Codename MAT was a space based arcade strategy game that was released for the Speccy back in 1984 by Micromega.
It was programmed by non other than Crash Magazine's adventure reviewer Derek Brewster, and received the coveted 'Crash Smash' award in the May 1984 edition of the same publication. Was it a case of Crash being generous to one of their own? Well, no actually.
Codename MAT was an excellent game and deserved every accolade awarded to it.
Daunting at first, this game was an ambitious piece and proved that a lot of depth could be crammed into only 48KB of RAM.
|Codename MAT loads up on the ZX Spectrum
The cassette inlay card did a great job of setting the scene with the following paragraph:
‘Mission: Alien termination — the desperate plan to place in the mind of a teenager the combined tactical skills of all the planetary leaders in the solar system. MAT is mankind’s last hope... Now your mind is MAT’s mind. Take control of the Centurion and blast off on the greatest adventure of all...'
Your task was to defend Earth and the rest of the solar system against the Myons, a race of aliens hell-bent on the destruction of the human race. A great bunch of lads.
These alien pests are planning on attacking lonely outer planet Pluto first and then working their way inwards towards Earth.
This allowed the game to be divided into 'sectors' comprising of Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and Earth.
The Myons would attack a planet and attempt to reduce it to mere remnants, with the planets remains used to increase the numbers of their attacking fleet. Pretty dastardly eh?
In some cases it was actually better to destroy a planet yourself than to let it fall into Myon claws. The solar system could be viewed via the in game Solar Chart.
|Viewing Earth in Codename MAT on the ZX Spectrum
Stargates were colour coded as red for outer system and cyan for inner system. Travel between sectors within a planetary system was accomplished by means of a warp gate.
Moving the cursor to the desired sector and then the piloting your groovily name ship (The Centurion) through the gate which appeared in front of the craft.
Failure to achieve the transition resulted in the Centurion ending up in some other random sector.
Travel between planetary systems was accomplished by navigating through one of the two stargates in much the same way.
|The Codename MAT sector scan
In fact, the game really opened up once you had mastered the many scanners and instruments in the game.
There was a lot to learn and even the instructions themselves were pretty daunting, but once you had mastered object range, forward and reverse view, tracking computer and the variety of enemy ships you could really start playing the game properly.
The Myon attack commenced as soon as the game had started. Combat with the enemy was quite realistic for the time too; Your craft's instrumentation was vulnerable to damage, which could leave you blind or with limited engine functionality.
If you were badly damaged you could initiate repairs by moving into a stationary orbit around a planet, which would then result in a drone coming up to meet you to refuel and repair all damage to your craft.
Again, to add further depth to the game you could choose to play it with full strategy options (Commander mode) which also put you in control of Planetary Defence Fleets.
These fleets could be moved around and used to help in the battle to great effect, opening up a whole tactical battle mixed with arcade action. I suppose in a way it was a precursor to the likes of the PC Classic Homeworld.
As previously mentioned this game was met with high acclaim. To be fair you did have to invest a lot of time into it before being fully rewarded but once you got the hang of the many controls it was a very enjoyable and quite original gaming experience. It was a big hit for Micromega and went on to spawn a sequel later the same year.
The Test Of Time:
For me this is a real classic retro game from 1984. The level of involvement you could feel was quite special back then and in many ways it was a bit of a ground-breaker. Of course by today's standards it is quite simple and limited but there is till some fun to be had. Especially if you line yourself up in front of a planet and blow it away for no good reason!
We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Codename MAT for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
GENRE: Arcade Strategy Game
RELEASE DATE: 1984
RELEASED BY: Micromega
DEVELOPER(S): Derek Brewster
PRICE: £6.95 - UK
Classic Gaming with Codename MAT:
Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games