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Complete Guide to Spectrum Games – Part 14

There’s never much on telly over the festive season, is there? Just reruns of reruns of reruns and a Bond film. The Great Escape wasn’t even on this year! Still, at least there’s some entertainment to be had on the ol’ rubber wonder, eh? And what better way to find out what’s there than to read about my continued suffering?

Altered BeastActivision, 1989

DISTRIBUTION DENIED, say Activision. Now, they might claim that it’s because of the difficulty of the licensing deal with Sega, who produced the original coin-op this is a conversion of. They might claim that it’s because they’re reserving the right to start selling the Spectrum version again. But you know what I think? I think it’s because they don’t want anyone to remember how terrible their games really are.

Now, it does look nice, I’ll give it that. But it plays like a dog. Scrolling is necessarily jerky because of the full-colour backgrounds, but it’s very slow, and also automatic. The player, meanwhile, shoots all over the screen in the fashion of a thoroughly lubricated gazelle. And like an oily antelope, he slides right into the bad guys as they drop from the sky. No, really – zombies, giant worms, Pacman’s overweight extended family – they all drop from the sky, usually onto your head, then shuffle around a bit until you kill them or they move off the screen. The only enemies to actually attack you are the wolves, who carry the power-ups you need to turn into a different monster each level. Even the end-of-level bosses don’t really do anything but sit there and half-heartedly throw empty crisp packets at you.

Distribution denied. It’s for your own good really.

Alternative World GamesGremlin Graphics, 1987

Alternative’s a great word, ain’t it? You know it’s true. It gets tacked onto all sorts of things these days. Alternative music. Alternative lifestyle. Alternative energy. Alternative medicine. And now (or rather way back when) Alternative World Games. It’s a sort of poor man’s Olympics, with events like the (highly illegal) Sack Race and Plate Balancing. Sounds interesting, eh?

Of course, we all know what ‘alternative’ really means, don’t we? It means rubbish. And that’s what this is – Rubbish World Games. The controls don’t work, the graphics are a horrible mess, the sound is non-existent and I just wasted ten minutes I could’ve spent watching Crocodile Dundee 2. Tch.

Al Toro!Lokosoft, 1992

Like all forms of animal cruelty, bullfighting’s a pretty repulsive thing in real life. I mean, how can you call killing an ill-equipped and ill-informed animal for entertainment a sport? Bullfighting does a little bit better than hunting foxes with dogs or shooting birds, what with the matador actually putting something at risk besides his time, but still – it’s stabbing a bull to death for the adulation of the inconsiderate.

Now, as a computer game that could be absolutely fantastic. I mean, just look at that screenshot. It looks like something really innovative and different. What it actually is, unfortunately, is Advanced Bullfighting Simulator. There is one control – stab the bull. Interesting design around an unusual concept can cover for a multitude of sins, like no sound and terrible graphics, but they can’t cover for a Crap Games Compo entry. More’s the pity, or this’d be a lot more interesting from my end…

AlunizerRafael Garcia, 1986

Oh no. The system font gives this one away immediately – it’s another CGC entry, isn’t it? I’m going to be stuck with horrible beeping sound, terrible controls and no graphics. I could be enjoying Mick Dundee’s reunion with his Australian compatriots, and instead I’m stuck with this…

But wait! There’s a tiny chink of light at the end of the tunnel! Rather than being a crappy BASIC game, this is actually quite a reasonable BASIC game. It’s got rather a modern design, being made up of minigames. They’re all simple and well-executed, and each is mildly entertaining. Sure, it’d be easier if I could understand the instructions (they’re in Foreignese), but the controls are easy enough to pick up. In fact, the whole thing’s really quite fun. Still, I suppose after all this crap I’ve been wading through the odds of tripping on a gem were on my side, eh?

AmauroteMastertronic, 1987

One of the things I’ve learned from reviewing all these games is that judging a book by its cover is a fantastic way of saving a lot of time. I mean, look at all the rubbish games I’ve told you about. Almost all of them just look terrible. You’d just need to look at the title screen to see that they’re not worth your time.

This here is an exception. I mean, it looks lovely doesn’t it? All weighty isometric graphics, and you can blow up most of the weird objects lying around. Unfortunately the controls are a load of old tosh, and half the ground only lets you move in two directions rather than four, so all that pretty artwork is a complete waste of time. Tch.

So, that’s another pile of old tosh out of the way. Next up, it’s all things amazing, beginning with Amaz1ng…