64 Special - Part 1.
Before doing that C64 History thing for the pastel-arsed SIDdy fiddlers, we thought it best to cobble together some kind of pretend conversation about Great Spectrum Moments. Oh what fun we had with that little rubber bastard…
1. Where Time Stood Still (Ocean).
Possibly my all-time favourite moment in videogaming history occurred when I succeeded in leading the T-Rex into the pygmy village near the waterfall. It required a careful tempting of said dinosaur as he had his own territory which did not extend to the village. Once he got there, I was amazed when he promptly killed two villagers, before he himself was downed by a spear from the otherwise peaceful people (providing of course you had given them a gift!)
Is this the first example of emergent gameplay? How I laughed. And I will never forget it.
2. Chase HQ (Ocean).
The moment when the screen revealed my gleaming monochrome Porsche, and my 128 beeped out "Let's Go, Mr Driver!”. Fucking heaven. And then the scenery started scrolling smoother than my pre-pubescent chin, and I realised I was playing the greatest 8-bit racing game ever.
I had alosot exactly the same feeling. What struck me most vividly was the fact that there was a brilliant game to it as well. After being suckered by other ‘perfect’ arcade conversions, Chase HQ was more than just good-looking artwork with a bit of speech in it. I'd say it's one of the best arcade conversions ever. Not because of any technical feats but because they captured the gameplay so well.
I think the same people also did the WEC Le Mans conversion, which was a brilliant, fast-paced racer.
Chase HQ. “Quick, boss! He’s heading for the Cyan Mountains!”
I agree. Chase HQ is up there with R-Type and Rainbow Islands for best arcade conversion ever on the Speccy and certainly made up for the disappointment of Outrun (and the skankuss that was to be SCI the following Christmas). The feeling when I completed it was both ecstacy and crushing sadness that there was nothing more to follow.
3. Tir Na Nog. All of it.
The first home computer game I ever played. Little did I realise then, sitting at my mate's house in sunny Sandwich that it would figure so highly in the grand scheme of things. But then again, I thought Duran Duran would go on forever. Hang on a minute...
Jetpac. Shots like Defender, platforms like Joust. Bless.
Jetpac is fucking great! I played it for the first time in ages to get a screenshot for that 50 Greatest Shooters thing we did, and ended up having an hour long session. That's the one game I, as a C64 owner, was most jealous of Speccy owners for.
JetPac for me too. Sat in my bedroom in my crap council house with a couple of mates playing it on a dodgy black-and-white portable in early ‘80s. Cracking game.
Ace update can be found here:
5. Every time you walked up to a forest and saw a horde of enemy troops in Lords Of Midnight, making you jump out of your chair.
6. Beating an AB with the starting droid on Quazatron.
7. The first time you saw the teleporter beam running on Psytron.
8. Nailing a non-fake Golden Dragon in Chaos.
9. Zoning in to the jittery Cruising On Broadway, keyboard 5,6,7,8 only.
Cruising On Broadway. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
10. The way some games used the Speccy's colour-clash madness to their advantage, creating some insanely beautiful psychedelic chaos (Dynamite Dan was the best example).
Dynamite Dan. Avoid monsters, eat ice-cream, be Chris Isaak.
12. Finding the hidden Ceefax spoof in Halls Of The Things.
13. The home-grown text adventure scene - DIY game-creating without having to geek over programming books.
14. Designing your own spaceship in Academy.
15. Or your own level in the hilariously named Penetrator.
16. And making it completely featureless, right the way through and blasting hundreds of enemies for fifteen minutes in one long continuous flat level.
Penetrator. Didn’t get a fancy level designer with Gradius V, did ya?
17. My favourite Spectrum moment was when playing Scrabble on it, I discovered that on the occasion of entering a bullshit word, when it said 'Challenge! Does this word exist? Y/N?’ If you said ‘Yes’, it let me off.XQYRODJD, triple word score, and one pre-pubescent w1nn4R!
18. Parents bringing home a 16k Speccy and surprising us with it - first day drawing shapes and circles with me mum.
19. Loading up the Horizons tap and that Invaders game.
20. 3D Tunnel.
21. Manic Miner.
22. Programming a static Star Wars screen, then putting the lot in a cupboard on the floor for that sit-down cabinet effect.
23. Swapping C60/C90 tapes at school.
“Fancy a bit of Kokotoni Wilf, darling?”
“I’d rather suck you off in the girls’ toilets”.
24. Plugging the Kempston interface the wrong way in my mate’s Speccy and frying it. The screen went a strange green colour and he started crying.
25. The animation on the Dragon in Thanatos, scoffing witches and killing that do-gooder on horseback.
Thanatos. The Freudian concept of the drive towards self-destruction. Oh yes.
26. Batman The Caped Crusader. Two games in one, and that lovely, overlapping comic-book style.
27. J, Symbol Shift-P, Symbol Shift-P, Enter.
28. Launching a rocket in Exolon.
Exolon. Colourful. In space.
29. 3D Ant Attack.
I also recall a game released in the later stages of the Speccy's life called Driller? Anyone remember it? it was in 3D and you had to drill for oil, basically.
Random fact: I spent my whole Spectrum-owning experience playing on a small black-and-white portable. Never used it on a colour TV. Ever.
I remember Driller, it scored something like 95+ in every magazine, and came at the time when developers were trying to get complex 3D graphics out of the little beast. Think there was another similar game, Total Eclipse or something. Also had Hard Drivin’ which was virtually uncontrollable.
30. Ah, Hard Drivin'. Great moment when I was playing that one day... Driving around the speed track, dodging the truck and using my newly developed manual gearbox skills to full effect, my Dad put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Good work, J. You can drive my car any time.”
Made me so proud.
31. Buying top-quality, brand new games for five quid.
32. Discovering you could drive through the fence on the Circuit level in Battlecars, if you hit it at the right angle, and head off into the random garbage wilderness.
Ah wow, someone else who has played and enjoyed Battlecars. It was great, even though it moved sluggishly. But it gave you longer time to laugh when the other player got hopelessly mired in one of your over-elaborately constructed traps of tacks and mines.
Battlecars. We reckon the bloke with the guns and faster car has a
distinct advantage over the West Country cider-chucker.
33. The great run of form that Ocean software enjoyed in the mid-to-late phase: Robocop, Op Wolf, Op Thunderbolt, Narc, Midnight Resistance, Rainbow Islands, Navy SEALS, Space Gun, various Batman games, Where Time Stood Still, The Great Escape...
By the way, did anyone ever see Street Fighter 2 running? I remember it being reviewed in one of the last ever Your Sinclairs. Apparently you had to multi-load each of the characters. It had lovely looking graphics, perhaps not best suited on the controller front, though!
34. Every Spectrum in every consumer electronics shop always running 10 PRINT "PHIL IS ACE" 20 GOTO 10, and every Oric having 10 ZAP 20 EXPLODE 30 GOTO 10 run on it then the kid that did it running out.
Ahh I miss those days...
10 PRINT "DIXONS IS SHIT! " 20 GOTO 10
I also remember seeing an Atari ST with some paint package loaded. So I quickly drew a "Buy an Amiga!" picture. Wheee. To be young and immature again. Instead of just immature.
Other high-street electrical retailers are also available for ridicule.
35. Being able to tell how hard the computer was working from the hissing/buzzing sound it made.
36. And the metal casing warping upwards due to - I think - the glue melting because of overheating or something. Squashing it back down during quiet moments in games… All part of the Speccy’s plucky charm.
I thought the main reason was Daley Thompson's, meself
37. Wizard's Lair, Starquake, Firelord. Steve Crow was a one-man Ultimate.
Oh yes, password hunting on Starquake... fantastic!
Starquake. Anyone know what Steve Crow’s up to, these days?
38. Flying under a bridge in TLL - at low speed, then at high speed, then seeing how long you could keep going at below ground level, following the narrow water lanes not crashing into the banks... It’d be a great game for an ‘appreciate’-style show-off replay.
39. In Jet Set Willy, falling into the pretty out-of-the-way screen 'Entrance to Hades'. For a short time you were compelled to stare at the crazy flashing colours and demonic imagery, as the 'DIE MORTAL' rebus injected evil seeds into your mind for hatching at an unspecified future date, while you automatically lost all your lives. I never managed to find it again back then... and eventually wondered if I'd just imagined it. You know, there are places in some games (particularly long first-person shooters or general graphical adventurey games) where you remember the place like somewhere you've actually been, even after forgetting which game it's from or if you're actually remembering it right at all.
Jet Set Willy. We heartily recommend that Matthew Smith thing on UK Nova.
40. Using your mum and dad's stereo, turned up really loud, to plug in the tape leads and blast through a tenth-generation copy of any of those bastarding Ocean speedyloader things.
41. Or using the 'high speed dubbing' button to try and load the bloody things faster.
42. Another tape-related one is when a copy is so multi-generational that after the "Duuuuuuuuuuh… BLEEEP!" on the header you could hear echoes of the bleep fading away into the distance...
43. The first time the stick-like players run on the pitch to the strains of the Match Of The Day theme tune (played Speccy beep-style of course) in Match Day. Forget your FIFA's and Winning Elevens - that was a beautiful game.
“Come on you poorly drawn, ethereal slags!”
44. Kneeing someone in the gonads on Renegade. What a sound effect!
45. Christmas 1984. My brothers and I unwrap our Speccy along with Hyper Sports, a helicoptor sim whose name momentarily eludes me (the one with the G-Lock security device) and Match Day. I too remember that music. I nearly wept with joy. I spent years playing it, until I could win easily on International level. Man, that feeling of helplessness as a striker bore down on goal, knowing that your keeper's feet were effectively set in concrete. (Thankfully Match Day 2 rectified that.)
46. Programming my Currah Speech to say ‘Nick Rhodes’ to impress my sister.
47. Eagerly awaiting the can-can girls in Tapper.
48. Getting out of the first room in The Boggit (took me about six months)
49. Avoiding bits of glass in Chequered Flag (they should bring it back in real-life F1).
Pirates, phear the plastic thing with phuturistic
sci-fi use of the letter ‘K’.
51. Me and my mates being struck dumb by the loading screen of 3D StarStrike. It had a loading progress bar.
52. Juggling the ball on your head in Match Day - the ultimate humiliation
53. Fuck it, Match Point.
Oh, God. Oh, God. They’re trapped forever. The humanity.
54. The first time you played Knight Lore.
55. Ultimate's packaging.
56. Everyone's A Wally (a charlie or a ‘nana or a nerd).
57. Playing Chuckie Egg with half an eye on Roy Walker's Catchphrase.
58. Loading Tranz-Am instantly on my Kempston cartridge thingy.
Mr. Kempston Interface. An evil vagrant with two good teeth.
59. Applying too much suck to your Kempston joystick and removing the veneer from the dining room table.
60. Drawing using a joystick with The Artist II.
Oh yeah, it was called Tomahawk!
61. Winning at Sam Fox Strip Poker.
Relax, guys. She’s a tuppence-flicker.
62. Running over pedestrians in Turbo Esprit.
63. Giggling at the unfortunate sword placement in Gift From The Gods.
64. Lightforce, with no colour clash.
65. Writing 'Shit On Toast' on the blackboard in Skool Daze/Back To Skool - and sitting down just in time so that someone else got the blame just as the teacher walked in. Oh, and renaming the pupils and teachers in similarly sweary ways (Mr Wacker was easy).
When Eric jumped it looked like he was flicking the Vs up. Oooohoho.
66. Brian Howarth's 'Mysterious Adventures' series - there was something about the blippybleepy text input that felt really nice on a Speccy keyboard.
67. Playing Teramex. One of the few games I've played and finished again on an emulators.
68. Going to my cousin’s house where his step-dad had got him a Microdrive(!!) with just about every game ever on a big stash of little self circulating tapes.
69. Playing Powerdrift to Madonna's ‘Cherish’.
Playing Chase HQ to Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Leave A Light On’.
Playing with myself to Belinda Carlisle.
70. The destroyable background scenery in Cabal - the first time I ever saw such a thing in a game.
71. When the duck thing came out of the cage in Chuckie Egg.
Isn’t that the fella from Miner 2049er?
72. The distorted yet still somehow impressive "Ghostbusters!" speech sample when you captured a ghost in Ghostbusters.
73. Completing Atic Atac for the first time.
Okay, then. 74. Whatever.