Modern Spectrum Games Advent Calendar

edited December 2017 in Games
So... it is done. The main reason for my return from the shadows earlier this year was because I knew the greatest Christmas present I ever had was coming up for 30 years ago. It was a Spectrum +2, complete with nasty SJS-1 joystick and 99 games (most of which worked in some way), it replaced the ZX81 that had been restricted to 1K for the last two years (an eternity at that age), and much fun was had in the ensuing years afterwards. The big thread was where I wanted the experts of this forum to recommend games from the "modern era" (1994-2017) that I could make ten all-new compilation tapes with.

I worked on the compilation for most of the year, adding in new games from 2017 as they were released, and some time in early November, it was completed. Much fun has already been had even in testing the compilation, as I had to play the games to make sure that they worked on at least one of my ever-expanding collection of Spectrums (only one, so far, has had any problems on a +2B, and I know how to fix that now), and much fun will continue to be had in the future.

I've specifically excluded any "distribution denied" releases from Cronosoft for reasons which should be obvious, but I figured anything else should be fair game. Only one copy of this compilation will ever exist (unless anyone else wants to go through the same process I did) and I'll be spending a bit of whatever spare cash I can scrape together in the Cronosoft webshop at some stage, so my real Spectrums don't miss out on any of Jonathan Cauldwell's wonderful wares. Essentially, it was his modern games that made me think of making this compilation in the first place, even though a lot of them were released in what I'd call "The Wilderness Years", from when the Speccy shuffled off to its retirement in Eastern Europe in 1994, up to around 2005 when the rate home-brew games on tape from the UK, Spain and generally anywhere outside Russia, started to increase to a (relative) torrent.

I don't want anyone to be left out, as I tested somewhere around 200 games, and I had enough tape space for 114 of them. Some of them, the massive multiloads like Pussy: Love Story From Titanic just weren't suitable for transferring to tape, some wouldn't work on anything other than a TR-DOS equipped Russian machine, and some I just didn't get on with; nothing personal against the authors, I just don't like Sokoban games and not a lot is going to change that.

In the immortal words of Dave Hughes (R-Tape, right?), an unimaginably enormous TANK OF THANK (a whole 1024K of it!) goes to... actually, I'm not going to single anyone out, it goes to everyone who has programmed a modern Spectrum game, whether or not it made it onto my compilation, whether or not I could read the text (because my level of Spanish, Russian, Czech, Polish, and plenty of other languages is pretty much zero), whether or not I could get it to run on my 30-year-old +2 even though it was flawless on an emulated version. A tank of thank also goes to anyone who made any recommendation, at all - again, not all of them were suitable, but there were no silly or trolling suggestions despite my lengthy absence, it certainly gave me a lot to chew on for a long time, and I needed that. No word of a lie, making this compilation, reconnecting with WOS, actually meeting some of the people involved back in April, has been a major contributor in giving me something to live for this year. There have been times in the last couple of years where I thought I might actually fall off the cliff. It hasn't happened yet. If at all possible I intend to put off that day until I am old, grey, wrinkled and all my teeth have fallen out.

I thought the best way to reveal what made it onto the compilation, with December on the horizon, was to do so in the form of an advent calendar. The ten tapes will take us as far as December 20th, and for the last four days I'll hand out some awards.

December has now arrived, so here we go...



1: Los Amores de Brunilda

2: Flype

3: EFMB: Endless Forms Most Beautiful

4: Gem Chaser

5: Horace Goes to the Tower

6: Skyscraper of Doom
Post edited by The Mighty Dopethrone on
Thanked by 1MatGubbins


  • And on the second day of December, electronic Father Christmas brought me... a way to put both screenshots on the same line. Oh, wait, no he didn't. Whatever I did last night I couldn't get that to happen, even stacking the img tags together without a space. I'll have to deal with it this way...

    TAPE 1, SIDE B

    1: Zbylut Owrzodzień w Kamiennym, Kurwa, Zajebanym Czarcim Kręgu

    2: Freddie Laker's Airline Capers

    3: Knightmare ZX

    4: Gloop Troops: The Lost Crown

    5: Willy the Wasp

    6: Azzurro 8-Bit Jam
  • Hello, me, it's nice talking to myself... *chugga chugga* ...a credit to dementia!

    Not that I will go that way. Anyway, time to open the third window...

    TAPE 2, SIDE A

    1: Buzzsaw+ (Foxton Locks Mix)

    2: l'Abbaye des Morts

    3: Sgt. Helmet - Training Day

    4: Horace in the Mystic Woods

    5: Tourmaline

    6: Retroinvaders
  • Bit late with this one - blame the England cricket team for making me stay up all night and despair at their antics. Bah!

    The games are still great, though. Obviously.

    TAPE 2, SIDE B

    1: Yumiko in the Haunted Mansion

    2: Ooze

    3: Alter Ego

    4: Wunderchar$

    5: Oddi the Viking

    6: Cousin Horace
  • Day five, and we're on to tape three...

    TAPE 3, SIDE A

    1: Stormfinch

    2: Space Disposal

    3: Marbles of Wisdom

    4: Castaway

    5: Gem Chaser 2

    6: Abe's Mission: Escape
  • Today marks 100 years since Finland declared independence. Here's the games I've got lined up for them: Perkele! on the NES is also a viable source of entertainment.

    TAPE 3, SIDE B

    1: Harbinger: Convergence

    2: Elixir Vitae

    3: Speccy Bros.

    4: Teodoro no Sabe Volar

    5: JINJ

    6: Monty's Honey Run
  • Finland woke up with the mightiest hangover this morning. Finland mumbled something, made a mug of dynamite-strength coffee, and loaded a Spectrum game.

    "Perkele!" said Finland. "This is Russian!"

    And a thumpingly brilliant Russian game it is as well.

    TAPE 4, SIDE A

    1: Castlevania: Spectral Interlude

    2: Hedgehogs

    3: Future Looter

    4: Misco Jones: Raiders of the Lost Vah-Ka

    5: Rompetechos

    "Curse! The sixth game can't be load!"

    As Castlevania takes so long to load, only five games fit on this side of the tape, even allowing for the short loading time of Hedgehogs. Rompetechos' response was unprintable, and also in Spanish.
  • My TV's not working. It won't stay tuned on the finely-adjusted channel 36. Send in the expert!

    TAPE 4, SIDE B

    1: El Stompo

    2: Zombie Calavera Prologue

    3: Sewer Rage

    4: Monty's Last Strike

    5: The Speccies

    6: Mystery
  • Yes, yes, Linda, I know, I've got another set of games to lavish praise on. I'm on the spot, ready to mission.

    Tape 5 contains more from "The Wilderness Years" than any of the other tapes, showing that there was hope at the bottom of Pandora's Box... it was just a little further east.

    TAPE 5, SIDE A

    1: Metal Man Reloaded

    2: Flappy Bird ZX

    3: Stars (Gumi)

    4: Kyd Cadet

    5: Quadrax

    6: Minesweeper
  • Nice and early, this morning. Wait, what do you mean it's a Sunday? I have to get up. These tapes aren't going to TZX themselves...

    These, on the other hand, came as TZX or TAP and had to be converted the other way, into real tapes.

    TAPE 5, SIDE B

    1: Genesis: Dawn of a New Day

    2: Phaeton

    3: La Corona Encantada

    4: Factory Daze

    5: Towdie

    6: Complica DX
  • Today's round-up of six games from recent years features Spain's answer to Velma Dinkley. Jinkies!

    TAPE 6, SIDE A

    1: Maritrini, Freelance Monster Slayer

    2: Kyd Cadet II: The Rescue of Pobbleflu

    3: Shuttlebug!

    4: Snake Escape

    5: Heart Stealer

    6: Streets of Doom
  • It's almost like being harriusherbartio here, constantly replying to my own posts. I won't make a habit of it when this is all over, mind!

    TAPE 6, SIDE B

    1: Sun Bucket

    2: Monty Mole and the Temple of Lost Souls

    3: Willy the Wasp 2

    4: X=Y=Z

    5: Gommy, Defensor Medieval

    6: Karlos und Schätze der Azteken
  • Six down, four to go, and the first game here is Danish. So, as they say in Denmark, three halves times forty over ten down, two squared times two divided by the cube root of eight to go.

    TAPE 7, SIDE A

    1: Vallation (48K)

    2: Ossuary

    3: Tenebra Macabre

    4: Chopper Drop

    5: MultiDude

    6: Winnie-the-Pooh
  • "The author was burned at the stake for witchcraft." And yet, somehow, he still posts here from beyond the grave.

    TAPE 7, SIDE B

    1: Wanderers - Chained in the Dark

    2: GraviBots

    3: Code Zero

    4: Cannon Bubble

    5: Invasion of the Zombie Monsters

    6: The Lost Tapes of Albion
  • edited December 2017
    No love for udg graphics games like C is for Crabby ? There are a few more from Gabam which are fine. Are you aware that Vallation 48K/128K is free to download?
    Post edited by hikoki on
  • hikoki wrote: »
    No love for udg graphics games like C is for Crabby ? There are a few more from Gabam which are fine.
    Well, there is Shuttlebug! that I've already covered, if that counts as a UDG game (it's about as close as I've come to those so far). Bear in mind there are still three tapes left to be revealed, and I will at least say there's something from Gabriele in the remaining mix.
    hikoki wrote: »
    Are you aware that Vallation 48K/128K is free to download?
    Only the 48K version was available when I made the compilation, and though I knew the 128K version was on its way, I wasn't expecting it this year.

    Anyway, on with the show! There's even one I've RZXed myself in this lot.

    TAPE 8, SIDE A

    1: Crystal Kingdom Dizzy 2017

    2: Dominetris

    3: Ragnablock

    4: Pietro Bros.

    5: Columns

    6: Toofy's Winter Nuts
  • Nearly there now! The excitement is building...

    I should point out, originally I was going to have a complete blanket ban on any hacks, such as the Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy or Magicland Dizzy variants that could all have a compilation on their own. There's one I allowed, though, whatever hornet's nest it might kick merely by mentioning it. I apologise for nothing!

    TAPE 8, SIDE B

    1: The Hobbit - 128K Edition

    2: Land of Mire Mare

    3: King's Valley

    4: Knightmare II ZX

    5: Flynn's Adventure in Bombland

    6: The Adventures of Sid Spider

    The Adventures of Sid Spider was something of a challenge because it's only stored as a Z80 at WOS, and I had to use Z802TZX to create the tape. It works, though, if I don't go too mad with the turbo loader. I considered doing the same for some Russian TR-DOS games from around the turn of the century, but I couldn't get those to work the same way.
  • We are now entering The Twilight Zone. Tapes 9 and 10 contain (for the most part) those games that I'd previously identified as not working on my +2, for some unfathomable reason, but which I couldn't leave off the compilation because they are (CHR$ 97) brilliant, and (CHR$ 98) working perfectly on the +2B so I can definitely play them on a real machine. If I ever get the +2's strange memory/processor/dementia problems sorted out (and it will probably not be as simple as swapping the Z80 as it was on the two +3s as it's soldered into the board). Also, because of the longer loading times of these, for the most part, none of the remaining tapes have six games per side.

    TAPE 9, SIDE A

    1: Ninjajar!

    2: BeTiled!

    3: Subacuatic

    4: Descending Dungeons
  • Thank you for all this - its some piece of work ! I, for one, am really enjoying the opportunity to get a glimpse of so many loading screens I've never seen before, some pretty outstanding graphics considering the machines limitations. Thanks O Mighty Dope Throne and Merry Christmas to you!
  • Another reply! Skål! It was certainly worth it doing all the research for all these, and it wasn't just consulting here - it involved a lot of YouTube videos from the likes of Bazza H and Jammajup highlighting their favourite games of modern years (usually 2011 and onwards). And I suppose the loading screens are helped by a combination of BMP2SCR, ZX Paintbrush and modern graphics packages that make it much easier for fonts that we're used to on the PC & Mac to be transferred to a Spectrum screen. One game I know had Comic Sans on the loading screen (seriously, why?) but Descending Dungeons above is clearly Roman Stonecut (a font I'm known to like), I think The Lost Tapes Of Albion has Goudy Stout in the title, and I know I recognise the fonts from Sun Bucket, Heart Stealer and King's Valley but I can't place them. Nice use of the Coca-Cola font on both Freddie Laker's Airline Capers and Cousin Horace as well. And while all these were possible in 1982, seeing as they are just a combination of pixels and attributes that an infinite number of monkeys hammering away on an infinite number of Spectrums might have produced completely by accident, it wouldn't have been realistic to see them until the modern era. Ditto for screens like Zbylut Owrzodzień... that seems to defy the notorious colour clash but is really just paying close attention to the boundaries of the 8x8 cells.

    Anyway, three doors to go until... actually, how do you think I'm going to fill the last four days?

    TAPE 9, SIDE B

    1: Godkiller

    2: Sgt. Helmet Zero

    3: Car Wars

    4: Phantomas Tales #1: Marsport

    5: Dark Castle
  • Eish! Bit late with today's instalment, but better late than never, right? 104 games down, a mere 10 to go; we're onto the final tape.

    TAPE 10, SIDE A

    1: DreamWalker: Alter Ego 2

    2: Uwol, Quest for Money

    3: Bubble Monkey Bros.

    4: Phantomas Tales #4: Severin Sewers

    5: Majikazo

    There are two versions of Majikazo in the original file: side A was for the toast rack and +2, side B was for the +2A and +3. I found that side A wouldn't run on the +2A/+3, but side B would run on any 128K model, so that's the one I've included - and so far I've had no problems with it on the +2. The author may tell me I'm in for a nasty shock at some stage, but if that's the case, I can always use it on the +2B.
  • edited December 2017
    Näin kaikki päättyy, näen sen nyt, tämä sivu on viimeinen...

    (Or, not in Finnish: this is how it ends, I can see it now, this page will be the last...)

    TAPE 10, SIDE B

    1: Godkiller II: Exile

    2: Pentacorn Quest

    3: Cray-5

    4: Zukinox

    5: Nanako Descends to Hell

    Thus is complete the round-up of the 114 games that made it onto my compilation, and I will have many amusing hours with these well into the future. As for those that didn't make it, and aren't on Cronosoft tapes that I'll be investing in when I'm a bit more flushed with cash, fret ye all not - some didn't fit practically on a tape or were TR-DOS only, some arrived too late to be considered (bear in mind I started this project at the end of 2016 and added 2017 games along the way) - but I'll have fun with those via emulation, that is for certain. I've managed to (somehow) crowbar in at least one game from every year from 2005-2017, and though I'd intended to go for every year from 1994-2017, this wasn't possible as the majority of the games from before 2005 that weren't Cronosoft releases only worked on TR-DOS equipped machines, which my +2 isn't. I've further come to the conclusion that the darkest of the Spectrum's wilderness years was 2001, at least for those of us not fluent in Russian; it was a steady upturn from then, with the floodgates opening some time around 2008, as I've hopefully shown over these last 20 days of posts.

    Join this thrilling thread again tomorrow, for there is still more to come, in the form of... THE AWARDS!
    Post edited by The Mighty Dopethrone on
  • edited December 2017
    You may have overlooked Bouncing Bomb: Redux
    Post edited by hikoki on
  • Hey I loved this thread :)

    Was hoping it would go on til' the bitter end ;)

    Anyway, thanks for this, it reminded me of a few newer titles I still need to try myself, since the infoseek hasn't been updated in forever it's kind of hard to keep up with all the new releases here and there, I've missed a good chunk of some of them. We have threads all over WOS for them, but even then that gets confusing, and crazy after a while...

    Anyway Thanks, this has been a good thread :)
    You can't expect me to have lunch with a man who's favourite part of the chicken is the right wing!
  • Thanks for the thread. I thought I waited till this thread finished before chiming in.

    You know, it's really cool so many good games were made in this latest revival.

    Oh, and you found 2 of my games too. :)

    I hope next week I can start collecting this year's (2017) games too (I'm sorry but this year was a very strange year for me.) And you made me realise it's also good to highlight some really good games during this period. It's a great idea and thanks for reminding me!
  • edited December 2017
    Ye gods. I appear to have written yesterday's post without actually posting it. So here's DOUBLE TROUBLE for today.

    At no point did I ever say I was going to test every single game made after 1993 (because I'd still be doing so by the end of next year and that's too late), but I'll be sure to give that one a shot at some stage.

    The bitter end will be on the 24th, the final door of the standard Advent Calendar, and I will actually post it! Also, I had some trouble keeping track of what had been released from 2013-17, but the "games this year" threads and kept a lot of them in the same place. Other than that, a lot of looking through the "retro" blogs helped find some I'd missed.

    Keep watching this thread...

    Anyway, it's time for the first of THE AWARDS:


    The Jeff Wayne "Excellent Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds, According To James May BMus" Award for Best 128K AY Soundtrack

    Selections were made on the basis of the soundtrack being memorable enough that the mere mention of the game would immediately spark off a note-perfect rendition in my head and have it stuck there for hours afterwards.

    Highly commended candidates were the in-game tunes of the following:
    Hedgehogs - bouncier than Tigger in a rubber ball factory!
    Factory Daze - amazing what a sequence of bleeps and bloops from the AY chip can do, isn't it?
    Tourmaline - known to be one of Bazza H's favourites as well
    Flappy Bird ZX - and also a game I didn't include on the compilation, Worm (a TR-DOS game from 1998) which uses the same tune, and there may be other games that do amongst Eastern European programmers...
    Elixir Vitae - "you can't always explain why you like something... you just... do." - Brian Sewell, some time in the past

    Honourable mentions go to:
    Azzurro 8-Bit Jam for providing a soundtrack I'm mostly familiar with already (at least, I recognise two of the tracks straight away);
    Castlevania: Spectral Interlude - I never had a NES so I was never quite as familiar with Castlevania and its soundtrack as others would be (American and Japanese gamers, mostly) but it rang enough bells that I knew straight away what game I was playing;
    Oddi The Viking, specifically the title music that I'm sure is some kind of 1970s classic rock by a band I'm bound to have heard of. Am I right?

    The official runner-up is:

    Cray-5 - which I've since found is a conversion of War In The Middle Earth by Skaven & Future Crew. Extra bonus points are scored from the comments below - while I usually find it best to ignore them, it seems there's a ZDoom connection here as well, as some of Skaven's works were converted for the soundtrack of the Hexen WAD Serpent: Resurrection... which I've never managed to get to work properly, but its RPG elements and extra weapons can be loaded separately, and I've played a lot of my favourite Hexen WADs with those mods added.

    But the winner is:


    Zbylut Owrzodzień w Kamiennym, Kurwa, Zajebanym Czarcim Kręgu - nothing has wedged itself in my head quite so firmly as this one, to the point where it will randomly ambush me at the most unexpected times and I'll find myself humming it front of a crowd of people who have no idea what I'm humming, or why. Furthermore, some of you may remember I've got a (now not particularly regular) podcast, one of which was Spectrum-themed (I've even dug up the thread, aren't I generous). I've had metal versions of video game music on there before, sometimes even the original soundtrack directly from the machine... and, if I thought I could get away with it, I planned to have a Chiptune Redux edition at some stage where I'd genuinely considered dropping in the soundtrack from ZOWKKZCK absolutely as-is.

    Before anyone mentions it, I am well aware that CRL's War Of The Worlds game that was based on Jeff Wayne's soundtrack rather than the book beeped out The Eve Of The War not particularly spectacularly. At the time (1984, wasn't it), possibly in the opinion of the experts, the chances of anything better coming from the Spectrum were a million to one, they said. But still it comes. And here was the evidence.
    Post edited by The Mighty Dopethrone on
  • edited December 2017
    I think what I did yesterday is, I hit the "preview" button to check all the links and the screenshots were in the right place, saw that it was good, and left the thread! At least the forum saved it all as a draft so I didn't have to re-write the lot, or I'd be here all day.

    I have two awards to hand out today, one of them is very short, and that is:


    The Arthur Scargill "Villain Of Wanted: Monty Mole" for Steadfast Refusal To Work

    The only candidate for this award, and hence the winner, is:


    Seto Taisho vs. Yokai was originally on the compilation - it was the first game on side B of tape 5. I'd tested it extensively, found it worthy of inclusion, and it would load - most of the time - when I took the sound of the original WAV and routed it through a tape adapter into my +2, or through the TAPE/SOUND socket of whichever +3 happened to be working at the time. Something, though was amiss, once I made the tape. This was the one game that absolutely refused to load at any point from the tape, on any of the four Spectrums I have that accept loading from tape (the +3 I call "Ricky" has a dead TAPE/SOUND socket that I haven't fixed yet). I found that Alessandro Grussu's other games with the same custom loader also refused to load even from the WAV, so those never got as far as the tape - the only exception being Cousin Horace, which might be better off for loading in small sub-two-minute sections. It's a bit dodgy on the black models but every section loads OK on the +2, so this one was fine for inclusion. I re-recorded side B of tape 5 and this didn't produce any better results, I re-made all of tape 5 with a different cassette, no joy. Well, actually, there's joy for La Corona Encantada, which found itself included at the last minute as a replacement.

    For the record, Seto Taisho vs. Yokai works just fine on emulation, so I'll stick to playing it that way... from tape, it went on strike as regularly as a 1980s miner or a 1970s British Leyland line worker (and also the cars they made), but I opted for Arthur Scargill for the award rather than Red Robbo because we actually get to see him at the end of an old classic game, which has inspired three further sequels that all appeared on this compilation.


    The Dave Grohl "I Can't Believe It's Not Nirvana" Award for Best Use Of Colour... on a game that isn't using Nirvana, Bifröst or any other similar trickery

    Worthy candidates were:

    Vallation - clear as a bell and free of colour clash, everywhere I can see at least; bear in mind I've only played the 48K version so far, but I'd expect similar results from the 128K version;
    Teodoro No Sabe Volar - I know there's a video on YouTube which I've lost track of now, that highlighted how Spanish developers were well known for making games that were like an explosion in a Dulux factory but still working round the Spectrum's colour limitations in a way others tended not to think of, and this was the game that was highlighted as the best of the bunch at the time the video was made.
    Maritrini, Freelance Monster Slayer - Gauntlet-esque Spanish goodness with lots of detailed, coloured floor tiles that at no point obscure the view of a thirty-something actress blasting baddies to kingdom come...
    Los Amores de Brunilda - one I appreciated a lot more for its colours once I'd dug into it and gone beyond the initial village, into the forest with the witch.
    Yumiko in the Haunted Mansion - you may say this is a strange choice, but I like the approach of getting round attribute clash by blacking out the screen, and have Yumiko surrounded by an eerie candlelight generated by a few blocks of complementary colour, which show up just enough of the surrounding area to make the game playable (between the lightning flashes).

    But the winner is:


    Indie Retro News' review of Ooze absolutely nailed it. "Andy Johns really has mastered the art of the Spectrum and beaten its colour issues into submission." The game screens have been carefully constructed so that the pipes, walls and cave innards can all be different colours but never overlap with each other, the green slime and gas never gets in the way of anything else, the keycards are carefully positioned so they can be in two colours as well, and the only attribute clash I've found is where Ooze is passing through some of the areas with the chomping jaws and turns blue for a brief period. It helps that the game is somewhat forgiving (at least after I'd worked out how to get hold of the red keycard) so I've seen a lot of it, and so far I can get as far as three cards before Ooze is finally splattered (one day I imagine I'll complete it). I suppose this was the next step after Monty Mole and the Temple of Lost Souls, where everything was yellow except a few gems in the background here and there - so I'll be eagerly awaiting what Andy Johns has in store for us next.
    Post edited by The Mighty Dopethrone on
  • No more mistakes! Early in the morning because I have a lot to do today (involving four gallons of cider), the advice may well have been "don't you open that Trap Door", but opening door number 23 out of 24 that isn't in the floor of a haunted castle and won't release all sorts of plasticine horrors will be just fine. Unless, of course, 'im upstairs wants 'is 'orrid slimy eyeballs cleaned.

    The Dave Hunt "Watching Anaal Nathrakh Only For The On-Stage Banter" Award for Most Amusing Interludes In The Gameplay

    ...actually, it's not strictly interludes I'm looking for, it's really any aspect of the game that... let's put it this way. I have reached the point of moroseness where such a thing as a smile has never been seen on my face, but these are the games that came closest to forcing it to happen. Strange, isn't it, that another "Dave H." is included in the nominations. And they are:

    The Lost Tapes Of Albion, by Dave Hughes - for the descriptions of the tapes in between levels, and particularly the reference to another modern game author being burned at the stake for witchcraft!
    Wunderchar$, by Dave Hughes again - for perfectly capturing... well, maybe not Sir Clive himself, but certainly Alexander Armstrong's version of him in Micro Men. And when we gave 100 people 100 seconds to name as many 1980s computers as they could, the Pointless answer was...?
    Shuttlebug!, by... seriously, Dave, stop hogging this category, will you? Anyway, this was for the dubious "prizes" in between stages - yes, I would like a spare +3 drive belt, actually, and, who would collect taps? Clearly you never met me when I was about seven or so. Also I should mention the obvious nod to that April Fool, you know the one I mean. You've earned yourself a corned beef sandwich for this one, Dave.
    Rompetechos, not by Dave Hughes! Actually, this one wouldn't have been nominated if Dave had written it, because this is for the hilarious Metallenglisch translation of version 1.0 (even though I've put the Spanish version 1.2 on the tape becaus, having played version 1.0, I know what's going on). "Curse! The door can't be open!" "Buf! Can't climb more stairs up!" "Sapristi! This slap hurts!" With those who are very much the liking of dodgy 1980s metal of thrash and 1990s metal of power bands, is well knowing this minority language speeched in lands of Germany, Brazil and Finland. Songs with texts writed in Metallenglisch are Sodom - "Burst Command Til War", Sarcófago - "Deathrash" and Stratovarius - "Destiny". Also in Greece (Rotting Christ) and Italy (Grendel, Bloodshed Walhalla) is Metallenglisch of much liked. This game of Spain strucked me like a million lightnings (or million not working lamp posts... ZASH), and here I am telling to you.
    Ninjajar! has another amusing musical interlude, hidden in the Tutorial stage. Anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, go looking for it. You'll need the "down" key, and don't say you weren't warned!

    But the winner is...


    I did my research very thoroughly on all these games, and initially I was confused as to why Freddie Laker's Airline Capers said "1984" on the loading screen. Going digging for it, I eventually found the thread here, and slowly but surely, it all fell into place as more and more clues were dug up that all wasn't quite as it seemed, and it required breaking into the code to reveal the real truth. In the end I wasn't at all surprised it was Phil Ruston behind the prank, because I'd already sampled his sense of humour with the Giddy games for the Amiga and PC in the 1990s (and if you're reading this, Phil, you're forgiven for leaving an "Atari ST! Rave! Gibber!" in the bin. Just this once, mind!) I liked the way Phil attempted to cover his tracks to those of us who were just looking to play the game without suspecting anything (e.g. defining the control keys as Q/A/O/P/M rather than the later Q/A/O/P/space layout, more friendly on the + and later models but certainly not on the rubber-key model that most users would have had in 1984)... but then the clues were left to those who were determined to dig deeper and reveal the truth. Take the use of Esperanto of all languages - which was created in the 19th Century but was only thrust back in front of us via Red Dwarf in 1988, there was a Rutles reference (rather liked that as well, possibly saying "this is a parody"), Ralf said the graphics look similar to other modern programmers (I think he meant Jonathan Cauldwell, particularly looking at the contraband stage), then there was Star Trek reference that was too late to be 1984 (I'd have missed that)... the jigsaw pieces finally meshed and Phil came clean. I learned a bit about Freddie Laker's business empire as well, and how Michael O'Leary wasn't the first to offer us no-frills veal-crate-class flights to places we might not have gone before, even if I was nowhere near old enough to have had that dubious pleasure first time round. I'll probably get further into the game than I have done so far at some stage, it's always the flight path stage that does me in, but then, the way that plane handles is a very accurate reflection of cheap and nasty airlines these days, in my experience at least.

    And the other award for today is...


    The Super Mario Land 2 "Walk In The Park" Award for any games that I managed to complete on a real Spectrum where I don't have a Multiface and couldn't use save states!

    No Multiface, I say, which does become relevant for The Big One tomorrow - but some of these games do have passwords, which may have eased my passage through one or two of them. This is by no means an exhaustive list for games I think I can finish at some stage in the future, just those I already have.

    Elixir Vitae - once I'd worked out how the symbols were generated and worked out a few tactics, I had this game beaten and can do so about 90% of the times I play it. That the pieces don't automatically drop does help no end.
    Rompetechos - IvanBASIC did say this was a game he'd written for his kids who are still in single figures, so even in my younger days I might have been able to finish this one (though I had little concept then of the meticulous search required to find all the places the letter and stamp could be hiding). With all that discovered, the RZX sent to the Archive and a map almost done for Pavel's site, this one was easy enough to beat in its Metallenglisch 1.0 guise, and that meant I could beat the Spanish 1.2 version despite not knowing what half the captions are saying.
    Code Zero - a bit of careful mapping here and a bit of careful avoiding there and with the timer only ticking down every time the screen changes, this one was beaten on the second attempt.
    Heart Stealer - a game I played a bit, only to find the end screen and I thought "was that it?" I suppose the challenge now is to get a high score, making sure I can get as many "Awesome bonuses" as possible.
    Maritrini, Freelance Monster Slayer - the trick here is that Maritrini's energy doesn't steadily decline over time, only when she gets hit. So rather than an imagined ACTRESS NEEDS ENERGY DRINKS BADLY message, I can stand back, blast the baddies from a distance, and get a steady energy increase at the end of every level. And because the energy boost depends on the points scored on each level, stand back at a safe distance, shoot the baddies as they emerge from the generator, don't shoot the generator itself, and Maritrini will turn into Wonder Woman in a woolly jumper before you know it. The only reason I needed the password was to restart on level 5-1 after a day's break, because after the fourth level my head was fried.

    But the winner is:


    Those of a certain age that's a bit less than average for this forum (i.e. late 30s, which I am) will immediately get a tune spinning through their head from their very earliest TV viewing days when I mention the name of Chopper Drop. Am I right? Yes. (Metallica may also have been subconsciously channeling it from the other side of the Atlantic. But I digress...) Anyway, when in the testing phase for the compilation, the first time I tried to load this game from a WAV via a tape adapter, I played it... and kept on playing it, right to the end. This was the only game I beat on my first attempt, before the tapes were even made, and I don't think I was even trying! So that's why I gave it the nod over Heart Stealer, which even the most ham-fisted joystick-waggler should be able to beat very quickly.

    Seeing as that's two of Paul Jenkinson's AGD games I've beaten, I should have a determined crack at more of them; Space Disposal, I reckon, is the next one on the list. Or, as Codemasters would surely have called it, Super Professional Advanced Intergalactic Garbage Collection Simulator. As for the others, I should be able to beat Nanako Descends To Hell at some stage, and hence also the Maritrini prequel that was obviously based on the same engine. I've seen Zombie Calavera Prologue disposed of in ten minutes on the RZX Archive, and other small-ish Churrera games like Tenebra Macabre (which I'm led to believe was programmed in a day) should be similar. Maybe, possibly, I'll be able to do JINJ if I'm careful. And then there's Ossuary, which I've beaten and sent to the RZX Archive, but though I know how it's done, I think it requires extraordinary good luck to beat without save states. In short, I think these modern games offer a lot more opportunity to see the end screen myself, on a real Spectrum, than the games of the old days ever did!
  • And so we reach the final chapter, as the last door of the Modern Spectrum Games Advent Calendar creaks open, assisted by a so-far-unknown hydraulic ram peripheral that plugs into the edge connector of a rubber-key Spectrum - but weirdly, only fits the 16K model? - and is controlled by a few OUT commands that also change the border colours on the screen.

    Today is the day I reveal THE BIG THREE, the Olympic medallists, the cats that got the cream (single, double and Cornish clotted), the pieces of resistance. But first, the Honourable Mentions:

    ...these are any game that was "tape X, side A, game 1" that didn't make the top three. In the testing phase, I'd singled out those games that were the most likely to keep me coming back to them again and again, where I sensed something special from the beginning. That list is not quite exhaustive, though. And so, huge rounds of appreciative applause go to:

    Buzzsaw+ (Foxton Locks Mix) - the game that first alerted me to the way round the Spectrum's colour limitations, even if it isn't the oldest game on this compilation with such trickery; King's Valley is, though it's just for a static title screen, and that technique was known as far back as 1988 with the title screen of LED Storm. Moving graphics, though? Hope the purifying flames of medieval justice didn't hurt too much.
    Stormfinch - hooray, a shoot'em-up I can actually play for more than a few minutes without being blown to smithereens from losing track of where the baddies are coming from! And it's Nirvana-enhanced as well.
    Metal Man Reloaded - I wonder how far I will get with everything on the screen shooting at me all at once, with seemingly no way to dodge the bullets from some of the baddies. But I'll keep coming back anyway just to look at those chunky graphics. Also, this provides a neat link to "the Wilderness Years" when any new Spectrum games were made in Russia by Russian programmers in Russian for Russian gamers, but now it's here in slightly-Metallenglisch on tape. Nazdrovje!
    Maritrini, Freelance Monster Slayer - a throwback to the many, many hours I spent playing Gauntlet as a nipper, only in this one I can actually get all the way through to the end without a multiload, and it actually has an ending! Not sure what became of Maritrini afterwards, though, maybe she got a bit-part on the Spanish version of EastEnders...
    Vallation - more shootacular goodness, not Nirvana but I've already credited its excellent use of colour, and I've managed to get through the first level for good measure (after dumping the considerable handicap that is the Sinclair SJS-1). I will be investing in the 128K version!
    Wanderers - Chained in the Dark - which will be next on my list of RPGs to crack, once I'm done with... see below. I already know it plays differently to... see below, and I'm having a bit of trouble with it. But I will prevail!
    Crystal Kingdom Dizzy 2017 - do you see this, Codemasters? Do you? You had the bare-faced cheek to charge full price for the original CKD which was far too easy and riddled with flaws that every Dizzy fansite on the net has already pointed out. If this had been the game released in 1992 it'd have justified its price and then some.

    Then there's the three that don't work on my +2, which was annoying, but I do have the +2B as backup and they run fine on that:
    DreamWalker: Alter Ego 2 - the original Alter Ego was no slouch (and I particularly like the loading screen), but whack on a 128K AY soundtrack and the Nirvana engine and it's gone spectacular. And the puzzles aren't so tricky that I'll spend ages wondering what I'm supposed to do - usually only a bit of carelessness with the skulls will see me fall on my face.
    Godkiller and Godkiller II: Exile - a combination of superb-looking graphics, plenty of area to explore and not the kind of relentless hyper-speed rapid enemy spawning of the likes of Atic Atac, all mean I'll be spending a lot of time with these two and I will get to the end of both. I don't quite have that same confidence about Harbinger: Convergence with its instant-game-over death traps but I'll console myself that it was a MTMK2 game rather than the more standard Churrera, whose characteristics I have come to recognise in seconds.

    And now for the big three!


    The Alexander Armstrong "I Can't Believe It's Not Lord Yes Sir Alan 'You're Fired!' Sugar" Bronze Bald-Top Hair Award for Third Place Out Of 114 Games


    I think it was Jammajup's Top 10 Spectrum Homebrews of 2013 that alerted me to Los Amores de Brunilda. What's this? An RPG for the Spectrum? That at least looks like it's along the lines of Gargoyle's Quest, that gave me so many hours of endless fun when I had a Game Boy in my distant youth (and which I eventually beat, even when I was only 12 or so)? Is this really possible? Well, quite clearly, it is - and Gargoyle's Quest did fit into 128K, though presumably the Game Boy had hardware sprites and scrolling or some such extra beef that the Spectrum didn't and has to compensate. And though for those who know me, the "Pagan versus Christian" theme can be a bit of a hot potato, I was quite prepared to overlook that for [exactly[/i] the kind of a game I've been known to prefer since both GQ and Link's Awakening switched me onto them. So I know why the two monks are on their quest, I know who Brunilda is, who her "los amores" were, why this is such a problem... I think I am nearly at the end of the game and yes, I also know now what "the dances" are that I was warned about on a similar thread. And just when I thought I could have several attempts at any of those "dances" (read: Guitar Hero comes to the Spectrum), I discovered the one and only way I could get a Game Over and that's the point I'm at now, eternally grateful that there's a save state. I am Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder, working on behalf of Fray Gonzalo, and I will prevail with a bit more accurate joystick-waggling.


    The Patrick Moore "Gamesmaster Golden Kempston Joystick" With Silver Hair And Monocle Award for Second Place Out Of 114 Games


    Castlevania: Spectral Interlude is a masterpiece. Some may complain about the 11-minute loading time, but it's worth it. Some may complain about the way the dithering in the graphics to make extra colour effects obscures the view, but so far I've found few problems. If anything goes to prove that if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing properly, it's this attempt to bring Castlevania to the Spectrum (with Crystal Kingdom Dizzy 2017 lurking on the side for a non-cross-platform example). Yes, I know, I said I never played Castlevania games as much as your average Japanese or American console fanatic, but I knew enough about the games to recognise the accurate conversion of the graphics and the soundtrack, as much as could be done on the Spectrum. But you know what really impresses me? It's that the programmers swerved away from doing a straight remake of the original Castlevania, and instead based their game on Castlevania II: Simon's Quest - which had been thought of as the runt of the litter until its rehabilitation in more recent years (see also Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for an even more polarised reaction). Much as I'm going to sound like a broken record here, the extra RPG elements were what I liked about Simon's Quest when I finally played it about 20 years too late, probably with the sounds of the aforementioned Gargoyle's Quest still spinning through my head. What this version is missing, though, is... a password system! Only the other day I managed a fantastic haul of cash in the first graveyard stage as skeleton after skeleton dropped those massive yellow bags and I'd collected 249 coins by the time I'd hit the town for the first time. Excellent! I must make careful progress now until I get to the first save point... wait... I thought there was one? What do you mean there isn't? What a horrible night to have a curse. And having taken a quick look on the RZX Archive I saw a video almost three hours in length, and that'll have been done with Rollback, knowing exactly where everything is every time... this is going to take a very long time to finish, if indeed I ever can without a Multiface (and those won't come cheap or often on eBay), and Simon will remain as Mr Failmont for a fair while yet. Still, on balance, from some part of Russia, the morning sun has vanquished the horrible night, and the Spectrum's gaming scene is all the better for it.


    The Viktor Drozd "£75,000 And A Lifetime's Supply Of Rolos, CONGRATURATION, YOU SUCSESS!" Award for The Grand Champion Out Of 114 Games

    After a fair few considerations for who to name this award after, I thought it was appropriate to celebrate someone who's helped me through a fair few Spectrum games in the past (mainly old ones) via his contributions to The Tipshop (including Time Trax which helped me make a map of it), written one himself (that, admittedly, was a mod of a previous game) and who I will never have a chance to say "spasibo!" to. And when I submitted Dizzy Y: Return To Russia to the RZX Archive earlier this year after finding it wasn't listed, it was only then that Daren realised that Viktor had already done the original Russian version ("Dizzy X2") that, for fairly obvious reasons, I couldn't have done myself. That's how Viktor ended up with a new credit on the archive when he'd been dead for a decade. There was one game from Viktor's homeland of Belarus in this compilation (the version of Minesweeper on tape 5), and if Castlevania: Spectral Interlude had had some kind of password system that I could have done with, it'd have been that Russian entry that scooped the top award.

    But instead it goes to...


    Here I am, making a compilation of modern games to celebrate the 30th birthday of my +2, and the Grand Champion is a game that won't load on it! Actually, it will, but it crashes soon into starting the first stage, or sometimes even on the title screen. Ninjajar!, though, is spectacularly brilliant. Maybe I am biased a bit; when I was off school around the turn of the 90s with whatever horrific ailment it was that stopped me going (I wasn't the type to bunk off, ever), a local friend lent me his Master System, the model with Alex Kidd In Miracle World built in. No wonder, then, that I clocked the similarity as soon as I saw this game...wherever it was (it wasn't Jammajup, it wasn't Denis Grachev, it wasn't Bazza H...) and my immediate reaction was "I sense brilliance here". So imagine my reaction when I found the game threw a strop on my +2... I think the neighbours in the next street heard my howls of frustration. In the end, even though playing the game on a real Spectrum involves plugging in a +2B that's still in its twenties (it's even got the original receipt in the box, dated 10th June 1989), I couldn't let that cloud my judgement. It gives me a slight advantage in that I know it's a Churrera game so I know how it handles (mainly in the slight upwards acceleration in the jump mechanics) so it's easy to get into in the first place, there's a password system so I can save my progress and not have to do the tutorial stage every time, there are secrets to be found (including in that tutorial which gained another award), there are more amusing interludes besides that one, and I get the sense that, not only can I beat the game, although it'll take a long time to do it, I can keep going back to each stage and perfect it to give me the best chance of progressing through it. And it gives me a further target - if I get really good with a soldering iron, I can have a shot at bringing my +2 to a perfect state of health so it'll run this game flawlessly, and every other game from tapes 9 and 10, as well as all the 128K games it couldn't handle from the old days. And that'll be the real treat.
  • I've got one final post for this thread, on The Big Day itself.

  • A really great thread, nice to read!
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