Movie, Amstrad CPC

Duško Dimitrijevic ‘s brilliant isometric adventure, Movie, translates exceptionally well to the Amstrad CPC, as can be seen from these screenshots.

The game is essentially identical to the ZX Spectrum original although the extra colour does make a big difference.

What I would liked to have seen were 16-bit conversions later, but those never materialised.

More: Movie on Wikipedia

Movie, ZX Spectrum

A legendary ZX Spectrum game, designed and programmed by Duško Dimitrijevic and published by Imagine Software in 1986.

Movie is an isometric action/adventure in the style of Knight Lore, and it utilises a Marlow-esque ‘Film Noir’ type setting. It’s basically a detective story where you have to solve simple puzzles by using conversations and item manipulation.

What really made Movie stand out back in the day were the graphics, which are beautifully designed and stylised – a true work of 8-bit pixel artistry that still hold up today.

The rudimentary physics that underpin the game are impressive – for a 48K game. The gameplay is held back a little by the slowdown, and this is common with isometric games on the Spectrum, although the programmer seems to have compensated for this and it doesn’t mar the game too much.

Deciphering Movie‘s secrets is not easy, but it is worth a go, and using a walkthrough will help not waste time. As will learning how to use the game’s built-in text parser.

An arguably better Amstrad CPC version was also released the same year. No other conversions exist (outside of maybe homebrew), that I’m aware of.

More: Movie on Wikipedia

Three Weeks in Paradise, ZX Spectrum

The fifth and final Wally Week game, Three Weeks in Paradise was published by Mikro-Gen in 1986, for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.

As the title suggests: this time there are three members of the Week family on this particular graphic adventure – specifically: Wally, Wilma and Herbert, trapped on a tropical island inhabited by cannibals.

Unfortunately Chris Hinsley – the guy who wrote this (and all the previous Wally Week games – except Herbert’s Dummy Run) – decided that only Wally would be playable. Wilma and Herbert remain only as motivation – you don’t get to play as them.

Three Weeks in Paradise plays similarly to Pyjamarama in that you can only carry two items at once, and that certain items do specific things (the bow and arrows let you fire an arrow, for example), which means having to think quite hard about what to carry and to where.

The tune that plays during the main game is quite jolly – a blatant rip-off of the theme from The Addams Family. And when the game slows down (which is quite often) the tune also slows down, which makes it sound unintentionally funny. Thankfully it can be switched on/off with a press of the ‘5’ key.

Something else that can be switched on or off is Wally’s infamous colour clash. The yellow attribute box that used to follow him around can now be switched off by pressing ‘3’. Funny that this feature would come at the end of the series. Oh well.

There were 48K and 128K versions of Three Weeks in Paradise made available. The 128K version had a small number of extra screens and an extra AY chip tune on the title screen. These grabs are from the 128K version.

The Wally Week series:
Automania (1984)
Pyjamarama (1984)
Everyone’s A Wally (1985)
Herbert’s Dummy Run (1985)
Three Weeks in Paradise (1986)

More: Three Weeks in Paradise on Wikipedia

Amaurote, ZX Spectrum

Amaurote is a strange, isometric action game, developed by Binary Design and published by Mastertronic in 1987. It first appeared on the ZX Spectrum and was later ported to other systems.

You control a spider-like craft (called Arachnus 4) that crawls along the ground and can shoot bouncing bombs out of a hole in the top of the vehicle. Unfortunately, though, the Arachnus can only fire one bomb at a time, so you have to wait for the last one to either explode or time-out, before you can fire another.

The aim of the game is to explore various ‘sectors’ (selectable from a map screen), in order to hunt down the queen of an invading alien insect race. When you find the queen you must then radio in for a ‘Supa Bomb’ to take her out.

Amaurote is still reasonably interesting to play now, although the game does play very slowly. And – like many Spectrum isometric games of the time – it also suffers somewhat from slowdown.

There were two different versions of Amaurote released – a 48K version, and an enhanced 128K version with continuous music by David Whittaker.

More: Amaurote on Wikipedia

Inside Outing, Amstrad CPC

Inside Outing is an interesting isometric action/adventure game initially published by The Edge in 1988. It was designed by Michael St. Aubyn and converted to a number of different platforms, with this Amstrad version being the original.

The story is: an eccentric millionaire has died without leaving a will and has hidden 12 gems in strange places around his large house. The millionaire’s widow has hired a professional thief (you), to explore the house and find the fortune. Unfortunately the millionaire’s pets have now overrun the mansion and are waiting to attack any intruders, so it won’t be straightforward.

The gameplay in Inside Outing is fairly simple exploration, object manipulation, jumping, puzzles, and the game of ‘fetch’. Of course it owes a debt of gratitude to Knight Lore (as every other isometric action game does), but in general it’s reasonably original, and – in places – quite surprising. For example: in this game you can pull objects, as well as push them. Which might seem quite minor, but Inside Outing was one of the first games of its type to actually allow that. It actually makes it seem more natural to play than something like Knight Lore or Batman.

I love the colouring and design of the Amstrad graphics in this game. They’re chunky, but beautifully-drawn. And the rudimentary physics in the game give Ultimate a run for their money. Overall: the presentation is top class, and the gameplay isn’t bad either, in spite of the annoying enemies. Inside Outing is a classic Amstrad game and still deserves to be played now.

Inside Outing was also converted to the C64 and ZX Spectrum, and later appeared on the Amiga and Atari ST under the name “Raffles“.

Note: in the USA the game was published by Epyx under the frankly horrendous title of “Devon Aire in the Hidden Diamond Caper“.

More: Inside Outing on Wikipedia

Fairlight II, ZX Spectrum

Or, to give the game its full title: Fairlight II: A Trail of Darkness. First released in 1986 – one year after the original Fairlight – and again published by The Edge. It was definitely much more substantial than the first game.

Again you play Isvar, and again: he’s trying to recover the Book of Light. Only this time it’s inside a different castle – this one called The Dark Tower.

Fairlight II is considerably bigger than the first game (as you’d expect), but the gameplay still essentially boils down to finding the right objects to stack on top of each other to climb up to out-of-reach places. That’s okay though. The slowdown is ever-present (no surprises), and the combat is the same, but there are a few surprises in this second game that you don’t get in the first (like travelling over the sea to a new location; more varied enemies, and even a magic carpet!), which makes it better in my opinion.

Fairlight II is a good evolution of, not just the series, but the genre. In many respects it carried the baton created by Ultimate in the isometric adventure stakes.

Fairlight II was programmed by Bo Jangeborg, with graphics by Niclas Osterlin. Again: there were 48K and 128K versions, the latter version having music and other enhancements. These grabs are from the 128K version.

More: Fairlight II on Wikipedia

Fairlight, ZX Spectrum

Bo Jangeborg‘s Fairlight is a legendary isometric adventure game, published by The Edge in 1985.

You play the adventurer Isvar – exploring a large castle, looking for The Book of Light in order to escape.

Although Fairlight came after Knight Lore, it was praised for its open-ended gameplay, game world, and object manipulation. Well: object stacking… Most of the puzzles in Fairlight are ‘solved’ by stacking certain items in certain ways, which allows Isvar to reach higher places.

Like Knight Lore, Fairlight also features a lot of slowdown when a number of objects are moving on-screen at the same time. When an object disappears from the screen (for example: a bubble, that ‘pops’ when you touch it), the game suddenly speeds up massively, which is both comical and annoying at the same time.

Combat when encountering enemies is in real-time, but not very interesting. Winning is more a case of facing an enemy and holding down fire until they disappear, than anything requiring skill. You do have to be selective about who you take on, though, because you have a limited number of life points. Once they’re depleted, it’s game over.

Fairlight is a well-remembered Spectrum classic. It might be frustrating to play in places, but it definitely contributed to the whole idea of gaming worlds and object manipulation within them. There are some clever ideas in here (like attracting guards towards you to give them the ‘run-around’, in order to steal their key from them without having to kill them; or pushing stools under low tables to push objects from under them), and there’s no doubt this was a ground-breaking game for the time. The sequel, Fairlight II, was even more ground-breaking.

Note: an enhanced 128K version of Fairlight was later released by The Edge, which had a tune continuously playing. These grabs are from the original 48K version.

More: Fairlight on Wikipedia

Pentagram, ZX Spectrum

By the time Pentagram came out in 1986, famous development and publishing house – Ultimate Play The Game – had been sold off to US Gold. How much of Pentagram was therefore down to Ultimate‘s designers, and how much was down to US Gold‘s programmers, is still a matter for debate. Most likely, Pentagram was a construct of US Gold, with Ultimate providing only the initial ideas, graphics and game engine (the famous Filmation Engine).

Although Pentagram is the de facto fourth instalment in the Sabreman series (after Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, and Knight Lore), it doesn’t feel like it fits in with the other three aforementioned games. It doesn’t quite feel like Ultimate.

Unfortunately, after the purchase by US Gold, the Ultimate Play The Game label died a swift death. I don’t think people were fooled by the change of ownership and sales of the last few Ultimate games were peanuts compared to the previous releases.

As a game in its own right, Pentagram just about pushes the Filmation Engine as far as it can go on a humble Speccy. Just like in Knight Lore and Alien 8, there’s tons of slowdown when a few things are moving on-screen at the same time. And – like Knight Lore and Alien 8Pentagram is ridiculously difficult too.

More: Pentagram on Wikipedia

Alien 8, ZX Spectrum

The original ZX Spectrum version of Alien 8 was first released in 1985, not long after Knight Lore had already blown the world away with its incredible isometric graphics and characteristic gameplay.

This game carried on the tradition of great releases from Ultimate, even though the gameplay was very similar to Knight Lore. The general consensus at the time was that the graphics and gameplay in general were an improvement over the previous game, so we shouldn’t worry too much about the similarities. Which is right.

As much as I love Knight Lore, I think Alien 8 is more straightforward (and less annoying, since it doesn’t have you transforming into a werewolf in the middle of a jump). The ultra-cute design of the main character is wonderful – it contrasts with the puzzles, which are fiendish!

Just like in Knight Lore, Alien 8 features quite a bit of slowdown when there are multiple objects moving on-screen at the same time, but it doesn’t detract too much from play. This is a classic Ultimate game that cannot be ignored.

The Amstrad CPC version of Alien 8 features more colour (and less slowdown) and is arguably better than this Spectrum original.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_8

Knight Lore, MSX

The MSX version of Knight Lore was developed by Tose Co. Ltd. for Jaleco and published in Europe and Japan in 1985.

It is pretty much identical to the original ZX Spectrum version, complete with slowdown. That said: if you run it on a more powerful MSX computer it outstrips the Speccy original in terms of performance.

Knight Lore is a legendary game – whatever platform you play it on – and the MSX version is no exception.

Knight Lore on The King of Grabs:
ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Famicom Disk System

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knight_Lore