ZX Spectrum Earthlight
Good old Pete Cooke and Ian Ellery who had previously collaborated on excellent 3D arcade games such as Academy and Tau Ceti came up with another winner for the ZX Spectrum yet again with this classic arcade game.
Pete Cooke was known as a 3D specialist and would port the Commodore Amiga classic game Stunt Car Racer to the ZX Spectrum in 1989.
But enough of the incidental information, Earthlight was released in the summer of 1988 by Firebird software to high praise and numerous accoldades.
As soon as the game loaded up you just knew it was going to be good. The nice 'earth rise' loading screen came to life. The games title 'shimmered' as a nice roll-over effect moved from left to right across each letter. All in all, extremely cool.
Moving into the games option screens saw something very similar to a mouse pointer to choose start levels, control method and so on. Once again, pretty smart stuff (especially for the ZX Spectrum) and a little bit ahead of it's time.
The impressive title screen in this classic arcade game:
Anyway, like any good arcade game - this one had an imaginative back story.
An alien named Slaatn was on a routine intergalactic garbage collecting mission. Without warning he was drawn off course by a strong force coming from the direction of Earth and was forced to make a hasty emergency landing on the moon. The Slaatn had landed.
Alone on the airless world, Slaatn had only one chance of escape: Neutralise the moon's box transmitters and eliminate the offending force field. If only Obi-Wan had been around to do this for him....
The game took place over four levels, each of which was divided into eight zones. These zones could be tackled in any order. For some reason the moon's surface was a smooth chequered pattern - but it was pitted with the odd crater and other obstacles.
Planet earth could be seen hanging in space in the background, smoothly rotating at a speed that meant a day would last around two seconds!
Anyway, using a stolen saucer like craft you had to skim the moon's surface and collect each and every one of these box transmitters. Your craft could move left and right and had a nice and quick top speed. The screen would smoothly scroll as you skimmed along - with impressive parallax perspective as you went.
Your craft could also increase and decrease in height which was useful for avoiding tall structures on the surface. It was also equiped with a finite supply of missiles - and you needed them to take out enemy craft which were out to stop you. Colliding with an alien craft or a structure on the surface reduced your ships shields - and if the shield was fully depleted then you lost one of your three lives.
But the real trick to this game was the 3D effect. You could move the craft 'in' and 'out' of the screen - meaning you could move further 'away' from your own viewpoint. The ship decreased in size perfectly as you moved away - and increased again as you moved 'towards' your viewpoint. You could pull some pretty impressive moves as you skimmed along, climbing and weaving in and out of the moon's obstacles.
To clear a zone you had to collect all the transmitters and clearing all eight zones meant you moved to the next level. You always had to keep and eye on fuel though as running out meant the loss of a life...
When Earthlight was released ZX Spectrum gamers were impressed with the polished presentation, the games options (you could configure the game by changing level colours etc) and the fact that it was something a little different. The parallax perspective effect was brilliant and the fact that you cold move in and out of the parallax 'area' added depth (no pun intended) to the gameplay. Requiring brains as well as brawn, Earthlight proved that good games were still being made for the Speccy in 1988. At £7.95 is was great value for money too.
The test of time:
This classic game is still playable - no question. Once you get the hang of the controls you realise what a fun game it is. Here in Spectrum games your humble reviewer here has been playing it regularly for the last couple of days. Because you have to think a fair bit and conserve your fuel and missiles it hasn't dated as much as some other shoot em up's from the 80's. A nice and playable arcade classic.
Come on, it's a marvellous night for a moon-dance. Let youself get carried away by a moonlight shadow. Take a giant leap...
We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download this game. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
GENRE: Arcade Game (Shoot em up)
RELEASE DATE: June of 1988
RELEASED BY: Firebird Software
DEVELOPER(S): Pete Cooke and Ian Ellery
PRICE: £7.95 - UK
Impressive programming in this classic arcade game
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