In its early promotional material for the ZX Spectrum, Sinclair often went to almost painful lengths to avoid using the word 'games'. Released 35 years ago this month, the microcomputer was designed by Sir Clive Sinclair with serious applications in mind, and an optimistic role as a central hub for the nation's households. Constantly reiterating its expandability, these initial adverts were all about tech, emphasising the Spectrum's 'massive' RAM of 16 or - crikey!
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- 48k, as well as its high resolution and accessories, including a printer and the doomed ZX Microdrive. As it turned out, the manufacturer was swimming against the tide. Hmm, might try and type in a few POKEs I suppose. Game of chess or Scrabble aside, not likely. No, what the majority of kids wanted from the Spectrum was games. And games, much to the chagrin of Clive Sinclair, were what they got - in their hundreds.
Picking 10 of them is almost impossible - I could have done 20 or 30. But using a combination of criteria such as technical achievement, popularity and sheer imagination, I've settled for this dectet of superlative efforts that are surely lodged in the memories of even the most casual Spectrum owner. Horace Goes Skiing - Psion (1983) This was the closest the Spectrum got to a bona fide mascot in the vein of Mario or Sonic The Hedgehog, though no-one was ever quite sure what Horace was supposed to be. The globular. Thing had made its debut a year earlier in the Pac Man clone Hungry Horace. Appetite presumably satisfied, Horace was ready to take on the piste, although he needed to obtain his equipment first, courtesy of a ski shop that sat rather inconveniently on the opposite side of a busy road.
As a pack-in title for many Spectrum bundles, Horace Goes Skiing found its way into the hands of most Spectrum owners, and was a decent, if brief, stab at simulating the sport, not helped by designer William Tang's taste for recklessly-driven ambulances. See Also: Horace And The Spiders - Psion (1983) Jet Pac - Ultimate Play The Game (1983) Popular now. To celebrate the start of early access. While the company was quite rightly renowned for its isometric games, it was with 2D classics such as Sabre Wulf, Tranz Am and this fantastic shooter that Ultimate first made its name.
Released at a time when many commercial games still contained reams of BASIC code, the smooth and exciting gameplay of Jet Pac elevated it comfortably above its peers, despite being confined to just one screen. The objective was as compelling as it was simple: parts of Jet Man's rocket descended from above and had to be picked up and dropped in a specific order.
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Once assembled, our valiant spaceman had to fuel his craft using a similar method before jetting off. To the same screen again, and another host of oddly-shaped, yet deadly aliens.
A genuine classic that remains as playable today as it was 34 years ago, and squeezed rather incredibly into just 16k of memory. See Also: Deathchase - Micromega (1983) Jet Set Willy - Software Projects (1984) Manic Miner may have come first (although that game itself was obviously inspired by 1982's Miner 2049er), but it was with this sequel that creator Matthew Smith entered Spectrum folklore. Referred to apocryphally as 'Jet Set f***ing Willy' by Alexander Armstrong, playing Sir Clive Sinclair in the BBC drama Micro Men, it was the game more than any other that became associated with the Sinclair machine. Despite an infamous bug that rendered it impossible to complete, Jet Set Willy's open-ended gameplay - the player was free to explore the hero's mansion as they wished, tidying up the wreckage after a legendary party - and bizarre themes cemented its reputation as a classic, creating in the process the first bedroom coder superstar.