Reviews Archive

Rex on Spectrum

  I think its fair to make the claim that Rex stands as the most underrated game on the Spectrum. The game is a very polished platform/shooter hybrid that has you navigating the huge levels dispatching the enemies and exploring branching pathways searching for upgrade pods to improve your weaponry. Rex himself is an anthropomorphic Rhino mercenary with a personal shield generator. This generator constitutes one of the game's more interesting elements, it can be turned on at any time and gives complete protection whilst active but its battery runs down quickly, requiring you to recharge it at at dedicated points. At first the game may look a little dated for 1988, but the clever play mechanics, carefully designed colour graphics, and overall polish make for a truly classic and criminally underlooked game.
Chase HQ  

Chase HQ on Spectrum

  An excellent port of the Taito arcade game where you chased down criminals before the timer ran down and then run them off the road. The game is a tense racer who's gameplay is replicated on the Spectrum much better than most would've thought possible (it actually nails the feel of the game better than most versions on more powerful systems). The programmers very clearly went the extra mile here.
Rainbow Islands  

Rainbow Islands on Spectrum

  Ocean did a great job on most of their ports of Rainbow Islands and the Spectrum version was no exception. The game is a very unique arcade platformer from Taito that has you firing off rainbows that can be used to attack the enemies, or to make temporary platforms that can be walked on. Whilst there's a lot of colour clash here, the game still manages to be an attractive, colourful and enjoyable experience.

Chaos on Spectrum

  Chaos is a very minimalist looking, but cleverly designed multiplayer strategy game made by the ever excellent Julian Gollop for the publisher Games Workshop (makers of the Warhammer tabletop game). Up to eight players take turns in casting spells and calling forth creatures to fight for them and attack the other players. Tons of fun and definitely one of the best multiplayer party games of the entire era.
Manic Miner  

Manic Miner

  Does Manic Miner really need an introduction? the game stands as one of the standout early titles for the Spectrum, and one of the most beloved and important of early platform games. The game stars Miner Willy and follows his journey through underground caverns as he hunts for items to open up each of the level's exits. For the time the game pushed the limits with its high number of distinctive levels and environments, containing an imaginative, surreal world of snapping mutant toilets and telephones, as well as pop culture references from video games and movies of the day, all driving the player onwards just to see what the next screen would hold. Manic Miner represented a humourous, offbeat platforming journey for the player that was unparalleled for its time.

Elite on Spectrum

  Good port of one of the most important games on the decade. Elite is a wireframe 3D space trading and warfare game where you travel the stars buying and selling between planets, upgrading your space ship, and getting into dogfights with pirates (or the law) along the way. The game was a pioneer of non-linear, open-ended gameplay that gave the player a huge galaxy to explore and an unparalleled amount of freedom and choice. The Spectrum version is a good port of the game, it moves a little slower than the original BBC version, but its still one of the faster ports, and had the inclusion of some new missions and a keyboard overlay to help get the player started.
Skool Daze  

Skool Daze

  Skool Daze was a very unique and original concept that had you playing as a student attempting to get the combination of the school safe to steal your reports (achieved by shooting at the flags and then getting each of the teachers with your pea-shooter in turn) all whilst avoiding getting into trouble. The game is a very early example of the sandbox genre, with you able to ignore the main goal and simply entertain yourself by just moving around the school messing around and causing trouble. An important release that remains a lot of fun still to this day.
Lords of Midnight  

Lords of Midnight

  This is a a phenomenal Lord of the Rings inspired adventure/turn-based strategy game, one of the first truly epic feeling games to have been made. The game has you controlling multiple heroes as they traverse the land in a sort of first person view recruiting for your army and amassing a band of human and non-human heroes to join your troupe. Along the way you can also discover legendary weapons to aid you in battles. The ultimate goal in the game is to either find and destroy the Ice Crown, or amass an army and attack Doomdark's Citadel, both objectives require lots of exploration and its recommended that you map out the world yourself on paper so as to mark down points of importance and not get lost. A Spectrum classic large in scope and hugely ahead of its time.

R-Type on Spectrum

  Port of the classic horizontally scrolling shmup from Irem. For anyone not familiar with the series, R-Type's defining element was the inclusion of a power-up called a force pod, the force pod could be attached to the front or back of the ship, or fired off and manipulated to attack an enemies weak spot. This element made the game rewarding to master and lent the title a lot of depth. So, how did the Spectrum port turn out? well, the Spectrum version of this game is, quite frankly a tour de force of programming skill, and represents the zenith of what was achieved on the system, the game contains all of the gameplay elements of the arcade original whilst managing some pretty smooth scrolling, and colour graphics with little clash and numerous onscreen sprites to boot, its a game that is so impressive that many likely found it hard to believe that what they were seeing was running on a stock Spectrum. Unfathomably good!
Head Over Heels  

Head Over Heels on Spectrum

  After the isometric adventure genre was popularised in Britain by Knight Lore a glut of similar games started to appear, but it was the games of John Ritman and Bernie Drummond that truly took on the mantle from Ultimate, polishing and building on their groundwork beautifully (and RARE, in turn ended up taking Head Over Heels' dual character set-up for their Banjo Kazooie games). Head Over Heels is the best isometric adventure game of the 80s bar none, an elegantly designed game containing a plethora of the cleverest puzzles seen in the genre, a huge, detailed, and well realised world, some of the best pixel artwork out there, and clever game mechanics aplenty (such as the aforementioned idea of being able to split your character into two to solve the puzzles separately). The game has you helping the two protagonists, Head and Heels escape from prison and join up with each other, from there on you are given a hub area filled with teleporters that send you to different planets, each of which has a crown to be stolen before you return. There's some fiendish pixel-perfect jumping here and there and some of the less fair tropes of the genre remain (treat all platform with suspicion!) but the game's originality and overall accomplishment at creating a living, breathing world to explore cannot be understated.
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