Horace and the Spiders, ZX Spectrum

The third and final Horace game on the ZX Spectrum, written by William Tang and published by Sinclair/Psion in 1983.

Horace and the Spiders is yet another ‘clone’ game, this time copying Space Panic and also elements of Pitfall.

The game is split into two distinct stages. The first one sees Horace walking along a side-scrolling cavern and jumping over spiders that come his way, then climbing moving spider silk strands to cross a ravine. The second stage is a single screen platforms and ladders game where Horace must stomp holes in the web platforms so that spiders fall into them, and when they do he must stomp them again to kill them.

Like Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing, Horace and the Spiders is a game that many see through rose-tinted spectacles – the memory of playing it as a kid is stronger than the game itself. In truth: it hasn’t aged well, and isn’t much fun to play nowadays.

But at least Horace himself has become iconic among Spectrum fans.

A further ‘official’ Horace game, called Horace in the Mystic Woods, was released for the Psion 3-Series palmtop range in 1995, but it wasn’t written by William Tang. Further to that, a ZX Spectrum conversion of Horace in the Mystic Woods was released by indie coder Bob Smith in 2010. Other fan-made Horace games exist too, including Horace Goes to The Tower, released in 2011. It seems that our love for Horace continues ever onwards, in spite of his rather chequered past…

More: Horace and the Spiders on Wikipedia

Horace Goes Skiing, ZX Spectrum

Hungry Horace author, William Tang, also produced this sequel – Horace Goes Skiing – the same year as its predecessor: 1982. It was again published by Sinclair/Psion.

This one is part Frogger clone and part skiing game, and is slightly more playable and enjoyable than its predecessor.

Horace starts off having to cross a busy road to get to the ski slope. The traffic is fast, relentless and deadly, and finding a gap to make it through is not easy. Get hit by a vehicle and Horace must pay $10 for an ambulance. And – since he starts with $30 – that gives him three lives to begin with.

Survive the road, and the scene changes to a horizontally-scrolling slalom course. Horace skis down the screen and his speed is dictated by how much you turn him left and right. If Horace is facing directly downwards he’ll accelerate to top speed. If you turn him left and right he’ll turn and slow down. The route to success is lined with coloured flags, and only by carefully controlling Horace‘s speed and direction will you make it between them. Bash into a tree or a hill and Horace‘s skis will cross and he might break them. If he does, it’s back to the road for another pair (or game over if he doesn’t have the cash).

While Horace Goes Skiing is definitely better than its predecessor, it’s still not what I would call a “classic” game – even for the Spectrum. Sure: it’s steeped in nostalgia, but that’s not good enough on its own. If you were going to play it today, you’d probably be tired of it in 15/30 minutes.

More: Horace Goes Skiing on Wikipedia

Hungry Horace, ZX Spectrum

This ZX Spectrum Pac-Man clone is a legendary early title from Beam Software/Melbourne House, and was published by Sinclair/Psion in 1982.

Hungry Horace is probably as well known as it is because of Horace – a cute blue blob with eyes, arms, and legs – and who is somewhat memorable. It certainly isn’t revered for its sparkling gameplay, which is limited at best (and banal at worst).

Four mazes, repeated over and over; supposedly representing a ‘park’ – Hungry Horace isn’t even a particularly good Pac-Man clone. The faces that chase you have weird AI; the mazes have dead ends; some mazes have corridors; ring the bell and the faces get scared for a limited time and you can ‘kill’ them by touching them…

Describing Hungry Horace any more will just cause me (and you, probably) to yawn, so I’ll just say that this is a game that is fondly-remembered because it was the ‘birth’ of Horace – a character Spectrum owners grew to love immensely. The game itself has unfortunately degraded over time…

More: Hungry Horace on Wikipedia

Bedlam, ZX Spectrum

Another classic ZX Spectrum game from Beam Software, Bedlam is a straightforward vertical-scroller, but done in an incredibly finessed manner.

The graphics are fast and colourful and the “bullet hell” style action is “hard but fair”. Bedlam basically does on a Spectrum what people had previously only seen in an arcade, and it does it extremely professionally. There are even hidden mini games built in (pinball!), to break up the blasting action.

Bedlam was published by GO! in 1988 and is often mixed-up with another ZX Spectrum game called Bedlam, released in 1983. Type “Bedlam ZX Spectrum” into a search engine and you’ll find lots of confused web pages (administered by simpletons, clearly) trying to claim that this is a simple-looking maze game. It isn’t. It’s one of the best shooters on the ZX Spectrum!

Nightshade, NES

NOT the infamous 1985 Ultimate game, but an obscure action/adventure classic from Aussie developer Beam Software, first released on the NES in 1992.

Nightshade is a light-hearted, humourous point-and-click adventure with beat ’em up elements, based on a vigilante good guy called Mark. Yes, Mark.

Thankfully Mark’s superhero alias is the rather more snappy “Nightshade“. And as Nightshade you must ply your trade as a night time street-crawler, looking to batter bad guys and rescue women from burning buildings, because doing so increases your popularity. At the same time you must also hunt down the infamous villain “Sutekh” whose bad guy forces have overrun Metro City.

In many ways Nightshade is the spiritual predecessor to Shadowrun on the Super Nintendo, also developed by Beam and released the following year in 1993. Both games share a lot of simularities and Nightshade was obviously a big influence on the design of Shadowrun (considered one of the best games of all time on the SNES).

Nightshade is obviously more primitive than Shadowrun, and the fighting sections are a little too fast and skittish for my liking, but overall it is an original and entertaining adventure on the NES, still worth playing now. Find a guide and work your way through it. If the fighting sections are too hard: use quicksaves in an emulator to edge yourself along. 🙂

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightshade_(1992_video_game)

Penetrator, ZX Spectrum

Penetrator is a side-scrolling shooter, developed by Philip Mitchell and Veronika Megler (as Beam Software) and published by Melbourne House in 1982.

Basically, Penetrator is a ‘tribute’ to Konami‘s classic 1981 arcade game, Scramble, with you controlling a space ship, flying down a series of a side-scrolling caverns, avoiding collisions, and shooting things that get in your way. And – just like in Scramble – your ship can shoot forwards and drop bombs downwards too.

What made Penetrator so memorable on the ZX Spectrum was the speed, the smoothness, and the exciting nature of the gameplay and graphics. Although we know it not to be the case now, it really did feel as though Penetrator might actually be better than Scramble at the time. Be that: only in the minds of 1980s schoolchildren, way back in 1982.

Penetrator was one of the very first games available for the – then – brand new ZX Spectrum (48K version required though), so had a very long shelf life and benefitted from lots of exposure. If fact: as a game, Penetrator is still living on now, in the lives of many a retro gamer.

It’s worth noting that Beam Software later went on to create some of the best video games of all time, and that all started with Penetrator.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penetrator_(video_game)

Smash TV, Super Nintendo

I was thinking to myself: “What’s the best out-and-out blaster on the Super Nintendo?” and a couple of names came to mind. Axelay I’ve already featured on here. Smash TV, I’ve featured the arcade parent, but not the 1991 SNES version.

Developed by legendary Australian outfit Beam Software and published by Acclaim Entertainment, Super Smash TV (to give the game its full and correct console title) is certainly one of the best shooters on the SNES. The SNES gamepad suits the eight directional shooting very well. The d-pad moves your guy, and combinations of the four fire buttons give you eight-directional firing.

All the screens and bosses from the arcade game are present and well-represented – all the speech, all the music and everything else. Beam and Acclaim did an exceptional job on the conversion, with the result being: one of the best and most fun shooters on the SNES – if not THE best.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smash_TV#Ports


Shadowrun, Super Nintendo

This classic Super Nintendo action adventure was developed in Australia in 1993 by Beam Software. It was published by Laser Beam in the UK, and Data East everywhere else.

Shadowrun on the SNES is a brilliant isometric, futuristic adventure that mixes guns, technology and magic from FASA’s infamous Shadowrun role-playing universe. You have to shoot and hack your way through a gigantic conspiracy, starting with your very own death. The opening scenes (and the music) still make me laugh to this day… But Shadowrun soon becomes serious, as you are constantly having to draw your guns in battle to survive. And – because the combat is real-time – how quickly you draw your guns has an effect on your health bar.

Considering the limitations of the machine, Shadowrun on the SNES is something of an achievement. Completing the game takes quite some time though. Is it worth it? Definitely!

Here are my grabs. From the beginning of the game to the very end.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun_(1993_video_game)