Living Guide to Spectrum Software


Space Invaders began it all and the more sophisticated Galaxian and Phoenix games continued it. Some of the games listed under this heading are among the oldest available for the Spectrum. Consequently some versions have not stood the test of time as well as others. In Invaders seried ranks of varied aliens jiggle across the screen getting lower and lower. Galaxians attack in lesser numbers but make up for it by swooping all over the place in an unsportsmanlike manner. Phoenix games are similar, but the aliens are bird-like, there are eggs to hit, often meteors as well, and finally a mothership to destroy. In the main most versions are very alike and it comes down to a matter of personal choice.

Producer: Imagine, 16K £5.50
Generally considered to be the best shoot ’em up game around. Aliens come in droves from the right, each wave more suicidal than the last. Continuous fire and thrust (to half the screen height only) with good keyboard positions. Excellent hi-res smooth graphics. Joystick: Kempston (and softlink II) or Fuller. Addictive and difficult to master.

Producer: Quicksilva, 16K £4.95
Author: John Edwards
Quicksilva’s go at galaxian/phoenix is creditably fast and difficult to master, featuring five attack waves in three phases — Cybird, Meteor and Plasma, each of which have their own characteristics. Oddly enough the first wave is the most difficult. You’re given five shields. Graphics and sound are neat. Joystick: Kempston.

Producer: Rabbit, 16K £5.99 (2)
This is a straightforward shoot em up with a left/right moving laser base and three types of birds which hover, flap and sweep down on you. Points scored relate to the type of bird hit and for hitting the bombs which all three types drop on you. Additionally, a duck flies across the top of the screen from time to time. The birds have a nasty habit of turning into bombs when hit, which makes it necessary to have a good ‘getaway’ technique. Reasonable graphics if a bit jerky and plenty of sound. General feeling was that there’s not enough in this game to make it very addictive or a better buy than most established shoot em ups. Simple control keys, joystick: Sinclair 2, overall CRASH rating 49% m/c.

Producer: Crystal, 16K £5.50
This game is a copy of an arcade shoot ’em up and almost makes a category of its own. Aliens stand in several vertical columns on either side of the screen. The centre block is a stack of humans and your three space ships (and lives). Your ship is at the base, firing up. Aliens zip across to the centre, grab a human and abduct him to the side. Eventually they can get at the three ships and steal those. For each one they get to the side you lose a life. Too rapid fire shortens the range so it’s better to be accurate than fast. Features fast motherships that zip along the base just above your head and fire at you, rapid mutants and six difficulty levels. Joystick: Kempston. Recommended.

Producer: Softek, 16K £5.95
Author: Graeme Devine
A classic phoenix. Fire rate and left/right movement are the best we’ve seen. Beautiful graphics featuring red Firebirds, blue Bombers, and white Weavers in an intricate dance of death. 100 percent machine code. Very difficult to get to see the mothership, but worth it! Highly recommended.

Producer: Pastern, 16K £6.95 (1)
Author: D Hoskins & C Davies
Firehawks is literally a Phoenix game but practically it’s an invader mutation. Your mission is to defend your planet from the deadly Firehawks of the title. They come in search of energy, and should one be allowed to land it turns into a giant Phoenix and flaps away — end of game. The birds line up at the top of the screen and you fire up with your laser beam. In the way are plasma screens which resemble decorative breeze blocks. The birds have to get round them and you must shoot them away to get at the birds. Graphics are quite large but there’s no animation, and despite the 15 skill levels and 15 speeds it doesn’t add up to much and is overpriced. No joystick option, poor control key response, good sound, generally fair. Overall CRASH rating 51%. BASIC + some code.

Producer: Anirog, 16K £5.95
This version features large animated graphics. The aliens weave fanciful patterns when attacking and have the cute habit of eating your population when you’re not looking, only throwing back their skulls. 100 percent machine code. Hi-score. Joystick option.

Producer: Romik, 16K £5.99
Author: Ian Morrison
Halfway between an invader and galaxian type, this three skill level game offers reasonably attractive graphics and plenty of them. You’re at the base firing up at ten bomb racks containing five aliens per rack. Above them a mothership floats lazily from left to right and back again. To hit it you must blast out all five aliens from a rack so you can fire through the gap. Aliens reproduce fast! For more points there are a few saucers that venture out, but they’re easy to hit. The aliens drop bombs on you but the screen is so full that the dropping distance is small and they are hard to dodge. Skill doesn’t appear to be a factor, rather luck. Hi-score. Joystick: Kempston or Sinclair, machine code, only average value for money.

Producer: Mikrogen, 16K £5.95
One of the weaker games with three skill levels and attackers more resembling invader aliens than anything else. The rate of continuous fire is wrong for the slow attack patterns, robbing the game of any excitement. Works with Mikrogen II joystick. Machine code. One or two player games.

Producer: Artic, 16K £4.95
A good copy and a classic version with nine levels of play, hi-score, personalised scoring, one or two player games. Features swooping Galaxians and hi-res explosions. Joystick: Kempston. Machine code. Very good value for money.

Producer: Lotus-Soft, 16K £5.50 (1)
Author: Derek Jones
This is a pretty hefty shoot em up where you’re pitted against waves of hawks which drop eggs. These eggs hatch out in the ground and become mutant hawks which form up for later attacks. You are in control of an old Asteroid Mining Vehicle which can fire missiles at the birds and falling eggs, a laser and also lay mines over the downed eggs. These also blow up the vehicle if they go off under it. There are a large number of control keys so speed and reflexes are of the essence. Good colours and graphics, plenty to do and exciting to play. Good control key positions and reasonable sound, multiple skill levels. Joystick: Kempston/Datel, Sinclair 2, Protek or AGF. General rating, good & addictive, overall CRASH rating 75%. 100% M/C.

Producer: Llamasoft, 48K £4.95
Llamasoft is one of those companies that got famous fast, though looking at this game one wonders why. The sky is raining hammers (makes a change from ravening aliens I suppose) and Chico must carry bags of money from one side of the screen to the other under the partial shelter of four blocks which are being eroded by the falling hammers. In between the shelters Chico can nut the hammers for points, but after ten he gets a headache and must then nut a red aspirin hammer. Hammers hitting his body instead of his head lose a life. Getting a money bag across safely restores one shelter. Badly put together and rather pointless.

Producer: Artic, 16K £4.95
The inlay, uncharacteristically for Artic, is way over the top in description! This is a grid/shoot em up. Alien craft inhabit the top squares between the fine grid and you have a laser base at the bottom, moving left and right. Between you and the aliens are reflecting mirrors at 45°. These are sometimes in singles, sometimes in ranks, and they deflect your shots off at right angles. The trick is to use several ranks of these reflectors to shoot up, across then up again to hit the aliens. There is a command ship which crosses the screen every now and again for bonus points. The aliens move from square to square horizontally, also descending slowly. Small graphics and over-responsive control on the laser base which makes it difficult to line up shots accurately. An original idea, reasonably playable, perhaps not terribly addictive though. Simple control keys, no joystick option — fair to average, overall CRASH rating 55% m/c.

Producer: Artic, 16K £4.95
Although this is a standard and close copy of the original, the hi-res graphics stand up quite well to the test of time. Nine levels of play and four variations of alien.

Producer: Artic, 16K £4.95
Artic’s engaging and addictive phoenix game has the mothership protected by a force field hovering above your base. Should your missiles hit it they are returned back as three! The mothership is only vulnerable in its control centre. There are loads of bomb-dropping aliens flapping around. Three lives, two skill levels and harder screens. Neat touch — if your base is hit the Artic lorry rushes out to repair it between lives. Generally recommended.

Producer: A&F, 16K £5.75
Basically a galaxian game. Pit your wits against wave after wave of suicidal fighter aircraft which swoop down on you dropping bombs. Clear two screens and you get a bonus screen against easy-to-hit helicopters before returning to the main feature. Graphics are attractive if a bit flickery and the mushroom shaped explosions are good. Continuous sound of attacking aircraft unless you drown them out with the sound of your continuous fire. Hall of fame, no joystick option.

Producer: Mikrogen, 48K £5.95 (2)
Author: C Hinsley
This is a very simple but effective shoot em up ‘Galaxian’ type game. Your laser base is assaulted by loads and loads of different alien types which fill the screen with weaponry — the red ‘heat seeking’ missiles are particularly mean. If you can survive 10 attack waves you are left facing ‘The Master’. It works well as a shoot em up and keeps you very busy. In general the graphics are very good with plenty of colour and there is reasonable sound. The inlay claims user-definable keys but there aren’t any and you don’t need them anyway. No joystick option, 5 skill levels (speeds), 3 lives and progressively difficult if you get through the 11 screens. Overall CRASH rating 77% m/c.

Producer: Rabbit, 16K £5.99 (2)
Author: J F Cain
In this game you are manning an anti-aircraft gun, while overhead clouds of helicopters are dropping paratroopers on you. The gun only traverses left and right, but because of the clever cheat on perspective it gives a field of fire across the top two thirds of the screen. You must hit helicopters and paratroopers. These fall from their choppers sometimes with chute opening instantly, others delaying till the last second, and others never opening at all, to die splat on the ground. You will lose a life if a para lands on top of you, or when three have landed successfully and gone off to fetch a giant tank against which there is no defence. The graphics are good, amusing and smooth (gun works very well) and it’s all fairly fast, but the general feeling was that there weren’t enough objectives in the game to make it totally compelling and addictive. User-defined keys, only 1 skill level, overall CRASH rating 62% m/c.

Producer: Megadodo, 16K £5.50
We’ve been very remiss in leaving this game out of the Guide. Megadodo’s Pheenix is a very close copy of the arcade original and has, for sometime, been one of the most popular versions around. It features a laser base with force field for protection (no shooting when it’s in its timed operation), eggs, various flapping birds and a very large Mothership, the underside of which must be worn away in traditional style before making it vulnerable to your fire. There are 5 screens and 5 skill levels (speeds). The graphics are very smooth and quite large, sound is inventive and continuous. The game can actually be easier to play at the higher speeds. If you like shoot em ups, this is a must for your collection and very good value at the price. 100% machine code, sensible keys and Kempston joystick.

Producer: Quicksilva, 16K £4.95
A close copy of Invaders with rather small graphics that work in character blocks. Fast but out of date.

Producer: Psion, 16K £4.95
Another close Invaders copy with better graphics than Space Intruders, but slower and not particularly addictive to play.

Producer: Mikrogen, 16K £5.95
One critic thought this was pathetic, another liked it. Certainly a ‘quaint’ game. You’re at the screen base firing up at a bunch of highly coloured alien zombies which chug about the screen like a train, getting longer with each screen. The graphics are big, there’s continuous fire, a nice moving star background, and the main feature is the erratic and highly unpredictable movement of the aliens. Three speeds, one or two player games, plenty of levels (at least six before I got killed off). Joystick: Mikrogen II, good value but not terribly addictive.

Producer: Micromega, 16K £6.95 (2)
Author: Derek Brewster
Not, perhaps, Derek’s best effort, but still a worthy addition to this section of games. Fight your way through 4 waves of enemy fighter craft to reach the Mothership and then place a bolt of laser power in whichever of her two power cores is active. The large graphics work very well, the ships peeping coyly into the screen from the top as the serried ranks make their jiggly way downward. Additional hazards are thrown at you in the form of flaming meteors which come down from between the attacking enemy ships, and the fact that the enemy fire power homes in your laser base so you can’t sit still for a second. General rating was above usual galaxian/invader game standard, a good version of ‘Altair’. Simple keys, joystick: Kempston, progressive difficulty, CRASH overall rating 69% m/c.

Producer: Melbourne House, 48K £5.95
Not, you might think by the title, a galaxian/invader type game, but it is really. There’s a 3D landscape and 2D massed Daktils in the distance moving just like space invaders. To hit them you must get the dimensional trajectory of your ‘battered’ cannon correct. Frequently one will swoop down on you in very good animated line drawing. You get more points for hitting the swooping ones, but it’s safer to dodge them. Not up to Melbourne House’s usual standard and the sound — what happened to it?

Producer: Arcade, 48K £5.50
Another game which sounds unlikely as a galaxian type contender, but then, we couldn’t quite figure what the title had to do with the game. But it is a good game anyway. Nice packaging as usual from Arcade and reflected in the graphics. Avoid the falling objects which change characteristic by level or shoot them for points. Tyres (?!) form up like thunderclouds and fall on you, a wretched dog keeps stealing your points. Avoid him by using the wrap-around screen. 25 levels. Joystick: Kempston and AGF or Protek. Good value.

Producer: Workforce, 16K £5.00
Something of a cult among galaxian fans, with two options (2-part load) for the ‘brave’ and ‘also-rans’. Six skill levels, laser, forcefield barrier and simple but effective graphics. This is a fast game for the experts — novices might not even realise they’ve lost all their lives. Disappointing graphics and ultimately not of lasting appeal.