Top 10 Spectrum games
Posted on 27 Apr 2012 at 14:40, by Expert Reviews Staff
Not only was the ZX Spectrum, which celebrated its 30th birthday this week, one of the first affordable home computers, for many it’s where home gaming really started. With small teams of developers bashing out clever games that made the most out of the Spectrum’s meagre resources, many an adult’s introduction to computer games came on this platform.
Computer games back then were different. Rather than a gentle lead into the game, perhaps with a training level, you were thrown in at the deep end where you either had to master the often bizarre controls or die in seconds.
Still, there’s a lot to be said for ingenuity and programming genius that went into creating these titles. In honour of the ZX Spectrum and its 30th birthday, then, here are our top 10 games, plus most of them have links so that you can play them online.
10. Everest Ascent
Everest Ascent was a text-based adventure game in which you play the leader of an expedition trying to climb Everest in 20 days. You can hire sherpas and equipment and set up base stations to help you survive the climb, but the game throws up all sorts of disasters and complications along the way, so you have to plan carefully.
Looking back, it’s easy to dismiss these early text adventures as basic, but at the time it was groundbreaking - the idea that a computer could “simulate” random weather conditions and accidents was novel, and a huge improvement over the previous generation of interactive adventures, which consisted of books which gave you multiple choices - “to go east, turn to page 88; to go west, turn to page 13”.
9. Ant Attack
Ant Attack was the first game to let you choose between a male and female character, and the first to present the game world from an isometric perspective. You control a boy (or girl) who has to enter the city of Antescher - a reference to the artist MC Escher, whose drawings of impossibly convoluted staircases were an inspiration for the city’s blocky steps and walls.
The game lets you move, jump and throw grenades, and the idea is to explore the city to find and rescue your other half without being bitten and paralysed by the ants, who wander randomly around the city looking for you. The “buildings” in the city offer both protection - ants can’t jump, *obviously* - and a way to get to areas blocked off by walls. The buildings are actually more like random shapes built out of blocks that are just high enough for you to jump onto, and often look like discarded clumps of Tetris blocks.
Ant Attack marked the beginning of the survival horror genre. It’s not quite as scary as Aliens vs. Predator, but at the time it was better than playing charades or watching one of the four channels on TV - Channel 4 had launched just a year earlier!
Shadowfire wouldn’t make many top 10 of spectrum games. It’s a bit of a forgotten title, but a groundbreaking one none-the-less. For example, the review of it back in ZX Computing in August 1985 started by explaining that it was an icon-driven tactical space combat game … it then used the next few lines to explain to Spectrum owners exactly what an icon was!
With almost no text, a steep difficulty level and a tight time limit of 100 minutes to compete the entire game, Shadowfire was a challenge. You had to penetrate the titular spaceship and rescue an ambassador held hostage. Your six ‘man’ team consisted of a specialist that had to be used carefully to make progress. Not worth revisiting to be honest, but a groundbreaking title all-the-same.
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