ZX Spectrum Games

ZX Spectrum Games

28 Feb 2010

Spectrum Games - Ping Pong - ZX Spectrum classic game

ZX Spectrum Ping Pong
Ping Pong was a conversion of the classic arcade game by Konami. It was released by Imagine Software in April of 1986 and was developed by Doug Burns (or Bernie Duggs) who would go on to create the excellent Hypaball.

Anyway, this classic game was a simulation of table tennis - and was the best version of the sport on the ZX Spectrum by far.

Ping Pong ZX Spectrum

The game followed the rules of table tennis - so the winner was the first to score eleven points. If the game was tied at ten points each (deuce) then the first person to go two points clear of the other was the winner.

The game took a viewpoint of just behind your end of the table, with the table and net viewed in front of you. Player one always took this viewpoint - so the computer or human player two controlled the bat at the 'far end' of the table. The perspective viewpoint on the table was pretty good.

In a nice touch there were onlookers on each side of the table, with the folks on the left cheering every point you won. The 'crowd' reminded me of the spectators that featured in Daley Thompsons Decathlon with the round of applause they gave you on winning a point.

Konamis game played well on the Spectrum Your bat was displayed 'floating' on the screen and the computer controlled it's movement (as in left and right movement). You had to time your shots and choose to go forehand or backhand. You could also slice or drive your shots back - a good variety of shots could be produced once you got the hang of the game.

If a ball bounced up high towards you it was also possible to smash a return back - which could be satisfying as you walloped away another winner.

There were five skill levels to play against (1 to 5) and level five was played at warp speed with your opponent very difficult to beat. I never managed to beat level 5 anyway.

It should be noted that this arcade game featured excellent synthesised two channel menu music (probably the first of it's kind on the ZX Spectrum) which is now down in the history of great Spectrum music.

On Release:
Well the original arcade game by Konami had not been very popular in the UK (I don't know why) so the game did not generate a lot of excitement at first. However, word soon spread about the music and then the gameplay. This game was a superb arcade conversion that was playable and addictive both in single player mode and two player mode. Crash magazine awarded it a Crash Smash rating and rightly so. This game went on to be a big hit on the Spectrum, and another for Imagine Software.

The test of time:
Well after playing this once more I still really like it. It's still playable and once you get the hang of it (all over again!) you realise that a good game is in there. The graphics were never the best, but they serve their purpose and work well within the game. The shots you can make sort of remind me of Wii tennis - in fact a version of this on the Wii would be superb!

This classic arcade game for the ZX Spectrum is definately worth another look after all these years.

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

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASED BY: Imagine Software
DEVELOPER(S): Doug Burns
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

I put up a brave fight in this classic arcade game. Note the excellent (and ground breaking) theme tune too:

Arcade Games and Classic Games

20 Feb 2010

Spectrum Games - Kokotoni Wilf - ZX Spectrum classic game

ZX Spectrum Kokotoni Wilf
Ahhh now this is a slightly lesser known gem. Kokotoni Wilf was a slightly unusual arcade game from Elite software (who had just changed their name from Richard Wilcox software). It was released for the ZX Spectrum in October of 1984.

Anyway, in Wilf you played the winged hero in this 63 flick screen 'platform game'.

Apparently several hundred years ago in a province of Northern Europe there lived a 'Great Magician' (Derren Brown?) who discovered that there had once existed a Dragon Amulet. Fragments of this amulet had been scattered throughout time.

Wilf Gets 'Koky'
The Great Magician wanted to recover all of the fragments but by the time he had discovered it's existence he was too old to undertake the mission himself - a bit of a downer. So he summoned his athletic protege, (Kokotoni Wilf - you), gave him a pair of wings and sent him off in search of the fragments. Let the wing-flapping adventure commence!

You began the game more than 500 million years ago (when Dinosaurs roamed the earth).

The object of the game was to search for the various pieces of the amulet, which resembled glowing Stars of David (63 pieces in total - one on each screen) and when all the pieces had been collected from one time zone, the Magician had enough magical power to create a flashing timegate which you could enter to travel to the next time zone.

There were six periods in history to visit - each having roughly ten screens to fly through. The periods were: 965BC, 1066, 1467, 1784, 1984 and 2001

Kokotoni avoids John Hammonds creatures on the ZX Spectrum
Welcome To Jurassic Park
As Kokotoni Wilf you could fly around the levels which were populated by scenery and creatures from the era you were in. You had to avoid dinosaurs, poisonous plants, warriors with longbows etc etc.

What is quite funny now is when you get the 'future' of 2001 the screens are filled with space shuttles, satellites and so on. How far and distant the year 2001 seemed back in 1984. Well unfortunately we're still in petrol cars and no-one has invented anti-grav boots yet!

The amulet pieces were located in tricky to reach places (well as the game progressed they were) and sometimes you had to make Wilf 'hover' before making a quick move to make your way past a nasty. When you didn't press the 'fly' key Wilf would descend downwards until he hit solid ground - so you had to tap the fly key to keep him airborne and level. A similar method would be used later on in the arcade game Airwolf.

The game was over when you gathered all 63 pieces (not easy!) - and Elite actually offered the first 100 gamers to finish it a copy of their next release which was 'The Fall Guy'. I think that game turned out to be a bit of dud actually.

On Release:
Well this game was set to take on the mighty Jet Set Willy - a flick screen arcade game with roughly the same amount of screens. The fact that you could fly added a different slant to the platform genre. It wasn't quite as playable as Matthew Smith's classic game - but it was a good game in it's own right. Kokotoni Wilf was a fairly big hit and put the name 'Elite' into the minds of ZX Spectrum gamers.

The test of time:
Well Kokotoni is a bit of a cult classic game in the realm of Spectrum Games. It's quite easy to get into but get's really difficult as you progress. Not bad and a testament to the time it was created.

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

Be Wilf-ful and play it!

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: October 1984
PRICE: £5.95 - UK

Flap away with Kokotoni Wilf - a neat twist on the platform arcade game genre:

Wilf goes further and further in this classic arcade game:

Classic GamesArcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

15 Feb 2010

Spectrum Games - Chronos - ZX Spectrum retro game - arcade game

Chronos ZX Spectrum
This game was a budget £1.99 release for the ZX Spectrum by Mastertronic in 1987.

In this solid enough scrolling arcade game you had to resuce poor old Chronos (the lord of time no less) who had been imprisoned in another dimension by the Dimension Weavers. The poor bugger.

For a budget game it was actually pretty decent and it also featured some fantastic beeper music.

ZX Spectrum Chronos
You had to fly you craft (which looked like the craft from Ultimate's Cyberun!) across the left to right scrolling landscape blasting away at plenty of nasties, many of which were not the sharpest of bad guys. Watch them blindly fly into varying parts of the landscape - saving you the bother of shooting them.

Your ship could move up, down, left, right and of course was equipped with a forward firing lazer.

There were six levels in total (signified by the changing colour of the graphics as you progressed) and in true classic arcade fashion the game became more difficult the further you progressed.

The game went for the monochromatic look (which was probably a good choice) and had two layers of scrolling, which was smooth enough to make the game playable.

Killing everything in sight There were plenty of different enemies to avoid or destroy such as fighters, ying-yang type floating things, orbs and so on.

There were also laser barriers which had to be destroyed (by shooting the top or bottom part of them) and blastable blocks which had to be cleared away with trusty trigger finger action.

This game does sort of remind me of the classic arcade game Scramble with the maze like levels and constant scrolling.

The game was 'completed' once you breached level 6 and Chronos was rescued - no doubt just in the nick of time.

On release:
Well Chronos was a decent enough arcade game and for £1.99 was value for money. It picked up a bit of a cult status due to the impressive synthesiser style menu music and humorous high score table which would answer you with witty responses should you enter 'naughty words' instead of your name. There were also numerous Chronos cheat codes which could be activated through the high score table too - try typing in Peter Gough for starters.

The test of erm... time
Well it's a simle shooter that is still fairly playable - there are plenty of worse arcade games for the ZX Spectrum. Easy to pick up and play - give it a go to remember that Spectrum budget games could be decent.

Jing it baby!

Download a Spectrum Emulator and download this classic game for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

Tim Follin's impressive menu music:

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASED BY: Mastertronic
DEVELOPER(S): Steven Tatlock, John Tatloc, Tim Follin
PRICE: £1.99 - UK

Onto level 2 in Chronos - classic arcade game action...

Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

10 Feb 2010

Spectrum Games - Programmer Interview - Dave Hawkins

Dave Hawkins
Dave Hawkins was active in the computer games industry during the 1980's working on the Commodore 64 and of course, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Dave recently who was more than happy to take us through his ZX Spectrum coding days when he developed classic games such as Starmaker, Wizards Warrior and Stranded.

Wizards Warrior ZX Spectrum

1: What was the first computer you ever programmed on? And how old were you at the time?
That would be the ZX81. I'd guess I would have been 12-13 years old. At the time I didn't have a computer of my own, the one I used to program on at first belonged to a friend of mine. We used to experiment with simple Space Invader type games, but he only had the 1k version so they were pretty small.

He and his family went on holiday and he lent the ZX for the week. I don't think I got off of it in that entire time. I guess my interest was apparent by then as the day my friend came back from holiday and I had to return the ZX my parents went out and brought me my own, complete with the 16k ram pack. I couldn't believe at the time how much memory it had!

2: How did you get into developing games? Did it start with BASIC programming before moving into other languages?
Well, I imagine like most people who write games it all started with me playing them. I was very interested in Dungeons and Dragons at the time but never really felt the early computer games covered what I wanted to play. So my real interest to develop went on from there.

I started out with BASIC and then moved onto Z80 and 6502. I was pretty lazy when it came down to anything complex at the time so most of my early games would be written in BASIC, only delving into machine languages when BASIC simply couldn't cope.

As time moved on, I guess I used BASIC less and less for the machines of the time, but it still remains my prefered language.

3: How was the Quill to work with?
I have to be honest and say I didn't really use the Quill that much. I'm guessing that this question comes from an error on the World of Spectrum site which states that The Wizards Warrior was written using Quill. In fact Wizards Warrior was written using PAW. So if you don't mind I'll tell you how PAW was to work with.

As I said, being lazy, PAW was a godsend for me. The ability to design your game with all of the grunt work already done was great. I found PAW to be an excellent and very flexible application and to this day still think of it as one of the best games design packages ever written. I think that after Wizards Warrior and the experiences I learnt from it's development, I was really able to began to push PAW to it's limits (or my limits!).

Something I really loved about the old Spectrum days was that it was so much easier to alter the main program code for your own use. I wrote another text adventure called Stranded which I felt at the time had many of the features I wanted to see.

I like to build core engines to base games upon and Stranded was the start of that. It had exits commands, the ability to push, pull, throw, stand on, lie on etc.. almost all objects. I tried to make the game as interactive as possible and I guess was quite pleased with the results.

There was a further refined version of the engine after this date which allowed for far more complex interaction but due to a very unfortunate accident all of my work was lost. After that I think I reverted to doing things the hard way but didn't ever get around to writing any further adventure games for the Spectrum.

4: The graphics on Wizards Warrior were very impressive. Did you draw the graphics for your text adventure games? If so - how did you create them?
Firstly, that's very kind of you to say. The graphics are obviously very dated now but I guess they were okay for the time.

As I said above, Wizards Warrior was written using PAW so the graphics were created using the internal system.I did draw them myself and although I tried to maintain a theme throughout I found memory constantly becoming an issue. So in retrospect it would have been nice to have improved upon them.

The sequel to Wizards Warrior, High Odds, which was sadly never released (and even I no longer have a copy) was written in 2 parts, this gave me a much greater range of options and enabled me to include graphics which changed with events. So, maybe it would have been better for Wizard Warriors to also have been written using that method..

Still... it can't be helped now. I pretty much consider Wizards Warrior as a whole to have been a good learning experience.

5: Did you have a favourite text adventure on the Spectrum and which of your own computer games were you most proud of?
I wouldn't say I had one single text adventure that was my favourite. I obviously loved the Hobbit and although I don't think it was as popular as many other games I really enjoyed Sherlock, again by Beam Software. I had many of the Level 9 games and still occasionally play them when I'm in a quiet mood.

As for which of my own games was I the most proud of? Hmmm.. Of the Spectrum games I guess at the time Stranded, mainly for the reason stated above, but having replayed Starmaker again recently, It seemed a lot better than I remembered and it was my first commercial game so it has some sentimental value as well. I can't really choose between them so I'm going to sit on the fence and say both Wizards Warrior and Starmaker equally.

6: I see you developed a game called Caterpilla which was never released. What kind of game was it and what happened to it?
Caterpilla was a Centipede clone and was my first full Z80 arcade game. I don't think it was picked up by anyone, but has been included in the World of Spectrum site for completeness. To be honest I think the gaming world was swamped with that sort of thing at the time and was really just a side project for me to improve my programming skills.

I learnt a lot from it and still use many of the techniques I developed then in my current programming projects.

7: Were you an adventure only player or did you play arcade style games too?
I was far from being a adventure only player. I really enjoyed writing adventure and strategy games, which is why most of my published work went down that route, but I played many different types of games.

If I had a favourite Spectrum arcade game it would have to be "Escape from Krakatoa" which I played endlessly.. (and again, I played it just the other day and enjoyed it just as much.).

(I must agree it is a great arcade game)
Funnily enough I'm working on a remake at the moment of it, so I guess it did inspire me a great deal.

8: Were you given free-reign to develop your games or did other people have input too?
I mostly had a free-reign over my work as almost all of it was written on a Freelance basis. Once a game was accepted by a publisher they would obviously want little changes, so there would be input from them then, but mostly I got to put in what I wanted and most of it stayed as written.

9: Starmaker was an enjoyable game and something quite different when it came out. Where did the inspiration come from?
As well as being playing adventure games I was a great fan of management games at the time, and pretty much like the adventure games I felt that many of them didn't have what I wanted.

Don't get me wrong, there were some truly excellent games out there, but at the time, most companies were happy with pure text, often black and white with the occasional splash of red or green thrown it to highlight the important bits.

Even towards the end, many management games had almost no graphics and hardly any sound. So, the intention was to write a fun game which included these brighter elements. This game was also the only one of mine that you could say was co-written as most of the design came from my older sisters.

So, it was more of a family effort. I guess that was where the inspiration came from and apart from the obvious, music is the next big thing in the lives of most 14-15 year olds, so I was writing a game about something that I thought I understood (naive fool that I was).

Starmaker on the ZX Spectrum
10: What did you get up to after the Spectrum scene dwindled away in the early 1990's?
A quick potted history of the last 20 years:- Well, I've always continued programming as a personal hobby, after the Spectrum and the Commodore 64, I moved onto the Amiga and then the PC.

But as we all know the computer games industry didn't have much need for freelancers at the end of the 1980's and having left home in 1989 I was surprised to find that if I wanted to eat I had to find work.

I had quite a few jobs, starting out with working in a garage in the forecourt and delivering cars, and then various temping jobs. I like many people at the time went travelling around Asia during 1991, which was an eye opener and after that took an NVQ in business management which quite frankly has been almost no use what-so-ever.

I pretty much carried on in various long-term temping jobs until around the beginning of 2003 when I started work for the UK government, firstly promoting Sustainable Transportation and then working as a Highways Technician. (Which in short meant that I made sure housing developers build roads correctly).

My very understanding wife and I left England to live in France around the end of 2007 where I've continued to write small PC games, some of which I publish on my website for free to anyone who is interested and I am currently around half way through writing a novel. (which hasn't taken 3 years to get this far, but with all the other things I want to get done is taking a while!). That's about it, 20 years of life in 12 lines...

11: With Spectrum retro gaming (and new releases) being popular - any chance you could create another adventure or strategy type game for the Spectrum now?
I guess it's tempting, I only recently realised how popular new Spectrum software has become.

As you may have guessed I'm a great one for starting new projects and then finding it's taking an age to finish, mostly because I get another idea and then put the previous project to one side for awhile only to pick it up 12 months later.

I'm currently working on a remake of Starmaker for the PC, the "Escape from Krakatoa" remake, a version of the classic game Breakout/Arkanoid (I like classic games and would like to include more on my website for nostalga.), a "Son of Blagger" remake (which to be fair isn't that far away from being finished), another scrolling platform game, which is sort of a sequel to a game I wrote for the PC called Lost Caverns, which in turn was inspired by all of the old Manic Miner/Jet Set Willy type platform games.

I'm also working on a 3D puzzle game based around the real world Labyrinth game, where you navigate a metal ball around a wooden maze by tilting it. All of this in addition to attempting to finish my book. So as you can see I've got a few projects underway at the moment and probably shouldn't start another yet.

However, that said, it would be nice to have another go at writing for the Spectrum, but not for the moment I'm afraid.

Many thanks for the questions, it's been entertaining reminiscing and it's good to know that even after all of these years there is still a healthy interest in the whole Spectrum world and those involved not only at the beginning but now

Many thanks Dave for taking the time to do this. Please let us know how your remakes go too!

Dave's website is at http://jimjamsgames.yolasite.com/

ZX Spectrum Games and Classic Games

2 Feb 2010

Spectrum Games - Hyper active - ZX Spectrum retro game - arcade game

ZX Spectrum Hyper Active
Hyper Active was a Sinclair User covertape arcade game in 1988. I tell you what, for a freebie attached to the cover of a gaming magazine, Hyper Active was pretty good!

Taking inspiration from the classic arcade game Defender, this game had you as an astronaut trapped on an unstable asteroid.

ZX Spectrum Hyperactive
You had to collect a series of energy pods (one at a time) by touching them. On contact they would float and circle around you - keeping close by as you jetted around the scrolling level. In the centre of the level there was a crystal repository where you would drop the pods off at. So - drop one off and go find another.

A scanner at the bottom of the screen (again very reminiscent of Defender) showed the locations of each pod as well as the alien nasties that inhabited each level.

Luckily you were armed with a rather splendid lazer gun which zapped the alien hordes very nicely. As the levels progressed your weapon would change to a sort of missle launcher, bomb dropper (on bonus levels) and so on. Good variety actually.

Each level had different nasties to destroy such as weaving dragons (reminded me a little of the dragons in the arcade classic Space Harrier), flying saucers etc.

You also had to watch your shield level and energy level. Losing either meant the loss of one of your three lives or no ammo!

If you dallied around too much on a level then a rapid flying homing saucer would be on your ass like attribute clash on Wally Week - and a bit of nifty flying was required to nail it.

Once you had made your way through each level you were returned the start with the difficulty ramped up... It looks like there was no way out afterall for our poor star traveller.

It should also be noted that this game featured some absolutely stonking menu music. Keith Tinman's theme tune is superb and ranks amongst my favourite ZX Spectrum music.

The excellent music to set the scene of this arcade game...

The only downside to this classic game is the main character is a little difficult to control - it can be fiddly lining up to shoot down the nasties. Having said that once you get the hang of the gravity effect (which is nicely balanced) it's pretty much okay.

Hyperactive ZX SpectrumAll in all for a freebie this game was superb - I would have been happy to part with £2.99 for it!

I think I'm also correct in saying that Joffa Smith developed this game in roughly five days - not bad going eh?

GENRE: Arcade Game
RELEASED BY: Special FX Software - Sinclair User Covertape
DEVELOPER(S): Jonathan Smith and Keith Tinman (music)

Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

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