ZX Spectrum Games

ZX Spectrum Games

27 Jul 2010

Spectrum Games - Adventure Of St Bernard - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

Adventures Of St Bernard
Well what can I say, apart from that this game is crap? Really, really crap.

I was unfortunate enough to buy this for my Speccy back in the day, and my hard earned £1.99 (I got the Mastertronic re-release) was duly wasted.

Would you believe that Carnell actually had the gall to charge £5.95 for this turgid piece of 'arcade action' originally? It wasn't even worth the £1.99 that Mastertronic were asking for a year later. Still, you've got to look back and laugh eh?

At least Carnell redeemed themselves with the excellent text adventure 'The Wrath of Magra'....

Aventures Of St Bernard - ZX Spectrum
The whole point to the game was to rescue your 'mistress' (oohh matron) from the clutches of the abominable snowman. We should have rescued the gamers from this abominable game.

The inlay instructions actually used words like 'intrepid' and 'icy wastelands' to convey the terror and action of the situation. Well it doesn't work quite like that...

The game is a horizontally scrolling affair (supposed to arcade action), and you control the hero who must fend off attacks from wolves and jump over broken bits of the icy ground.

Wolves always attack from your rear, so you can scare them away by turning to face them or if you time it right, bite them (use your imagination) to kill them outright.

After you have got far enough (the background scrolls painfully slowly) you will reach stage two. Now you have to jump over water patches and avoid the walrusses that poke their heads up through the ice-holes.

If you have the luck or patience you'll reach stage three where you have to climb a hill and avoid the rolling snowballs. If you make it past this it'll be more by luck than judgement - I never ever did, and never ever will.

You have to laugh as the instructions actually ask:
"Will it go on forever? Is she really worth it? These and many more questions
can be answered in this multi-level, fast moving, colourful
arcade style game
."

They also boldy state that the game was written in full machine code, featuring arcade action and cartoon style graphics.

I honestly can't see how this was written in machine code. The controls are so un-responsive it's beyond funny. Your character takes longer to turn than a jug of cream - and timing jumps is well... you've got more chance of winning the lottery.

Oh - and a special mention must go to the sound. It truly is a revolutionary use of the Spectrum's beeper.

On a positive note I suppose the main sprite is quite nicely drawn - it's a shame the animation on it is crap.

Maybe I'm being too hard on this game. It did come out in the early days of '83 so I've got to cut it some slack, but really, play this for comedy value only. It's a load of pish.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download any other arcade game (but not this). Alternatively you could try and play something else online.

GENRE: Arcade Game (Even though it's slower than bullet time)
RELEASE DATE: 1983
RELEASED BY: Carnell Software / Mastertronic
DEVELOPER(S): No idea.
PRICE: £5.95 then re-released by Mastertronic at £1.99 - UK

Hair raising arcade action in this classic game...
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Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

21 Jul 2010

Spectrum Games - Tank Trax - ZX Spectrum Classic Game

ZX Spectrum Tank Trax
Yet another budget spectrum game that was released by Mastertronic for £1.99. It had originally been released by Amoeba Software at £5.95 - no way was it ever worth that.

This arcade game was a very simple turn based affair designed for two players - you couldn't play against the computer. I ended up playing against myself some of the time back in 1985... but to be fair a little bit of fun could be squeezed out of this game.

Tank Trax on the ZX Spectrum
I suppose this was a strategy arcade game which had you with your tank against an opponent, also with a tank. There were options to choose such as altering wind speeds and you could also choose to battle it out in mountains or foothills.

Finally you could choose to duel in the daytime or at night - where both thanks were 'hidden' from view. Mind you, you could actually tell where the tanks were sitting if you looked carefully.

But first I've got to mention the menu music which was a little bizarre to say the least. Listen to that beeper sing!

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Anyway to defeat your opponent you had to elevate your gun barrel and choose the velocity of the shot you wanted to fire. Unfortunately both tanks were static, so all you could do was point your gun up or down and choose the strength of your shot. If the tanks had been moveable it would have added a lot more to the game.

Anyway, there was also wind speed to take into account (which could be variable if you wanted) and those pesky mountains which were usually in your way. Once you took your shot it either hit your opponent or blasted part of the landscape away. Then you had to wait whilst the other guy took a shot. The game went tit for tat like this until someone landed a direct hit.

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A direct hit treated you to a loverrrly rendition of 'the last post' in true beeper style. Which you couldn't stop. And had to listen to every time you played. Which became annoying after about three listens.

Tank Trax played at night As usual for a classic game of the era you could enter your name in the high score table - but it seems that the better you were the less score you got! Check this out as I score a direct hit with my first shot and at night...

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It then has the cheek to show me this! Four points for a direct hit on the first shot at night? You gotta be sh*ttin me!

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All in all this retro game is a reasonable amount of fun for two players. It's got loads of retro charm and it's simplicity makes it seem a little bit better than it really is.

Not quite crap yet definately not good, this offering is a nice way for a couple of friends to waste half an hour. Give it a go to remember what Spectrum software was like in the early days.

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

GENRE: Arcade Game (Arcade Strategy I suppose)
RELEASE DATE: 1983
RELEASED BY: Amoeba Software / Mastertronic
DEVELOPER(S): C Steel, B Baker
PRICE: £5.95 then re-released by Mastertronic at £1.99 - UK

Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

9 Jul 2010

Spectrum Games - Hysteria - ZX Spectrum classic game

ZX Spectrum Hysteria
Another classic game for the ZX Spectrum from those excellent folk at Special FX software.

Once again the fantastic Joffa Smith was the main programmer behind the game, and once again his attention to detail and overall polish soon becomes apparent.

This review is a tribute to Jof.

ZX Spectrum Hysteria
This arcade game was released in 1987 by Software Projects and was met with a lot of praise (let's be honest, most of Jof's games were, his name attached to a game was generally a seal of quality.)

An interesting back story really set the scene...

Someone is changing the future by altering the past. A powerful entity is being summoned forwards through time in an attempt to disrupt the future balance of power. You are the last survivor of the 'time corps', and it is now up to you to prevent this from happening and restore order to the timeline.

It was an interesting slant on some good old classic arcade action! Anyway - the game was a parallax scrolling headbutt em up / shoot em up game that focussed on frantic action and excellent powerups.

You began the game armed with a 'sonic headbutt', which although short-ranged was still pretty powerful. Now comes the clever bit. As you run across the scrolling landscape destroying and evading enemies, worms will periodically pop up from the ground.

Collecting a worm by walking or flying over it will enable you to select a different weapon if you wish. To activate the current weapon type (indicated by an arrow above the icons at the bottom of the screen) press down and fire. The icon flashes, and you are powered up nicely. This was done a little bit 'Nemesis' style I suppose (I wish Jof could have coded the Speccy version of Nemesis - it would have been fantastic).

The same weapon powerups could also be collected and chosen by walking over a lemon! So, a lemon or a worm could increase your firepower - genious stuff!

Going Hysterical...
You are also packing an energy conversion kit which allowed you to change ordinary objects into a powerful array of stunningly useful mega-utilities!

Destroying certain hostile characters and objects will leave behind a clue, which would lead to the identity of one of the conspirarators (symbolized by a jigsaw piece).

Collecting these pieces exposes the entity which will appear (as a classic arcade boss) to battle you. Hit it enough times and it will retreat to another time - allowing you to move to the next level and continue your task in another era.

You only have a limited energy supply which is depleted a little each time you are hit. It was topped up on each new level though. You also have a shield which is to be used sparingly.

On Release:
Once again this game was well recieved and was regarded as an essential purchase for your Spectrum. Apart from the gameplay, what was impressive was the attention to detail. For instance you could set the game background to monochrome or colour, turn the sound effects off and entering your name in the hall of fame was superb! Utterly cool.

We were also treated to another great piece of plip-plop music which had become a trademark since the technique first appeared in Ping Pong.

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Some gamers tended to prefer Jof's other uber scroller Cobra (which was a fantastic game and hilarious to boot), but Hysteria was regarded as a top arcade game in it's own right. For me this game just edges Cobra - probably because I can actually play this one quite well and I've always been crap at Cobra! Doesn't stop me trying it again and again though....

The Test of Time:
Well Hysteria is still fun to play. The graphics move very nicely and the parallax scrolling is top notch (amongst the best on a ZX Spectrum). The neat touches really set it apart from other arcade games of 1987. Once again from top notch stuff from Jof and Special FX Software.

Get yourself hysterical and play this. Now.

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

GENRE: Arcade Game (Side Scroller)
RELEASE DATE: 1987
RELEASED BY: Software Projects
DEVELOPER(S): Jonathan M Smith, Karen Davies, Stephen Wahid, Tony Pomfret
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

Classic scrolling arcade action... note the high score table too.


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2 Jul 2010

Spectrum Games - Jonathan Smith

As most of us ZX Spectrum fans will know - one of the greatest ever coders on our humble 8-bit machine sadly passed away on 26/06/2010

Jonathan Smith (or Joffa) as he became known was responsible for some of the greatest ever titles and arcade conversions for the Speccy.

I never met Jof in person, but he was kind enough to provide me with an interview about his ZX Spectrum coding days last September.

Not only that he kept contact with me (a true legend kept in contact with little old me) and kept providing me with insights into his game coding days, (not only on the Spectrum but also on the Atari ST and other formats), and also his special effects work.

Thanks for the great games, thanks for plip-plop music, thanks for the laughs (particularly on the World Of Spectrum forums), and thanks for the brilliant YouTube videos.

And now I think it's time for another shot on Cobra - perhaps I can finally complete it after all these years.

Rest in peace, Joffa.

The Retro Brothers Favourite ZX Spectrum Games...

Jetpac Remake