Posted by jdanddiet on Aug 11, 2010 20:40 (Aug 11, 2010 20:40)
10. Escape - New Generation Software
Escape, programmed by Malcolm Evans of 3D Monster Maze fame, was one of the first Spectrum games I played. It's premise was straightforward. You controlled a little stick man who's objective was to escape from the green-tinged maze- but of course there were a couple of tincey-wincey problems in his way. First of all, the exit to the maze was barricaded with a sturdy wooden door; secondly, there were dinosaurs chasing after you! The solution was obvious: pick up the axe and chop down the door, whilst dodging the oncoming T-Rex; yet Escape threw in a couple of ingenious ticks that elevated it to a frantic, tense game that belied it's basic origins. These elements were sly, yet logical: when carrying the large axe, your man moved appreciably slower; it was also not possible to see the axe's location, leaving you to desperately search the maze, the dinosaur's hot breath on the back of your neck. At the time, many were disappointed with Escape. A lot of 3D Monster Maze fans were expecting a dinosaur-ridden version of the ZX-81 classic, but the 16k Spectrum simply wasn't up to such a demanding concept. The resultant simple maze game looked crude, but actually offered much nail-biting and tactical gameplay.
9. Jumping Jack - Imagine Software
Long before things went belly-up as witnessed in the infamous Commercial Breaks documentary, Imagine made their name by releasing crowd-pleasing and playable titles such as Jumping Jack. It's appeal is vague; the screen contains several lines (or levels) in which appear gaps that Jack (who starts at the bottom of the screen, naturally) must jump up through, with his ultimate aim the top of the screen. These trapdoors move pretty rapidly, and mistiming a jump means Jack is temporarily stunned, leaving him vulnerable to falling down another trapdoor, or getting caught by one of the enemies that are out to get him. So other than the simple appeal of trying to get to the top, there's little else to Jumping Jack: but it's still a fun, if slightly frustrating platform game.
8. Planetoids - Sinclair Research
Of course, the Spectrum was awash with arcade clones in it's early years. No-one was going to fork out for the official license when you could simply release a shameless copy and change the name to protect the not-so-innocent. Planetoids, an Asteroids clone, was by-and-large the best of the bunch, probably helped by the elementary nature of the arcade original and is one of the earliest games in this list, released in 1982. The Spectrum inevitably replaces the wireframe vector graphics with solid, blockier sprites, yet all the other features are there, including the smaller fragments, flying saucers, inertia and the use-with-caution hyperspace option - which all add up to a great conversion. Did I say conversion? I meant original game. Of course.
7. Pool - CDS
This early sports simulation from CDS ate up hours of my life as a kid. Despite being perhaps as basic a simulation of the bar game as you could imagine, the ease of play and "slight" changes to the existing game made it a winner. Each player gets three goes at potting a ball and despite some necessary 16k sacrifices (there are only six balls in play and no black ball), only the lack of a computer opponent really detracts from the game. If you had a friend to play with, however, Pool was one of the best 2-player experiences available in the early days of Spectrum gaming.
6. Pssst! - Ultimate
In my school, the pupils who owned a Spectrum tended to fall into two camps: those who liked Cookie and those who liked Pssst! I was most firmly in the latter, even if it was only because I got to say "pissed" to my Dad whenever he asked me what game I was playing. Oh the joy of schoolboy humour...fortunately the game itself is brilliant, with the already-accepted high standard of presentation and graphics from Ultimate all present and correct. You play Robbie, a robot gardener, who must protect his precious flower from the multitude of pests that plague his garden. The gameplay was original, fast, frantic and fun - all the hallmarks of an early Ultimate game.