ZX Spectrum Wheelie
Microsphere followed up their previous release (The Train Game) and released Wheelie for the ZX Spectrum in 1983 and let's say it was something a little different (in the arcade game genre) when it hit the high street stores.
In Wheelie you had just taken delivery of the ultimate in two-wheeled machines - the powerful four cylinder fuel-injected and turbo charged Zedexaki 500.
While you were out on the road trying this beast of a bike out, you came across a sign saying ‘Private road — no speed limit to brave riders’. Getting yourself far too excited you entered the driveway and the gates slammed shut behind you. You were now trapped inside Nightmare Park! (Cue scary music)
Your only way out now was to find the ghostrider (how did you know he was there?), who was dozing somewhere off to the right of the park, wake him up and then race against him. The park was full of wildlife, (humorously experts in karate although they never performed any 'moves'), so bumping into any animal was not good for your health (you lost a life).
The scrolling levels were displayed in the form of four ‘roads’ stacked one on top of another like a cross section through underground caverns. The four were not always visible to you, and any road travelled on could run steeply uphill or downhill to another cavern roadway. There were thin ‘uphill/downhill’ lines across some roadway sections, and you could make the bike travel down a level if the down key was pressed, and uphill by pressing the up key.
Apart from the park wildlife (which included jumping kangaroos and giant hedgehogs) there were plenty of other obstacles to overcome.
Humps in the road could only be got over by accelerating rapidly and performing a ‘wheelie’ which allowed the front wheel to ride up and over the hump. Sometimes, in true Eddie Kidd or Evil Knievel style, you had to jump over a double decker bus! Getting the timing right took a fair bit of skill and practice: going too slow meant you hurtled into the roof of the bus. Too fast and your rider was sent flying through the air.
On top of all of this some sections of the caverns were iced over which had to be ridden over slowly or your poor biker would be sent sprawling.
Running into a dead end killed you if you did not hit the brakes in time, and even going downhill too fast could be rather fatal as your rider went flying over the handlebars.
Gas stations (represented by the word 'GAS') were dotted around the caves and running into them topped your fuel level up to maximum. Each gas station could only be used once though - and if you ran out of gas then once again it was the loss of a life.
To be promoted to the next level required completing the one you were currently on. You would then be given a code to enter the next stage.
As the game was scrolling you could ride the bike in either direction and sometimes you needed to do this, working out your route by moving up and down through the roads and avoiding the dead-ends. Once you made it to the right hand side of the level you were free to race against the 'ghostrider'.
Well Wheelie was certainly something different when it was released on the ZX Spectrum and Microsphere had another hit on their hands. Riding the bike, timing the jumps over parked buses and cars, performing wheelies over humps, searching for fuel and avoiding the nasties made for an exciting arcade game. A biking game like this had never been seen on the Speccy before (bike games were usually in the racing genre) and it established Microsphere in the gaming sector.
The test of time:
Well here in the land of ZX Spectrum Games we do have a soft spot for Wheelie. It was one of the first games I ever played on the Sinclair Spectrum (I borrowed a friends copy) and loved it. You know, it's still not bad and riding around the caves jumping over buses is still good for a laugh. The sound effects are a bit grating and the scrolling does show it's age. This is made even funnier by the fact that Microsphere stated that Wheelie would contain 'some of the best graphics you're ever likely to see on a Spectrum' :-)
It's really retro now, more so than many other games in my opinion, but stick with it and you'll see there is a good little game in there - a good example of a really early classic arcade game for the ZX Spectrum.
We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair hardware but if not then download Wheelie for a ZX Spectrum emulator. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
Give Wheelie a go. It's 'wheelie' good. I 'wheelie' mean it etc etc....
Please see our other ZX Spectrum game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.
GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: 1983
RELEASED BY: Microsphere
PRICE: £5.95 - UK
Mart needs to rollback the years in Wheelie... classic arcade action:
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