ZX Spectrum Games

ZX Spectrum Games

16 Dec 2009

Spectrum Games - Programmer Interview - Jim Bagley

Jim Bagley
Jim Bagley worked on Spectrum Games for companies such as Ocean Software, US Gold and Melbourne House during the late 1980's and early 1990's.

Some of his games include the excellent conversions of classic arcade games Cabal and Midnight Resistance, playable movie tie-in Hudson Hawk, graphical adventure Throne of Fire and the seminal golfing simulation classic, World Class Leaderboard.

Cabal was developed by Jim Bagley
Jim was more than happy to take us through his days of coding on the ZX Spectrum, his thoughts on current games and his views on the booming retro gaming scene.

1: What was the first computer you ever programmed on? And how old were you at the time?
The first computer I ever programmed was a Sharp MZ80K. When I went to high school at 12 years old they had about 6 Sharp MZ80Ks, 1 BBC Model B and a research machines RM 380Z :)

In the dinner time break and after school, everyone was around the BBC playing classic games like Pacman, Chuckie Egg and Defender etc, so I decided to have a play on the MZ80Ks as they were always easy to get access to lol. They also had a basic programming book that the school had with the Sharps, I used to type out the programs in the book, so I could see how it worked, changing things here and there, to see what affect it had on the program.

At the time, the computer teacher was a converted maths teacher, ie, they probably said you know maths, you can teach computers to the kids lol, but I was teaching myself faster than he was able to teach himself to teach the kids :) guess I was a natural to it, more so than he was at least lol. I then started to create my own basic programs, like the scrolling road driving type games. I obviously would still queue up to play games on the BBC, after all this was why I liked programming the Sharps, so I could learn how to program my own games.

http://www.oldcomputers.com/museum/photos/Sharp_MZ80K_System_1.jpg
http://www.oldcomputers.com/museum/photos/Acorn_BBCb_System_s1.jpg
http://www.old-computers.com/museum/photos/ResearchMachines_RM380Z_System_1.jpg

2: How did you get into developing games? Did it start with BASIC programming before you moved into assembler?
I got into developing games by writing in basic back on the MZ80Ks, then my mum realised my thirst for knowledge of computers and got a loan to buy me a ZX81+16KB ram-pack.

I was writing more and more games (still in basic) then our school got about 10 BBC model Bs in, so I did Sinclair ZX81 basic at home, and BBC basic in school break times. They also got a machine code tutorial package for the BBC, which was very well and very simply done.

You had 256 boxes 16x16 and each box could have an instruction in, or data, you could then enter your data into each box, then run it, this was brilliant, as I could now teach myself simple assembly programming, or more importantly, what the instructions actually do.

I then started to write little assembly routines on the BBC, as BBC basic had a built in assembler :D

I then ended up writing a 3-channel music player, then I learnt about interrupts, and had it playing under interrupts :D Anyway, by this time my mum had upgraded me to a spectrum 48K and the world was now my oyster. Not only did I have colour, but I had 48KB - that was loads of memory back then lol, and now that I knew 6502.

It was only a matter of time to teach myself Z80 thanks to the Spectrum manual having the instruction set (plus more importantly the byte values for each instruction) in it, I could now type that into a data statement, and poke it into ram, and call it from basic.

I started out with a beep sound, and explosion sound in assembly, then I moved onto drawing things onto the screen, ie maps and sprites. By this time I was 16 and it was time to leave school and head out into the big world, so I headed to my favourite computer game shop, MicroByte in Liscard Village, (where I spent a lot of my weekends while at school looking at and buying games when I could).

I guess I was a regular lol, and therefore when it came time to leave school, I asked them if there was any local games companies, and if any of them came into the shop, or they had details of - and to my surprise there was (quite a few I found out later lol) but for now Consult Computer Systems was local and came into the shop often, so he got their details, and I got an interview, and that's where I started into the games industry.

3: You seemed to start Spectrum game development at the crest of the 'boom' years of the mid-eighties with games such as Throne of Fire in 1987. How was it working with 8-bits on into the early 90's as the 16-bit machines really took hold of the home market?
Yes, I started at the crest of the 'boom' years in the mid-eighties, starting with Throne of Fire.
I loved working on the 8-bits, it was just you and your abilities to get what you needed to draw on screen fast enough, thinking about how you did things, and what optimisations you could do.

Yes, it would have been nice to have a fast 16-bit processor, and LOADS of memory in comparison to 48KB, but I loved and still do love the spectrum, it's where I got started in the games industry.

I have so many many memories of playing and making Spectrum games - even to the point of doing remakes of some Spectrum games recently, as you can probably guess I'm a big retro computer game fan also.

I did however eventually get myself an ST to play on, and learn to code as at work, we already had ST and Amiga coders, and since we were a small company, doing one game on many platforms, I didn't need to code the ST officially, except to do the map making tools for the Spectrum and Amstrad and C64 etc games.

4: What did you like about developing on the Spectrum?
What I loved about developing on the Spectrum (which may sound strange) was the fact that it didn't have hardware sprites, it was just down to you and your creative thinking to get as close to an arcade game as possible on a Spectrum.

I loved the challenge I guess, dating back to when I started teaching myself, learning new ways of doing things, tweaking and changing things. Also I made myself start each new game I wrote from scratch, so that I wasn't getting held back by legacy code, nor was I having to spoon each new game into the way an older one was written, which also meant each game could advance from the last, with better ways of doing things that I'd maybe thought of after making the previous one.

A lot of the retro games I make now in what little spare time I have are based on a Spectrum display, and done on a microcontroller called the propeller from parallax.

5: Conversely, what did you not like about programming the Spectrum?
The only thing about the Spectrum, was it didn't have a SID chip lol, that just sounded and still does sound fantastic even to this date. I know a few people who have emulated the SID chip on a microcontroller, and I use their emulated SID chip in some of the retro games I make.

6: Did you work on any of the other 8-bit or 16-bit machines during the 80's and 90's? If so - was any particular machine easier to develop on?
During the 80's and 90's I worked on lots of computers.
I got myself a C64 so I could learn how to code that too, (not that I needed to as we had C64 coders) but because I wanted to know how to code on the C64s, especially since I knew 6502.

I also got a CPC6128, and then got collared into doing Spectrum and Amstrad versions of the games I wrote, since a lot of the CPC games used the same spectrum graphics, and a lot of the same game logic code as the Spectrum version.

As I stated earlier, I also got an ST to teach myself, and ended up using that to create tools for map editors etc.

I did like the ST more than the Amiga, yes, the Amiga looked better, and had better games because of the stupid way the ST screens video RAM was laid out in bitplanes, but like the Spectrum the ST didn't have any sprites hardware. It all had to be done in software, so I think because of this, it's why I prefered the ST to the Amiga, because you don't get time to be a lazy coder, since you have all the hardware do everything for you.

You had to think about how exactly you were going to get your sprites to screen, or how you were going to scroll it etc, and yes, it was much easier to code on the ST, and Amiga for that matter, because of the fact you had a floppy drive, (or later hard drive) which meant you didn't have to wait til you'd loaded the assembler etc, then loaded the files for where you were up to.

Floppy drives were great for speed, especially compared to tape drive, and the not so reliable Spectrum microdrive lol

7: Were you given 'free reign' to develop games, or did other people come up with gaming and coding ideas too?
Unfortunately I wasn't given free reign, as, as I was finished the game I was doing they were already sorting out organising the next game for me to do.

This was a shame, because when I was doing hudson hawk, on the original GameBoy (IIRC) I also wrote a space invaders clone, and said could we do this in a game pack, with space invaders and scramble etc, but my boss at the time (Paul Finnegan) said no.

A few months later, Space Invaders came out for the GameBoy and was #1 in the GB charts for about 12 weeks, which I wasn't overly happy about :( as that could have been my game!
(That must have been frustrating)

8: Which other games developers or software houses impressed you at the time?
In the days of the Spectrum, Joffa Smiff, and Matthew Smith were both legends, and I thankfully got the chance to work with Joffa for a good many years.

I also met Matthew a couple of times through another work mate, called Peter Leyland, who knew him, oh and of course in the early 90's there was ID and Wolfenstein, oh, and before that, I must add Malcolm Evans.

I have paid retro homage to all these guys by doing remakes of their work, on the microcontroller I told you about earlier, the Propeller.

I've done 3D Monster Maze, and Manic Miner, and even A Wolfenstein ray casting demo with textures :D and Joffa's mag game Hyper-Active clone was done on GBA many moons ago.

9: Do you have any favourite Spectrum games (your own titles and games by other coders or software houses)?
My favourite Speccy games, (yes games, there are a few! lol), with mine first for biased reasons lol Cabal and Midnight Resistance.

I also loved... Bruce Lee, Manic Miner, Jet Pac, Hyper-Active, 3D DeathChase, ZZoom (don't ask why, but there was something gratifying about mowing down the little men :D muwhahahaaaaa lol ) - (Yes, there was!), Head Over Heels.

10: Do you currently develop games software on modern consoles or PC?
I am currently developing a game at work for the PS3/Xbox360/PC, but also in what little spare time I have developing freeware games for my Propeller based retro style console :)

11: How do you think todays games compare to those from the 8-bit era?
Some of todays games seem sparce in comparison, there was always some sort of peril on screen all the time, nowadays you have to go find it, there are the odd title which keep spawning baddies close, but not many, I guess thats why I still enjoy the retro classics :)

12: What was development like during your time at Ocean and Special FX?
During the Ocean/Special FX years, it was great in the fact that we got some great games to convert, like Cabal and Midnight Resistance, but we also got some bad film conversions to do, like Hudson Hawk, which not only was it a flop in the movies, but Bruce Willis didn't want us to have his face on the sprite, as it supposedly couldn't do him justice lol.

It's a shame the film was such a flop, as I quite liked playing the game on the GameBoy :)

13: The retro gaming scene is really growing. Any chance you could assemble another game on the Speccy? - I'm sure it would be met with a lot of enthusiasm!
Yes, the retro scene is growing, and I've been enjoying it for years lol :D

Doing a game on the Spectrum? hmmmmmmmm, there's a posibility, but I'm no good at art, so we'll have to see, maybe I could do a puzzle game, those graphics are easy enough for me to do :D

14: Can you tell us some of the classic games you have re-written?
I've remade Bruce Lee for GP2X and GBA (both freeware), and for my propeller Hybrid board.

I've done 3D Monster Maze, Manic Miner, Jet Pac, Frogger, Scramble, Dragon's Lair, Head Over Heels (still making, there's lots of rooms), Atari 2600 HERO (still making - again lots of rooms), A Wolfenstein 3D Textured maze demo - and many other games.


Once again many thanks to Jim for taking the time to talk to us. We will be checking back at Jim Bagley's Game Site to see how Head over Heels and HERO are coming along!

Arcade Games, ZX Spectrum Games and Classic Games

Spectrum Games - Cabal- ZX Spectrum retro game

Spectrum Games Cabal Cabal ZX Spectrum
Cabal was released on the ZX Spectrum by Ocean Software in 1989 - in time for the Christmas rush in the UK.

I must admit that this classic arcade game is one that slipped my by twenty odd years ago -but on playing today it I realised tha I missed out on a good and playable shoot em up. Once again Cabal turned out to be a good conversion of an arcade original.

The game did have a back story which went along the lines of:
A foreign country was causing a bit of aggro 'somewhere'. To avert a full-scale war our lad is sent in to dish out machine gun led justice and destroy the enemy on their own turf.

In the usual arcade game style, you were armed with a gun which was supplied with unlimited ammunition plus a limited supply of grenades. Grenades could be used to destroy tanks, helicopters, walls and groups of troops (always satisfying!), whilst the standard machine gun mowed down the enemy soldiers very nicely indeed.

You had to fight your way through twenty single screen levels. Our hero could move to the left and right across screen, whilst the gun and grenades were aimed with a cursor gun sight. Blasting larger targets occasionally awarded icons which when collected bestowed bonus points or a nice weapons powerup. If you were killed your powerup was lost though.

Cabal on the ZX Spectrum
With each enemy on the current level killed a bar at the bottom of the screen slowly crept from left to right, changing from blue to red. Once it had reached the right hand side you had completed the current level and moved on to the next.

Each screen was different from the last, and usually had a 'war torn' feel to it. There was usually a half demolished wall or walls that offered you some protection from enemy fire, and tanks and soldiers would appear from behind bombed out buildings which were 'further away' from your viewpoint.

The game was completed once all twenty levels had been conquered - and the enemy were sent packing with their tails between their legs.

On Release:
Pure arcade games like Operation Wolf and Operation Thunderbolt were still really popular in 1989 - and this game was certainly of that type of shoot em up. Although released late in 1989 games like Cabal proved that the humble Spectrum still had plenty of life left in it and wasn't quite ready to lay down for the likes of the Commodore Amiga just yet. Cabal was well received (grabbing the coveted Crash Smash award) and was yet another big hit for Ocean.

The test of time:
Well here in Spectrum Games we only just played Cabal for the first time (how I missed it back then is anyones guess!) The game is pure blasting simple fun and plays well and is pretty addictive. It took a few goes to get the hang of it - and it's a good way to pass a spare half hour. It doesn't seem to suffer from any busy screen 'slow down' either which did occur in Op Wolf (a little). Got to say I love the title music and menu too - very funky and nice to look at!

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

Try a three way gaming marathon with Op Wolf, Commando and Cabal.

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

GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: End of 1989
RELEASED BY: Ocean
DEVELOPER(S): Jim Bagley, Keith Tinman and Charles Davies
PRICE: £8.99 Cassette or £14.99 Disk - UK

I have a go but realise I'm not very good at Cabal - Spectrum Games:


Classic Games and Arcade Games

15 Dec 2009

Spectrum Games - Programmer Interview - Jonathan Cauldwell

Jonathan Cauldwell Interview
Jonathan Cauldwell has had over 50 titles published for the ZX Spectrum. Many of you will know the classic Egghead games and utilities he has developed over the years.

Many of his titles are still available to purchase for the Spectrum - and he still develops games for our favourite 8-bit machine. It's fair to say that Jonathan really helps to keep the classic games scene going with his modern arcade games created with 48K of RAM or less.

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Jonathan over the festive period who was more than happy to share with us his views on development for the ZX Spectrum.

Egghead In Space - ZX Spectrum
1: What was the first computer you ever programmed on? And how old were you?

I played around on friends' ZX81's back in the early 80s, but don't remember doing much programming on them. The first time I remember actually being interested in programming was probably back in 1983, shortly before I bought my first Spectrum. I remember copying program listings from books in the school library, then studying the listings to see if I could make sense of them. Of course, I didn't learn much until I typed them in and played around with them to see what would happen if certain things were changed. A friend gave me his stash of old Sinclair Programs listings, and I particularly remember looking for the ones with machine code routines because machine code could do so much more than BASIC.

2: How did you get into developing games? Did it start with BASIC programming before you moved into assembler?

Yes, for a while. It was simple enough to understand, although the results were not very good. The main issue with BASIC was the lack of speed, so it isn't the sort of language you can really use to write an arcade game. You could just about manage TRON, and I knocked up a Frogger clone with it the other year, but there's not much else you can do with it aside from strategy games. In 1985 I started to learn machine code, which was a bit of a shock. It was like learning to program all over again, because the techniques required were so radically different to those for BASIC.

3: You seemed to start Spectrum game development a little after the 'boom' years of the mid-eighties. How was it working with 8-bits just as the 16-bit machines were taking over as home gaming computers?

Well, I had an Amiga myself, and a few friends of mine had Atari STs. To tell you the truth I was a little disappointed by the games that were available for the 16-bit machines at the time. Programmers had been getting the best out of the 8 bits for many years, but were still finding their feet somewhat on the new formats. The games just weren't as playable as their 8-bit counterparts. I kept the Spectrum, because the games were better, and also because I was starting to write my own games. Unfortunately, software houses were starting to pull out of the Spectrum market as sales dwindled. One of my games was cancelled after the contracts were signed and the artwork completed. I even received the advance - but then the publisher, GTi, decided not to go ahead with it. Still, at least magazines were still publishing bedroom programmers' games. There may not have been much money in it, but I was only writing games for kicks anyway. Getting paid was just a bonus.

4: What did/do you like about developing on the Spectrum?

Its simplicity. Everything is there, everything is accessible.

5: Conversely, what did/do you not like about programming the Spectrum?


Its simplicity. You have to do everything yourself and it can be hard work. It's not so difficult when you've been programming the machine for a couple of decades and have built up a vast library of routines to do just about everything, but it can be a nightmare when you're just getting started.

6: Did you work on any of the other 8-bit or 16-bit machines during the late 80's and early 90's?


I dabbled in 68000, and wrote a point-and-click card game for the Amiga. I have no idea what became of it, though.

7: Were you given 'free reign' to develop games, or did other people come up with gaming concepts too?


I had free range, more or less. Beyond Belief did ask me to do a conversion of a C64 game once, a top-down racer which was to be called Jimmy's Grand Prix. So I wrote a Spectrum game based on a spec I was given over the phone, and sent it off. In the end, Beyond Belief went belly-up before either the Spectrum or C64 versions were published. You'll find Jimmy's Grand Prix on the Games that Weren't website for the C64, so it doesn't look like it survived. As for the Spectrum version, it was tweaked a little to become Grand Prix Drivers and released on my Bumper Boogie Pack compilation in 1993. Retro-Soft have the rights to distribute the game now so you might find it one one of their compilations.

8: Which other games developers or software houses impressed you at the time?
Mike Lamb always did a very good job, as did Joffa, and ACG of course. I always liked John Gibson's games too. Jon Ritman was a hero, and I liked some of Pete Cooke's early stuff.

9: Do you have any favourite Spectrum games (your own titles and games by other coders)?

Halls of the Things is my favourite game of all time, on any system. There are other games I play from time to time, mostly those with quirky designs. Skool Daze is brilliant, obviously, but there are others like Escape from Krakatoa and Rocket Raider which seem to have passed most people by.

10: Do you currently develop software on other platforms?

I've been working on a CPC conversion of Fun Park for some years now, but that's still some way off. Nicholas Campbell converted my Area 51 minigame to the Amstrad, and then there's Christopher Dewhursts' eggsellent conversion of Egghead in Space for the Beeb. Other than that, it's all Spectrum. I would like to do more CPC games though.

11: How do you think todays games compare to those from the (classic gaming) 8-bit era?

Don't get me started on modern games - they're all graphics, and little gameplay. It seems attention is lavished on the story, and the actual game bit gets included later somewhere along the way, if you're lucky. It's completely the wrong way round. You have to approach a game from the gameplay perspective, "grow" your design slowly and organically, and let it take shape that way. Only at the end should you think about trying to come up with a story to fit the action. Personally, I think the story is irrelevant 90% of the time anyway.
Back in the 8-bit era nobody was trying to produce interactive movies, the gameplay was what made a game immersive. That's how I like my games. (We agree)

12: Keeping with modern versus retro games - it seems that coders during the 8-bit and 16-bit era really pushed the machines way beyond their capabilities. How did you manage to squeeze more and more out of the humble Speccy?

The only way is through efficiency, of one sort or another. You have to find new ways of doing things to squeeze as much into the 40-odd K of available RAM, or to get the kind of speed you need to bounce lots of sprites around at 25 frames per second. Some things are more efficient than others - program code is usually very efficient, graphics eat up memory like you wouldn't believe, and text can sometimes be expensive. When you're trying to cram a Civilization clone into less than 4K you need to keep graphics and text to an absolute minimum, and write very efficient code.


Once again many thanks to Jonathan for taking the time to do this!

Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games

Spectrum Games - Bombjack - ZX Spectrum retro game

Bomb Jack ZX Spectrum
Elite software, who won so many 'tie in' titles, created one of the best ever arcade conversions (one to rival Commando) on the ZX Spectrum with Bomb Jack in April of 1986.

Tehkan (now Tecmo) had created the popular arcade game in 1984 so a home computer conversion was always on the cards.

Spectrum Games Bombjack
In this retro arcade game you controlled Jack - a 'superhero' who could leap incredibly high and gracefully glide to the ground. He could diffuse bombs too by simply touching them - I suppose that's why he was called Bomb Jack.

Anyway - in Bombjack a load of bombs (the cartoon style black 'balls' with a fizzing lit fuze) had been placed in famous locations all around the world. I'm not sure why!

The locations were:
The Sphinx and pyramids
The Acropolis
Neuschwanstein Castle
Miami Beach
Hollywood (LA)

The object of the game was to 'diffuse' the bombs and defeat the various enemies on each screen - each screen being one of the famous locations.

Each of the screens usually had platforms on it too - you couldn't jump through these platforms but you could land on them and walk over them if you wanted to.

Various baddies populated each screen such as robots, birds and deadly snails (yep, deadly snails!) which would take one of your three lives on contact with you. You had to manouver Bombjack around these nasties by leaping and 'floating' around the screen, you could also change direction in mid-air which was pretty cool.

Bombjack on the ZX SpectrumOnce you had collected/diffused your first bomb (they never exploded, no matter how long you let them fizzle!) another one's fuse would ignite. You could collect all the bombs in the order that the fuses beacame lit - but it didn't really matter if you didn't bother. If you did collect them all in order a bonus was put your way. Collecting all twenty three bombs in the active state resulted in a whopping 60,000 bonus points.

Either way - once all the bombs on screen had been collected, Bombjack moved on to the next screen

Every so often a disk bearing the letter P arrived - collecting this immobilised the enemies and turned them into stationary smiling faces (for a few seconds - Pac Man style)which could be collected for yet more points.

An E disk added an extra life, while a B disk added points and increased the value of any subsequent bombs collected. Nice.

Once you had visited all of the screens you were whisked back to the beginning - with the platform layout altered and the nasties even nastier.

On release:
Well the arcade game of Bombjack had been relatively popular down yer local arcade - and the style of gameplay was ripe for a conversion. Andy Williams and Paul Holmes really did the original justice and Bombjack was a top version. Spectrum gamers loved the game and it was a huge and deserved hit.

The test of time:
Well you know what, I've played 1000's of Spectrum Games and this is one I come back to now and again. The gameplay is sooo simple yet still pure. It doesn't rely on flashy graphics or even immersive music to draw you in. Bombjack on the Speccy is still hugely playable and fun - a true arcade classic.

You've got to play Bombjack and appreciate it - it's da bomb!

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair ZX Spectrum hardware, but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Bomb Jack. 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: April 1986
RELEASED BY: Elite Software
DEVELOPER(S): Paul Holmes and Andy Williams
PRICE: £7.95

The colourful menu screen in Bombjack:


Our hero clears the first two screens in Bombjack - Spectrum Games:


Classic Games and Arcade Games

10 Dec 2009

Spectrum Games - Pud Pud (in Weird World) - ZX Spectrum retro game

Pud Pud ZX Spectrum
I've been busy lately, these bods at work have had me... working. Pah!

Anyway. Pud Pud was (I think) the first game to be released for the ZX Spectrum coded by legendary programmer Jonathan Smith (or Joffa Smith as he became known).

Ocean unleashed Pud Pud (and Jof) onto the ZX Spectrum gaming public early on in 1985 - and it was generally a well met title.

Pud Pud (in weird world) was a platform flick screen arcade adventure which featured nicely detailled sprites - some of which were a little weird (hence the name Weird World). Already we were being given an insight into Joffa Smiths sense of humour!

Spectrum Games Pud Pud
The aim of the game was simple: Guide Pud Pud around Weird World to find and eat the 10 hidden puddings. Once eaten he could escape from Weird World and presumably go back to Normal World or Pud World.

Pud Pud himself looked a bit like Pac Man with flappy ears/wings which enabled him to fly around the screen. The levels were littered with other creatures, some of which could be eaten to boost your energy, some of which would kill you. It was up to you to find out which creatures had what effect.

One thing was sure: a kiss from Mrs Pud Pud was deadly - and what she was doing in Weird World will forever remain a mystery.

The landscape was certainly different from any other platform game on the Spectrum: It consisted of headstones, parts of broken ZX Spectrums and even bits of the statue of liberty!

Pud Pud in Weird World - ZX Spectrum You began the game with three 'Puds' and each life had a energy level. Running out of energy caused you to lose a life (or Pud) and our rotund hero would explode into a multitude of colours before sinking into the ground - I told you it was a bit bizarre!

The game was quite tricky as the instructions provided gave little insight into what to do - it was up to the player to figure it out.

The locations of all ten puddings was set randomly at the start of the game - the puddings could be collected (and eaten) in any order.

Because the puddings were randomly generated each time you played the game it made Pud Pud a toughie to complete. In a novel twist screens would sometimes change colour - so when you exited a screen then went 'back' onto it the colour scheme would have changed. A Weird World indeed!

On release:
Well Pud Pud was quite well recieved back in the day. Gamers enjoyed the surreal setting, detailled and off the wall sprites, changing colours and the funky music. Pud Pud was something different and something totally new to come from Ocean Software. It went on to do quite well.

The test of time:
Well, if you're a retro gamer who enjoys retro platform games then you could do a lot worse than Pud Pud. It's quite fun to play and does give you a chuckle. It must go down as a memorable Spectrum Game due to it being different from any other platform game on the machine.

Go on - Pud it on. After all, it's the season for 'Pud' ings.

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair ZX Spectrum hardware, but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Pud Pud. 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 adventure game
RELEASE DATE: Early 1985
RELEASED BY: Ocean Software
DEVELOPER(S): Jonathan (Jof) Smith, Christine Smith
PRICE: £6.95

The funky title music in Pud Pud:


Pud Pud wanders in Weird World - Spectrum Games:


Classic Games and Arcade Games

2 Dec 2009

Spectrum Games - Bobby Bearing - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Bobby Bearing
Ball and marble games were all the rage for a while (look at the arcade classic Marble Madness) and Bobby Bearing by The Edge was a pretty cool game.

It was released in the summer of 1986 for the ZX Spectrum and turned out to be a pretty big hit - and as clones of 'marble madness' go this one wasn't bad.

ZX Spectrum Games Bobby Bearing
The inevitable back story to Bobby Bearing went along the lines of...

Bobby’s family lived in Technofear - a land of the future made from steel and inhabitated by things of steel. Bobby and his brothers had been warned on many occasions not to venture into the Metaplanes outside their home, and generally they had been pretty good about it. One day their maverick cousin paid them all a visit - and he led them on an adventure into the metaplanes...

Now Bobby had to venture into the dangerous metaplanes and rescue his brothers (one at a time) from the evil beings that lived there. Once the four brothers had been brought back to safe haven the cousin could be rescued (not that he deserved it!)

This classic game boasted a neat graphical engine called 'Curvispace 3D' - which allowed the games characters (Bearings) to actually roll over uneven surfaces with realistic physics.

It was a case of solving puzzles and routes, some easy, some fiendish, some almost impossible.

Bobby Bearing ZX Spectrum
You began the game outside your 'home' - and your brother bearings had to be brought back here. As you travelled around the large flick screen playing area (arcade adventure style) you would come across magnets which could be switched on and off, areas of the surfaces with hidden switches and air ducts. Some hidden switches activated lifts and platforms etc.

This puzzle game was played against the clock which would increase in countdown speed as you hit various obstacles. Apart from the evil bearings you also had to watch out for slabs of concrete which would crash down on top of you and descending blocks sent our Bobby into a spin.

Falling off a ledge also caused the countdown clock to speed up - the game could be frustrating (but in a good way).

On release:
This arcade puzzle game was compared to the likes of Spindizzy and Marble Madness (as you would expect) when it was released in the summer of 1986. Gamers enjoyed the ballbearing physics, puzzles and locations to explore. For anyone who liked games of this ilk, Bobby was an essential purchase.

The test of time:
Well it's a little dated but it's still not bad! As the game never relied on graphics or fancy garnish - it's still got a decent amount of playability. As far as this type of game goes, Bobby Bearing was one of the best on the Spectrum. Nice scrolling message whilst loading too.

Give it a go. Patience is worth it in this game.

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair ZX Spectrum hardware, but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Bobby Bearing. 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 puzzle game
RELEASE DATE: August of 1986
RELEASED BY: The Edge
DEVELOPER(S): Robert and Trevor Figgins
PRICE: £7.95

Bobby gets his Bearings in a classic arcade game:


Classic Games and Arcade Games

20 Nov 2009

Spectrum Games - Way of the tiger - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Way of the Tiger
Gremlin Graphics entered the ZX Spectrum beat em up arena with Way of the Tiger in May of 1986.

It was the prequel to Avenger (both tied in to those adventure game books - remember those?)
This arcade style game was a little unusal as it had separate 'levels' featuring different styles of fighting such as unarmed combat, pole fighting and swordplay.

The back story tied in the the adenture game books:

You had been abandoned on the shores of the Island of Tranquil Dreams (sounds a nice place for a holiday) and were adopted by an old monk named Naijishi, a Grand Master of the Dawn (whatever that is!)

Spectum Games Way of the tiger
Way Of The Tiger Has Loaded
The monks on the island worship Kwon the god of unarmed combat, and your adopted father had trained you in martial arts - it was a Ninja you were to become, not just an ordinary man!

Before becoming worthy of the noble title of Ninja you had to pass three tests of endurance and skill in combat against opponents chosen by the Master.

The different fighting scenarios were loaded in seperately from cassette - and so Way of the Tiger began.

A nice oriental sounding tune kicked off the action - which took place on a large window on the game screen.

The status area showed how much Endurance and Inner Force you had (represented by circles at the bottom of the display). This was a novel way of displaying your energy levels - for every complete circle of endurance used by a combatant, one point of inner force was deducted. The fighter who's inner force was drained first lost the contest.

The opponents sent to fight you had different levels of endurance and inner force along with a variety of skills. As a fighter's inner force waned, the power of the blows he landed was reduced. Pretty cool really.

The playing area featured a nice triple scrolling effect which allowed three stages of animation on the screen (a decent parallax effect) and gave the player animated backdrops to look at.

As you would expect the fighting took place in the foreground of the screen whilst in the background birds would fly by, logs would float down the river (in the pole fighting level) and so on. These features made for nice environments to brawl in - and this sort of thing was very impressive at the time.

Unarmed combat in Way of the Tiger
The Ninja's Fight It Out
The first section of the game had you wandering the desolate desert land of Orb without a weapon. The Master had collected a range of opponents to pit against his trainee Ninja (you) and some of them were bizarre creatures.

A pointy-eared goblin could jump out from behind a rock to take you on in unarmed combat. Control was setup in the usual (then) beat em up manner using eight directions combined with fire to make a total of sixteen moves.

Each time an opponent was defeated your status levels were topped up in readiness for the next fight. The level continued until all the Master's challengers were overcome - or until you were killed.

Once the desert of Orb had been finished it was on to pole fighting.

This took place on a pole spanning a river - and once again you would be faced by skeletons, dwarves and Ninjas' - all of which were handy with a bo-staff. Once you had overcome this set of bad guys you could make your way to the Grand Temple in the final part of the game...

The scene of the 'final test' was very nicely drawn. Snow-capped mountains reached the sky behind the temple behind you. Birds fluttered by overhead, labourers trundled wheelbarrows across the screen - all in all it was rather serence. Serene until the mad swordsman popped up and started swinging at you.

In samurai sword fighting the Master pitted you against the greatest warriors he knew of. Some of these combatants could perform fighting moves which you could not. The final level was difficult to overcome - it took me twenty or thirty goes before I finally beat them all.

As if that wasn't hard enough you now had to fight the grand master himself! If you managed to overcome him you were finally a fully fledged Ninja - who had sucessfully trodden the Way of the Tiger. Cue dramatic music...

On release:
This game was a big hit back in 1986. Gamers likes the large and well animated fighters, the variety of fighting styles (and moves) and the superbly drawn backgrounds. The 3 layered scrolling was a joy to behold - and Way of the Tiger was a superb addition to the beat em up genre. One niggle was loading in the different sections, but the fact that you could practice each section before playing proper was a bonus too.

The test of time:
Well I used to love this arcade game (especially the unarmed combat section) - but I just can't get into it these days. I dunno - the opponents don't show much AI - it all seems a bit random. The graphics are nice to look at - and the background/foreground movement is pretty cool. I must say I still prefer Way of the Exploding Fist.

Maybe stick on a bit of Eye of the Tiger and give it a go.

We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair ZX Spectrum hardware, but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Way of the Tiger. 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 beat em up game
RELEASE DATE: May 1986
RELEASED BY: Gremlin Graphics
DEVELOPER(S): Shaun Hollingworth, Chris Kerry, Pete Harrap, Marco Duroe
PRICE: £9.95

Unarmed Combat - classic arcade game action:


Swing your sword wisely... more arcade gaming:


Classic GamesArcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

Spectrum Games - Arkanoid II - ZX Spectrum Retro Game

Spectrum Games Arkanoid II
Far better than Arkanoid (which I can't get running properly on my emulator), the classic arcade game Arkanoid II by Imagine Software was released for the ZX Spectrum in 1988.

I used to be really good at this.... how times have changed!

In another twist on the gaming genre of breakout, Arkanoid II (The Revenge of Doh) proved that classic playability was.... well still classic.

In an attempt to shoe-horn a back story around a souped-up version of breakout, it went something along the lines of:

ZX Spectrum Arkanoid II
A huge alien spacecraft (the crappily named ZARG) had entered our universe - which was a tad naughty. It was known to contain the dimension controlling force DOH who was supposed to have been destroyed forty thousand years previously in the Arkanoid Spacewars (or in Arkanoid).

Doh had now metamorphisised into an even greater adversary - and with his new found lust for power threatened to destroy the universe.

Only your skill and split second timing could save the day! Deploy the bat (sorry I mean the new Vaus II spacecraft) to defeat this dimension controlling scoundrel!

Anyway... enough of that. Arkanoid II was a simple but addictive arcade game - and this time the Spectrum conversion did it justice.
Arkanoid II - Level 1 on the ZX SpectrumYou controlled the Vaus craft (bat), which could be moved to left and right. You had to deflect an energy bolt (ball) which gradually broke down the wall confronting you. Certain coloured bricks had to be hit more than once and others were completely indestructible.

To spice things up alien life forms descended at random to hinder you but were eliminated on contact with either the Vaus or the energy bolt.

There were various powerups which would drop downwards when certain blocks were destroyed. Some of these powerups were really helpful:

B - Allowed you to escape (through the side wall) to the next level
C - Enabled you to catch the bolt and move to the desired position before firing it off again
D - Split the bolt into five separate components - giving you five times the destructive effect
E - Expanded the Vaus in length
G - 'Ghost Vaus' which trailed along behind the Vaus but could not deflect the energy bolt!
L - Laser Cannons allowed you to shoot through bricks and aliens
M - Broke the bolt into three separate components which regenerated when each one was lost
P - Awarded you an extra life (nice)
R - Reduced your Vaus in size (making it harder to deflect the energy bolt - not nice)
S - Slowed the speed of the energy bolt - making it easier to deflect
T - This caused a twin of the Vaus to appear - so you had two Vaus 'side by side' - Jedward Vaus
Extra lives were awared for every 50,000 points scored, and as the levels progressed you did need them.

I think there were 34 levels in total - the last one being a confrontation with Doh itself. Defeating Doh handed you victory - and let me tell you it wasn't easy.

On Release:
Both Arkanoid games had been popular in the arcades - and the first game (Arkanoid) on the Spectrum had been disappointing. Revenge of Doh was a good conversion that crammed most of the playability of the original into 8-bits and 48K. The only niggles were the lack of trackball or dial control and the colour schemes used on some of the levels made it difficult to keep your eye on the ball / energy bolt.

The test of time:
Well Breakout style games were already retro then being simple in concept and requiring responsive controls and excellent physics to work well. Arkanoid II still does the job pretty well - if you like a bit of Breakout then you can't go wrong. It's just a shame about those colour schemes!

Play it again, D'oh!

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Arkanoid II for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: 1988
RELEASED BY: Imagine Software
DEVELOPER(S): Mike Lamb, Mark R Jones, Gary Baisillo, Ronny Fowles
PRICE: £7.95 (£14.95 on disk) - UK

Bat n Ball could still be good - Arkanoid II is classic arcade game action:


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

18 Nov 2009

Spectrum Games - Flying Shark - ZX Spectrum retro game

Flying Shark
This classic game was released very early 1988 by Firebird Software and developed by the same guys behind the excellent shmup Zynaps.

The original Taito coin-op had been a popular choice down the amusement arcades - and was similar to the other classic arcade shoot em up 1942.

Anyway - this shoot em up was a top down view vertical scroller (top to bottom of the screen) and had you as an ace pilot on a lone mission within enemy territory. Dun dun daaahhh!


ZX Spectrum Flying Shark
Flying Shark Loads Up
Piloting your WWII Bi-Plane across the landscape you had ground based gun emplacement and tanks taking pot shots at you - and they were pretty damn accurate too.

Enemy squadrons of planes would swoop across the screen and try to take you out, so you had airborne and ground enemies to avoid and destroy.

Luckily though your plane was armed with a machine gun/cannon that had limitless ammo (A-Team style!) which could be powered up to a 'double barrelled' gun by collecting the floating tokens left behind by downed enemy aircraft. Powerup tokens were a staple of arcade games in the 1980s.

You also had a supply of bombs which blew everything on screen away which were handy if you found yourself in a tight spot. These bombs were in short supply and had to be used wisely - but more could be collected as you flew along.

At the end of each level you would have to take on a boss enemy (such as giant multi-turreted tanks) which required a bucket load of hits to destroy.


Chocks Away old chap! Flying Shark - ZX Spectrum
In-Game Action In The Excellent Spectrum Conversion
 You began the game with three lives and more could be earned by scoring lots of points. There were five levels to play through with each one being different from the last.

The levels ranged from jungle type terrain to war over the sea against destroyers and battleships.

The game took a monochromatic style (probably sensible on the Speccy) which gave it smooth scrolling and nicely detailled graphics. It was a good conversion of the arcade game and was nicely playable - tough but not impossible.

One annoying aspect was the fact that the enemy bullets sometimes blended into the background (due to the monochrome graphics) which did make me loose my cool on more than a few occasions. Ahem.

Still - Flying Shark was a good arcade conversion and was only a little short of being a classic in the shoot em up genre.

On Release:
Well Flying Shark was a fairly popular arcade game and this was a good version on the Speccy. A few issues with the graphics aside (which did affect the playability a little) Flying Shark was a competent game that was a good game for shoot em up fans.

The test of time:
As far as Spectrum Games go, Flying Shark is a decent enough shooter. Hard (but not impossible) to defeat with responsive controls, it is playable enough. Can anyone dis-assemble it and make the enemy bullets easier to see? ;-)

Play Flying Shark again - it's still got a bit of bite.

Please see our other Spectrum Games reviews and programmer interviews - all links are in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.

We recommened downloading a ZX Spectrum Emulator and downloading Flying Shark for the Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

GENRE: Scrolling Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: Early 1988
RELEASED BY: Firebird
DEVELOPER(S): John Cumming and Dominic Robinson
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

Flying ace air commodore Lawrence Bartle Frere cuts a swathe through the enemy in Flying Shark - a fantastic arcade game :


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

16 Nov 2009

Spectrum Games - On The Run - ZX Spectrum retro game


ZX Spectrum On The Run
Design Design were one of those companies who released solid games and were well known for their sense of humour.

On The Run was released for the ZX Spectrum in September of 1985 and was well recieved by us demanding Speccy gamers.

This game was yet another (quality) flick screen arcade adventure game for the Spectrum that was actually quite large and complex (it boasted a whopping 300 screens in total!)

Spectrum Games On The Run
Rick Swift Is 'On The Run'


You played the part of Rick Swift (Another classic 80's name!) - a do-gooding character if ever there was one. This time though you had taken on something a little too dangerous.

You had accepted a task from the Defence Department to clean up an area that had become contaminated by a spillage of some rather nasty chemical weapons. Plants and wild life had suffered from the effects of the chemicals and mutated into strange new people eating life-forms. Time for a spot of classic gaming.

Running round the contaminated zone (I wanna go to The Island!) you had to cope with the angry mutations which included anything from giant mushrooms to chomping jaws.

You had been equiped with a suit which protected you from the effects of the chemicals in the contaminated zone. A jet pack allowed you to zip around at speed - and speed was of the essence in this classic game.

To complete the game you had to collect six flasks in a time limit of 1 hour (otherwise they would degrade beyond repair and it was adios muchachos).

The suit had the usual energy level which was drained whenever you came into contact with one of the mutations and which could be restored by collecting certain powerups. If the suit energy reached zero then it was game over.
Rick Swift is On The Run - ZX Spectrum
Check out the flora and fauna
There were lots of weird and wonderful objects lying around the game screens. Generally they produce one of four outcomes:

Death, more energy, instant transport to another zone or... absolutely nothing at all.

The mushrooms seemed to be the best and safest source of energy but for everything else you just had to experiment. As far as creatures went it was best to shoot everything in sight (you were armed) as almost everything was deadly.

To make life a little easier you may just discover a few smart bombs which were littered around the place. These were very useful for clearing areas chock-full of mobile mutants.

As we already know, the maze was very large (300 screens was very impressive) and was divided into a number of sections. You could only move from one section to another if you had collected one particular object from the area you were currently in.

Above the main display a bar graph showed you the condition of your suit, along with a timer that counted down to degredaton hour! Any smart bombs collected were also shown and there were some 'empty slots' to be filled with collected flasks.

You scored points for killing the mutants - but Design Design left out a high score table (they probably ran out memory which isn't surprising considering the game was so massive).

On release:
Design Design games were usually well anticipated - and this one was no exception. It was well recieved by us Spectrum gamers and was a big hit in 1985. Fans of this genre loved the massive playing area, large colourful graphics and problem solving elements.

The test of time:
On The Run is still a nice enough game with plenty of screens to explore. It does get a little repetetive after a while though and only the most determined of players would see it through to the end. Still, here in Spectrum Games we must put it down as a classic arcade adventure that happens to have a crappily named central character!

Go for a run and give it a go.

We recommend getting hold of the real hardware - but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download On The Run for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.

Please see our other Spectrum retro game reviews and programmer interviews - all links are in alphabetical order. Cheers all!

GENRE: Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: September of 1985
RELEASED BY: Design Design
DEVELOPER(S): Graham Stafford and Stuart Ruecroft
PRICE: £6.90 - UK

Rick Swift goes On The Run - a slightly different arcade game:


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

13 Nov 2009

Spectrum Games - Programmer Interview - Peter Gough

Interview with Peter Gough - ZX Spectrum Programmer
Peter Gough was a fine developer of games on the ZX Spectrum.

He worked on classic games such as Vectron and
Star Firebirds (along with Mike and Tim Follin) and developed quality budget titles (with Software Creations) such as Star Paws.

His solo list of titles included the excellent shoot em up
Gunstar and the slick platform arcade adventure Scumball.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Peter who was more than happy to reminisce a little about his days working on the
ZX Spectrum - and he tells us how he got into the games development scene....


My journey is probably similar to many other coders of the day in that it was born from a general interest from having a home computer.

I'd bought a ZX81 from a kid round the corner and somehow managed to sell it for twice as much two years later (probably because it was offered with a RAM Pack and some games).


I used the money to part-pay for the spectrum which I also bought in Wigan. I was so excited to bring it home, tune it into the TV and get typing. My dad got me a black and white portable TV which I used until the last day I ever worked on it.

This may sound strange but I rarely saw my games in colour until I'd nearly finished them. If they looked OK in black and white, they generally looked good in colour too.

I played a few games but got most enjoyment from typing in programs from magazines like 'Your Computer'. There was a growing interest in computers too and I remember sitting in front of the telly to watch 'The Computer Programme' on BBC.

On a trip to Smiths bookstore in Wigan, I found a Melbourne House book (Spectrum machine language for the absolute beginner) which became my programming bible - with easy examples of how to handle the different registers. Seems an age since I pushed 'HL' and 'DE'!.

Through my weekly visits to a games shop every Saturday where I spent the whole day (told my mum and dad I went swimming!), I got to know the owners and got a Saturday job selling machines and software. Each Saturday night I took home the latest games to play so I could advise customers what they were like.

I then got interested in making my own graphics using a paint program, again by Melbourne House. The owners of the software store offered me a job working on graphics for their new startup, Insight software. The new Amstrad CPC464 was difficult to develop for and we never made much impact.

We moved to St Helens to a new, bigger shop which had a first floor with just one window. We set up the machines there and before I knew it, I was working with Mike Follin, Mark Wilson and David Heaton.

Tim, Mikes brother was still at school but he would come over after school to do some music. Mike was the star programmer and he was a great help; Mark was the artist and I was OK with the graphics side too. Mike brought 'Subterranean Stryker' with him.

He had ran out of memory and couldn't find space to do a completion sequence so he made the game impossible to finish! We worked on titles like Vectron, Future Games, Star Firebirds and Agent X. Tim rapidly grew into a well respected speccy musician and wrote his own routines to make that little speaker sing.

Insight Software fizzled out a couple of years later as the owners appointed someone to set up a travel agency, only for him to single-handedly strip the business of its assets and failed to gain the ABTA licence they required to trade.

The owners said that I could never do a game on my own without Mike so that was all I needed for motivation. I worked flat-out to develop my first game on my own, graphics, code, sound, everything.

It was around this time I heard of Richard Kay who had worked at Ocean. I packed my Spectrum, microdrives and cables into a cardboard box and got the train to Manchester then another train to Whitefield near Bury. I met with Richard and he said he wanted to work with me to publish the game.

I travelled with him once to London to the offices of Firebird in Upper St. Martins Lane. I demonstrated Buccaneer to them and we signed the contracts there and then. I set about working on Gunstar but I had started college and had less time to work on it. I worked on a freelance basis for Richard Kay who was now well established with Software Creations on Oxford Road near the BBC in Manchester.

He provided me with a development system. A Tatung Einstein linked to a Spectrum and linked with an RS232. This made things a LOT quicker. I now had to just port over the code to the spectrum to test it, tweak a few settings then port over again.

Gunstar came on OK but was never what I wanted it to be; I was disappointed with it as it did not hold interest for long. It was slick but repetitive.

During the summer break from college I agreed with Richard on a publication strategy. I was given a completion deadline and a rather good incentive; for every day I finished early I got an extra £100, for every day late, a £100 penalty.

It was a push but I literally worked through the night to finish it two days early. I went without sleep for two nights and three days but I was young and fuelled by adrenalin and the thought of the money!

I still find that when I am interested in something, I can ignore time only to find daylight breaking behind me through the window and realise I have to go to work. Back to those days, I would sit in the garden through the day writing the code then Id just type it in at night while my parents were asleep.

I am easily distracted and the quiet helped me to concentrate.

My dad never saw me working through the night and thought I just dossed around all day. He tried to teach me the importance of hard work by getting me a job collecting glasses in a night club. I worked from 9pm until 4am for about £20 but it kept him happy.

When I got my first cheque for Gunstar, I didn't tell him but took him out and bought him a bandsaw, cash! I took my mum out next day and bought her a new outfit and lunch. That night I told them there were other ways of making money and I was allowed to quit the glass collecting job.

As part of the deal, I received a shrink-wrapped set of 10 Gunstar cassettes. I gave them all away to friends and relatives. I did a few conversions of other games such as Mad Nurse (yeah, I know) and some lightgun games that sold about 10 copies each!

I had been playing Starquake by Steven Crow and was well jealous; it was a gem of design, efficiency of code and beautiful to look at for an 8-bit. The sounds were quirky and fitting (especially the Cheops Pyramid I seem to recall). I liked the flick screen method as it made for a quicker game.

Arcade games such as R-Type had dedicated scroll ram to move the screen smoothly and to do this on a spectrum asked much of the Z-80 (Having said that, Mike nailed it in Ghouls n Ghosts).

I decided I wanted to have a go at the theme and played around with the game physics first, tweaking the gravity of the main character. 'Scumball' was on it's way.

A local kid offered to be a tester and was never away from the house. He was a poor choice as he never found fault with anything, he was just too excited to be in game design and to have his name on the high score table.

The development speed had been doubled by now as some code such as scoring, high scores, controls were already written; think of an early cut and paste scenario.

The mapping was the hardest part as I wanted variety in each room and to force the player to the absolute extremes of the tolerances of where you could jump from and too.

I created a series of graphic tiles and then each room was simply a sequence of 48 numbers (8 by 6). This allowed me to make quite a sizable map. I printed each one out on a Sinclair ZX-Printer and pasted them onto a big piece of plywood in my bedroom to make the map. The game got to number 18 in the national chart and I was chuffed to bits.

The main character, LINDA was my girlfriend and I remember taking a copy of Crash! to her house and showed her name printed in the review.I was now nearing the end of my course at polytechnic and I was programming less and less.

The strange thing is, my best work was never published. I had been working on a game with a working title of Parasite which used the flick screen method again but this time with a space theme. Things would grow on the environment (parasites) and make it more difficult to move around.

The gravity varied depending on the size of the planet so the control system varied too. I was about 90% done before I shelved it and powered down my spectrum for the last time.

I never was one for eye-candy over playability, even if my games did not reflect this. There seemed to be a growing trend for titles to look nice regardless of playability.

This was directly associated with the size of available ram that had kept on growing.

The two were linked; the greater the ram, the less the playability.

Did you have any favourite games on the Spectrum?
I had favourite Spectrum games with some predictable ones and some that you'd not expect!

I was a big fan of 'Match Point' by Psion and of course 3D Starstrike. Like everyone, I waited for the next Ultimate game to come out. I don't think anyone expected 'Knight Lore', it was a breath of fresh air and defined a whole new generation of games with the isometric viewpoint.

Platform games were done to the n'th degree (I added to it!) but one that stands out for it's sheer quality, speed and gameplay was 'Dark Star' by Design Design. They were based really close to where I live now in Denton, Manchester.

Of my own crop, I guess 'Scumball' is my favourite.

Are you still active in the games industry?
I'm no longer active in the industry but I do website work as a hobby / distraction / excuse for staying up late.

I'm still not a true gamer but I must admit that Quakelive has caught my attention. Online gaming is awesome but strangely humbling when some 14 year old from Wisconsin batters you 8 games to nil before you've even realised where you are. I guess I can blame it on ping latency!

I'm now a Mac guy and will never cross back to the dark side (even though W7 seems a decent build).

You mentioned 'Star Firebirds' and that reminded me of something else. Our boss at Insight said he wanted a nice slick shooter so we (Mike, Mark, Dave & Tim) convinced him that it would be good to go and do some research in the arcades of Blackpool.

We were given funds to go to Blackpool and play games (how awesome is that?!). Mark Wilson knew where all the best machines were and we set out to find a Star Firebirds' cabinet and succeeded in the Pleasure Beach arcade where we also found an Empire Strikes Back game which was vector just like Star Wars.

I still associate those days with great affection. Some really decent, talented people and a snowballing gaming scene. Its so nice to find there is still genuine love for the machine and the games.

Once again Peter - thanks for taking the time to do this with us. It's greatly appreciated.

Many thanks. Good luck and well done with the blog.
Classic Games and Arcade Games

7 Nov 2009

Spectrum Games - Star Firebirds - ZX Spectrum retro game

ZX Spectrum Star Firebirds
Another conversion of a classic arcade game on the ZX Spectrum. Star Firebirds was released in October of 1985 - and by this point was already a 'retro arcade game'.

We're going old-old school!

No real story to the game - it was a standard shoot em up set against the backdrop of space. You basically had to fly across the vertically scrolling space-scape avoiding and destroying aggressive bird like creatures (not Stargliders!).


Star Firebirds on the ZX Spectrum
You could move your craft left and right as well as firing your lazers (no up and down movement). There was a move you could make if things got a bit too hairy - you could hit the warp button and 'warp out' at the top of the screen to re-appear at the bottom. This could only be used once per attack wave though!

Each attack wave contained 50 enemies. This was displayed by a counter which dwindled down as you took out more and more bad guys.

As usual for this type of arcade game the speed of each wave was faster than the last (both the scolling and the enemy ships).

Another quirky feature of the game was the large bomb (a large bomb floating around in space?) that slowy descended the screen every now and again.

You could shoot this bomb which would then spray shrapnel across the playing area - taking out a host of enemies if you were lucky. If you were caught in the blast then you would lose a life - so it was better to take the wimpy way out and shoot it whilst it was still near the top of the screen (giving you less points).

Arcade conversion Star Firebirds on the Spectrum At the end of the first wave you were given the chance to destroy the super firebird. This large creature would make it's way downwards and you had to hit it multiple times to blow that critter to kingdom come.

There was no real way to win the game - it was all about beating that high score (which loads of computer games were back then).

Star Firebirds had a funny high score table and nicely presented menu screen (with a cool roll-inside effect when changing menu screens). You could have a little fun cracking the high score 'names' which were all famous quotes from a rather famous movie! - I'm sure you can work out which one ;-)

Oh - cool music too!

The menu and humorous high score table:


On release:
Well this game was already quite 'old hat' when it made it's way onto the ZX Spectrum - and it suffered a little because of this. By late 1985 people were into the likes of more advanced offerings such as Space Harrier or even Commando. Still, for fans of this type of game Star Firebirds was a good choice.

The test of time:
Well as far as Spectrum games go in the shoot em up genre this one isn't too bad. It's a good rendition of the arcade original and is worth playing. The controls are responsive and the game plays nicely. Love the menu and funky music too!

This classic ZX Spectrum game is definately worth playing after all these years.

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

GENRE: Scrolling Arcade Game
RELEASE DATE: October of 1985
RELEASED BY: Firebird
DEVELOPER(S): Mike Follin, Tim Follin, Mark Wilson, Peter Gough
PRICE: £7.95 - UK

Kicking alien firebird ass in Star Firebirds - a fine conversion of a classic arcade game:


Classic Games, Arcade Games and ZX Spectrum Games

The Retro Brothers Favourite ZX Spectrum Games...

Jetpac Remake

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