Spec-chums unite!

At which point our Americans readers think we’ve all started speaking Mongolian, but bear with us. Eurogamer have recently started covering Retro games, and they’ve done enough of the Spectrum to do a round-up post linking to reviews of 50 (count ’em!) great spectrum games. Kristan introduces it like so…

“The thing is – and I loved the Spectrum for years – it was almost the things that were wrong with it that made it all the more endearing. The crappy rubber keyboard. The terrible beeping sound. The lack of a built-in joystick port. And the nightmare of hideous colour clash. Arrrgh! How were we Spectrum owners supposed to defend our purchases to the richer kids with their C64s? Because, pure and simple, for at least three, maybe four years in the 1980s, the Spectrum had by far the better games.”

Not wanting to kick off the C64/Spectrum wars (the arguments neatly summarized by Way of the Rodent here and here), I lean heavily towards the Spectrum. It was the first PC I loved, and the first part of the Spectrum/Amiga/PC troika which got me where I am today (i.e. Posting when I should be working). While there’s some obvious omissions – Where For Art Thou Chaos? – and some choices I’d have gone another way on (Knight Time over Spellbound), it’s a snapshot of a genuinely important gaming age that’s being overlooked. For example, Mr Gollop’s first classic, Something I’d have given a ten out of ten to, the game which makes all the furore over Bully last year look a bit silly and the first videogame I ever obsessed over.


  1. Pidesco says:

    Well, how about that. It’s my childhood right there. Atic Atac and Jet Set Willy are still among my favourite games of all time.

    They’ve missed Pssst!, Match Day, Dan Dare, Jumping Jack and a Codemasters pinball game whose name escapes me.

  2. Pidesco says:

    And Enduro Racer!!!! I almost forgot Enduro Racer!

  3. SteveTheBlack says:

    “Erotic black rubber keyboards”? I’m quite happy that I’m too young to remember this “Spectrum” device…

  4. Kieron Gillen says:



  5. The_B says:

    I’m quite happy that I’m too young to remember this “Spectrum” device…

    I don’t even know how old you are, but I’m not-quite-twenty, and that comment made me feel old. I remember and have fond memories of the Speccy. Even if technically I was too young, to be there the first time around, I was lucky enough to come into possession of one along with an Amiga during the early ninties as a complimentary system to my Mega Drive, before the PlayStation era.

    Good times.

  6. The_B says:

    Good, wipe-clean times.

  7. Matt says:

    I had an Amstrad CPC 464, with a green screen. No one ever gets nostalgic about the old Amstrad.

    I wonder how many kids first computers were Amstrads, just because Dads were tricked into thinking spreadsheets were great for keeping a record of home finances.

  8. Pidesco says:

    Advanced Pinball Simulator was the name of that Codemasters game. For years and years it was the only Codemasters game I was aware of.

    1983. I’ve been playing games since 1983. Perhaps it’s about time I grow up.

  9. Pidesco says:

    One of my neighbours had an Amstrad. We made fun of him.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    An uncle of mine had an Amstrad with a – gasp – disc drive. He had 2 games. Bomber and Stockmarket. We played a lot of stockmarket. Buy low! Sell high!


  11. Jim Rossignol says:

    I had one of the later Amstrads. It was rubbish.

  12. Chis says:

    Hey, I had a CPC 464. And still get nostalgic about it. ;) Had a few classics, e.g. Fantasy World Dizzy. And a few non-classics. Anyone else play Caves Of Doom? :P

  13. H says:

    Wow, Spectrums, those were the days. Also, Jaffa Cakes.

  14. icabod says:

    Yay! RPS posts about the ZX!
    Would it be amiss to promote a book that was written recently about games on the ZX? The ZX Spectrum Book – a must if you’re a ZX fan like myself. And no, I get no money from promoting it, you cheeky scamps.

  15. Lucky says:

    I’ve always been under the impression that only a true Brit could really like that rubber-keyed coaster. C64 was THE home computer of the 80s.

  16. Dan (WR) says:

    The Eurogamer list is actually pretty damned fine selection. The trouble with nostalgia is that I remember a lot of old speccy games fondly, but I can’t remember whether they were really that good.

    For instance, Heavy on the Magic had great cartoony graphics and was a slightly different adventure take to something like Valhalla, but I can’t remember getting past more than a few screens on it.

    Was Rock Star Ate my Hamster actually any good? I remember playing a lot. And being slightly confused.

    I’m sure budget RPG Journey’s End was great though.

    Crusty old fart that I am, I’m still waiting for someone to do a Dragon 32 retrospective. I’m sure Ring of Darkness is something that should be mentioned more often when people are talking about really early CRPGs. And I remember a strategy-type game called Quest being good fun.

  17. Piratepete says:

    Well I’m going to show my age now. I remember going around to a friends house to program the new ZX81 his Dad had bought, instead of the ZX80 that they had. BUt I ended up with a C64 several years later.

    Head over heels was an aboslute classic tho

  18. ran93r says:

    Before ever getting my hands on my own Speccy I remember loafing around a posh mates house watching him play Saboteur. Oh my gods, I needed to be a Ninja quite badly from that point on.

    The Euro list doesn’t cover many of my favourites, I was always partial to Treasure Island Dizzy over the others but I won’t complain, they list the greatest game ever to grace any platform, The Great Escape!

    Oh for the days of coloured pixels blending into other, different coloured pixels in attempts to make me spaz out.

  19. icabod says:

    It’s tricky for any list to cover all favourites. If I had my way every list of ZX games would feature Rex in the top spot, but many people probably don’t even know about it. I especially liked Rex as some company I’d not heard of sent it to me for no apparent reason. Result!

    Was a little disappointed that EuroGamer only seemed to be reviewing “classic” games, rather than some of the new ones that have been released in the last couple years (unless I’ve simply missed them).

  20. Pidesco says:

    I just saw the movie, and I had completely forgotten Horace Goes Skiing. It was awesome.

  21. Pidesco says:

    Another essential game that isn’t on the list:

    Samantha Fox Strip Poker

    I was like 8 when I first played this. My friend whose Dad had naughty mags had the game.

  22. Lu-Tze says:

    Marauder? Impossible Mission? Where are you my long lost childhood friends!

    Admittedly I spent more time on Atic Atac then either… but still…

  23. H says:

    My all time favourite computer game is a Speccy game – Panzadrome – but most people either didn’t like it or didn’t try it. Well worth digging up.

  24. Lu-Tze says:

    Oh and Smuggler’s Cove! I had a map covering about 5 sheets of A4 on my wall for that one!

  25. Hobbes says:

    I had a Commodore +4.

    The moral of that story? Don’t let you’re Mum make the decisions when buying a computer.

  26. Kieron Gillen says:

    My first computer was a Commodore 16, Hobbes, so you know you win.


  27. Matthew Craig says:

    Gauntlet! Hold Shift, walk through walls!

    Zoids! Isometric shapeless war-toys! ONLY POLYGONAL WAR.

    Transformers! Fly, Jazz, fly!


    I would kill all your demons for the chance to remake Horace and the Spiders, though.

    (I should put that Horace gravytar in there, shouldn’t I)


  28. Alistair says:

    Compared to today, I just never finished any of these games… I finish everything today, but other than text adventures, where I managed a few, I really didn’t get far with a lot of these.

  29. Nick says:

    I had a spectrum 128k +2, with built in tape drive.
    Check it out!

    I had two mates, one with the 48k rubber keyboard classic, one with a shiny +3 with built in disc drive.

    Most weekends were spent hiking to the local library to borrow speccy games, which we then copied and returned. If I am in any way responsible for the demise of the spectrum, I apologise profusely.

  30. Iain says:

    Nice to see 3D Deathchase at the head of the list (even if it is only alphabetically), but some of the choices are a little curious.

    Cyclone was better than Tornado Low Level, Doomdark’s Revenge was superior to Lords of Midnight, and Bak 2 Skool was a heck of a lot more fun than Skool Daze…

    Also, where are games like Combat Lynx, Target: Renegade, Glider Rider, Way of the Exploding Fist, Everyone’s A Wally, Turbo Esprit, Dark Star and Driller? (To name but a few, and that’s not even mentioning multi-platform classics like Elite, Tetris and Gauntlet)

  31. H says:

    Oh Jesus, Way of the Exploding Fist!

  32. terry says:

    One of my fondest memories is poring over the review section of the Your Spectrum magazine – my mind was blown by Skooldaze and its colourful masks and when I got it one xmas (complete with invisible ink “microsphere” logo over the inlay I was one happy bunny.

    There is an embarrassment of classics on the Spectrum so I will say: Amaurote, Dynamite Dan, Bruce Lee, Target Renegade, Valhalla (just for old times sake) and the inevitable Manic Miner.

  33. Glissando says:

    8/10 for Manic Miner? lol wut?

    Somebody’s getting jacked up on the Commodore payola.

  34. dantheman says:

    I had the 48K spectrum… it was the worst computer I ever owned, never bothered after that and got me a NES console some years later.

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