ZX Spectrum Games

ZX Spectrum Games

20 Dec 2012

Spectrum Games - Santa's Xmas Caper - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

Santa's Xmas Caper ZX Spectrum
Well there is only five days to go until we can unwrap our pressies on Christmas morning before getting stuck into far too much food and drink.

So in the spirit of things I have decided to take a look at a classic game I actually never played back in the day; Santa's Xmas Caper.

Released in 1991 by Zeppelin Games LTD this is from the twilight era of ZX Spectrum gaming, as by this point most of us had switched to a 16-bit machine.

Looking at it you would never guess though; you would be forgiven for thinking this was an effort from 1982 or 1983. Yep, it really is that much of a turkey.

The whole 'plot' revolves around Santa's Christmas pudding which has been spiked by some evil pixies. The jolly rouge one has to go and recover from said pudding and is in no fit state to pilot the sleigh. Believe me you will have to recover from playing this game too - it will still haunt you well into new year.

Ho Ho 'crap game for Christmas' Ho

Anyway, Santa is out of action so this is where you (the player) comes in, for just one day you'll have to take over and make sure that all of the kids presents are delivered on time.

In classic gaming style there are three levels to get through before you can go home, put your feet up and tuck into a mince pie and a large drop of advocaat.

First up is Lapland; You've got to pick up the sleigh and get all those lovely gifts delivered. But... Those pixies are still feeling a bit evil and they have amassed a stockpile of toy trains and trumpets to throw at you. (honest!)

Get past this and you will be flying over the Atlantic where you meet up with a few scientists who don't believe in Santa. Thinking you to be some sort of alien, they try to take you out with death-rays. All nice and Christmassy so far.

It's trippy alright. Check out those crap graphics...

During play you should collect all the little Santas and glasses of wine that fly by. These are presents and in the final level you have to drop them down various chimneys. Ho hum it's full of festive fun.

Except it isn't. This is one of the laziest pieces of programming on the Speccy I have ever seen. The graphics are disproportioned and laughable, the gameplay is mind-blowingly awful and it will leave you cursing the most wonderful time of the year.

To top it all off they couldn't even get the music in tune. Unforgiveable, and it's a bog standard beeper effort too.

All in all I would say this is one to avoid. Do not ruin any part of Christmas by playing this game.

Cheers all and Merry Christmas!

Santa goes on his caper, the poor bugger:

Classic Games, Arcade games and ZX Spectrum Games

9 Nov 2012

Spectrum Games - Glass - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

Glass ZX Spectrum
Glass was a 3D arcade game released for the ZX Spectrum by the always cool sounding Quicksilva back in 1985.

Paul Hargreaves has a pretty impressive list of Spectrum games to his name, and this one was pretty highly regarded when it was released the summer of my thirteenth year.

With it's impressive sounding title, fast moving 3D graphics and decent back story this is a classic game that did have a bit of a 'wow factor' back in the day.

The Effective Loading Screen
Glass actually stood for Ground Level Alien Strike Simulator, meaning the game was based on your training to take out three enemy cities.

The back story to set the scene had you training to be a combat-ready star-fighter pilot, gaining the skills to take out these aforementioned enemy cities.

This simulator took you through a series of screens, with each acting as a mini-game in itself.

The games varied between sections with simulations in destroying outer radar defences, smashing the pseudo-conscious Metalliks (great names!), all the while keeping your shield level up.

If your shields were expended you could still continue in game with zero score if you so desired.

If you managed to fly the plains of Glass and reach the cities you were then able to deploy a nuclear missile and watch it evaporate in all it's de-pixelating glory!.

The score achieved also set your crew status level, with fourteen levels of excellence to pass through.
Only the best could reach the level of 'Game Lord'.

Nice Reflection Effect
This game was released when 3D graphics were still revolutionary enough to cause a stir in the gaming world.

The sprites move towards you at a fast lick and the reflection effect on the glass surface is, for the time, pretty damn nifty.

Some stages play better than others. The avoiding towers sub game is reminiscent of the classic game Deathchase and it is still fun even today to weave your way through them at a rapid pace. The towers move towards you at breakneck speed without flicker, all the while reflected on the planet surface.

The other sub-games are fun in their own right but they do become repetitive quite quickly as they are often re-workings of the same game featuring a different set of sprites.

When the final city is revealed it does look quite impressive and it almost a shame to nuke it!

All in all this is a decent enough game. It scored highly in Crash Magazine but fell slightly short of the coveted  Smash award, which for seems just about right.

Funnily enough 3D games on 8-bit machines tend to have aged more than other gaming genres, and this one falls into the same bracket I feel.

All in all, this was a pretty decent shooter that was technically pretty impressive. Oh, I'm loving the between game 'cut scene'. Very slick.

GENRE: 3D Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: Summer of 1985
RELEASED BY: Quicksilva
DEVELOPERS: Paul Hargreaves
PRICE: £7.99 (UK)

Marvel at a rapid moving slice of Arcade Action...


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

12 Sep 2012

Spectrum Games - Rolling Thunder - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

ZX Spectrum Rolling Thunder
This classic title was a very popular arcade game back in the day and home computer conversions were par for the course in the 1980s.

Namco's game was released in 1986 and the ZX Spectrum version arrived in 1988 courtesy of good old US Gold and Tiertex.

As far as side scrolling platform arcade games go, Rolling Thunder was up there with the likes of Green Beret in terms of playability and fast paced action. But could it be converted to the Speccy successfully?

Let's take a look...

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'....
Like any classic game there was a back story to accompany the action...

The player took control of a spy (codenamed Albatross), a member of the WCPO's (World Crime Police Organization) also known as 'Rolling Thunder'.

Your mission was to save a missing female agent named Leila Blitz from a secret organisation named 'Geldra' who were plotting evil schemes in down town New York.

The game was a multi-directional scrolling affair with an upper and lower level for the player to negotiate. Usually you were able to leap between the top 'balcony' platform and ground floor on the game screen at will, with certain parts designed to keep you placed in the topmost or bottom part of the screen.

To make matters more difficult there were hundreds of evil hooded henchmen to take care of, with some of them popping out at you through doors and seemingly appearing from the woodwork.

 In a cool twist though it was possible for you to go into these doors (sort of 'into' the screen) to hide for a moment and in some cases pick up weapons power-ups.

Hooded Henchmen Everywhere!
With ten levels to play through, automatic sentry guns to evade, pools of lava to leap and piles of boxes to climb this was a game that was by no means a pushover.

It should be noted that there were varying enemies to face too; some of them required multiple hits to dispatch and some would try to walk right up to you and beat you to death!

As usual for games of this ilk there was a boss to defeat (the mighty 'Mabu' - the man behind the crime!) if you finally made it to the end. Beat him and you beat the game.

On Release:
This game had been pretty popular down the amusement arcades and was one that I put a fair few ten pence's into. The ZX Spectrum version was met with mixed enthusiasm and it was pretty much regarded as being too tough to play. The scrolling was not really up to par (especially when you look at the likes of Green Beret, Cobra and Uridium) and this affected the playability greatly. For a game released in 1988 the sound effects are well below par, and the catchy tune that accompanies the arcade version is missing. I for one was a little disappointed in this conversion as it did not quite capture that magic of the arcade original; it was merely a decent enough game that could have been great.

The Test Of Time:
When you play this again you really notice the below par scrolling (it's not rubbish but it's not great either) and the jerkiness of the enemy sprites. There is a lack of detail in the backgrounds too. I like the fact that they went monochromatic in style but the environments lack depth. Overall not bad, but if like me, you are a fan of the original game then you probably will be left feeling a little on the empty side.

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

GENRE: Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: 1988
RELEASED BY: US Gold Software
DEVELOPER(S): Tiertex
PRICE: £8.99 - UK

You called down the thunder...


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

28 Jun 2012

Spectrum Games - Odyssey 1 - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

Odyssey 1 ZX Spectrum
This classic game is a real golden oldie from good old Perfection Software who comprised of duo Tim Williams and Chris Jones, who were also responsible for other great games such as Fahrenheit 3000, Blockbusters and Turtle Timewarp.

You may remember we managed to Catch up with Chris Jones about three years ago who gave us many fascinating insights into the ZX Spectrum gaming scene at the time.

This is a real old school arcade game from the early days of the machine that still has an air of simple playability to it, even after all these years.

Check out the retro loading screen
There was an actual backstory to this game which went along the lines of...
Two warring planets named Panos and Riggos.

After a period of relative peace it turns out that Riggos has been making preparations for a final, all-out attack on Panos. Now it is the duty of Algorth, (an incredible fighting man-machine) to protect the Star-gate, situated just outside the atmosphere of Panos, as this vortex of four quadrants will be where the Riggosians launch their attacks!

Mopping the sweat from my brow as I type....   :-)

It is likely that Riggos will first strike with the dreaded Blind Mutons, sound-sensitive creatures that destroy everything that moves! Algorth must totally annihilate this first wave in order to have sufficient time to return to Panos to take command of Odyssey 1, a mobile battle station.

The awesome Astro-fleet will arrive all too soonafter the Mutons. You must take great care, for every ship that is destroyed utilises a re-energy conversion technique which changes the wreckage into a deadly regenerating missile aimed directly at Odyssey 1!

But even if the Astro-fleet is destroyed, you cannot rest easy as the Riggosians will themselves come to Panos.

These desperate pterodactyl-like creatures of incredible ferocity are to be feared most of all. No-one has ever faced the Riggosians before...

It looks simple but it plays nicely
As you can probably tell from the back story this, classic game is a three-part mixture of arcade games which is enough to test the skills and reflexes of most shoot em up freaks.

Phase 1 is very similar to the arcade classic Berserk, with your man battling it out four rooms filled with aggressive robots. He can move in any direction with rotational controls, go forward and fire up or down at will.

Completing this screen plonks you in an Arcadia type situation where wrap around squadrons of alien ships fly overhead dropping missiles on you. Once dropped, the missiles also wrap around vertically, gradually filling the screen with alien ordinance!

Screen 3 pits you against those pesky pterodactyl-like creatures which swoop down towards you (rather nicely for a 1983 game I might add).

Beat these dudes and the battle is won!

On Release:
The general feeling was that this was a surprisingly difficult and addictive game to play. The graphics lacked size and detail but the machine code programming (remember this is 1983) allowed everything work extremely well. The game-play flowed along nicely and the small sprites moved around the screen smoothly

The Test Of Time:
Well this really is one of those oldies that just oozes charm in spades. As a fan of both Arcadia and Berserk this game hits the spot for me. Really simple, really old school, really playable.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Odyssey1 for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: 1983
RELEASED BY: Perfection Software
DEVELOPER(S): Tim Williams, Chris Jones
PRICE: £5.50 - UK

Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

20 Apr 2012

Spectrum Games - Kung Fu Master - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

Kung Fu Master ZX Spectrum
Argh! And I'm not making any martial arts type noises there either.

This ZX Spectrum version of the classic arcade game was released by US Gold in 1986. It turned out to be completely shit.

The arcade game had been a huge hit, and conversions to pretty much all of the home computers of the era was pretty much guaranteed.

Many conversions of arcade originals or movie tie-ins tended to be quick rush jobs intended to cash in on their popularity; alas this game turned out to be one of those.

The Loading Screen Is As Good As It Gets
The thing about this game is the fact that it was pretty limited and repetitive, mainly because there were only two attacking moves to make (punch and kick), as well as jump and duck. The arcade version got away with it due to it's colourful graphics, decent sound effects, excellent backing music and fast paced action.

The Spectrum version, despite being released in 1986 just reeks of 1983. The scrolling, the graphics, the animation, the collision detection... all were unacceptable by 1986.

There is little playability in here and using your punches and kicks is an exercise in guesswork.

Stay Back Or I Will Blind Your Eyes With Crappy Graphics

In a deviation for the original the screen uses the flick-scroll method to move the action along, whereas the arcade version used continues push scrolling.

On top of all of this the in-game music is absolute torture - and I mean torture. I think the developers must have realised how bad the game was and just stuck it in there for a laugh or a distraction. It is even worse than listening to a Celine Dion album on endless repeat - that's just how bad the in-game music is.

All in all this game is a load of old cack. Anyone who played it back then will probably still shudder at the thought of it. Nice loading screen though.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum Emulator and download anything but Kung Fu master! Alternatively you could try and play something else online.

GENRE: Arcade Game (Beat Em Up)
RELEASE DATE: 1986
RELEASED BY: US Gold
DEVELOPER(S): David J Anderson (loading screen by F David Thorpe)
PRICE: £7.95 -UK

Quick cash-in conversions are the order of the day....

Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

2 Mar 2012

Spectrum Games - Dark Star - Classic ZX Spectrum game

Darkstar ZX Spectrum
This retro classic is one of the finest ever vector graphics arcade games to grace the ZX Spectrum (or any other 8-bit micro for that matter).

This classic game was released at the tail end of 1984 and was met with universal praise from pretty much everyone; and with good reason too.

Design Design were one of the more 'wacky' software houses during the 8-bit era and their games were usually of high quality, slightly quirky, supremely slick and full of hidden features.

In fact I have a feature that goes more in-depth to the hidden gems to be found in this game here.

But for now let's take a look at a real classic game that still plays superbly in 2012.

Dark Star loads up
The Dark Star galaxy was divided into a 16 by 16 grid of sectors in the vacuum of space. No one can hear you scream either.

Anyway - there is a lot to describe in this game so here goes...

The LIAR's (what a great name for your ship!) battle computer generated a real time display on your screen which displayed all activity in your immediate vicinity.

As well as showing enemy ships and any missiles they fired at you, this display also showed energy concentrations (blue squares) and Warp Gates to hyperspace (yellow squares).

Flying through space towards those warp-gates

Flying through an energy concentration enabled LIAR to increase its supply of shield energy (energy used to operate the ship's navigation and weaponry systems was generated by an internal energy source - handy!)

Your weaponry was aimed by manoeuvring the ship via the central cross-hair, whilst of course the ship could be made to travel at various speeds using the accelerate or decelerate keys. It was classic arcade 3D action all the way.

As you cruised your way around space enemy ships would sporadically appear and take pot-shots at you; their missiles would deplete your shield energy rapidly so fancy flying and shooting was needed to take these bad boys out.

The overall object of the game was to liberate your galaxy from domination by the Evil Lord's tyrannical Empire. (Sounds familiar? I'm sure I heard this before a long, long time ago...)

To achieve this aim you had to wipe out all of the enemy's military centres on the planets within your galaxy which were displayed in green on the Tactical Sector Map.

The tactical galactic sector scan
Moving from one sector to another required you to make a transition to hyperspace.

This was done by first finding a set of Warp Gates, which were displayed as four yellow squares (arranged in a North, South, East, West formation) which shrunk and expanded as they opened and closed.

Flying into one of these whilst it was open took you in the direction you had chosen to move within the galactic grid.

The route through hyperspace was mapped out as a rectangular tunnel which weaved and turned as you navigated your way through it. Accurate flying was required here as travelling outside of this tunnel really put a drain on your shield energy; not to mention a slight crimp on your day.

Each sector of space you entered contained planets. You could investigate any planet by flying down onto the surface, which was achieved by flying directly into a planet (as if on a collision course). This would then switch your view to the planet surface as you entered the atmosphere.

Planetary data was displayed with some humorous text

The surface of a planet occupied by enemy forces was defended by anti-aircraft weaponry set atop towering structures.

These could be disabled by firing on the towers which collapsed very nicely when hit with your forward firing lasers. Missiles aimed at you could be shot out of the sky or avoided - and as you would expect too many missile hits resulted in game over.

Certain areas on the planet were defended by force shields which damaged you if flown through. Handily though, holes in these fields were displayed as rectangles which you could fly through to stop any damage to your ship.

Each enemy base on the planets were hidden in the centre of a ring of defences, and were also protected by three towers. These three towers generated the planetary defence shields, which had to be destroyed by destroying all of the bases on the planet, allowing you to escape the atmosphere and return to space.

Destroying these towers liberated the planet from the evil empire allowing you to move on to the next one.

In short this meant that if you ended up strafing a planet you could not escape again until all the bases on it were destroyed. (In the usual Design Design game customisation this feature could be disabled from within the game options menus)

Your computer could also display a tactical map of the surface, showing defences, bases and fuel dumps. Your position (and direction) were denoted on the map by a white arrow. The tactical map usually had humorous notes on the atmosphere (such as cold, wet and awful, just like Manchester) and further funny comments. These were classic gaming features from Simon Bratell.

Once all of the planets with military installations had been liberated then the game was won. Sounds easy no? Well let me tell you it isn't...

On Release:
Crash magazine ran a lot of previews of this game and when it was finally released they awarded it a well deserved 'smash' status. They also awarded it a score of 100% for their use of computer category, due to the awesome amount of customisation that you could perform on the game. Changing the enemy type, the screen display type, the enemy missile types, the sound effects, the fully define-able keys, the 'Universe Stopwatch Mode', the changing high-score table each time you loaded the game.... The amount of effort and attention put into this game was mightily impressive.

The game was also praised for it's ultra-fast and flicker free vector graphics which were, at the time, the fastest and smoothest to ever grace the Spectrum. In fact they were probably never bettered until the sequel to this game came along.

This game was a big hit and is for me a classic game from the 8-bit era.

The test of time:
You know what? This game still rocks.

Once I had played it a few times it all came flooding back. The blue energy squares, the warp gates, the planetary defences. The game zips along at a breakneck speed and plays along smoother than polished ice. The way the graphics move, the way the towers collapse as you shoot them, the transition through the warp gates; it is all completely flicker free and oozes class.

There is plenty of challenge in here - and even if your reflexes ain't what they used to be you can customise the game perfectly to give you more of a fighting chance. Cramming this much into a ZX Spectrum was a programming miracle and for me it has stood up to the ravages of time very well. The full screen display is also impressive (using the Spectrum's border area during gameplay) and highlights just how much can be squeezed out of so little.

Even when you have lost the game you can have a lot of fun with the high score table which may even respond to whatever you type in. (Try entering 'Design Design', 'Computer and Video Games' and more.

Remember to read Dark Star Cheat Codes for more high-score table shenanigans.

Another famous high-score table from Design Design

Please, give this classic game a go. If you like vector graphics games then this one has to be on your list.

Oh - and as the inlay to the game said:
If it moves, shoot it. If it doesn't move - shoot it anyway. If it's sqaure - fly through it.

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

GENRE: Arcade Game (Vector Graphics)
RELEASE DATE: End of 1984
RELEASED BY: Design Design Software
DEVELOPER(S): Simon Bratell, Graham Stafford, Neil Mottershead, Jon Ritman
PRICE: £7.50 -UK

Classic Arcade Action:

Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

10 Feb 2012

Spectrum Games - World Class Leaderboard - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

World Class Leaderboard
Ahh the Leaderboard games - the first 'proper' golf computer games that I ever played.

Here I am looking at World Class Leaderboard which was released in 1987 by US Gold. A great game coded by a great coder; Jim Bagley who will be known to Spectrum fans for the excellent conversion of the classic arcade games Midnight Resistance and Cabal.

For fans of golf back in the 1980s the leaderboard games really were something; at last there was a decent simulation of golf as an 'arcade game' that was pretty realistic and included elements of the real sport.

Let's go Happy Gilmore in 8-bits
The game took a nice 3D view of each hole you were playing and included some nice scenery such as trees aligning the fairway as well as course hazards such as bunkers.

Of course the aim of the game was to reach the green in as few shots as possible before putting out and moving on to the next hole.

'Real' golf features were in there including being able to 'hook' or 'slice' your shots, the use of a proper full set of clubs and depending on which difficulty level chosen varying gusts of winds could buffet you as you played your shots.

What was good about this game is the fact that you really could vary your shots and the game did match golf quite accurately.
1 Wood to the green? It can be done....

Even (at the time) the relatively slow screen re-draw rate was acceptable as we knew that the computer was working out where your ball was and how the course would look from that position.

These games must go down as the first proper simulations of the sport and their influence on modern games such as Nintendo Wii golf can not be underestimated.

For me this is a classic sporting game for the ZX Spectrum that pleased fans of the sport as well as fans of arcade games. Even the price of £8.99 was reasonable for a title as well put together as this.

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

GENRE: Arcade Game (Sports Simulation)
RELEASE DATE: 1987
RELEASED BY: US Gold
DEVELOPER(S): Jim Bagley
PRICE: £8.99 - UK

All we need now is Peter Allis....

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Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

20 Jan 2012

Spectrum Games - V - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

V ZX Spectrum
Ahh V.

One of my favourite TV shows from the 80s. It had the awesome and spooky intro music, it had Mike Donovan in his scarily tight faded denims, it had Ham Tyler being the utlimate badass and above all it had Diana; the sexy alien leader who warped peoples minds in the conversion chamber whilst simultaneously turning on teenage lads up and down the land.

When I found out my favourite show was being made into a computer game I was as excited as Jeff Minter on a Llama farm - and with Ocean Software at the helm it should turn out to be great.

The alien invasion show was classic material and the basis for a classic arcade game. Or was it?

Lets hammer punch those lizards back off the planet  -  nice loading screen
You played the part of Mike Donovan - resistance leader and all round good guy. The game took place on board one of the visitors motherships, with you attempting to sabotage it by planting bombs in various key locations.

In true arcade game style though there were some security precautions to prevent intruders like yourself from getting far. In particular (and this is where the game fell down straight away), four kinds of robots were roaming around the ship:
1) Surveillance - follows you and enables the Visitors to track you
2) Maintenance - fairly harmless; fixes things aboard the ship
3) Cleaner - airborne janitor robots, in effect
4) Security - should be avoided like the plague; fast and dangerous

We did not want robots chasing us! We wanted the alien lizards! This was V - not invasion of the robot monsters....

All the robots were electrified to prevent interference. Contact with them will gave you a nasty shock - and receiving too many shocks resulted in game over.
Mike Donovan explores never ending corridors in V
As usual for computer games from this era it was all about exploration, opening locked doors with codes and using teleporters (teleporters in V?) to move around the ship.

The problem here was that it just want't V. The ship was never ending (and remarkably dull) corridors that looked identical - I remember being excited running past a hanger with one of the fighter ships in it which was the only thing that resembled anything from the TV show.


With no aliens to fight, a lazer gun to only shoot at robots, no conversion chamber to avoid and no sign of Diana the game became repetitive and duller than a dull thing that's been covered in black matt paint and dropped in the bottom of a well.


Crash Magazine asked 'Where are the Visitors?' and gave it 70% overall - which I thought was a tad generous.

On Release:
This is a classic game that was hyped up a lot prior to it's release. The TV show had been an absolute sensation - and a game tie-in was inevitable. The general feeling was that it was a decent game that could have been any old arcade adventure; it was as if the TV tie-in was an afterthought. 
Which it probably was to make money.

The Test Of Time:
It was a pretty average arcade game back then so by todays standards it has aged badly. With repetitive and endless corridors and little in the way of arcade action I can't really recommend it. Nice animation on the main character though.

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

GENRE: Arcade Game (TV Tie In)
RELEASE DATE: 1986
RELEASED BY: Ocean Software
DEVELOPER(S): Nick Bruty, Gary Knight, F David Thorpe
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

So so arcade action:
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Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

The Retro Brothers Favourite ZX Spectrum Games...

Jetpac Remake