Sunday, September 16, 2012

Top Ten Lists: Top spectrum computer games from the 80's.

1) The Great Escape (1986 - Denton Designs)












The player controls a character incarcerated in a WW2 prisoner of war camp. The graphics were isometric 2d. Gameplay involved covertly breaking an established camp routine (roll call, exercising, mealtimes and bedtime etc) by sneaking away from your fellow prisoners to locate items that might help you escape the camp. A quick dash into the captains office to steal a key before rejoining your fellow prisoners for porridge. A stealthy jog to the supply cupboard to retrieve the wire cutters before the guards notice your absence at the roll call.  The perfect game for an unadjusted teenager feeling trapped by school. It's a shame about the weak game ending.

2) Treasure Island Dizzy (1987 - Codemasters)


Myself and a friend spent an entire summer playing this surprise puzzle/platformer/adverntuer hit by Codemasters. The basic game mechanic involves picking up an item and taking it where it can be used, avoiding traps along the way. You only had one life though and with no way to save a game, a careless moment meant handing the controls over to my friend for his turn. Good times. I rememer the much feared crab under the ocean seperating two islands where a single mistimed jump would end the game. And getting my friend killed after a hour of playing because I wanted to play.

3) Contact Sam Cruise (1986 - David Reidy)


A very strange game ! The player controlled a private investigator called Sam Cruise as he investigated the murder of his client Lana. Gameplay took place along a single scrolling 2d street with the player free to enter most buildings, make phone calls, change disguises to avoid the police and the mobsters. I found this a very difficult but enjoyable game. You had to somersault onto dollar bills bollowing past like driftweed and roll under stray shots from mobsters.

4) RebelStar II (1988 -  Julain Gollap)


Rebelstar II by the now legendary Julian Gollop (creator of the X-com series). Rebelstar II was a turn-based strategy game that was essentially a boardgame coverted to an immersive computer game. Foreshadowing the much later x-com, the player controled a squad of marines as they battled their way towards an alien base.

5) Lords of Midnight (1984 Mike Singleton)


 Now I don't use the word 'epic' lightly but the Lords of Midnight is truely deserving of the word. The player moved four main characters - Luxor the Moonprince, his son Morkin, Rothron the wise and Corleth the Fey - through a world map consisting of 4000 seperate locations with 32,000 seperate views and populated by vast armies. Quite the achievement on a platform with a mere 48k of memory.

6) Robocop (1988 - Ocean)


Ahhh Robocop. This was one of the spectrum biggest selling games and had the affect of standardising keyboard controls among my circle of friends. From this game onwards, any game with controls of QAOPK was known as 'Robocop keys'. ("What's the controls?","Robocop"). The game had great music and great shoot-em up gameplay. Nothing too special but good solid fun.  

7) Lords of Chaos (1990 - Julian Gollop) 


Another Gollop classic and my introduction to role playing action games. The aim of each level  was for a player's wizard to reach a portal which appears after a preset number of turns. To do this, the player moved his wizard and creatures around a map composed of square tiles, each title representing one of various terrain types (forest or the wall of a building etc). Points were awarded for reaching the portal, finding items of treasure (for example, valuable gems) and for enemy creatures killed during the level. Each level ends when all wizards have either reached the portal or been killed, or after a fixed number of turns  when the portal disappears. Multiplayer was very basic - typically the other player had to leave the room while you took your turn. Nevertheless, I would lie awake planning my next game after school the next day. Most of my friends 'didn't get it' but I loved it.  


8) Chaos (1985 - Julian Gollop)


The complexity of a board game combined with the flair of an arcade game earns Gollop a third entry on my top ten chart with Chaos, a highly addictive single screen game which is widely considered the best game Julian Gollop ever made. The player controls a wizard with a random set of spells capable of  firing direct damage lightning bolts or summoning player controllable creatures or altering the game space with googy sticky blobs. Sounds terrible, plays great.  In 1995, ten years later, I was nerd bonding with fellow IT students over this game.

9) ATM
 

 I was never a fan of sport sims but this game makes the list thanks to a summer of bonding with my cousin.

10) Blizzard Pass (1986 Adventuresoft UK Ltd)


Although I loved text adventure games and back in the day I played dozens, I find it difficult to recall very many in detail. Blizzard Pass is an exception because it was very difficult and I can still remember how proud I felt after completing it. Other noteworthy text adventure games are : Behind Closed Doors and Inspector Flukeit.
 
Pictures stolen from World of Spectrum. - without doubt the best ZX Spectrum resource on the net.

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