Classic Gaming: Volume 1

Classic Gaming: Volume 1

It doesn’t matter whether you got your first taste of gaming on the ZX Spectrum in the ‘80s, or the PlayStation in the ‘90s, or even the Xbox One yesterday, this guide takes you right back to that magical moment when you first picked up the controller – whenever that might have been. Sinclair zx Spectrum (1984) Commodore Amiga (1987) Sega Mega Drive (1988) Sony PlayStation (1994) Nintendo 64 (1996)

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Future Publishing Ltd
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1 min

You never forget your first game. That magical moment when you first picked up a joystick (or whatever the input of choice) and used it to interact with the blobs of light emanating from your television screen. For me, it was a game called Icicle Works on the Commodore Plus/4 computer. The games critic in me knows now that it was little more than an uninspired Boulder Dash clone with a vague Christmas theme. But the child deep inside tells tales of unparalleled bravery, as I descended deeper and deeper into the treacherous ice caverns to pluck presents from under the nose of crazed polar bears and bloodthirsty penguins. It doesn’t matter whether you got your first taste of gaming on the ZX Spectrum in the ‘80s, or the PlayStation in…

1 min

Manufacturer Sinclair Processor Z80 @ 3.5MHz Units sold 5 million Released 1982 Even by the standards of the day, the ZX Spectrum was no powerhouse. The base model started at a measly 16KB RAM, it had a basically incapable 16 colour graphic output, one-channel sound and a rubber keyboard with a frankly undesirable layout. But what it lacked in finesse, it more than made up for in charm. Charm, and a highly competitive price point, hitting retail in Britain at just £125. While the Speccy, as it was affectionately known, would fail to displace the Commodore 64 as the 8-bit computer of choice in North America, it won the hearts of the public in its native Britain. In bringing reasonably-priced computing to the masses, the Spectrum also created a generation of coders, gamers and enthusiasts like no…

2 min
manic miner

Developer Matthew Smith Publisher Bug-Byte Genre Platformer Released 1983 During the golden age of the 8-bit home computer, a select few programmers became almost as famous as the games they single-handedly created. Thanks to Manic Miner, which he knocked together in just six weeks, teenager Matthew Smith became synonymous with the burgeoning platform genre and by far the biggest celebrity on the Spectrum scene. The aim in each of the 20 one-screen levels was to collect all of the flashing items and reach the exit. Pixel-perfect timing was required, as the slightest touch from a wandering enemy or any part of the environment that wasn’t the floor meant instant death. Without variable speed or momentum to contend with, Miner Willy’s jumps always took exactly the same parabolic arc, travelling exactly the same distance. Beating a level…

1 min

Developer Software Studios Publisher Electric Dreams Software Genre Shoot-’em-up Released 1988 CLASSIC LEVEL It wasn’t meant to be possible to have such large, colourful objects in a Spectrum game, and few if any ever managed to top R-Type’s screenfilling cyan and magenta monsters. You can see how everything is designed around those 8x8 squares. CLASSIC BOSS It’s the Gigeresque alien mecha monstrosity Dobkeratops, one of the best known recurring bosses in the R-Type series. The Spectrum version coloured him all red, because basically none of the other palette of colours would have been remotely suitable. The distinctive look of most Spectrum games was forced on programmers by its severe graphical limitations. The screen was divided into squares of 8x8 pixels, and each square could only contain two of the machine’s tiny palette of garish colours. As graphics moved…

1 min
chuckie egg

Developer A&F Software Publisher A&F Software Genre Platformer Released 1983 CLASSIC BOSS The giant duck is free! It floats over the platforms, homing in on our hero who has cunningly attempted to disguise himself as a ladder, painting it with the yellow hue of his own body via the Spectrum’s unavoidable colour clash feature. The duck is unlikely to be fooled. Gaining wide exposure thanks to being one of a limited selection of decent games for the BBC Micro, which was installed in almost every school computer room in the eighties, versions of Chuckie Egg appeared on a vast array of 8-bit formats. While some versions were somewhat nicer to play than others, the basic gameplay remained the same. You travel through eight levels of platforms and ladders, avoiding hens and collecting eggs. When you reach the…

1 min
green beret

Developer Jonathan Smith Publisher Imagine Software Genre Run and gun Released 1986 CLASSIC WEAPON Although you could collect a rocket launcher or flamethrower, the vast majority of enemies had to be taken out by stopping to jab them with a knife. With an endless stream of them approaching from both sides of the screen, progress through the levels was a slow, gruelling stab-a-thon. Making licensed arcade conversions for 8-bit computers generally involved the programmer borrowing a coin-op machine, or just watching a video of people playing it, and somehow trying to recreate as much of the game as possible on vastly inferior hardware. The results were often far better than anyone had any right to expect, and this was one of the Spectrum’s top arcade ports. The brutal difficulty of the original Konami coin-op was increased somewhat…