ZX Spectrum Games

ZX Spectrum Games

31 Mar 2010

Spectrum Games - F.I.R.E - Classic ZX Spectrum Game

F.I.R.E ZX Spectrum
Now this is a lesser know total gem of a game from Czech publisher Fuxoft. Released in 1988 this arcade style game will have passed many of us by.

I've only just got around to playing it and my trigger finger is happy once more!

If you like arcade games and especially those in the style of Konami's Nemesis (or Gradius) the this game - which was no doubt inspired by those Konami classics, will appeal to you.

The loading screen grimly informs you that there are some places in the universe where you don't go unarmed...I like their style.

F.I.R.E ZX Spectrum
The game can be played in standard ZX Spectrum 48K mode or the enhanced Spectrum 128 mode. I urge you to play it in 128 mode as the menu music and in game effects are spot on and really capture that classic arcade feel.

For those of you familiar with games such as Gradius you will be instantly at home with the weapon powerup system within the game.

As you fly your craft over the right to left scrolling landscape waves of enemies appear along with bonus tokens. Collecting the tokens moves you across the 'powerup bar' which starts with Speed Up. So selecting Speed up makes your craft... speed up.

There are lots of powerups to gather such as multifire, lazer fire etc etc. Also as usual and in standing with good old arcade game tradtition there are end of level bosses to contend with who take multiple hits to destroy.

F.I.R.E on the ZX Spectrum
What more can I say? The sound effects are superb (and are even pretty good in 48K mode), the scrolling smooth and the variety of bad guys is excellent.

The game does throw surprises at you too but never seems to feel unfair - you can get yourself out of a tight spot with a little fancy flying and fast reflexes. The only downside is that you seem to lose all of your powerups when you lose a life - but it does give you plenty of opportunities to power back up pretty quicky.

For anyone that likes arcade action you can't go far wrong with F.I.R.E, which stands for Fast, Ingenious and Risky Elimination by the way.

Classic arcade action on the good old ZX Spectrum:
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Arcade Games and Classic Games

24 Mar 2010

Spectrum Games - Buccaneer - ZX Spectrum classic game

ZX Spectrum Buccaneer
This scrolling arcade game was released by Firebird software for the ZX Spectrum in 1985.

In the tried and tested arcade shoot em up tradition it was a right to left horizontal scroller with waves upon waves of alien nasties to blow out of the sky.

Buccaneer ZX Spectrum
At the beginning of the game your craft can only move up and down (as well as firing) - and the waves of aliens are pretty easy to dispose of.

You also had a limited shield to protect you - but too many hits by alien missiles or collisions with alien craft would cause your poor old Buccaneer to explode.

You also had a finite supply of fuel - so you had to destroy every alien nasty to complete the level. If you delayed too long then your fuel supply would be gone along with your plane.

Some levels removed your planes missiles - so you had to weave around frantically dodging the alien menace until you reached the end of that stage. At the beginning of the next level your missiles were restored. Hooray!

Die alien scum! - Buccaneer ZX Spectrum From time to time you could also dock with a mothership/supply ship type craft. This would replenish you shields and fuel making your fight against the alien oppressors that little bit easier.
The background scrolling was decent enough, with the hills on the horizon and clouds scrolling at different screens giving a nice enough parallax effect. With a little time and polish this is one arcade game that could have realised it's potential.

On Release:
This arcade game was hampered when it was released due to it's over use of colour which resulted in the dreaded attribute clash. Some of the sprites tended to flicker too. Still, for only £1.99 it was a decent enough slice of arcade pie that kept fans of scramble happy for 20 minutes.

The test of time:
Well Buccaneer still has an element of fun but really lacks overall polish. It can become repetetive quite quickly and to be honest there are better shoot em up style games for the ZX Spectrum - even those that were budget games.

Not bad and worth a go.

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

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

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: 1985
RELEASED BY: Firebird Software
DEVELOPER(S): Peter Gough
PRICE: £1.99

Check out the parallax scrolling in this lesser known arcade game...
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Classic Games and Arcade Games

22 Mar 2010

Spectrum Games - Pulsoids - ZX Spectrum classic game

ZX Spectrum Pulsoids
Pulsoids was a decent breakout clone released by Spectrum budget games specialists Mastertronic in 1988.

Retailling at the standard budget price of £1.99 Pulsoids was good value for money if you liked a good old fashioned arcade game.

Instead of a bat 'n ball you had a bat and a bouncing lazer beam type thingy. As usual with these types of games you had to knock out the coloured 'bricks' by bouncing the beam/ball off your bat and into the blocks repeatedly.

Pulsoids ZX Spectrum
Also as usual for a breakout clone knocking out different blocks yielded different powerups such as, multiple balls/beams, a longer 'bat', slow down the speed of play and so on.

Each screen had a different layout from the last - and of course some of the blocks were indestructable. You reached a new screen by destroying each block on the current level. You may be picking up here that the game used all of the tried and tested features of the likes of Arkanoid.

The gameplay was pretty fast and frenetic - and to be fair Pulsoids was a pretty good version of this type of game. At only £1.99 for your ZX Spectrum you couldn't go far wrong. Not bad.


The test of time:
This was a pretty good arcade game back then, and it's pretty good now. Easy to pick up and play and if you're a fan of breakout, Arkanoid or Krakout then you'll probably like it well enough. I don't know how many levels there are as I haven't played it right through to the end.

Give yourself a dose of Pusloids!

GENRE: Arcade Game (Breakout clone)
RELEASE DATE: 1988
RELEASED BY: Mirrorsoft
DEVELOPER(S): Simon Price and John F Cain
PRICE: £1.99 - UK

You set my pulsoids racing... classic arcade game action:

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Classic Games and Arcade Games

11 Mar 2010

Spectrum Games - Programmer Interview - Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers
Dave Rogers (sometime credited as J Dave Rogers) developed arcade games such as Flatman and Money Grabber for the ZX81 before moving into ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC development.

With his musical background he went on to create many excellent and well known theme tunes (featuring some of the best AY Music) for arcade style games from companies such as Hewson and Firebird.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Dave who was more than happy to reminisce with us about his coding days...

1: What was the first computer you ever programmed on, and how old were you at the time?

The ZX81, and I was in my mid 20's.

2: How did you get into the games development scene? Did you have an interest in programming as well as music?

During the 1970's I was designing audio processing circuits and writing articles for electronics magazines. It was all analogue stuff, so I knew nothing about digital. I would occasionally see adverts in the magazines for early home-build computer kits, but I remember thinking "what would I want one of those for?"

Then a guy who happened to be working across the road, name of Colin Hogg, heard that I was into electronics, and he asked me if I could fix up a graphics extension board for his ZX81. I didn't have a clue about it, but he left the machine here for a while, so I gave it a try, and was instantly hooked on programming. I bought a ZX81 and put it into a larger case with (gasp) real keys!

3: Can you tell me a little about your musical background and knowledge?

My dad played guitar in various bands, playing the clubs, I joined in on Bass. Then I was in a few local bands, on Bass and Keyboards, playing mostly in Liverpool.

4: How was it working with the single channel Spectrum Beeper?

What can I say? Incredibly limiting would be an understatement. I always did the best I could with the 128k sound, trying to overcome it's limitations, but the beeper just felt like a waste of effort. The only time I did anything specifically for the beeper was for Cybernoid - a three channel tune for the 128k and a completely different one for the 48k.

The rest of the time I took the lazy way out and just squashed the three channel AY-chip data down into one channel for the beeper.

5: What other machines did you work on besides the Spectrum?

Mostly the Amstrad CPC series, and the Atari ST, then later with the Code Monkeys various consoles, Sega Megadrive, Gameboy, etc.

6: How good was it when the AY chip was utilised within the Spectrum 128?

Well anything was better than the monobeep.

7: I see you developed some games on the ZX81. How did you go from games programming to also creating game music?

Colin and myself started off writing games for the ZX81, as "type-ins" for magazines such as ZX Computing, My Computer, etc. Then we wrote a few games for the Amstrad CPC. Then Colin moved to Leeds, where he started up The Code Monkeys software house (which is still going strong). The prospect of doing a complete game by myself seemed a bit daunting, especially since Colin had written the graphics engines, so I sent a music demo to Hewson, and went on from there.

8: Which title (on any machine) are you most proud of?

Cybernoid, Netherworld, and Bear-a-Grudge. The latter was a free cassette on the cover of Sinclair User magazine, written by Chris Wood who was working at Hewson.

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The rest of my games music I was never really happy with, apart from a few odd sections.

One thing I was quite pleased with was my driver, which filled as many sound channels as possible at any given time from the Speccy's available three. There were levels of priority, but no sound effect was ever completely overridden, and some would spread out to more channels if they became free. Some parts of the music would duck out, but then come back in at whole-bar divisions, so as not to sound too fragmented.

One channel of the Cybernoid music was actually just randomised notes, but timed and enveloped to sound like a percussion track, which made it sound a bit different every time it was played.

9: Which programmers or musicians impressed you most at the time?

There were so many great programmers pushing the limits of those early computers, I particularly remember being amazed at Sandy White's game Ant Attack. It looks simple now but at the time it was brilliant.

My favourite from all the music by other musicians that I converted across platforms was Universal Soldier. And speaking of which, I'd like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.

Some people have said that this game was "a rip off of Turrican 2". In fact, what happened was the game and the music were being developed AS Turrican 2, but when it was almost completed the title was changed to take advantage of an available movie tie-in. So it actually WAS Turrican 2 all along, not a rip off "of" it.

10: How was life at Hewson during the 1980's?

I worked entirely from home, so I had little contact with them. It was just phone calls, and video tapes arriving by post so I could watch the games and see where the sound would fit in. Then I'd post tapes back to them with the drivers and music.

There wasn't much discussion of the music and sound, most of it was just used without change. I only met Hewson once in person, and none of the programmers. I didn't make much money from it. I heard via one of his staff, that Hewson once said of me "he's very cheap for what he does!".

11: Finally - are you still active in the games industry today?

No, not at all. But I'm very happy to have been involved in it. It was a very interesting time. A unique period in technological history. I look back on the time I spent in speccy land with great pleasure. And it's great to see so much continuing interest in it.

I recently found a guy on YouTube who has re-made some of my music with better sounds. I love what he's done with Stormlord. If you go to YouTube and search for;- "Cybernoid 2 chip music" by CoolDudeClem "My Renditions of retro game music Part 2" by CoolDudeClem.

I'd like to thank "retrogamer" Keith Ainsworth for putting me in contact with Martin.

Cheers,Dave Rogers, Liverpool, March 2010.

Many thanks to Dave for taking the time to do this

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