superb sterio sound. Couple this with the actual uzi machine gun you used to play it with and you were onto a winner.

Converting such a game to an 8-bit machine was never going to be easy - Ocean software stepped up to the task.

ZX Spectrum Operation Wolf

There was no way that you could replicate the large full colour graphics on the hunble Speccy, so Ocean decided to go for the monochromatic look - and it ended up working pretty well.

The game began with you (a double-hard crack commando) being parachuted into hostile territory to locate an enemy concentration camp and free the captives. You began the game with seven clips of ammunition and five grenades - so straight away you had to get used to short controlled bursts.

The mission was split into six sections (divided into three loads on the 48K version and one huge load on the 128K version). It should be noted that the 128 version featured better music and sound effects as you would expect.

The sections were: Communication Setup, Jungle Area, Jungle Village, Powder Magazine, The Concentration Camp and finally the Airport. On each level the landscapes slowly panned from right to left before you in first-person perspective as looked down your gun-sights (represented by a cross-hair).

Operation Wolf on the ZX SpectrumAs the game landscape scrolled before you soldiers parachute downwards or ran into the action firing away at you, whilst helicopters, boats and tanks also arrived to make things really interesting.

Vehicles required a barrage of shots to be destroyed - but could be taken out in one go with one of your precious grenades. The characters from the arcade game were re-created pretty faithfully - those huge Schwarzenegger type badguys who appeared right in front of you were even included.

On later levels some enemies wore kevlar jackets and had to be hit in the head to dispatch them. Also requiring fast reactions were the daggers and grenades lobbed at you, these could be shot out of the air to prevent them from reducing your energy.

To the side of the playing screen was the ammo counter, a damage meter and three icons. The latter told you how many men, tanks, boats and so on had to be destroyed before the current level was cleared.

Extra ammo and grenades were available (by shooting them as they appeared on-screen) and a power up was available which gave you double rapid fire and unlimited bullets for around ten seconds.

There were also items which would reduce your damage by a few points - which could make all the difference in completing a level.

Apart from human targets various animals appeared (like birds and pigs) from time to time and shooting them would occasionally give you an item of food to boost your energy or extra ammunition. Shooting any prisoners, villagers, nurses etc took a fair bit of your energy away - so you needed to be accurate in your shooting.

On release:
Well Op Wolf was a mega-popular arcade game and the home versions were hotly anticipated. In keeping with the arcade game the ZX Spectrum version also supported the Magnum Phaser light gun in an attempt to re-create that arcade feel. It wasn't quite as good as the uzi - but it wasn't bad. Playing with the keyboard was still pretty good as your cross hair was responsive and accurate. Ocean managed to capture that playability (it was a mindless shoot em up at heart really!) well and Operation Wolf turned out better than most people expected.

The test of time:
Well Op Wolf always was a simple game based on rapid action and accurate shooting. I've played it a fair bit lately (the 128 version) and you know it's not bad. The screen only suffers from slow-down when things get really really busy - and it does remind me of the original arcade version. It can keep you occupied for half an hour anyway. The only thing missing in the ZX Spectrum conversion is the cut-scenes - but it's not such as great loss.

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

Ok that's it, I am finished...... here.

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews and programmer interviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: End of 1988
RELEASED BY: Ocean
DEVELOPER(S): Andrew Deakin, Ivor Horn and Jonathan Dunn
PRICE: £8.95 Cassette or £14.95 Disk - UK

Wreaking havoc in Operation Wolf - classic arcade game action:


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

27 Sep 2009

Spectrum Games - Programmer Interview Jonathan Smith (Joffa Smith)

Jonathan (Jof) Smith Interview - ZX Spectrum Programmer
Jonathan (Jof) Smith (sometimes known as Joffa Smiff and Joffa Smith) is regarded as one of the top developers of games on the ZX Spectrum.

With an impressive list of titles to his name such as arcade conversions Green Beret (one of my favourite arcade games) and Hypersports, slick platformers such as Cobra, and shoot em up Firefly, he created many top notch titles for the Sinclair machine.

Jof developed Batman
Batman was another fantastic game from Jonathan Smith

We were lucky enough to catch up with Jof to reminisce a little about his days working on the Spectrum.

*30/06/2010
It is with deep regret that I must add that sadly Jonathan Smith passed away on the morning of 26/06/2010. I have to say that not only was Joffa a programming genious he was a very friendly and helpful man. After this interview we kept in contact and he was always more than happy to share with me insights into his coding days on the ZX Spectrum and how things were in the gaming industry at that time.

Many thanks Joffa for all of your help. I hope that this interview with Joffa conducted in September 2009, will give as much pleasure to any of you readers as it did to me.

1: What was the first computer you ever programmed on? And how old were you?
The ZX Spectrum, I was about 15 or 16. I was doing loads of stuff at school / sixth form - like wacky paintings, film making, animation and model making and things that people can do quite easy now, but was hard back then! This would have been in the late 70s, early 80s - though the Speccy stuff started a bit later.

About 1983. I think! I did a few simple games, then things got bigger and I had to make a choice - films or gaming!

I had an application for the National Film Board, where I would have been working along side Nick Park of 'Wallace And Gromit' fame but chose to leave sixth form because I got a job offer at Ocean software in Manchester. A big mistake!

2: Which game was your first ever commercially published title?
That would be 'Pud Pud', which was first seen on the "Commercial Breaks" BBC documentary about the early software industry. The BBC crew were there filming me at my first week in work. Not good. And if you search the internets you will see me die!

I popped into Ocean with "Pud Pud" and a Donkey Kong style game called "The Thing!" and was working full time for them a few days later.

3: What did you like about developing on the ZX Spectrum?
Well, over the years I have worked on a number of formats, but there is nothing better than stripping everything away and starting from scratch! There is nothing to work with so you are FREE! And even though people slag the Speccy off - it sorted the men out from the boys, programming wise.

And there is still some stuff being produced that is still just WOW! Fantastic!

You just have to put the effort in, I guess! This just doesn't happen today. You can say to someone that they have a completely blank canvas - and they say yeah! And then they find out what a completely clear sheet of nothing is, and they run!

Nothing! No maths subroutines, no auto screen manipulation, no help. You are now on your own! Now GO! Arrggghhhhh!

It's better that they don't know! Not knowing hurts like hell! 'Calling' a development kit routine to find the square root of a number isn't programming.

Take control. Work out how to do it yourself and do it fast! That's programming! This rocks...

;**************************************************
; FIND SQUARE ROOT OF 16BIT NUMBER
;**************************************************
; In: hl = value
; Out: a = result (rounded down)

Sqr16:ldde,0x0040
lda,l
ldl,h
ldh,d
ora
ldb,8
Sqr16Loop:sbchl,de
jrnc,Sqr16Skip
addhl,de
Sqr16Skip:ccf
rld
adda,a
adchl,hl
adda,a
adchl,hl
djnzSqr16Loop
lda,d
ret

I would like to produce a super fast console that has nothing but a big screen and loads of memory. And that's it! That'll 'learn' 'em! (I reckon that would be a great console for classic gaming!)

I remember being shown around 'Warthog', before signing up, and, apart from being amazed, wondering what all these people were doing!
"You lot have lost it!". And they did lose it.

And I get put on the weakest project that the company isn't bothered too much about. Story of my life! "You are good on the sh*t stuff!"

D'Oh!

4: Conversely, what did you not like about programming the Spectrum?
Nothing really. Not that I can think of. No regrets.

5: How on earth did you make the Spectrum single beeper perform 'drum beats' whilst simultaneously playing a tune? It was like 2-channel sound!
When I did the "PING PONG" music code I was amazed at the reaction, the press coverage.
I'm just glad that people then went out and started playing with stuff that was or wasn't possible with the 'beeper'. And they did incredible things with it! Much better than my stuff! LOL!

From a technical point of view it was nothing special - the interrupt driven drum sounds banging over the pulse width modulation to make it 2 channels.

The 'Ping Pong' thing was meant to be for 'Green Beret', but I ran out of memory. I think. (Do you see what I did there?)

But that's okay. It 'sparked' people into action. Made them look / listen in a different way. And there is some stunning stuff out there! Clicking a tiny speaker on an off! Ace!

But after I left Ocean my beeper stuff was used on loads of Ocean games - but they missed the point. It was all about trying to make the musicians point clear and not just a drum beat over a silly tune. It takes time to work out, using pitch bends and arpeggio (sp) and strange phase sounds and special fx. I was just there to try and work it all out for Martin Galway, and not to be ripped off! They couldn't do it anyway.

It took a couple of hours for us both to do the "Ping" music and I remember asking Martin at the end if he liked it. He said "Yes, but I wouldn't play it in my car!"

And don't anyone ask about the explosion at the end of the tune - attack, sustain, decay - I can't remember!

6: Out of all of the titles you developed for the rubber keyed monolith, which one are you most proud of?
Firefly. This was the only one of my games that I played and enjoyed. There is a skill to it. You have to know how to play it.

I played it last in around 2001, and quite enjoyed it! Not perfect, but if you know how to 'not gamble' it is okay. I got to the end of the course, of course.

Fighting against my younger self! Who is going to win? Get back to school mate, you is crap! Innit! SLAP!

7: Were you given 'free reign' to develop the games, or did other people come up with gaming concepts too?
Early on 'free reign'. Though most of the early stuff was / were conversions from arcade games so you have to just make things already there work on a restricted format in a given amount of time. The time was based on when the adverts appeared in the magazines and was set well in advance.

Which was fun in that you had an excuse for things being slighty crap. You could blame it on the deadline. I didn't do much design work myself, it was usually done by other people better than me - but I did do Firefly, that was totally mine! I worked on all the FX projects, good and bad, that weren't arcade conversions. And then some!

Like the graphics for 'Midnight Resistance' - which were pulled from the arcade board roms and I had to work out how the colours worked and reformat them for the ST and the Amiga. The artists loved you for doing this - but it's not my job! And then I have to write an art / mapping utility to enable it all to work. And then write the game conversion! Never give a sucker half a chance! LOL!

Actually my map editor was stunning! Much better than the game!

There was a load of other stuff I did but people bottled out and now that stuff is lost in time!

8: Another tech question (boring I know) but the parallax scrolling on Cobra was superb. How did you managed to achieve it and keep everything so smooth?
The Cobra scrolling was just a programming exercise that was shoe-horned into a game. I wanted to do a 'Mario' style game on the Spectrum and it just so happened that me and musician Martin Galway ended up in various cinemas and private in-house mini-cinemas in London and had private showings of films before their release and I had to pick between Top Gun or Cobra. I didn't like either, but I thought I could make fun of Cobra - and get away with it.

The parallax FX was just a 'bit' 'rolled' at half speed and written to the 'blank block' to produce a vertical line - other FX could have been done - but this was okay and I was running out of time to finish the game. Given more time I could have done more. I wanted to have a bitmap picture in the background! But it looks okay.

Another week and it would have been AWESOME! But you have to let go, or rather it gets taken from you. That's it! Gone! No game testing. Just gone! But this is other people's money and if they say stop - you stop. And there is a back catalogue of stuff to be done before Christmas.

The scrolling looks smooth because it is quick! But with many restrictions! Hopefully no-one notices these imperfections - part of the design! HA!

The graphic routines in "Mikie" are probably the most complicated things I have done. A simple game that looks so simple. Headache! And no-one sees any of it! Brilliant! Disassemble that b*st*rd for a laugh! I don't think I could do it again!

Jon Woods (one of the Ocean directors) told me that this was my next game and came into my room a day later and looked at what I had done (2 screens up and running) and he told me to "Just f*ck off!", and walked away laughing!

For legal reasons I will say that I am paraphrasing his comments here.

Terra Cresta haunts me. It was my last in-house project at Ocrean and I lost control of it. I didn't know it was to be released with the ZX Spectrum +2, or that there was to be technical problems with what I hated doing. The released thing is a 'bodge'. But I hated it anyway. I wished / wish it would go away. (I reckon it's still a decent arcade game)

Bloody internet! Oh well! It was done quick! That's my excuse! And then you find out that someone has claimed to have done your graphics! SOD OFF!

9: If you could go back would you still choose games development over film and animation?
Oh! The game industry has turned its back on me - so I have no choice but to go back and make up for lost time and move forward. I love making games, but enough is enough now. Never say "never", but, erm, "never". (I'm not dead yet - so there is still hope!)

Nobody is willing to take a chance - and I can't do this stuff alone anymore, as much as I want to. Well, I can, but it would just take too long, and I'm getting old!

I have loads of ideas that people might like - but, unfortunately, it all has to go through a big-wig arsehole filter that can only output profit.

I remember, at school, looking in the job centre window and seeing an application for a games programmer. I went in and got on the phone to the company and the first thing they said, after I had told them I had two games on the go, was "can you do us a Manic Miner?". Not interested in my work at all.

One of the main reasons for me starting work at Ocean (summer 1984) was because they reviewed my stuff, and gave me a new ZX Spectrum because my keyboard was busted! And they were all nice - and they didn't ask me to write them a Manic Miner!

Back on topic - I have, more or less (less), set up a small production company called "Shorten Suite" (short and sweet, get it?) to produce my own stuff.

Videos, films, games, music, scripts, novels, artwork, designs, everything etc. This is taking up all of my time and there is little money coming through as yet.

I want to sit back at the end of the day and watch what other brilliant people do and boost them forwards. I want people to use me as a stepping stone, but I don't want to be walked all over. And whatever they come up with triggers me into action!

10: Which developers at the time inspired and impressed you - and did you get to collaborate with them on any titles?

Just the obvious ones - Ultimate (they offered us a deal at Special FX, but it was just rubbish) and Nintendo. I have worked with lots of people and companies over the years, but that is beyond this little interview! And this is all about me! So sod them! LOL!

11: What avenue have you taken since? (You implied that the games industry had turned it's back on you more recently - the fools!)

I'm writing scripts for TV and making my own films (again) and its taking ages because there isn't any budget - but I'll get there in the end!

I've been doing other stuff here and there - mini YouTube p*ss-taking (miss-leading low quality stuff that if you look close - shine). I am writing two novels too!

Here's a clip from one of them novels...

'The Bobbing Of The Bodies.' - Seven days and severe daze.

Monday.

There is a bad smell here.

"There is a really bad smell in here."
"You're lucky. I taste it. I smell of it. My wife hates me, but that's another story!"

The neon strip-lights flicker on and off. They have a strange alternating 'buzzing' sound emanating from them that seem to rattle the air in many different directions all at once. But the twin, steel-table-over-the-head-spot-light-super-glare bulbs wash everything in a relentless unrealness, shining near perfect patterns twinkling in tiny eye-like circles reflected in some of the things laid out before them both.

But, sadly and dimly - unblasting light in the splattering of the blood spots that are spat all around them. Bits of their light, like tiny weak little 'glow-flies' reflecting from an underpowered miniature posh child's toy-house fibre-optic display, look upwards at everything and cause a blink or blinks or wipe of tears. But thankfully, they diminish the power and intensity of 'the bad bits' - making the blobs appear blackish and fake, and somewhat less frightening. Ish.

But that smell.

"Well? What am I looking at?"
"This consists of over 100 different body parts. At least. All cut up and stitched back together or glued back together again. Rather well done, in fact."
"So, you're saying we are looking at over a 100 different murders here?"
"No. I've not finished examining 'the body' yet, and there's samples that need testing - which may take a few weeks to get back to me.

But I CAN tell you that the eyes come from a sheep and the teeth are from a cow, or maybe a young horse."

"There isn't a butterfly or moth hidden in the mouth, is there?"
"No. But the genitals are very interesting."
"I'm scared to ask!"
"I'm scared to tell you!"
"Well, you'll have to..."
"I'll file the report. Don't worry."
"Is there anything you can me give now? Time of death or something?"
"Which bit?"
"Don't be funny."
"The hands are mostly new. A few days I'd say. Unless they have been frozen."
"Any finger prints?"
"Yes, ten different ones. Nice stitch work around the knuckles. The prints are over there in the file."
"Anything else you can give me to be quickly getting on with?"
"Try the grave yards. The freshly buried. Most people get cremated, so it shouldn't be too hard to find 'missing' whole bodies or disturbed graves."
"And if nothing turns up?"
"Then you have one bastard out there! With one hell of a fetish."
"I thought we have one bastard out there anyway, with one hell of a fetish!"
"Yeah, but it's one thing to dig up dead bodies, another to mess about with live ones! And I think there's more than one person involved here. And I'm not just talking about 'this bodies'. Check the local cemeteries. Check the local homeless. Check the local schools. Check the local farms."
"What, looking for evidence? Don't tell me my job."
"You are looking for the things that are missing. The things that are NOT there. The things we have here."

Tuesday.

Another 'bodies' rises from the waters. A little girl sees all, and screams. She is seven. Some of 'the parts' dissipate and disappear again, and have to be collected too much later. Others are fresher and float. All can't talk, yet. But they all have a silent story to yell. They try to sink again,
but their screams are out of sync and are just too loud! They silently drown out the screams of the child.

12: Do you play any current games? If so - what are you favourites (from now and from the Speccy days)?
No. I don't play any current games. I have seen some of them. I do like the latest "Rachet And Clank" on ps3!

The games I do play are stuff that I know off 'by heart', and can think of other things whilst playing them. I have paper pads around me all the time to jot things down as I think things up (things down / things up - ha!)

I have just been looking through some of my notes now, and its like the raving of a mad man!

"My love was getting so deep that my heart sank."
"Hard bike frames." (?)
"Fly with the doves and batter the butterflies because they are rubbish." (?)
"Swim with the doves because the butterflies can't cut it." (?)
"How would you get to speak to God? Reverse the charges."
"Don't accept the impossible - do it anyway."
"I'm a perfectionist, I'm just not very good at it."
"Don't be with someone you can't live with - be with someone you can't be without." (?)
"Life's too short, especially when you get older."
"I'm not asleep - I'm just dreaming out loud." (I like this one)
"Failure is an excuse to start again."
"I'm only here because my wife wants a new kitchen."
"I am blind. And everyday I wake up and I am blind again." (?)
"2 flies in a saucer. Why? Because they are in the cup next week."
"Life begins at 40? No! It just takes 40 years for you to realise it has just started."
"3 is a crowd - but when you want to be alone its two too many."
"Toothpaste"
"Bread"
"Milk"
"Batteries"

Once again thanks for taking the time to do this - it's very much appreciated.
No, thank you! My pleasure! Keep your eyes open - you will see my new stuff - even if you like it or not! Keep short and sweet! LOL!

Thanks Jof.

Joffa Smiff - 01/02/1967 26/06/2010

Classic Games and Arcade Games

26 Sep 2009

Spectrum Games - Cobra - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Cobra
Another classic scrolling arcade game programmed by Joffa Smith (who also coded Green Beret) and released by Ocean Software.

This game came out towards the end of 1986 and was 'loosly' based on the Sly Stallone movie.

When I say loosely I do mean loosely, Cobra was a scrolling 'kill everything in sight' arcade game that emphasised cartoony violence and humour.


ZX Spectrum Cobra
For a start when you defined your keys the menu said 'Push Me' in reference to Sly himslef and the shoot key was labelled as 'murder'. Funny stuff.

Anyway, the aim of the game was to rescue a model called Ingrid Knutsen from the clutches of the Night Slasher and his evil henchmen and hench-women.

Cobra was a scrolling arcade game (with super smooth parallax scrolling, perhaps the best generated on a ZX Spectrum) and you ran either left or right. The bad guys would run in from both sides of the screen and attempt to kill you.

To begin with our Cobra had no weapon and you had to defend him with his bonce, by head-butting everyone with such force that they were sent hurtling across the screen.

Choosing controls was even funny in Cobra - ZX Spectrum
Weapons were hidden inside hamburgers (yep!) and you could pick up either a knife, a pistol or the rather cool lazer sighted machine gun (made famous in the movie). These powerups only lasted for a certain amount of time though - represented by the slowly vanishing rubber duck at the bottom of the screen!

Cobra was a tough guy and dealing with knife brandishing thugs and rocket-launching evil women didn't scare him in the least. However, the mere sight of a pram hurtling towards him made the poor guy go weak at the knees and he was momentarily stunned if you didn't avoid the pram. Why pram's were hurlting around the screen is anyones guess!

You had three lives to begin (represented by 'Rocky' style boxing gloves) with and contact with any bad guys (or the knives they threw, rockets launched etc) took one away - unless you were toting a weapon in which case you lost the weapon and went back to headbutt mode.

Even when it was game over (or game under) it did make you laugh as you entered your name in 'The Morgue'.

Put your name in the morgue on Cobra - ZX Spectrum
Every now and again Ingrid would show up and run alongside you. This made you survive 'one hit' from a nasty. Instead of losing a life Ingrid would merely run away and would not appear again for a while.

To complete the level you had to dispose of every bad guy and use up every hamburger powerup. Once done you would move to the next level. There were three in all, but I've never made it past level two!

I finally made it off level one! On Release:
Well the movie of the same name had been pretty popular, and the game turned out to be to. It was well recieved with gamers enjoying the parallax scrolling, excellent tunes and the funny stuff. Magazines such as Crash raved about the game and it was a deserved big hit. It was always nice for a movie tie-in to be worthy and not a quick cash-in.

The test of time:
Well here in Spectrum Games we like a bit of Cobra. It is still playable and good for a laugh. The parallax scrolling is excellent and the graphics have the right cartoony style. It's bloody difficult though!

Give this classic game a go - the gameplay is still there but beware, it's not easy!

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

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: End of 1986
RELEASED BY: Ocean
DEVELOPER(S): Jonathan (Jof) Smith
PRICE: £7.95

The all too familiar game over ditty:


I'm sure NOT the cure in Cobra - a brilliant scrolling arcade game:


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

22 Sep 2009

ZX Spectrum Games - Marble Madness - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Marble Madness
I tell you what, this retro game takes me back...

Melbourne house had already released the Marble Madness construction kit the previous year, and the full game known as 'the deluxe edition' was released for the ZX Spectrum in May of 1987. Melbourne House kindly included an enhanced version of the construction kit with the game too.

ZX Spectrum Games Marble Madness

The original arcade game by Atari (released in 1984) had been a huge success with it's unique design, stereo sound and trackball control. It was only a matter of time before it was converted to home machines, and the version for the ZX Spectrum was actually pretty good.

Anyway, in Marble Madness you were basically a heavy metal ball - a marble. Your task in life was to roll around the 3D isometric platform levels of a far distant planet - and basically find your way to the exit.

En-route to your escape you would encounter all manner of villains; fiendish black balls, sweeping brooms, oil slicks and spinning hoops to name but a few.

The game played very nicely on the ZX Spectrum and managed to re-create the 'feel' (gravity and inertia effect) of its arcadian parent, and included all the humps and bumps faithfully from each screen.

The were two main things missing:
The first was the trackball control which did detract slightly from the overall playability. The trackball control had made the arcade game stand out from the crowd with it's novel method of controlling your little ball

The second was the lack of colour on the game screens. The arcade game had been richly soaked in colour but we all know that the humble Sinclair machine just could not handle these sort of graphics in full colour - the moving characters would have been just a little too messy.

Losing my marbles on the ZX Spectrum
Sure enough, Melbourne House sensibly went for the monochromatic look to ensure the playability was kept intact. Once you had played it two or three times you forgot about the lack of colour as the gameplay sucked you in.

Once you got the hang of the controls (simple up, down, left and right) the game really opened up. Playing against the clock, you had to complete each screen before the clock counted down to zero or it was game over.

Colliding with a nasty did not kill you directly - it merely delayed you for a few of those all important seconds.

The game could be completed if you managed to make your way through all of the screens - no mean feat. I never managed it anyway.

On release:
Well this was another arcade conversion that had been hotly anticipated. It did not disappoint on release and the conversion did the original justice within the limitations of the ZX Spectrum. Despite the lack of colour the playability was there and each screen was faithful to the original. Due to it's popularity it was a big hit - even though it retailled at a mega £14.95.

The test of time:
Marble Madness is still playable, still frustrating yet still pretty addictive. It was always pretty simple in concept anyay and stands as a classic of the mid 80's era. You could even say that this classic directly influenced modern hits such as Super Monkey Ball which uses a similar inertia effect and gameplay style in certain stages. Here in Spectrum games we reckon you should play Marble Madness again.

Grab it by the balls and give it a go - the gameplay (and ball play) is still there

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

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: May of 1987
RELEASED BY: Melbourne House
DEVELOPER(S):
PRICE: A whopping £14.95

I used to be good at this, honest! Marble Madness is a classic arcade game...


Classic Games and Arcade Games

19 Sep 2009

ZX Spectrum Games - Frost Byte - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Frostbyte
Mikro-Gen (of Pyjamarama fame) released Frost Byte for the ZX Spectrum in 1986.

I've got to spring this on you, the hero of Frost Byte resembled one of those Slinky toys that walks down the stairs by constantly coiling and uncoiling itself. Do you see what I did there?

In this classic game a heroic spring was the thing, and the game was set during the onset of winter to match the season in which it was released.

ZX Spectrum Games Frost Byte
This flick screen platform game/arcade game was nicely styled with icicles and igloos for you to explore. You being the hero of the game 'Hickey' (a Kreezer), had to slinkabout to rescue his race from the monsters that now inhabited the planet.

Okay, so in this classic game you played the part of a slinky (a first maybe?) and in another slight difference from the norm sweets also played their part in the game. These tempting morsels gave Hickey extra powers such as jump higher, slink faster or fall further. Being a slinky means he had no teeth - so there was no toothache to worry about either.

The gameplay was based on brains and puzzle solving rather than fast paced arcade action.

Negotiating the screens took a test of timing and positioning. You ended up spending more time waiting for the right moment to move than blasting away at the nasties.

It was not so easy to time a step when Hickey had to arch up and over. Dodging baddies could be difficult until you got the hang of the game.

Slinking in Frost Byte on the ZX Spectrum
With perseverance you could learn how to judge the jumps though, and then it was all a question of finding out what you needed to get through to the next screen. Plenty of shocks that lay ahead as you searched for the five imprisoned Kreezers - your buddies.

You could pick up items (such as bullets) and then use them to take out some of the bad guys. Different items could be picked up - you had to know when best to use them and how.

On Release:
This wasn't the sort of game that was raved about but if you did get into it then you ended up being sucked in. It was certainly a bit different from other platform games (the slinky main character was superbly animated too) and it did have that one-more-go factor. It was not a blockbuster game, but for fans of arcade adventures it was certainly something worth playing.

The test of time:
This classic ZX Spectrum game is not bad at all. It is quite difficult (it took me a few goes to get past the 2nd screen!) but it is quite compelling. The graphics are nice enough and the main character is pretty cool and well animated. Not bad - and definately worth a shot.

Stay cool and give Frost Byte a go - the gameplay will spring forth!

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

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade puzzle Game (arcade adventure)
RELEASE DATE: Winter of 1986
RELEASED BY: Mikro-Gen
DEVELOPER(S): Nick Jones, Chris Hinsley
PRICE: £8.95

Slink away in Frost Byte - Spectrum Games:


Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

15 Sep 2009

ZX Spectrum Games - Game walkthrough (part 4) - Commando ZX Spectrum retro game

Game walkthrough (part 4) ZX Spectrum retro game
Here is part 4 (the final part!) of our walkthrough of the classic arcade conversion of Commando by Elite software.

Area 7:
This is probably the toughest area to crack. Run like crazy through the area with huts and blast away at any door you can - you're bound to take out some troops as they run out. Move under the bridge and take out the green truck quickly.

Now you will get swarmed with rocket troopers - kill as many as you can or you will be cut down.


Area 8:
The bridges across the rives are real choke points here - keep moving and firing and with a bit of luck you'll make it through. Once you make it to the road it becomes hectic. Take out as many rocket soldiers as you can and watch for troops running out of the huts.

The final gates open - kill everyone and that's it, you've cracked area 8!


Go to part 1
Go to part 2
Go to part 3

ZX Spectrum Games - Game Walkthrough (part 3) - Commando ZX Spectrum retro game

Game Walkthrough (part 3) ZX Spectrum retro game
Here is part three of our walkthrough of the classic arcade conversion of Commando by Elite software.

Area 5:
You've made it half way and be prepared for a stern test from here on in. As soon as you start keep moving forwards but make sure you take out the men who jump in from each little hillside for extra points. It doesn't really get busy until you go through the bridge - the enemy swarm behind those boulders.

When you get to the end try and take out the fox-hole soldiers with grenades before opening the doors. Avoid the fox holes at all costs!


Area 6:
Don't worry too much about the armored pill boxes, stick left and keep moving so they can't hit you. Take out the one that appears on the left with a grenade and keep pressing on.

Don't dally as you go past the caves go under the bridge. You know the drill with the fox-holes by now too. Kill any rocket troopers you see and take out the fox-hole soldiers before opening the end gates.


Go to part 4

ZX Spectrum Games - Game walkthrough (part 2) - Commando ZX Spectrum retro game

Game walkthrough (part 2) Commando ZX Spectrum retro game
Here is part two of our walkthrough of the classic arcade conversion of Commando by Elite software.

Area 3:
At the start keep moving and zig-zagging through the huts and watch out for the fox-holes (do not walk over them). Once past the bridge watch out for green trucks and jeeps and take out the rocket troopers as soon as you see them.

Once you reach the end destroy the mortar emplacements before opening the main doors.


Area 4:
Getting tougher now! Move across the bridges as quickly as you can and use your grenades as you go across. Again take out the rocket troopers quikly - and once you reach the roadway keep hailing bullets diagonally left and right as loads of bad guys come in from each side.

The ending to this level isn't too bad and you should be able to mow through them quite easily.


Got to Part 3

ZX Spectrum Games - Game walkthrough (part 1)- Commando ZX Spectrum retro game

Game walkthrough (part 1) - Commando ZX Spectrum retro game
Here is part one of our walkthrough of the classic arcade conversion of Commando by Elite software.

Area 1:
A pretty easy area to start with. Keep Super Joe moving and take your time to free the prisoner and collect plenty of extra grenades - you will need them in later levels. With enemy soldiers nicely spread out you should have no difficulty in making it to the end.

You can take out most of the end 'swarm' of soldiers by positioning yourself just slightly right to centre against the main gates and keeping that trigger finger working.



Area 2:
Starting to hot up a little now. A little more enemies to take out and make sure you blow up the green trucks before loads of the red troopers spill out. A few bullets are enough to destroy those jeep type thingies too - keep away from the left hand area of the screen to avoid being run over.

When going under bridges always unleash a hail of bullets before going through. Once you reach the end watch for emerging troops in the caves as well as the doors.



Go to Part 2

10 Sep 2009

ZX Spectrum Games - Xevious - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Xevious
Another conversion of an arcade game, this time by Probe Software and published by US Gold. Xevious was released for the ZX Spectrum in February of 1987 to a mixed reception.

The original arcade game was from Atari (licensed by Namco) and was a very popular shoot em up. Even though the game was basically a shoot everything in sight type deal, it did have a story to it.

Apparently millions of years ago during the ice age, a race (called Xevious) inhabited the earth and left for pastures new as the ice advanced across the globe. Years later they had returned - and were a mite peturbed by the race of technological beings (us) that were now present. They wanted 'their' homeworld back, and war broke out as both sides fought over our lovely planet...

ZX Spectrum Games Xevious
So there you have it - a cracking plot that Roland Emmerich would love. Game on.

You piloted a fighter (the niftily named 'Solvalu fighter') across the vertically scrolling (from top to bottom classic game style) landscape as wave after wave of the 'Xevious' came at you. Not only that but ground based aliens would take shots at your craft as you skimmed overhead.

The objective of this arcade game was to make to the Xevious mothership and take it down by destroying it's main reactor.

The main area of the screen displayed the action (Probe decided to make the ZX Spectrum version monchromatic to increase the detail of the graphics) as the enemy fighters, ground installations moved in from the top of the playing area. The left area of the screen displayed your current score - and not much else that was useful. Aside from alien fighters the Xevious would also send in indestructable flying mirrors (those Xevious were devious) which took one of your lives if they crashed into you.

Xevious ZX Spectrum
Your craft was equiped with forward firing guns and also bombs which could be dropped onto ground targets with a bit of careful aiming. And that's about it - this game was a simple and straight shooter that emphasised speed and reflexes.

Once you had destroyed the mothership the game started all over again, and in the usual fashion it was more difficult each time around.

On Release:
This arcade game was met with a moderate reception. The Sinclair Spectrum version never quite managed to capture the spirit of the arcade original and there were plenty of other shooters around with more depth, better graphics and more variety (Uridium anyone?) The game was far from being 'bad', but once you had played it afew times the simpleness and repetition of the gameplay soon became apparent. Still, with it being an official arcade conversion it did reasonably well.

The test of time:
Well here in the land of Spectrum games we can't get too excited about Xevious. It was kind of average then, and it still is now. It is okay for a quick ten minute blast, but that's about it. Fans of the classic arcade game may find it of interest, but as far as shoot em up's go, there were plenty better for the rubber keyed 8-bit machine.

If you're a hardcore retro shoot em up fan then try this one out.

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

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: Early 1987
RELEASED BY: US Gold
DEVELOPER(S): Probe Software (Nick Bruty)
PRICE: £7.99

The conversion of the arcade game Xevious on the ZX Spectrum:


ZX Spectrum Games and Classic Games

8 Sep 2009

ZX Spectrum Games - Stainless Steel - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Stainless Steel
As far as I remember, this was one hyped up arcade game before it was released for the ZX Spectrum by Mikro-Gen (and programmer Dave Perry) in September of 1986.

The hero of the game was the 80's sounding 'Ricky Steel' (a teenager with a mechanical arm) who also had the 80's sounding special car called 'Nightwing'.

Anyway, and evil bloke called the uber-cheesy and cheap aftershave sounding 'Dr Vardos' was out to conquer the world. Well, our Ricky was having none of that!

ZX Spectrum Stainless Steel
The action was viewed from above (classic arcade gaming top down view) and the gameplay area scrolled smoothly upwards and downwards.

The game contained four zones, each with its own set of hazards which became successively more difficult. Enemy craft approached from either in front or behind, so you had to be on the lookout at all times for the nasties.

All in all, this game really is a scrolling arcade game of the shmup variety.

In the first game zone you had to leg it along the tarmac and pavement, avoiding helicopters which had the capacity to blast you into tiny pieces, accompanied with an awful exposion sound effect. A collision with a helicopter was also fatal.

Fortunately, Ricky could fire missiles too and also had a bomb shield to soften the effects of enemy attack. Scurrying past traffic jams and road barriers whilst destroying android patrol ships which moved across the road, the man with the steel arm had to make for the end of the zone (the top end of the road) where his trusty car was waiting.

Stainless Steel on foot ZX SpectrumIn the second game zone you got to fly 'Nightwind' - and the task at hand was a little harder. Bubbles of fuel had to be collected to keep the super-car in the air as you fought your way across an arid desert.

Rockets zoomed back and forth and you had to use your powerful laser cannon to bring them down. All the enemy forces had to be eradicated before the game zone was marked as complete.

In the third zone battle resumed over a watery canal type channel. Nightwind was also amphibious (as well as capable of flight - a touch of the 'Spy Hunters'!) and you had to watch out for submarines which popped up from the water every so often. Placing a bomb on the deck area of a submarine required quick timing, but lots of points were awarded for destroying any of these submersibles.

The final zone was populated with androids in the shape of lizards(?) and salamanders(??) as well as Dr Vardos' other minions. If you made it to the end and defeated Dr Vardos in the final showdown then the game was won. Muhaha haaaa!

The main screen was flanked either side with status panels. On the left, Ricky's energy and shield or arsenal strength were displayed below the current score. On the right, the zone number was shown together with any bonus points awarded, the number of androids that remained in the zone, and large red hearts told you how many lives you had left to play with.

In a neat switch, if the enemy forces were not shot down fast enough it was possible to end up with a negative bonus score, so quick shooting was the way to go.

A radar screen below the main display area detailled Ricky's position in relation to the enemies in the current zone, and a message was flashed here when Ricky was killed. This seemed to happen to me a lot.

On release:
Well as far as my memory serves me, arcade gamers were expecting a lot from this game. When it was released it was perhaps a little disappointing as it was (when you played it for a while) just another top down scrolling shooter. The game was very polished with excellent presentation, smooth scrolling and detailled 'metallic' looking graphics (our imaginations did a lot back then!) Anyway, this game was generally well liked, but it just seemed to lack that certain 'something'.

The test of time:
Arrgh! This game frustrates me! I never was very good at all those years ago, and am still crap today. The main play area seems a bit too small and you don't have enough time to see the enemies arriving on screen even when you use the radar. The fact that you go right back to the start of the level when you get killed is a constant niggle too. I can't play this for very long, there are other arcade games that I much prefer. Having said all that, it is a good example of how detailled graphics, smooth scrolling and nice music could be created on the Sinclair Spectrum.
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.

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: September 1986
RELEASED BY: Mikro-Gen
DEVELOPER(S): Dave Perry
PRICE: £8.95

I get killed and decide to nip to the pub instead. It could have been an arcade classic:


Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

4 Sep 2009

Spectrum Games - Programmer Interview (Chris Jones) - ZX Spectrum retro games

Chris Jones was one half of Perfection Software who released a number of games for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Chris and Tim Williams had success with titles such as Turtle TimeWarp, the arcade classic Fahrenheit 3000, Force Fighter and Odyssey 1. After this they went on to develop the official game of the TV programme Blockbusters for Macsen Software.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Chris who was more than happy to reminisce about his ZX Spectrum coding days with us.

Interview with Chris Jones - retro programming Sinclair ZX Spectrum

1: To start with, you were still at school at the time. How did you get into the games industry at such a young age?

I was a big fan of the early arcade games especially Space Invaders when I was barely a teenager. They had one in our local fish and chip shop called Cosmic Invaders which I quickly became addicted to, so much so that Cosmic became my nickname at school. After a while I was banned from said fish shop after the owner realised the reason he wasn’t making any money was because one 10 pence game would last me several hours.

We had an excellent computer department at our comprehensive school and I became interested from the word go. It was through the computer department that I met Tim Williams and we became good friends. It became obvious that he had an excellent programming brain and was far superior to anyone else at the school, including the teachers. When 1981 came around I can remember having a ZX 81 for Christmas and I no doubt received my first Spectrum the following year. We were both big fans of the early ZX Spectrum games and I particularly liked Manic Miner. If I recall correctly there was a prize for the first person to complete the game and I can remember being very excited when I finally completed it and found out someone won the prize the previous week.

With Tim’s computer skills it seemed the obvious way forward was for him to try programming some games. I recall a very crude fruit machine being his first effort and although it wasn’t a particularly good game, it did showcase his programming skills if not his game creativity. Next was a Word Seeker game which again was rather crude but seemed to be a natural progression to showcase Tim’s skills. I had very little involvement in either of these games as they were quite basic and simple with no graphic or music skill required.

Odyssey 1 was the next game and I’m sure I had some input with this. Looking back I don’t think Tim was much of a games player and probably wasn’t that familiar with many arcade games so when I suggested a “Berserk” style game he probably didn’t have a clue what I was talking about! So I guess I came up with the concept for Odyssey 1 and assisted with the simple screen layouts and graphic. When we finished the game we thought that it might be good enough to be professionally produced so we looked into the possibilities of how to sell it and become millionaires. Tim’s father was a pretty astute businessman so we decided to form a company and sell Spectrum games. I came up with name Perfection Software and Tim and his father both thought it was a winner so Perfection Software was born. Perhaps what really happened was that no one could think of a better name so it became Perfection Software by default. I like the first reason better!
Tim won a young programmer award for Odyssey 1 at the Cardiff Computech 83 Competition. (Check out http://www.crashonline.org.uk/01/news.htm for more information)

2: You co-developed Fahrenheit 3000 and Turtle Timewarp with Tim Williams. Did the two of you collaborate on any other titles?

As mentioned previous there was Word Seeker which was also a PS release.
(http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0014069)

The next one we did was Force Fighter which was like a Space Invaders / Galaxians style game. I designed the graphics for this one. Not the best game ever made but a decent shoot-em-up game for the time. (http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0001839)

Turtle Timewarp was one of my favourite games that we made. Many people thought that it was an original game but it was very much based on the 1981 arcade game called, believe it or not, “Turtles”.

It was the first game that I was able to program a tune for, and I chose Beethoven’s Fur Elise. Programming music came easy for me as I had a background in playing the electronic organ from the age of about 8 or 9. I also designed the graphics and all of the mazes, although I’ve no idea how many there are.

Fahrenheit 3000 was Perfection Software’s biggest and most successful game. It’s no secret that it was influenced by Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy which were personal favourites of mine at the time. I think I designed most of the graphics and screen layouts. Looking back at it now it was far too difficult and I imagine many people probably gave up on it and I doubt if many people ever completed it. I think I probably managed to complete it as I would have spent a lot of time testing it to make sure it all worked correctly. It’s nice to see that many people fondly remember it and hold it in high regard.

The last game that I worked on was Blockbusters, but all I did was program the music and type in all the questions. It was the official version that given away on the TV programme.
(http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0000577)


(We agree that Fahrenheit 3000 is a pretty tough game!)

3: The title music for Fahrenheit 3000 was pretty impressive. How did you manage to make the humble Spectrum beeper sound almost like '2 channel' music?

I was always a big fan of Toccata and I think the first time I heard it would have been from the opening scene from the film Rollerball. When the band Sky released it in 1980 I went out and purchased the sheet music and learned to play it (probably badly). When we made Fahrenheit 3000 we decided we needed a big song to make an impact as soon as the game loaded. I suggested Toccata and we both agreed that was the ideal choice and that the Sky version had a more contemporary arrangement.

The thing with Toccata is that because it is quite fast and there’s a few sections which have every other note the same, it gives the impression that it has two channels.
One of my proudest moments was when Tim and I walked into a computer fair at London’s Alexandra Palace and Toccata was blasting through the speakers.


4: Did you only write games on the ZX Spectrum or did you devlop on other machines during that era?

No I worked on the ZX Spectrum only.

5: Are you still active in the computer games industry today?

No.

6: Where you a ZX Spectrum (or any other machine) games player back in the day? If so do you have any favourite titles?

I was a big fan of the Spectrum games back in 83-85. I fondly remember games like Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy, Jetpac, Lunar Jetman, Atic Atac, Pssst, Chuckie Egg, Ant Attack and many others.

7: Do you still keep in touch with Tim Williams and/or any other games developers from that era?

I doubt I’ve seen Tim for at least twenty years.

8: What were the best and worst things about working on the ZX Spectrum?

The keyboard was the best and worst thing. It was great using the Spectrum keyboard after struggling with the Sinclair ZX81 but compared with modern day keyboards, it’s pretty poor now.

9: What sort of development kit did you use? Did you just code directly (machine code or assembler?) into the Spectrum or did you also have other kit?

Well Tim was able to program direct with machine code into the Spectrum. Actually when Tim won the programming award he was the only entry to use machine code programming.

I honestly can't remember how I programmed the music but I'm guessing I used the Beep command and programmed it in Basic. I expect that Tim must have transferred the information into machine code.

Most of the graphics and screen layouts I designed were done with graph paper!
It was quite difficult to produce the mazes in Turtle Timewarp (I designed all of them) as all the pathways had to be 2 characters square (16 X 16 pixels) to accommodate the Turtle and the enemies, and because of the small screen size of the Spectrum I had to be creative with the designs.


10: Sticking with the Speccy, when did you first see one and what did you think of it?

I honestly don’t recall.

We must thank Chris for taking the time to answer these questions and give us an insight into the early days of Spectrum games development. For Spectrum and Sinclair nuts such as us it’s a real privilege.

Chris now works as a sound engineer for a band called Magenta. Check them out at:

http://www.magenta-web.com/

3 Sep 2009

ZX Spectrum Games - Avenger - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Games AvengerZX Spectrum Avenger
Avenger was the follow up to the beat em up game Way of the Tiger, also by Gremlin Graphics. Taking the top down view this game was similar in gameplay to the classic arcade game Gauntlet.

Avenger was released for the ZX Spectrum in 1986 and was pretty well received.

The whole premise of this game (as was usual with martial arts adventures!) was one of revenge and returning some valuable item to it's rightful place.

So - you had just completed your training and were ready to avenge your stepfather and take back the scrolls of Ketsuin. These scrolls had been stolen by the wicked Yaemon -and not returning them meant the God Kwon would be lost forever in eternal hell.

You started the game outside the Quench Heart Keep and your first task at hand was to gain entry to the inside.

There were plenty of locked doors and walls to keep you out so you had to find the keys to open these doors. Horned beasties and giant spiders roamed around the grounds and courtyards which sapped your energy on contact.

Spikes would also poke up through the floor and slow your progress down considerably.

You began the game armed with ten shurikens which dispatched an enemy very efficiently. Once these were used up you had to rely on hand to hand combat until more shurikens could be found and collected.

I will wreack my rewenge! - ZX SpectrumOne neat aspect of this retro arcade adventure was your energy levels. Each confrontation used up some of your life force but you did have a chance to replenish it. Asking the god Kwon for help could result in him topping up your energy levels (sometimes completely). If you asked him too often though he became angered (even though you were trying to help him!) and would not do anything for you.

To complete the game you had to defeat each of the guardians (there were three in total) that resided within the castle. Once you had killed each one of them the game was won!

On release:
Avenger was released for the ZX Spectrum in amongst a host of other Gauntlet type games. (Gauntlet type games were popular on (Sinclair and Commodore machines at the time). As such it suffered slightly as a lot of gamers were looking for something a little different. Still, for fans of this type of game it was a good choice and was praised for it's colourful graphics, smooth scrolling and well animated characters.

The test of time:
Well this retro game is a tad simple these days. The martial action is pretty plain and running around collecting keys and beating up spiders is 'okay' at best. It was never a classic game for the Spectrum and will not hold your attention for any length of time. If you're a fan of Gauntlet you should check it out. A solid if unspectacular retro arcade game.

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

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: 1986
RELEASED BY: Gremlin Graphics
DEVELOPER(S): Shaun Hollingworth, Greg Holmes, Chris Kerry, Pete Harrap, Steve Kerry
PRICE: £9.95

Revenge is mine in the classic arcade game Avenger:

ZX Spectrum Game - Hypersports - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Hypersports
Yet another fine Joystick Waggler for the ZX Spectrum - Hypersports was the official conversion of the Konami arcade game which was the follow up to Track and Field (which had inspired the uber popular Daley Thompsons Decathlon).

Anyway, Imagine Software released Hypersports for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the summer of 1985 - and it was met with high regard.

ZX Spectrum Hyper Sports

As usual with these types of classic games (and these conversions from arcade game to home computer), there were a number of events for you to overcome.

The events were: Swimming, Skeet Shooting, Vault, Archery, Triple Jump and finally Weightlifting.

Each event had either a qualifying time, distance or target for you to achieve. To proceed onto the next event you had to qualify in the preceding one - failure to do so resulted in the end of the game.

It should be noted that some of the events could be a bit damaging to your ZX Spectrum keyboard or your joystick. But that was usual for these types of sports arcade games...

So, after inputting your initials it was game on, and time to don those speedo's for the first event.
The swimming event was a pretty simple one to start with. All you had to do was waggle that stick or mash the keys as fast as you could whilst intermittently hitting the fire button to make your swimmer breathe (a little breach icon flashed up telling you to do so). If you breathed too early then your swimmer would stop for a moment to cough and splutter.

Skeet shooting (my favourite) was a fast moving event. Your marksman would stand in the centre of the bottom half of the screen as the clay pigeons zipped in from the left and right. You had two 'targets' and when a skeet passed through you could blast it away. Qualifying from here saw your marksman turn to look at you with a smile on his face and give you a cheeky wink!

Next, it was into the gym and onto (or vault) the wooden horse. Your man automatically ran up to the horse but you had to time his jump onto the springboard using the fire button to make him vault. Too itchy on the trigger finger and you didn't get much of a jump; too late and your guy tripped over.

Timing the jump correctly was the key - doing so launched your athlete through the air, to land hands first on the horse. Now the tricky bit; when his body was horizontal you had to press fire again and hit the speed buttons as fast as possible to make him somersault over and over. Now you had to land feet first, otherwise he would tumble over and you're score would be penalised. This was a pretty tricky event!


ZX Spectrum Games Hypersports - vaulting the horseAfter this came the archery - one of the most difficult events (as far as my foggy memort tells me anyway). Pressing fire determined wind speed and then a target was winched down the screen which you had to hit.

To do this you had to allow for wind speed and let the arrow fly by pressing the fire button. Making sure your angle was as near to five degrees as possible was the way to an accurate shot - and if you were really good you might hit the bullseye. You didn't win a speedboat though.

Next it was the triple jump and this was speed button-tastic. With as much speed as you could waggkle, you had to run up to the line and press the jump button, aiming for a 45 degree angle. You had to this again for the step and the jump to get a qualifying score.

The weight lifting event was a mash your Speccy into the deck or destroy your joystick level. After selecting the weight to 'lift' it you had to pound or waggle away until your man lifted the weight to his chest. Once there you had to press fire to 'snatch' the weights and waggle away again push and keep them above his head. Once that is over you and your arms (and ZX Spectrum!) had recovered it was back to the start with each qualifying time more difficult.

This was all classic arcade gaming action!

On release:
Daley Thompson Decathlon had been a smash hit on the ZX Spectrum and Hypersports was a welcome addition to the sporting genre. Gamers new the format and style of play and the arcade game had been popular too. Programmer Jonathan Smith (who always signatured his games with 'Joffa' or his name written in reverse) did a good job converting Konami's game to the humble Speccy. The game was playable, the events were varied, the characters nicely animated and it was addictive overall. Playing with others was good for a laugh too as you tried to beat each others scores. Magazines and gamers enjoyed Hypersports and it was a big hit.

The test of time:
Well here in Spectrum games we like a bit of Hypersports every now and again. It is a pretty simple game and is easy to get into. It'll never keep you occupied for hours but for a quick half hour you can't go wrong - and it's still fun with two players too. The controls are responsive, and the skeet shooting and triple jump are particularly good. A good arcade game back then, still not bad today.

Try not to be too hard on your keyboard when playing Hypersports again!

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

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade sports game
RELEASE DATE: Summer of 1985
RELEASED BY: Imagine Software
DEVELOPER(S): Jonathan (Jof) Smith
PRICE: £7.95

Bri does a bit of swimming with classic arcade action


Mart loves a bit of arcade game shooting...

Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

The Retro Brothers Favourite ZX Spectrum Games...

Jetpac Remake

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