Friday, February 13, 2015

ZX Spectrum

Speccy is (shock) a ZX Spectrum emulator for our gorgeous Atari ST. It'is programmed by Christian Gandler back in 1993 and currently stands at version 2.07 (I wonder when the next release is due) ;-)

Obviously, its best on a computer with a hard drive, but floppy-based systems are still supported. Once configured, it runs Spectrum games very but a stock 8MHz ST may struggle with the more graphically demand games. Even something like Manic Miner is a little slo-mo so I advise a minimum of either an upgraded ST or a 16Mhz Mega STe. But I must admit to being curious how a TT or Falcon would perform - please get in touch guys to compare your performance with the games below.

Okay, here is a long list of *some* of my favourite ZX Spectrum games running on my own 16Mhz MEGA STE computer. Please note, the ratings represent the speed of the emulator with each game and are not a review score. Download Speccy for yourself and have a play ( filename = zx_sp207.zip )



First up is an obvious choice for me - Manic Miner, released in 1983 by Bug Byte and perhaps the first game that made my jaw drop. Certainly THE FIRST game I was addicted too like a crazy fool!

Performance - mixed results really, but all good. With the in-game music playing, it actually feels a tad slower than a real Spectrum but it's certainly nothing to ruin the fun. Turn off the in-game music to fix that (which I always do anyhow). Interestingly, it's quite enjoyable when I switched to 8Mhz - one of the *very* few games that I can say that about!

Rating - (music on) 99%
Rating - (music off) 100%


I couldn't continue without mentioning the next game in the Willy series and here he is again trying to tidy up his messy mansion, in Jet Set Willy. Not only that but the place is full of beasts and each room is like something from a nightmare. How does he live here!

Performance - as you read above about Manic Miner and it's pretty much the same situation again. I do prefer to turn off that in-game music, so it's not a big deal for me without it. But I would advise you guys play the official Atari ST Jet Set Willy game.

Rating - (music on) 99%
Rating - (music off) 100%


Styx is the next game that I just had to try because it was the very first game that I ever bought with my own pocket money. Again, released by Bug Byte back in 1983 and it's also by Mathew Smith! It's a repetitive game but a personal favourite of mine for the obvious reasons.

Performance - a simple game that the emulator handles perfectly.

Rating - 100%



How could I continue on without trying a game by the mighty Ultimate? They were basically a Spectrum version of Thalion! My choice is quirky but it's a game I've always loved : Pentagram. Released in 1986 and it's Ultimate's own Knight Lore rip-off that seems to have very few friends, but I really enjoyed it and I've completed it too!

Performance - seems fine in the quieter rooms but sadly it suffers lots of slowdowns when in the busier rooms (same as the real Spectrum!)  :(

Rating - 50/75%


As much as I love (with a passion!) the Miner Willy games neither is my favourite platformer. That accolade goes to Chuckie Egg 2 (yes, TWO) which was released back in 1985 by A&F. This is a game that I can easily get lost in and it's almost like an open world game with that exploration element. Yes, I after three decades I am still addicted to Mr Harry adventure!!

Performance - it's a tad slower than it should be, but nothing to spoil the egg-venture! (sorry)

Rating - 98%


Fred is a game that I am happy to say (yet again) I have completed - without cheating, I might add!. Released by Quiksilva back in 1984 and is an incredible platformer set inside a pyramid maze filled with ghosts, skeletons and all kinds of creepies. Escape if you can!

Performance - it sure looks great but disappointingly sluggish to play.

Rating - 50%





Saboteur 2 was released by Durrell back in 1987 and I utterly loved this immense venture into the world of a covert ninja espionage! Shocker time - I completed this game too! I spent months playing this game!!

Performance - sadly too slow to fully enjoy, if only it was a little quicker. I am gutted!!

Performance - 70%




I have always had a strange fascination for these unnatural beings and who doesn't love killing them? The zombie species made it onto the Spectrum with an atmospheric release by Quicksilva in 1984 called "Zombie Zombie" (yep..)

Performance - it's almost there but not quite! Very enjoyable but it just needed a little more nip to feel authentic, but it is playable.

Rating - 85%


Kokotoni Wilf, a creative platformer released by Elite all the way back in 1984. Such original ideas plonked on top of an established format and it works. Ace!

Performance - sadly not so much under emulation as it's too slow to enjoy. Like Saboteur 2, I think this game would need a minimum of the Atari TT.. shame.

Rating - 70%


To me, Rick Dangerous, is an Atari ST game and I've stayed clear of Spectrum versions of the ST classics like Flying Shark, Ikari Warriors and others.. but I weakened for Rick!

Performance - I shouldn't have bothered. I couldn't get the controls to work at all and poor old Rick gets squashed by that first boulder! Still, it did appear to run well..

Rating - hard to say, probably around 80%


To contradict what I write above, there were a couple of "ST games" that I just had to test out. One such game is Zynaps released by the wonderful Hewson back in 1987.

Performance - let's just say I shall be sticking to the Atari ST release until I've bought an Atari Falcon or TT.

Rating - 70%


Yet another contradiction because here is another and another Hewson classic, Cybernoid. An Atari ST game that I recently featured on AtariCrypt and loved, like Zynaps the Spectrum games are absolutely ace!

Performance - Played very very well and I was impressed. Not quite fast enough but I was able to enjoy it. Damn good fun!!

Rating - 90%


The Birds And The Bees released by Bug Byte in 1983 is a fun game, if a little repetitive. A game I bought and the follow-up performs even better Antics, released in 1984 has cool gameplay.

Performance - the original plays extremely well, which shocked me as it's a scroller and those tend to be no no! Antics was also pretty good too. Impressive results for both.

Rating - 85% (Birds And The Bees)
Rating - 90% (Antics)


H.E.R.O. (or Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation) was released by Activision back in 1984 and is literally one of my favourite games, ever! Such a simple looking game with extraordinarily addictive gameplay. ACE!!!

Performance - THANKFULLY it is excellent! Not quite 100% but I found myself hammering through the levels without a care for the slight lack in emulation speed!

Rating - 97%


I was never much of a Monty fan, although the first game had its moments, I always felt they couldn't compete with the likes of Chuckie Egg 2 or the Miner Willy. However, I did try Monty Mole (1984) and Monty On The Run (1985)...

Performance - worked okay for both games, but it was like walking in mud and needed a dollop more CPU humph to be enjoyable. Shame...

Rating - 65%


Sabrewulf was released back in 1984 and blew everyone away with its beautiful graphics but it was really just a simple maze with funny creatures. I like it!

Performance - I seriously expected Sabrewulf to suck. It's littered with tons of graphics and large monsters but it was actually very playable!

Rating - 85%


Trashman was released by New Generation Software in 1984 and is a game that can boil the blood with frustration as it's all about timing and speed. Who'd have thought emptying bins could be so entertaining!!

Performance - actually not too bad and very playable.

Rating - 80%


Bug Byte did it again with their release of Turmoil in 1984. Don't be put off by the graphics as this is a simple game of grabbing the oil and fill up the car... but it's challenging and extremely addictive. Ace game!!

Performance - Yet another than just needed a pinch more CPU horsepower to make it playable. Oh, you lucky Falcon and TT owners should play this!!

Rating - 75%


Tutankhamun, released in 1983 by Micromania may look incredibly old, and maybe very dull, but do not let appearances fool you. This is a fiendishly awesome maze game with classic old skool gameplay!

Performance - another which is so close to being just right. Certainly not enough to spoil the fun and it plays superbly.

Rating - 96%


Valhalla, released in 1983 by Legend is one of those pinnacle moments in computing history. At least to me! Awesome, fictional atmosphere recreated so beautifully. Sure, it looks simple now but this is a belting adventure game!

Performance - umm not too bad. Seems to lag whenever you enter a command. So typing in "west" to travel will take the computer about 5 seconds of pondering! I'd estimate it to be around 70% of the real game BUT being an adventure that factor doesn't matter as much as it would for a shooter, for example.

Rating - 70% (but don't let that stop you!)


Heck, even I don't know why I play tested this one - but here we have 1984 that was released in (wait for it) 1984 by Incentive Software.

Performance - yep, this seems to be perfect!

Rating - 100%


Bombjack was released by Elite in 1986 and isn't really a game I ever bothered to play. I just wanted to test it out for my own curiosity.

Performance - almost but not quite. Plays very well but needs an extra nip of speed...

Rating - 80%


Bounty Bob Strikes Back, released in 1985 by US Gold and it's a game I suck at terribly. I'll stick to Manic Miner!

Performance - not too great, like playing in slo-mo!

Rating - 60%


Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom is a cracking game, so much arcade fun and often one that people seem to by-pass. Released in 1985 by US Gold. Try it!

Performance - not too great, which is strange as there's not actually an awful lot going on graphically so why it's so slow... I don't know?

Rating - 65% (it various / this is an average)


Back in 1984, Knight Lore kickstarted a whole new venture into 3D and lots of companies copied with their own releases. This game started it all. Classic.

Performance - It's like Pentagram, on the quieter rooms it's almost perfect but on some of the busier rooms there is some slow down. But, there was on the original Spectrum too....

Rating - 85%


Alien 8 was released a few months after Knight Lore and was more of the same with different graphics, some might say a rip-off but it was a massive hit and it's a fantastic game. So...

Performance - Same as Knight Lore. Perhaps there's a little umm little extra speed?

Rating - 86%


Underwurlde was released at the same time as Knight Lore, late 1984 and was a complete opposite. Ultimate really did cover all basis that Christmas period and here was a platform game with lots of fun action as you leap about. Can I shock you once more and report that I mapped and completed this game!!

Performance - strange one this, to move about and play it is actually darn close to perfect but the monsters seem to take longer to materialise. So, you actually get a slightly easier game... result! ;^)

Rating - 90%


Avenger was released by Gremlin Graphics in 1986 and I'm sorry to those guys, but I never ever liked this game. A weak Gauntlet rip-off and I feel bad saying that because it's by Gremlin and lots of gamers loved it. But I don't!

Performance - actually, it's yet another that needs a slightly faster machine. It's playable and enjoyable but I expect a TT or Falcon would be perfect.

Rating - 75%


Fairlight A Prelude is based upon the 3D isometric idea first created by Ultimate but here we have what could be described as the next-gen in this genre. This is a wonderful game which is highly engrossing and certainly one I'd describe as a true classic for the Spectrum.

Performance - like the Ultimate games, it's not too bad on quieter rooms but the busier ones do struggle a little. Sometimes it can be as poor as Pentagram, and then sometimes it's acceptable - just like Alien 8 or Knight Lore. So it's a mixed bag that really needs the power of a TT or Falcon, I imagine.

Rating - 60/85%



Blue Max may sound like a dirty movie but it's actually one of the best shooters I've ever owned. It's been slammed on some YouTube videos but it's a game I've always enjoyed. Sure, it's not perfect but it's fun to play.

Performance - it's slower than the real machine. Shame (for me!)

Rating - 70%


Atic Atac blown everyone out the water back in 1983 with its ace graphics and arcade action as you plundered the various levels avoiding the creepies. Another game I completed!!

Performance - as with Underwurlde this plays near perfect but the monsters are delayed in appearance. Perhaps this is all because the computer struggles to calculate that in the background? Who knows. But it certainly is enjoyable!!

Rating - 90%


Bug Byte's awesome scrambler, Cavern Fighter was released in 1983 and it's a game I still own. Don't be fooled by the minimalistic graphics - it's AWESOME!!

Performance - very good actually and I was pleasantly surprised how much I was enjoying this game again. Missed it!

Rating - 90%


I remember school friends going crazy over this game but sadly Dynamite Dan, released by Mirrorsoft 1985, didn't really do much for me...

Performance - not too great I'm afraid, it's playable but slo-mo.

Rating - 70%



Frank N Stein is a nifty alternative to the typical platform genre and forces a more creative play. Released by PSS in 1984 and a game I'm honoured to still own, it's ace!

Performance - as with Dynamite Dan really, it's just a little bit too slow to fully enjoy.

Rating - 72%



Gulpman is literally one of the first games I played on my own ZX Spectrum and was released by Campbell Systems in 1982. Once again, don't be put off by those graphics!

Performance - almost there, I expected perfection but not so. Almost, but not quite.

Rating - 95%



Zaxxon was a little bit of a disappointment after seeing those screenshots on the back of the box... But it plays great, so what more do you need? Not the best by US Gold but enjoyable. Released in 1985.

Performance - even with all those gordy graphics this game played ace. Shocked!!

Rating - 95%



Highway Encounter, another absolute classic by Vortex Software from 1985. A beautifully designed masterpiece of skill and patience with a shed load of lovely 3D action thrown in for good measure. Work your way down the highway of ever increasing isometric difficulty. Another game I completed!

Performance - oh dear.. this appears to work wonders from the title screen (albeit a little slower than a real Spectrum) and the in-game demo works fine. However, the game appears to freeze after starting a new game which is an ultra shame!

Rating - 85% (potentially!)


Of all the Horace games, I think this is my favourite. Horace And The Spiders is fun and a little creepy too if you suffer from arachnophobia! Superb game.

Performance - strangely there's not much going on graphically, yet this game suffers the slo-mo effect. Still playable but odd as I expected better.

Rating - 80%



River Raid is up there with H.E.R.O is another Spectrum classic by Activision in 1984. What an old skool game this is and it hits you hard with its addictive gameplay. A brilliant game conversion.

Performance - sadly this is the kicker. It runs extremely well, I'm talking almost perfect speeds. Until you hit that fire button and then it crashes BUT there is a fix. Just configure the emulator to continue on when it encounters a problem and then the game runs fine.

Rating - 95%


There are dozens of Jet Set Willy games out there so I figured I would pick one at random. A Bulgarian Requiem was released in 2000 and, as you'd imagine, plays just like the original game but with all new rooms to explore (map). Excellent!!

Performance - as with the original JSW game and Manic Miner the performance is spot on and even better without the in-game music playing.

Rating - (music on) 99%
Rating - (music off) 100%


As with JSW, Manic Miner also has a few of clones and I found this one lurking in the archives. Manic Miner No.2 which was released in 1985 by RD Foord. It's always interesting to see these modifications of the original games. Check out its map, I must play this more!

Performance - I think we can guarantee all the Miner Willy games will play great. Enjoy them all!


Rating - (music on) 99%
Rating - (music off) 100%


Wizard's Lair was released in 1985 by Bubble Bus Software and is basically an Atic Atac rip-off but a damn good game also, so who cares!

Performance - works until the game starts and then it totally bombs out. Mega shame, especially because you can move and see the baddies for a split second and it runs nice... until the bombs!

Rating - 85% (would be score!)



Ad Astra, by Gargoyle Games in 1984 is a shooter with a 3D perspective ahead of its time. Either you'll love or hate this shooter.

Performance - From what little I could see (I suck at this game!) it played almost as good as the real deal. Very fast.

Rating - 95%


Beach-Head was released by US Gold in 1984 and is pretty much one of the most simplistic games there is, it's so basic. Yet it works!


Performance - speed is slightly less than perfect but it works and it works well. Very enjoyable!

Rating - 85%


Backpackers Guide To The Universe was meant to be a part 1 of 3 games, sadly Fantasy Software went bust and we never got to see the follow-ups... Ziggy is the star! (from The Pyramid and Doomsday Castle - both of which were very slow under emulation).

What ever happened to Bob Hamilton?

Performance - thankfully Backpackers works extremely well under emulation and it's fast too, not quite as fast as the real computer but not enough to spoil it. Loved it!

Rating - 90%