ZX Spectrum Games

ZX Spectrum Games

23 Dec 2010

Spectrum Games - 3D Combat Zone - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

3D Combat Zone ZX Spectrum
Here we have a version of the classic Atari arcade game Battlezone on the ZX Spectrum by legendary game coder Jon Ritman.

This game and Realtime's 3D Tank Duel are the best versions I ever played on the Speccy. If you are a fan of Battlezone and wireframe graphics arcade games then this version may be right up your street...

3D Combat Zone - ZX Spectrum

Just like the arcade original you begin the game with three lives. The game takes the viewpoint of looking outwards from the front of your tank, the battlefield complete with various landmarks and of course, enemies to evade and destroy.

The game was predominantly 'green screen' (with enemies in cyan) and used a suitable arcade style font to display current score, menu options and so on.

3D Combat Zone - Nice Battlezone Type Game As far as I know there is no end to the game, you just keep going until you run out of lives. As you destroy an enemy each subsequent bad guy is more difficult to kill than the last. Again this is matching the arcade game.

Oddball pilots his tank... There is not much else to say. For a 1983 game the 3D graphics were very impressive and it certainly wowed a lot of home gamers. The vectors move nice and smoothly and explode nicely when you score a direct hit.

If you like Battlezone and games of this ilk then you can't go far wrong and this is a great example of fine early ZX Spectrum gaming. Jon Ritman would go on to be responsible for many classic games on our favourite 8-bit machine...

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download 3D Combat Zone for the ZX Spectrum. You may even be able to play it online.

It's vector-tastic.

GENRE: 3D vector graphics arcade game
RELEASE DATE: 1983
RELEASED BY: Artic Software
DEVELOPER(S): Jon Ritman
PRICE: £5.95 - UK

Classic Arcade Action:
video

Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

7 Dec 2010

Spectrum Games - Gilligans Gold - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

Gilligans Gold ZX Spectrum
This classic game was a 1984 release for our beloved ZX Spectrum from good old Ocean Software.

It was based on the lesser known 1982 arcade game 'Bagman' by the also lesser known Valadon Automation.

If you liked arcade action and platform games such as Chuckie Egg then you couldn't go far wrong with this offering...

Gilligans Gold - ZX SpectrumThis arcade style game was set in a gold mine and split over three inter-connected screens.

The aim of it was pretty simple: collect the bags of gold, evade the outlaws and use the ladders and carts to negotiate your way around.

Games in 1984 tended to be quite simple so for them to work they had to work. Fortunately this game was damned playable and pretty addictive.

After collecting the bags you had to place them in your wheelbarrow, all done against the clock of course. Each bag deposited increased your alloted time and raised your score. All the while the outlaws were after you - and the gold.

It was possible to jump into the mine-carts by hanging on the ceiling hooks and dropping in as they passed by (which was pretty cool), and you could also run up and down the ladders or use the lifts to get around.

Dropping down a long mine-shaft meant the instant loss of a life.

Gilligan's Gold Level 1 - ZX Spectrum Some of the booty was hidden behind breakable walls. Using a pick-axe would allow you to break through and grab the bag.

In another cool feature bags could be dropped from a height onto the bad guys, which would stun them for a few moments. Stars would whirl around their heads as they lay there concussed, before panting heavily (their stomachs rising and falling) as they began to come around. Using a pick-axe on them had pretty much the same effect.

Touches and attention to detail like this were impressive and added a nice dose of humour to the game.

All in all Gilligans Gold is a good solid arcade game that remains playable due to it's simplicity even to this day.

On Release:
Few people tended to realise that this was pretty much a conversion of an arcade original when it was released in 1984. It was well recieved and achieved a good overall score in the likes of Crash Magazine and once you got the hang of how to play the game it was decidedly addictive. It also featured a neat in game beeper tune which again was pretty nifty at the time. Not quite a classic game, but one worth having for sure.

The Test Of Time:
This is a nice simple game that I enjoyed playing again. Once you get the hang of the controls it plays well, moves at a fair old pace and is real old school gaming. The graphics are by no means the best but they serve their purpose. Not bad, not bad at all.

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair Hardware but if not them download this game for a ZX Spectrum emulator. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

Please see our other ZX Spectrum game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade Game (Platform Game)
RELEASE DATE: 1984
RELEASED BY: Ocean Software
DEVELOPERS: Keith Burkhill, Ronald Rhodes and F.David Thorpe
PRICE: £5.90 - UK

Classic Arcade Action:


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

25 Nov 2010

Spectrum Games - Airwolf II - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

Airwolf 2 ZX Spectrum
So, the sequel to the popular Airwolf arrived for the ZX Spectrum in 1987. It was a change from the previous game and focused more on classic arcade action, borrowing heavily from the likes of Nemesis.

Anwyay, this game actually came bundled with a couple of others; the bizzarely named 'Great Gurianos' and 'Trio'.

Anyway, like the first game in the series, it had little to do with the actual show, apart from the fact that you were gaming with a helicopter.

Airwolf II - ZX Spectrum
The whole premise of the game was that you (as Stringfellow Hawke - I always chortled at that name) had been given a mission to destroy an alien craft which was threatening civilisation! This just would not do.

By collecting and using sophisticated new weaponry you had to overcome the many
perils facing you along the route, ultimately destroying the craft and sending those aliens back across the cosmos with their alien tails between their alien legs.

Airwolf II takes on some alien scum
In true classic arcade fashion it was a horizontal scrolling shoot em up (from left to right) with nasties to shoot and powerups to collect.

All of the usual arcade game suspects were in there, such as shields, double fire, smart bombs yada yada yada. Gun emplacements would take pot shots at you, aliens would sneak up behind you and there were destructable walls which had to be blasted away brick by brick.

The game also 'boasted' some fine features such as:
- REALISTIC HELICOPTER FLIGHT CONTROL
- FRANTIC "BATTLE ACTION" WITH ALIEN STAR SHIPS
- COMPULSIVE GAME PLAY
- MULTIPLE SCROLLING LEVELS

These could not really be counted as fantastic features - surely they are all major requirements of the game? All in all this was a bog standard arcade game that offered nothing over others.

On Release:
This game was met with a lukewarm reception. There were plenty of better arcade games on the Speccy that offered better gameplay, graphics, sound and overall polish. Not bad as part of a trio but folks knew it had little longevity. There was still no sign of the famous theme tune either! Sh*te hawks!

The Test Of Time:
This game is pretty basic. It is by no means total crap, but let's say it has nothing special to offer over other titles. There are plenty of better to play such as Uridium, Cybernoid, Zynaps and even budget game Chronos has some neat cheat codes and easter eggs.

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair Hardware but if not them download other shoot em ups for a ZX Spectrum emulator. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

Please see our other ZX Spectrum game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Scrolling arcade game
RELEASE DATE: 1987
RELEASED BY: Hit Pak
DEVELOPER(S): Neil Latarche
PRICE: £9.95 (as a 3 pack of games) - UK

Classic Arcade Action:
video
Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

12 Nov 2010

Spectrum Games - Programmer Interview - Alberto Gonzalez (Joe McAlby)

ZX Spectrum Alberto Gonzalez (Joe McAlby)
Alberto Gonzalez went under the name of Joe McAlby during his days as a developer on the ZX Spectrum.

He worked with New Frontier software and programmed the graphics and AY music for many arcade games such as The Light Corridor, Hostages, North and South and many more. In my opinion his game music was amongst the very best and really pushed capabilities of the AY hardware.

I was lucky enough to be able to speak to Alberto who was more than happy to discuss his days making those wonderful graphics and music on our beloved Speccy...

1: What was the first computer you ever programmed on, and how old were you at the time?
My first computer was a Casio PB-700, which was not very powerful but at least it ran on batteries, so I was able to bring it everywhere with me. I was 11 at the time.

2: How did you get into the games development scene? Did you have an interest in programming as well as music?
I learned some BASIC with the PB-700's operating manual (that's when they were useful) and I started to program my first games on it.

But, at that time, my main interest was graphic design, since I used to draw a lot on paper. I programmed a small program to make graphics with my PB-700, and the first sprite I made was the soldier of Raffaele Cecco's Exolon; I copied it pixel perfect from a screenshot I found in a Spectrum magazine I used to buy (Microhobby).

At some point I changed that computer for a Spectrum +2 and that was incredible, I could play real arcade games and make true useful graphics! Then I continued making graphics with the Spectrum, and some more BASIC coding.

When I was 16 (in 1988) I found a letter-box with the name 'New Frontier' on it. I remembered it from a game named 'Time Out'. I Knocked their door, they liked my graphics and the next day I was in.

At first I started as a graphic artist, then some day a fellow lent me a copy of the Music Box program for the Spectrum. I started to make music, all sort of melodies, experiments... it was amazing to me. They liked how my music sounded, so I started officially making music too. The next step was learning assembler so I could have all the control over the music, and write my own sound driver and utilities.

Music and programming were both incredible experiences to me, I had much to learn and I was highly motivated.

3: Can you tell me a little about your musical background and knowledge?
Until I started making music with my Spectrum I had no knowledge or interest in music, in the sense that I didn't know I was capable of composing, I had never tried. I played some flute at school when I was 8 but that was all.

I'm not a good student, I need to make things myself to learn, so I never studied music. I always composed instinctively, without knowing much about what I was doing, or how that thing was named. If it sounded good then it must be OK!

It is now that I'm slowly learning some music theory. Now I know what a chord is! But I'm still unable to play any instrument properly.

4: How was programming the single channel Spectrum beeper?
I only made one song with the beeper, for the Light Corridor 48k version, but I didn't write the sound driver; actually I ripped it from another musician (guess who!)

At the time I had enough assembler knowledge to disassemble and understand the code, so I adapted the driver for my own music. I'm a bit embarrassed about that, but I learned a lot from the experience. You know, there was no Internet, or books about that; you had to learn many things that way.

5: How good was it when the machine was released with the AY chip?
Well, I started working professionally at 1988, and my first Spectrum was a +2 which already had the AY, so I didn't experience the transition from the beeper. I enjoyed both sounds, some programmers and musicians did a wonderful job with the beeper that couldn't be replicated on the AY.

6: Was programming the AY chip the same across all machines that used that piece of hardware?
My Spectrum and MSX soundtracks sounded almost the same. The Amstrad versions sounded a bit different. The sound driver was exactly the same, only with small changes to the code used to write to sound registers.

7: I see you also did some graphics work. Can you tell me what sort of things you worked on?
At New Frontier I was responsible of all the sprites and animations of the games. There was other fellow who made the backgrounds and fixed screens. So, I did the sprites for Hostages, North & South and Magic Johnson, in the Spectrum and Amstrad versions. I also made the music for those and other games, as well as some utilities.

Later we started to make Game Boy games, and I did the sprites of Asterix and The Smurfs for the Game Boy and NES consoles. Those were my last graphics, since I had to focus on composing and programming music only for our increasing production.

8: Which game on the ZX Spectrum are you most proud of?
It's hard to say, it depends. I really liked the graphics I did on Hostages and North & South. Both games were fantastic and got very good reviews, specially North & South.

On the other hand there was the Light Corridor, which I really loved to compose the soundtrack.
I'd rather say which one I'm not proud of (except for the music), and that was Magic Johnson. I did a terrible job with that one.

9: Which programmers or musicians impressed you most at the time?
I could name all of them! Some of the favourite programmers that come to my mind just now were Jon Ritman, Mike Lamb, Jonathan Smith (RIP, always remembered), Don Priestley...
About the musicians, many more: David Whittaker, Jonathan Dunn, Ben Daglish, Matthew Cannon, Fred Gray, Dave Rogers... each one had their own techniques and style I loved. But the one who I got most inspiration of is Tim Follin, even now!

10: How was life at Infogrames during the early 1990's?
I didn't work at Infogrames, my company was New Frontier, and we made games for them. Being a Spanish company published by a French one made us almost invisible to the world and even to our own country.

But in New Frontier life wasn't as good as It could have been. I was very young and motivated to learn and experiment with coding, music, and all sort of game things, but we didn't get a good payment for any of our games. The bosses took all the money, and made all sort of never-ending and agonizing excuses not to pay us. But what to do? We wanted to make games, and there was no other game company in Barcelona.

We couldn't earn a salary until we took the control and founded Bit Managers.

11: Do you have any anecdotes or funnies from your Spectrum days that you can tell me about?
There must be some, and good ones, but I can't recall any right now... sorry.

12: How did you come up with the name 'Joe McAlby'? for you Spectrum work?
At New Frontier all of us had nicknames for the games. "Alberto J. Gonzalez" is a name so common and Spanish sounding that I had to find a better alternative. At the time there were lots of famous Mc names (MC Hammer, McDonalds, Paul McArtney, Marty McFly...), so I thought I could use that before my own name, "Alby". Some time later I added the first name Joe, which is almost my second real name, "Jose". I take MC as Music Creator :)

Once I started making music for consoles I dropped the nickname, but I'm still not getting used to hear my real name pronounced in English! Sounds very weird to me.

13: Finally, can you please let us know what you are up to these days?
Actually I haven't stopped making video games since the Spectrum days. At some point the last New Frontier team (4 people, including myself) founded Bit Managers, where I did dozens of soundtracks for game consoles such as the Gameboy, NES, Master System / Game Gear, SNES, Game Boy Advance... Later I left Bit Managers and founded Abylight with some fellows (at 2003) , and started making more games for Mobile Phones, Nintendo DS / DSi, Iphone, Wii....

Now I'm more focused on game design, but I still do a bit of everything. I'm also still in charge of sound design and programming, but usually music is produced externally.

Cheers and good night!
Alberto

Many thanks Alberto for talking the time to chat.

A nice mix of strategy and arcade action:


One of the greatest ever tunes in an arcade game:


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

9 Nov 2010

Spectrum Games - The Light Corridor - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

The Light Corridor ZX Spectrum
This classic game was released for the ZX Spectrum in 1991 by Infogrames. I suppose it could be classed as a sort of breakout arcade clone with a massive twist.

It was now a 3D vector graphics breakout style game, and very good it was too.

This game was released at a time when the 8-bit to 16-bit transition was gathering pace, but New Frontier software put a lot of polish on this version. If you liked breakout and puzzle games then you wouldn't go far wrong with this one...


The Light Corridor ZX SpectrumThe aim of the game was to negotiate your way along 'The Light Corridor'. Equipped with a translucent raquet you had to guide the metallic sphere (not just a ball!) from the heart of the corridor.

Avoiding the walls and the traps, you had to collect the bonuses on offer and battle your way along, until eventually you would see the light, quite literally, at the end of the tunnel.

The game was spread of four stages and in classic arcade style there were plenty of bonuses to collect and nasties to avoid.

First off, this game had one of the best pieces of title music on the ZX Spectrum ever. Even the 48K version was nicely done:

video

The ZX Spectrum 128 was blessed with an AY Chip, and it was majestically put through it's paces with the title music. This is one of my favourite AY tunes and showcases just how good it could sound in the hands of a talented developer. Check out this pure ear candy:

video

At the beginning of the game you had to release the ball and watch if fly down the corridor until it struck a wall or similar obstacle. At this point it would bounce back towards you and you had to 'hit' it with the paddle, sending it back 'away' from your viewpoint.

The player used the time the ball spent in flight to move along the corridor (you could stop and start as and when you wished). The colour of the walls also changed as you progressed further which was a nice touch.

The object of the game was to reach the end of the corridor without allowing the ball to miss the paddle and 'hit' the player. If this happened, as you might guess, it was the loss of a life.

Obstacles such as moving elevator-style doors and blocks made navigating your way quite difficult and the game was all about quick reflexes. There were also nice powerups to be had to help you on your way.

Negotiating The Light Corridor - ZX SpectrumIt must also be said that this classic game was extremely customisable.

You could run the paddle at normal or fast speed which was nice, but the real boon was being able to create your own 'corridors'. The game had an in-built editor that allowed you to create corridors and then save them to cassette or disc. Now just how cool is that?

This was a great feature at the time and added a lot of longevity to the game.

On Release:
This classic game was met with high regard when it was released and rightly so. Crash Magazine awared it an overall score of 87% and praised it's playability, smooth 3D graphics, music and digitized speech (sampled from no other than pop Prince, Prince!). It was a very good mix of arcade action, 3D gaming and puzzle solving. It turned out to be a deserved big hit and proved that there was still life left in the good old Speccy in 1991.

The Test Of Time:
I have to say that this game has aged superbly. It is still playable and addictive, and creating your own in-game levels is rewarding. For me most of the classic games on the Speccy come from the mid 1980's, but this one is up there with best of them. A playable and different game.

Play this one again, you'll trip the light fantastic.

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

GENRE: Arcade Game / Puzzle Game
RELEASE DATE: February 1991
RELEASED BY: Infogrames
DEVELOPER(S): New Frontier (Zydro, Robin, Fustor, McAlby)
PRICE: £10.99 on cassette, £15.99 on disc - UK

Running control at normal speed:
video

The arcade action hots up running at fast speed:
video

Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

1 Nov 2010

Spectrum Games - Programmer Interview - Lee Tonks

ZX Spectrum Programmer Lee Tonks
Lee Tonks developed a number of text adventure games for the ZX Spectrum back in the 1980's and has continued to create both adventure and arcade games on the machine well into the 2000's.

Lee still develops games to this day, not only on the ZX Spectrum but also on other formats.

We were lucky enough to talk to Lee who was more than happy to discuss his passion for coding on the greatest ever 8-bit computer.



Ladeks - ZX Spectrum
1: What was the first computer you ever programmed on, and how old were you at the time?
The first computer I ever programmed on was also the first computer that I ever owned - a 16K Spectrum that I got for Christmas back in 1983. I was 11.

2: How did you get into the games development scene?
I didn't, really. From the very beginning I loved games and always wanted to make my own, but I was never actually particularly good at it. Games programming has always been something I've done 'on the side' rather than a main hobby, mostly because I tend to lose interest in projects half way through and never pick them up again (you'll note the rather large gaps in time between my various projects if you check my WOS profile). So I don't really consider myself part of 'the scene', I just call in from time to time when the mood takes me.

3: You have worked on adventure games as well as arcade style games. Which do you prefer to create?
I do like to work on adventure games, mostly because as well as being a programmer I'm also a frustrated amateur writer. Doing adventures allows me to mix the two hobbies together in interesting ways. The main problem with adventure games is convincing people to actually play them, though - they're pretty much a niche audience these days.

Most of the arcade-style games I've worked on have been created in some sort of game-making package so I've never really been truly happy with any of them because you're always having to limit what you wanted to do somehow. I'd love to do a kick-arse arcade game, but I don't think I have the skills - looking at some of the amazing stuff that's come out for the Spectrum in the last couple of years sort of puts me off even trying!

4: What was the first game you worked on?
My brother and I used to spend hours typing games into the Spectrum from magazines like Sinclair Programs and would quite often try to make our own so that we could get them printed and become famous. That never quite worked out! Because we weren't very good at programming back then I turned to Gilsoft's "The Quill" and began working on adventures, because back then it was still possible to get an adventure game published commercially.

The first game I ever completed was a mini-adventure called School (it's in the archive), and to be frank it's bloody awful! Several experiments followed, but the first 'proper' adventure game I ever finished writing was called 'Attack of the Mutant Bumpries', which I actually submitted to Atlantis Software for publication (they sent me a nice 'sorry, we're not interested' letter after a few weeks). Sadly that's now lost to the mists of time, although I still hold out hope of rediscovering it (and it's sequel, 'Revenge of the Mutant Bumpries') on an old tape somewhere one day.

5: What did you/do you like about programming on the Spectrum and what was your impression of the machine the first time you used it?
The thing I liked best was how quick it was to get going. Switch it on, do some stuff. Spectrum BASIC wasn't super-fast but it was quite easy - even as kids we could get something out of it. Of course, it wasn't nearly as easy as we'd imagined it - I remember before we had our own Speccy I used to sit and design all the games I was going to make once it arrived, but of course they all proved far too ambitious once reality set in. I wasn't too disappointed once I discovered Jetpac, though. Basically I was never off it, my parents had to physically throw me out of the house to get some fresh air.

6: And what did you/do you not like about programming on the Spectrum?
Tapes! I really, really hated tapes. They were fine for loading your favourite game, but when you're working on something and want to try something out which may or may not work, it's furiously irritating to have to wait for everything to save out to a cassette. And you're always living in fear of the dreaded 'tape loading error' too - I remember losing a 95% complete adventure to a chewed-up tape, and the only other copy I had was only about 50% done. Mortified.

7: Of the games you have created, which is your favourite?
My last game, On Reflection. I set out to do a modern-style adventure on the Spectrum and I'm pretty pleased with what I achieved. I wanted to create something which wasn't just 'you are in a room, it is empty, what now' and instant deaths every five seconds because you couldn't guess the exact keywords to use. Ideally I wanted something more akin to modern interactive fiction but with the ease-of-use of a point-and-click adventure like Monkey Island.

The game reads more like a short story than a traditional adventure, and that's on purpose. I also went out of my way to highlight things of interest, exits, etc. so as not to frustrate the player. Frustration is the single thing that puts people off text adventures, I think, so that's precisely what I wanted to avoid. I hope I succeeded for the most part, although I'm not sure how many people have actually played it. It does pretty well in WOS's Top 100 Adventures list though, which is very flattering.

8: How did Manic Miner III come about?
Back in '96 I was helping to maintain the NVG Spectrum archive and someone uploaded a file called 'Manic Miner 2'. I presumed this was Jet Set Willy, but it actually turned out to be a hack of Manic Miner with different levels. It was a bit wonky - the levels weren't very well designed and I seem to remember it glitching quite often, but it got me interested.

I remembered a listing in an old Your Sinclair for a Manic Miner editor program, so I asked around and managed to get a copy of the pages sent over in the post from a friendly comp.sys.sinclair reader. I typed the programs in and got to work, wondering if I could do any better. The editors were pretty basic (actually they were literally BASIC!) and didn't allow you to do things like change the positions of the bad guys, so I came up with the idea of using a 'parallel universe Willy' to explain why the levels were sort of familiar but slightly remixed.

In all I think it took about three months to complete a set that I was happy with and unleash it to the public. It seemed to go down pretty well, I think - the levels have been included in several PC-based remixes over the years too, which is always nice.

9: Which other programmers on the Spectrum impressed you most?
We always noticed the companies more than the individuals back in the day, but I used to love Raff Cecco's games and Ocean/Imagine had a fantastic set of guys at one point with the likes of Joffa Smith, Mike Lamb, etc. Don Priestley's big-sprite games were always wow-inducing for me, though, and I have a particular soft spot for David Jones and his Magic Knight series - I always wanted to do something similar to those.

These days things are even more impressive, I think - there have been some amazing new Spectrum games in the last five years. Jonathan Cauldwell, Bob Smith, The Mojon Twins - I'd take my hat off to them all, if I had a hat! A special mention to Colin Woodcock too - his 'Blink' adventure game was what inspired me to consider returning to Spectrum adventure-writing.

10: Do you develop games on any other platforms?
Quite a few in the past. I've done stuff for the Atari ST and the PC, and I've also dabbled with Gameboy stuff. Most of my coding projects over the years have been utility or productivity software, though - the games are definitely in the minority, sadly. These days I'm pretty much PC and Spectrum only as far as development goes.

11: Any current projects you can tell us about?
I have a long-running maze-game experiment called Dex which I sincerely hope to complete one of these days. I think I've been working on it since about 2003 though, so don't hold your breath. It's actually completely playable now but there's only a single level and it's pretty unpolished. I also have about a third of a sequel to Tales From A Parallel Universe (created with much better tools), but that's been in the works since the late 90s - I doubt it'll ever get completed now, but you never know.

Other than that I've been kicking around a few ideas for another adventure, but nothing concrete as yet - I want to do something smaller and leaner that doesn't take quite so long to get done (On Reflection took nearly three years, on and off).

12: Finally, Cheese Freak Software must go down as one of the most impressive company names I've ever heard of! How did it get named as so?
Heh. I'm a terrible artist, but I'm a doodler - just about every book I own is covered in scribbled drawings. One of my most popular doodles from as far back as high school is a chunk of Swiss cheese, so the company name comes from that. It also serves quite nicely as the company logo.


Once again many thanks to Lee for taking time out to talk with me. Cheers mate.

Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

6 Oct 2010

Spectrum Games - Spy Hunter - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

Spy Hunter ZX Spectrum
The famous Bally Midway arcade game was converted to the ZX Spectrum by Denton Designs and released by US Gold back in 1985.

The arcade game had been really popular and we were treated to a decent version on the good old Speccy.

In the game you play the part of a world class spy, driving for your life in a snazzy bondesque turbo-charged and armed sports car. The road is crawling with enemy agents bent on your destruction.

You had to manoeuvre your car along the road ways and water ways (where it would convert into a speedboat) watching out for the Road Lord, the Switch Blade, the Enforcer and many other enemies.

Spy Hunter ZX Spectrum
The arcade action began with the Weapons Van rolling up from the bottom of the screen and stopping at the shoulder of the road. Your car would then roll out of the back, prepped with fully loaded machine guns.

Your car could be moved left and right as well as forwards (accelerate) and backwards (which could be used to come to a standstill).

The game was a vertically scrolling romp, with the road weaving and forking as you blasted and rammed your way through the enemies.

What was cool about the game was the varying weapons at your disposal. Not only could you blast the bad guys with machine guns, you could also power up with rocket launchers, oil slicks and smoke screens. Muhahahaaa!

If all else failed you could try and ram or nudge the bad guys into the road edge, disposing of them nicely.

The terrain changed too as you traversed the course. As the game moved on you were eventually given the chance to drive into a waterway. Here your car entered a boathouse and automatically became amphibious, skimming along the surface of the water with ease.

Now it was time for waterborne arcade action as you battled away against enemy speedboats et al.

Arcade action with Spy Hunter on the ZX Spectrum

Every now and again the weapons van would appear on the roadway, ready to supply you with weapons power ups. To gain the power up you had to drive into the van by moving behind it and driving up the rear ramp to get on board. Once you had been powered up you would then roll out the back and the game would continue.

There were plenty of different enemies to dispose of (in classic arcade fashion), each one with different strengths and weaknesses:

The 'Road Lord' was bulletproof and had to be rammed off the road
The 'Switch Blade' had nasty extended buzz-saw hubcaps to slice you up nicely
The 'Barrel Dumper' dumped barrels in water ahead of you, sneaky b*stard
The 'Enforcer' fired a powerful shotgun
The 'Mad Bomber' aimed bombs at you
The 'Doctor Torpedo' unsurprisingly tried to torpedo your ass into oblivion...

All of this aside running off the road or water caused you to crash and lose a life...

On release:
Well the arcade game was a huge hit so the converion was eagerly awaited. We were glad to get a nice conversion of the game (Crash Magazine awared it Smash status) and not a quick cash in. I suppose it could have been better with some improved sound effects and smoother scrolling, but overall it was playable, fun and addictive. It did well on the Spectrum and was a big hit.

The test of time:
This classic game is still quite fun in a quirky way. Picking up the different weapons does not have the wow factor it did back then, but you know what, it plays quite well and brings back the nostalgia nicely. Not bad at all.

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

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: 1985
RELEASED BY: US Gold
DEVELOPER(S): Denton Designs and F David Thorpe
PRICE: £7.95

Classic arcade action...
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Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

5 Oct 2010

Spectrum Games - Flight Path 737 - Classic ZX Spectrum Games

Flight Path 737 ZX Spectrum
It's time to look at an all time turkey again. This festering turd of a game was unleashed upon us ZX Spectrum gamers back in 1985.

In fact it is such a bad computer game / flight simulator that not only is it one of the worst ever games on the ZX Spectrum, it must be one of the worst games ever. Period.

Now that I've got that out of the way....


Flight Path 737 ZX Spectrum After the basic loading screen you got a slightly odd yet decent piece of music to set the scene. It has nothing to do with flying but must be the best part of the game. Trust me, it get's worse from here on in.

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So - onto the flying excitement. Hold onto your hats as we get to grips with our arcade joysticks...

The aim of this 'classic arcade game' (ahem), was to take off, fly over a mountain range then land on the other side. Hardly a thrilling prospect but I suppose flight-sim fans should like it. If was any good they probably would have.

You were given six skill levels to play with, from first solo (easiest) to test pilot (most difficult). The more difficult the skill level, then the higher the mountains would be. You would also be hit with cross winds, turbulence and even engine fires.

But let's be honest here, the game was ultra difficult without any of the extra Roland Emmerich type disasters thrown in.

The static mountains in one of the worst games of all timeThe instructions supplied with the game were a joke, they didn't even list the keys to use. Figuring out the controls by trial and error was a thankless task too as the controls are so un-responsive you cannot even tell what is supposed to be happening. You can press a key and wait a week for a response.

Getting airborne was difficult enough as being incorrectly lined up by one pixel would cause the airplane to blow up. Realism at it's best there. You could run out of runway too (even though you can still see it in front of you, stretching away into the distance!) - causing you to crash. How bad can you get?

If you ever did manage to get airborne (you would have more chance standing in the street and flapping your arms) the mountain range would come into view. And it would sit there and not move. Ever. Until you probably crashed into them - despite them still looking like they were miles away from you.

Never in the game did you ever get a sense of movement. Aside from your instrument panel changing, nothing else did. This game is sooo bad I just can't describe it. The constant engine drone sound effect is enough to send you over the edge for good.

I'd rather listen to a record by David Hasselhoff on repeat for 24 hours. Honestly, I would.

On Release:
Good old Crash Magazine described this game as being a 'botch up'. How right they were. They scored it with an overall of 4% - personally I think they were generous with that. At £5.95 it was a joke - the only way you could recoup some money was by using it as a blank cassette. An abomination of a game and the lowest score in Crash Mag I can ever remember.

The Test Of Time:
Well it has not improved with age. An utterly disgusting game. I think it was probably written in BASIC (given the keys being more sluggish than Jabba-the-hut), but even so it is no excuse for being so bad. Have I said it was a terribe, terrible game?

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

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews and programmer interviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade Game / Flight Sim / P*ss take
RELEASE DATE: 1985
RELEASED BY: Anirog Software
DEVELOPER(S): Stefan Walker
PRICE: £5.95 - far too much for a blank cassette ;-)

Classic Arcade Gaming - I run out of runway:

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Classic Arcade Gaming - I fail again:

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Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

4 Oct 2010

Spectrum Games - Chuckman - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

ZX Spectrum Chuckman
Another 'classic' game from the slightly odd software house, Custom Cables International (who were also responsible for the unofficial Star Wars computer game 3D Star Wars.

I remember picking this maze like arcade game up for my ZX Spectrum when it was re-released by Mastertronic at £1.99.

I tell you what, for £1.99 it wasn't bad.

It's hard to get into and fast moving, but if you persevere with it a good (if slightly basic) little arcade game is hidden away in there...

Chuckman ZX SpectrumThe aim of the game is pretty simple: guide your hero around a maze along the yellow paths to diffuse the numerous time bombs. So finding the bombs is your first problem, but as usual there are plenty of pitfalls to hinder your progress

From time to time there are earthquakes (eh?) which leave a nice gaping hole in the path - which will kill you if you fall in. These have to be repaired or if you can find a way you can 'go around' them.

There are also stomping boots wandering about the maze which are out to... stomp you. Avoid these at all costs as instant death occurs if you touch them. The mazes were usually quite fiendish too so there were plenty of dead-ends to leave you able to see the bomb, but not reach it. A puzzle game to make you a little tetchy.

Chuckman negotiates the maze on the Speccy...In a neat touch the mazes are generated randomly each time the game is started, so that no two games are ever the same. Pretty cool.

Dotted around the maze are wheelbarrows (to fill in any holes), toolkits (to diffuse the bombs - do not touch a bomb without carrying one of these!), rollerskates (which scare away the stomping boots - weird!) and food (to top up your energy levels).

As you move around the maze your energy slowly decreases, and firing up the map drains it even quicker. Eating food along the way is essential as when your energy level hits zero your wee guy is kaputski.

The scrolling is quite smooth and the game cracks along at a fair old pace. Once you get the hang of it the simplicity of it means a fair amount of fun as you try and find the next bomb before it explodes. There are also the usual skill levels and high score table - and a huge scrolling message every time you lose the game, which is a little bizarre. Not bad overall and a fun puzzle game.

The test of time:
It's simple, but it is pure puzzle and arcade action. The graphics are very simple (and were back in the day), but the scrolling works well, the action is fast and the controls are responsive. Oh, and try leaving chuckman alone for a little while and watch what he does - another little neat touch.

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

Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews and programmer interviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

GENRE: Arcade Game / Puzzle Game
RELEASE DATE: 1983
RELEASED BY: Customer Cables International then re-released by Mastertronic
DEVELOPER(S): K Baker
PRICE: £5.00 then £1.99 on re-release

Classic scrolling arcade action:
video

Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

24 Sep 2010

Spectrum Games - Moon Patrol - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

ZX Spectrum Moon Patrol
Another classic arcade game here from waaay back.

Atari's Moon Patrol was popular in the amusement arcades and was eventually converted to the ZX Spectrum by Atarisoft. Despite the game being completed it was never commercially released.

Why it was never released is a mystery to me (if anyone knows can you please tell me?!!), but it's fair to say that this version never managed to capture the playability of the original classic arcade game.


How Moon Patrol looked in the Arcades
Moon Patrol (the arcade game) was released in 1982. The game is a shmup of the side view, side scrolling variety.

The player controls a moon buggy, viewed from the side, that travels across the rocky surface of the moon. The player 'drives' it, all the while avoiding obstacles such as craters and land mines. You could also fire missiles upwards and forwards to take out any nasties that would get in your way.

You also find yourself being attacked by UFOs from above and tanks on the ground. This game was one of the earliest linear side-scrolling shoot'em ups and the first arcade game to feature parallax scrolling. How's that for a slice of gaming history?

The top portion of the screen displays a timeline-style map of the current sector, and it also displays incoming ariel threats, upcoming minefields and any attacks from the rear.

The map shows five different checkpoints labeled E, J, P, U and Z. In a similar fashion to racing games, the time spent between each checkpoint determines the amount of bonus points you can score.

How Moon Patrol looked on the ZX Spectrum
The objective of the game was to make right through to the end of checkpoint Z - where the game would switch to a more difficult sector. Complete that one and you have finished the game (I think!)

The problem with this conversion is that it moves along far too slowly. The jumping action is okay as it feels almost like lesser gravity, but the scrolling, buggy and nasties move around the screen far too slowly. The Speccy was easily capable of running a good version of this classic game, it really should have been great.

For me I think it is a real pity that later in the Speccy's life, (when programming techniques had improved), someone did not revisit older arcade games like this one. Can you imagine this game implemented with Jonathan Smith's parallax scrolling as seen in Cobra? Awesome it would have been.

All in all this is a below par version of one of my favourite arcade games.

In the meantime here is a nice and playable version for you to enjoy (Thanks to classicgamesarcade.com):

Arcade Games

It could have been some classic arcade action:
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Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

23 Sep 2010

Spectrum Games - Munch Man - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

ZX Spectrum Munch Man
This is a real golden oldie. Pure retro gaming with one of the unofficial versions of Pac Man that made it onto the ZX Spectrum.

This one was programmed by Crash Magazine's very own Derek Brewster, and was released by DK'Tronics in 1983.

There were a lot of Pacman games on the ZX Spectrum, and this one is pretty standard and plays well enough. Crap loading screen though.


Munch Man ZX Spectrum
Most of the Pacman game features are present: A nice yellow Pacman (or Munch Man) for you to control; four enemy ghosts coloured yellow, green, cyan and magenta, pac-dots, power pellets and a wrap around game screen.

The only thing that seems to be missing is the bonus fruits that Pacman could eat for extra points.

ZX Spectrum Munch ManOne thing I noticed whilst playing it was the short time that you can eat the ghosts once you have gobbled up one of the power pellets. It is very difficult to eat all four ghosts in one go.

They don't seem to remain in the central ghost pen for very long either!

If you like Pacman then I would say give this one a go. It is not really any worse than the official arcade conversion of Pacman from Atarisoft.

For me you can't beat the original arcade game, and none of the Speccy versions I have played manage to capture the magic completely. Still, for a 1983 game this one ain't bad.

GENRE: Arcade Game (Pacman Game)
RELEASE DATE: 1983
RELEASED BY: DK'Tronics
DEVELOPER(S): Derek Brewster
PRICE:£4.95

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Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

22 Sep 2010

Spectrum Games - Star Trader - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

ZX Spectrum Star Trader
This classic game was a space trade em up released for the ZX Spectrum by good old Bug Byte software in 1984. They actually had the gall to call it 'The highest plateau yet reached in Spectrum software'!

Now it was a decent enough computer game, but the highest plateu? Not quite...

On start up you would 'enter a galaxy more complex and enthralling than any previously experienced.'

As you may have guessed, the game was in the 'Elite' mould (and came well before that landmark game on the Speccy) and you had to trade, fly and shoot your way around eight planets.

The game switched between wandering around the planets surface buying and selling goods (and eating and drinking to stay alive) and flying across the stars (with some fairly impressive 3D arcade action for the time) to land on another planet to hopefully make a profit.

All enjoyed in the 'most advanced 3D graphics yet attained on a Spectrum.' Ahem.

ZX Spectrum Star Trader by Bug Byte
Star Tradin' across the universe...

A great back story would set the game scene.
A long time ago in a distant galaxy...
Are colonies of men on small inhabitable planets in neighbouring star systems. Over the years these communities have learned to rely on each other for trade.

Marauding pirates have been quick to take advantage of the strong inter-dependence of the planets, and patrol the interplanetary routes.

In fact, it has come to the point where interstellar trading is a risky line of work, though profits, as ever, can be made.

As a result of a recent increase in the pirates' greed (their self-imposed "tax" on captured ships is now 1/4 of the ships cargo), all the remaining traders have left the system. All, that is, except you...

You alone must attempt to vanquish these rogues, whilst keeping the vast interplanetary economy intact. So no pressure then.

TRADING:
There are eight planets to visit and to buy and sell your goods. They each have eight
major industries, which buy and sell goods to you.

You begin the game with an amount of cash and a space ship. You must use your cash wisely, to purchase goods at low prices on producing worlds, so that you may then sell your wares at a suitable profit on consumer worlds. Not immediately easy and gameplay perserverence is required.

Planets with poor supplies of any commodities will suffer from quick inflation, which you may use to your money making advantage. If inflation rises to a chaotic level, social unrest will lead to a complete collapse of civil order; so various people will turn to piracy for as a new source of income.

You have a limited storage capacity in your cargo hold, which you have to keep an eye on. You may only buy and sell your goods during normal business hours, outside of which you will find all shops closed. (They even close at lunchtime!)

The main legal tax on your profits is from the customs officials, who will charge you a sh*t load of duty on your wares. You may try to cheat these officials of their dues (by declaring nothing), but at great peril should you be caught (you are looking at jail time and being 'bashed in').

At the spaceport in Star Trader - ZX Spectrum
LIVING:
To stay alive during the game you must eat and drink at regular intervals (it can get a little annoying to be told you are hungry after eating a pub dinner along with a pint of beer!). Failure to do so will cause starvation, and eventually death!

You may stay overnight at an inn or a hotel to reduce your chances of being mugged, although it still can happen whilst you are snoring away in a holiday space-inn.

You should also take a quantity of food packs to eat during space flight between planets. These food packs can be bought from the local supermarket.

PIRATES:
The worst hazard to the game player is being attacked by a pirate band - the height of scum and villany. You may protect yourself though by buying armaments for your ship. You will need
a laser and at least one battery pack to powre up the laser if you intend fight these space bound vagabonds.

This is the arcade portion of the game. The arcade action is viewed from your spaceship front windows, with the enemy craft approaching.

You can move your vessel up, down, right, left and (taken from the inlay instructions was quite something for the time 'so, for instance, if you choose to move left, the enemy craft will drift rightwards past your windows, just like driving a car!'). Amazing stuff I'm sure you'll agree.

If the fight is not going well (as in your shields are fully depleted) you can always surrender and pay the pirates their 'tax'. It can actually work out cheaper to do this rather than buying a lazer and an eight pack of ever-ready. Your shields always have to be repaired too when you land at your destination - so my advice is to avoid space combat and just pay any pirates you bump into.

Watch out for civil unreset on a planet - if society collapses and war breaks out you are immediately killed and the game is over. Keeping the economy secure across all eight planets is no mean feat....

Cheer up you grumpy sod - I'm going to buy something from you!

On Release:
This game was generally well met, but was never considered a must have. It managed to combine trading elements with arcade action quite well, and the menu screens were easy enough to follow. It was quite a popular game, but every Speccy users wanted Elite (I was jealous of my mate and his BBC Micro) - they would have to wait a little longer and this game filled the void for a while.

The Test Of Time:
Well, it's a charming game for sure. Very much a true retro game, this one is quite dated, more so than many other games from 1984. Having said that, there is something that is still enjoyable about playing it. Buying and selling is fun for a while, and the different random things that can happen through the game are both funny and frustrating (such as being mugged and having cash stolen, being thrown in jail, being mugged but being too strong for your attackers, spending a bucket load of cash on food but no matter how much you eat you are still hungry...)

Once you get over trying to use your mouse to make menu selections and get back into old school menu selection then progress can be made. Transport yourself back to a time when eight planets seemed almost limitless and when your imagination made each shopkeeper look different...

It's not quite Elite, but it's a quirky little computer game. Not bad. I always thought the spaceport looked quite cool too.

GENRE: Space strategy game/Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: 1984
RELEASED BY: Bug Byte
DEVELOPER(S): Trevor Hall, Rob Phoenix,Gary McNamara and Joey
PRICE: £6.95 - UK

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Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

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